How does GPS work?



Always-on internet connectivity and the evolution of context-aware apps has transformed the idea of the traditional “map” as a representation of spatial location. Most apps integrate global positioning technology (GPS) with smartphone hardware, and there is now no theoretical limit to the kind of information that can be overlaid and interrelated with geographical coordinates.

Map data can include physical variables like topography and other landform features, as well as subjective or cultural variables like voting patterns, public opinion on any issue, or even the location of peer-reviewed cafes. In evolutionary terms, the use of digital locative technology loosens the traditional constraints of time and space by enabling us to explore new places with multi-dimensional “maps” that inform, guide and link us to our human and physical environment. Although it’s a long way from what Captain Cook used to get here, the underlying concept of using extra-terrestial reference points for locating a point on the planet has not changed.