by Michael Ho
Thu, Sep 20th 2007 1:30pm
The US GPS system set its 'Selective Availability' levels to zero back in May 2000, and now the DoD is permanently removing the feature that allows the US to degrade GPS signal accuracy at will. While this probably saves US taxpayers a few pennies by not having to include some unnecessary signal processing parts in new GPS satellites, the decision also seems to mark a turning point in the availability of wireless location data. With more and more location based services cropping up that don't actually rely on GPS signals, such as the location-aware mobile search from Sprint and Microsoft which triangulates a caller's position between cell towers, the access to accurate location data is becoming commonplace. In fact, as more terrestrial wireless signals broadcast potentially-useful location data everywhere, the idea of using far away satellites to tell us where we are seems like an archaic concept -- and projects like Galileo begin to sound even more redundant. The adoption of GPS (or location-aware) devices reduces the uncertainty in several aspects of our lives -- giving users the sense that they *can't* get lost. So interestingly, the DoD's decision to switch from possibly hiding location information in order to keep Americans safer -- now to accepting that accurate position data is a critical component of our economy's future efficiency -- indicates a tacit admission that the open accessibility of information really does make us more secure.
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