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EGNOS: Changing the Face of GPS

written by: Misty Faucheux•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 11/4/2009

The European Union recently released their answer to GPS. This new system is promising to change the face of GPS. But, will it? Read more below.

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    What is EGNOS?

    Recently, the European Union released its own version of the GPS satellite navigation network. The system is known as the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS). What sets this system apart is that it’s accurate within 6 feet (2 meters) while the American version is only accurate within 32 feet (10 meters).

    EGNOS is the first part of the EU’s $5.8 billion (4 billion Euro) Galileo program, which is several years beyond schedule. EGNOS is free to anyone who has a device that is compatible. The system uses three satellites and a battery of positioning stations and control centers to create an amazing ground network. Personal mobile devices’ accuracy will greatly improve, especially for the new releases of the Apple iPhone, Palm Pre and Google Android. For GPS devices without EGNOS, a firmware update is going to be released.

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    GPS Accuracy for Everyone

    EGNOS is changing the face of GPS because of this accuracy. It will provide the “Safety-of-Life” service for emergency and aircraft personnel. For example, if a hiker is lost on a mountain in the snow, emergency staff will be able to locate that person’s position within only a few feet. Another amazing part of this system is that it will alert you within six seconds if the system has gone down.

    For aircraft pilots, this ability to locate destinations within a few feet will dramatically improve airline safety. Pilots going to remote locations or small airports often don’t have the same radar quality of larger airports. Pilots will be able to figure out where they are with a better level of accuracy than ever before, which will make landings and take-offs safer.

    The system is not only meant for emergency personnel and industries. The EU hopes that this system will also improve the lives of people with disabilities, especially those that are visually impaired. Basically, GPS visually-impaired consumers will have their own voice-activated personal guide that will be significantly more accurate than the current GPS systems. Plus, tolls would be automatically charged on toll roads, and the system would be able to handle pay-per-use car insurance.

    The system is currently only for 27 member states of the EU, but will soon expand into neighbor nations and North Africa.