Question: You have an emergency while on the highway and call 911 from your cell phone. Is it necessary to give where you are to the operator or can he locate you instantly?
Answer: In case your cell phone was manufactured after 2005, he is probably able to locate you instantly because of an FCC rule that went into effect towards the end of ’05.
The directive, known as E911 (short for Enhanced 911), necessitates that new cell phones support location identification technology, and therefore whenever you dial 911 from your mobile, the public safety responding to point (PSAP) can locate you as precisely as within 60 yards of where you stand. The primary technology that makes this possible is GPS.
How GPS Technology Works
Basically, GPS technology works in this manner. Your cell phone produces radio waves that are acquired by satellites revolving around the earth. It requires three satellites to operate together to find the phone, utilizing a geometric technique known as trilateration: the phone’s waves produce a spherical signal around each one of the three satellites, and where these spheres intersect on the ground is the position of the cell phone.
Besides this natural part in helping locate wireless 911 phone callers, GPS technology has some good commercial programs when associated with cell phones. While practically all brand new phones have fundamental location identification technology that satisfies the E911 directive, some are specifically know as GPS phones and include advanced features that provide the consumer with some unique benefits.
GPS Cell Phone Programs
Probably the most popular use of GPS phones is supplying the consumer with turn-by-turn driving directions–both as spoken pre-recorded signs and as a roadmap on the phone’s screen. Until a couple of years back, GPS tracking was just on luxury cars (recall the movie The Out-of-Towners?). Now, it’s as affordable and convenient as a GPS phone along with a plan that supports it. A few of these services have become so advanced that when you miss a turn, the phone instantly finds the next best route to your destination and goes after that.
A GPS phone is also a viable all-in-one tool at the disposal of a walker or outdoors individual who can know precisely where he is with no traditional aid of the map and compass. The only real caveat is the fact that to ensure that the GPS plan to works, the phone should be physically situated in the carrier’s service area–quite simply, if you’re lost in the backwoods and your phone does not have a signal, you better have the old-fashioned map and compass as a backup.
Also, many parents find GPS technology to be a convenient and non-interfering method to monitor their kids’ location. For example, Sprint’s Family Locator Service uses GPS technology to find the kid’s phone and provide parents with the location information in map and text format on their phone–as long as both phones are GPS enabled.
How Much Does GPS Cell Phone Service Cost?
What you basically need is a GPS-enabled cell phone along with a service that supports it. Although all brand new phones are in possession of the fundamental E911 location identification feature, just a few models are fully GPS enabled. Nextel was the first wireless company offering GPS-enabled cell phones, featuring either the TeleNav (Telenavigation) or the ViaMoto (Motorola) GPS systems. Sprint and Nextel are the providers that broke new ground by providing plans including GPS services. Nextel has some interesting cell phone deals on phones featuring GPS technology.
If the technology sounds interesting to you, typical cost (besides the regular cell phone service) is $10 per month, which isn’t a great deal thinking about the truly amazing benefits you receive from this.