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How Accurate are GPS Unit Coordinates, Really?

How Accurate are GPS Unit Coordinates, Really?

Has your Uber app ever displayed the wrong pick-up location on its map? Has Google Maps ever shown 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 can influence GPS accuracy. Some of these factors are within your control whereas others occur due to kinks in the technology. So how accurate are GPS unit coordinates?

How Does GPS Work?

The Global Positioning System (GPS) comprises over 30 navigation satellites that orbit the planet. These satellites constantly send signals to GPS receivers in smartphones or standalone GPS devices. A receiver then calculates its distance from four or more satellites to determine your location.

But how accurate is that location?

Factors That Affect GPS Accuracy

All kinds of things affect GPS accuracy. Factors such as satellite geometry, atmospheric conditions, signal blockage, and the quality of the GPS receiver (more on that in the next section). You might notice that your GPS doesn't work when standing near a downtown skyscraper, for example. That's because the tall building is blocking the GPS signal. GPS quality can also worsen if you stand next to a bridge or a tall tree.

High-quality, dual-frequency GPS receivers can eliminate some of these problems, but you won't often find this technology in smartphones. Only a select few handsets, such as the Google Pixel 4, offer dual-frequency GPS. Even the latest iPhone doesn't come with this feature.

Other factors that influence how accurate are GPS unit coordinates include radio interference, solar storms, and 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 Chinese restaurant or grocery store, but it's not as precise as you think. Smartphones are usually accurate within a 4.9-meter radius, which is less than a high-quality standalone GPS device. That 4.9-meter radius might mean your Uber driver picks you up on the opposite side of the street. Or you turn up at the wrong building for an important job interview and wonder how accurate are GPS unit coordinates anyway?

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). That means it's far more accurate than an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. Other LandAirSea products are just as reliable as the LandAirSea 54. If you want to determine a location with greater accuracy, consider investing in one of these products.

Why is Any of This Important?

You might think that a couple of 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 won't provide them with the precision they need.

Take a busy warehouse with thousands of products, for example. Say a manager attaches a standalone GPS device to an item so she can quickly locate it later. A GPS accuracy of 1.8 meters (compared to 4.9 meters) could save her a considerable amount of searching time.

That's why 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.

LandAirSea products use various mapping programs such as Google Earth, Google Maps, and the Silvercloud App, as well as GPS technologies such as geofencing.

Other Benefits of GPS Devices

As well as typically being more accurate than smartphones, standalone GPS devices provide the following benefits:

  • Batteries in standalone GPS devices last for much longer than those in smartphones. LandAirSea products, for example, come with a battery that lasts for up to 12 months. You can even use Powersaver mode to conserve battery life.
  • You can attach smaller GPS devices to vehicles and high-value items and track inventory, assets, and employees. LandAirSea products provide you with 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 provide extreme durability.

Final Word

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 are often 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.

Learn more about LandAirSea's incredible range of GPS trackers for security, performance, customer service, asset protection, and inventory management.

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