Ever since its invention, when the system was owned by the military, the primary and only use of GPS system was navigation. Over the years the system became available for civil use but its main use hasn’t changed. Even today, the system is used mostly for navigation by the military, privately owned companies and millions of individuals who use it on their smartphones, GPS tracking devices, and standalone GPS navigation devices.
But, while navigation is the by far the most popular way of using the GPS, there are many more interesting ways to use the system. Most of them include navigation in one way or another but some of them employ GPS system in new and inventive ways. Let’s us show you some of the most inventive uses of the GPS technology.
Long gone are times when agriculture was one of the last technology free bastions. Modern farmers use an array of modern technologies that help them to improve crop yields, to increase milk and meat production, and for many other purposes. Among those technologies is the GPS.
The GPS system is used to guide tractors, to provide extremely precise data that can help farmers during harvesting and when setting up irrigation systems (by combining GPS with information about different types of soils, crops, and average rainfall at their farms). By using GPS farmers can increase production, save time, and be much more productive.
Scientists are using GPS for decades in order to track endangered animal species. By installing GPS collars on animals they can follow them, discover their daily routes as well as yearly migration routes, find out more about their mating habits, discover their dens and keep track of their younglings, and the most important, keep the animals safe from poachers.
Of course, endangered animal species aren’t the only ones being tracked. In an interesting study, one research scientist decided to equip domestic cats with GPS tracking collars and to then track their movement. The results were pretty interesting, showing that cats kept to very narrow ranges, near their homes.
Keeping hay bales safe from thieves
This may sound funny but losing hay bales to thieves can be very serious if you live in a place where droughts can be pretty severe like in Oklahoma and happen to be a farmer. Yup, stealing hay bales is pretty popular in Oklahoma but one farmer decided to put a stop to it in one highly original way. Bobby Whittington, a local sheriff at Tillman County, Oklahoma, decided to put a GPS tracker in one bale of hay belonging to a farmer who got hit pretty hard by hay thieves.
The sheriff then waited for thieves to strike again, and when they did he started to track them. He eventually caught the thieves and since then hay thefts had lowered greatly in Tillman County.
India still suffers from extremely high rape rates, and a couple of Indian students invented a bra that acts as a pretty potent deterrent. The bra has a GPS tracker installed in it that activates and sends an alert containing coordinates to a designated contact. It also sends an intense electric shock to the person who tries to unhook the bra.
Tracking consumers via shopping carts
Yup, smart shopping carts are now used to track customers. They are fitted with a small computer containing a GPS receiver, among other things, helping retailers and marketers to adjust their product placement in order to increase sales as well as to offer targeted ads to consumers based on their shopping behavior.
For instance, you might see an ad for a detergent when walking near household products aisle because the computer noticed you always buy a detergent when coming to the store. Someone else will get their own targeted ad once they walk near the monitor, and so on. This is more than a bit creepy, but once you enter the store that uses this kind of shopping carts, you agreed to their terms.
While not really new, GPS-based gaming took a huge bump in popularity with the release of Pokemon GO. The game just exploded and become a worldwide phenomenon that drove millions of mobile gamers to walk and run miles each day in order for their poke eggs to hatch.
Other games accepted the trend and today we have lots of different titles (all on smartphones) that use GPS in order to work. The most recent take on GPS-based gaming is Jurassic World: Alive that enables players to hunt for dinosaurs while walking their dog or visiting the local park.
Michael Wallace, a Baltimore-based artist, decided to shook things up a bit and offer the world a new form of art. He used a GPS tracker along with a mapping software to draw pictures on a digital map of the city.
His “paintings” can be seen on designboom and there you can check out simple designs like a truck or a skull or more complex paintings depicting lunar landing, Hydra, or a pagoda. Interesting and highly original.
Tracking people with dementia with GPS soles
Elderly people suffering from various forms of dementia need constant oversight. Sadly, many retirement homes just cannot keep an eye on all their residents because of lack of personnel. On the other hand, if a dementia patient is living with her family, they have to work and sometimes cannot spend money on nurses that could watch over them at all times.
This is why a smart shoe sole that features a GPS tracker inside it is a great invention that could help to track dementia patients and never let them wander away or get lost. The sole is put into any shoe and then it can track a person whenever it goes. You can geo-fence an area around the home with an alarm activating once the sole goes outside the area. Another interesting and original use of the GPS technology.
Keeping baby Jesus safe
Nativity scenes during Christmas can be found around the U.S but the constant problem churches are facing with is the fact that thieves often steal figurines, especially those of baby Jesus. One security company had found a way to keep figurines safe by equipping them with GPS trackers. An original idea similar to the strategy used by our Oklahoma sheriff.
If the figurine is stolen the GPS device sends an alarm to the owner, notifying them immediately once a figurine is moved. Todd Morris, CEO of Brickhouse Securities, a company that keeps nativity scenes safe explained that: “We monitor it from our cloud-based mapping system, and set up alerts so that they'll get a text message or an e-mail if Baby Jesus is in motion,” offering free service to the churches during each Christmas season.
Other interesting uses
Since GPS receivers can be found in basically any smartphone and trackers being pretty cheap, individuals use GPS for many interesting reasons. Fishermen use GPS trackers to mark their favorite spots, so they don’t spend hours looking for them the next time they decide it is time for some peaceful contemplation over the meaning of life while you catch fish at the same time.
Cyclers and hikers record their favorite routes and then save them so they can share those routes with others, or simply saving them to know which route to take the next time.
Scientists use GPS tech for many different scientific studies. While those involving animals are the most frequent, one study used GPS tracking to measure infinitesimal movements of the Earth’s surface, using them to measure density of materials making the Earth’s core. And also, there’s geocaching, a worldwide treasure hunting activity that got popular with the emergence of personal GPS receivers.