How Accurate Are GPS Coordinates, Really?
Has your Uber app ever displayed the wrong pick-up location? Does Google Maps show you standing on the opposite side of the street? You might be wondering how accurate are GPS unit coordinates.
The answer is: It all depends.
Various factors influence the accuracy of GPS. Some of these factors are within your control, while others occur due to glitches in the technology. So how accurate are GPS unit coordinates? Learn more below.
How Does GPS Work?
As of 2023, the Global Positioning System (GPS) comprises 31 operational satellites that orbit the planet. These satellites constantly send signals to GPS receivers in smartphones or standalone GPS devices like the ones manufactured by LandAirSea (LAS). A receiver then calculates its distance from four or more satellites to determine your location on earth — a process known as triangulation.
But how accurate is that location?
First things first, no government conspiracy degrades the quality of GPS in your smartphone or standalone device. Some people think that military GPS is far more powerful than the type civilians use, but this isn't true—at least not anymore.
During the 1990s, something called "Selective Availability" intentionally weakened civilian GPS accuracy worldwide. However, Bill Clinton's administration ended Selective Availability in May 2020. That means the GPS you use today is exactly the same as the one employed by the armed forces.
However, some things can make your GPS more or less accurate.
Factors That Influence the Accuracy of GPS
Factors such as satellite geometry, atmospheric conditions, signal blockage, and the quality of the GPS receiver can affect GPS accuracy.
Ever noticed your GPS doesn't work when you're standing near a downtown skyscraper? That's because the tall building is blocking the GPS signal. GPS quality can also deteriorate when standing next to a bridge or a tall tree. That's frustrating, but there's not a lot you can do about it.
High-quality, dual-frequency GPS receivers can eliminate some of these problems, but you won't find this technology in all smartphones. Only a select few handsets, such as the recent iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, offer dual-frequency GPS.
Other factors that influence how accurate are GPS unit coordinates include:
- Radio interference
- Solar storms
- Satellite maintenance
However, all of these scenarios are rare.
Smartphones vs. Standalone GPS Units
The GPS on your smartphone might help you find your nearest Italian restaurant or grocery store, but it's not as precise as you think. Smartphones are usually accurate within a 4.9-meter radius under the open sky, which is less than a high-quality standalone GPS device.
That 4.9-meter radius might mean your Lyft driver picks you up on the opposite side of the street or Google Maps directs you to the wrong building for an important job interview.
Take a device like the LandAirSea 54, which tracks vehicles, assets, and people via 4G LTE. It has a location accuracy of 1.8 meters (5.97 feet), meaning it's far more accurate than any smartphone. Other LandAirSea products are just as reliable as the LandAirSea 54. So if you want to determine a location with greater accuracy, consider investing in one of these products.
Accurate GPS Location: Why Is Any of This Important?
You might think that a few meters won't make a difference when it comes to GPS. That's not true for everyone. Many business leaders need maximum GPS accuracy when carrying out day-to-day tasks, and smartphones just don't provide the precision they need.
Say you own a warehouse with thousands of products and need to quickly locate a valuable item. By attaching a tracker to that valuable, you can pinpoint its location quicker with a standalone device than if you were to attach an Apple Airtag to the item and identify it with your iPhone.
GPS precision of 1.8 meters (compared to 4.9 meters) will save a considerable amount of searching time!
Also, consider battery life. The iPhone 14, Apple's most recent model, has a battery that lasts up to 26 hours, depending on the specific model. However, the LandAirSea 54 has a compact Li-Ion battery that delivers up to 12 months of juice. The LandAirSea Sync doesn't require batteries at all because it plugs straight into your vehicle's OBD II port, saving you money.
That's another reason standalone GPS products provide much more value than smartphones.
How Accurate Are GPS Unit Coordinates? It's Not Always the Device!
Sometimes, it's not the GPS device that's inaccurate but the mapping software the device relies on to determine a location. Some mapping programs have mislabelled buildings, missing roads, and badly drawn maps. Often, GPS device manufacturers have no control over these maps and can't make changes themselves.
LAS products use various mapping programs such as:
- Google Earth
- Google Maps
That increases the accuracy of GPS!
Other Benefits of GPS Devices
In addition to being typically more accurate than smartphones, standalone GPS devices provide the following benefits:
- You can attach smaller GPS devices to vehicles and high-value items and track inventory, assets, and employees. LAS products provide real-time location data that you can use to improve workplace productivity, enhance customer service, and prevent theft and loss. You can attach one of these devices to an item with the provided magnets or adapter cables.
- GPS devices are generally more robust than delicate smartphones. Designed to be used in various weather conditions and terrains, devices such as the LandAirSea 54 (which is waterproof and dustproof) and LandAirSea Overdrive provide extreme durability.
- GPS devices are much cheaper than smartphones. The iPhone 14 Pro Max 250GB will set you back $1,199 (as of March 2023), while the LandAirSea 54 has a regular retail price of $39.95. That's a huge difference!
How Can LAS Help With GPS Tracking?
LAS has pioneered GPS tracking technology since 1994 and serves a wide range of sectors, including law enforcement, local government, and the military. Here are some common use cases for LAS products:
- Attach a GPS tracker to a vehicle and create a geofence (a virtual boundary) around a real-world location like a business. If your vehicle leaves your pre-determined geofence, you'll receive a notification on your smartphone. You can then track the vehicle as it moves from your business to another location, helping you identify possible theft.
- Place GPS trackers in your commercial fleet of vehicles and monitor driver behavior. You can learn how long drivers take to get to their intended destination and whether they stop along the way. Use this information for performance reviews in your business.
- Attach a tracker to a high-value item in your home or business, such as artwork or expensive commercial equipment. Monitor its location on your desktop or mobile device (via the Silvercloud app).
Here are some of the other benefits of LAS surveillance products:
- World-class customer service
- Fast activation and installation
- No fees to activate your device
- No extra costs
- Pay-as-you-go pricing (on selected models)
- Money-back guarantee
- LAS devices are up to 80% cheaper than other standalone GPS devices on the market
So which GPS unit should you choose?
This device comes with ShareSpot technology that increases the accuracy of GPS and lets you identify vehicles and valuables from your desktop or smartphone. The LandAirSea 54 uses both satellite tracking and 4G LTE technology for advanced GPS precision and is easy to use and set up. Other features include speed alerts, geofence alerts, and arrival and departure notifications.
Don't want to buy batteries? The LandAirSea Sync is the product for you. It connects to your vehicle's OBD II port and generates real-time location insights whenever you need them.
While the LandAirSea 54 has a battery that lasts up to 12 months, the LandAirSea Overdrive has one that runs up to four times longer. It also has a dark mode, making it easier to attach the device to your vehicle at night. Other features include geofence and speed alerts.
Not sure which GPS tracker is best for you? Contact the LAS team and talk to an expert.
How accurate are GPS unit coordinates? It all depends on the device. While signal blockage, atmospheric conditions, and other factors can impact GPS quality in any product, standalone devices like the LandAirSea 54 are more accurate than smartphones. Investing in one of these devices can ensure you determine the right location when tracking inventory, vehicles, and other high-value assets.