During the next decade, the capabilities of the Global Positioning System (GPS) will take off. Not only will advanced GPS technology ensure far greater reliability and safety than is possible today, it also will provide much more accurate geolocation services: to within a meter. Underlying the improved capabilities is a series of system upgrades that include additional satellite signals, increased broadcast power, performance monitoring, guaranteed error bounds, smart antennas that can selectively direct and receive signals, and integration with television and cellular-phone networks.
When next-generation GPS becomes available, it will enable a broad range of exciting new applications. Geolocation coverage will extend from hiking trails and sea-lanes all the way downtown, indoors and into areas that are currently plagued with weak reception, such as under tree limbs. Businesses operating in industries such as air, sea and land transport, electric power, telecommunications, construction, mining, mapping and farming are likely to profit from the augmented services. So will geographers and earth scientists. Military users should benefit the most, as was intended by the original builders. With its greater dependability, enhanced GPS could ensure that an airplane lands automatically in zero-visibility weather, for example, or that a U.S. naval aircraft lands safely on a pitching carrier deck in the dark. In years to come, it may even guarantee the security of passengers in cars and trucks riding down automated highways.