Since commissioning in 1995, the global positioning system (better known as GPS), it is widespread in the United States and abroad. The concept of satellite navigation has become so important that other world powers, including China, Russia, European Union, India and Japan, began to create their own regional or global system.
And now, one of the most complete studies on this topic have assessed the value of GPS technology to the US economy and find out what the effect can have a 30-day shutdown associated with a serious event in space weather or with “malicious activity on the part of the attackers”. The study was funded by the National Institute of standards and technology and was conducted by RTI International.
What if GPS stops working
In the analysis, researchers interviewed more than 200 experts in the use of GPS technology, which do a variety of things, from agriculture to positioning offshore drilling rigs and positioning of the drivers, deliverymen. The study covered the period from 1984, when the emerging GPS network was first opened to commercial use, and until 2017. It was found that during this period the GPS has brought economic benefits to some 1.4 trillion dollars.
The greatest benefit, according to scientists, in 685,9 billion dollars, was received in the category “telecommunications” including improving the reliability and applicability of bandwidth for wireless networks. Telematics (efficiency improvement, cost reduction, environmental benefit associated with improved dispatching and navigation) took the second place among the most valuable categories of $ 325 billion. Services based on location on smart phones was estimated at 215 billion dollars.
It is noteworthy that the value of GPS technology to the US economy and the world in General, is only growing. 90% of the financial impact of this technology has been gaining weight since 2010, that is only 20% of the study period. Some segments of the economy are only beginning to realize the value of GPS technology, or identify new opportunities for its use, the report said. The value of technology as platforms for innovation will continue to grow.
The implications of disabling GPS
In the event any adverse event leading to widespread outage, the study estimates that the shutdown of the GPS will be the impact at $ 1 billion a day, although this is at best a rough estimate. Probably, the costs will be higher in April and may, since many farmers depend heavily on GPS to receive information from the fields.
To assess the consequences of failure, the study examined several different variables. Among them was “accurate timing”, which provides a number of wireless services, including synchronization of traffic between the network operators, the wireless transmission between the base stations, and managing billing. In addition, higher levels of precision synchronization ensure higher throughput and provide access to a larger number of devices. For example, the introduction of 4G LTE would have been impossible without GPS technology.
In the event of a failure during the first two days the effects will be relatively small, but then the wireless network will significantly deteriorate. According to the study, after 30 days, functionality will be in the range from 0 to 60 percent of normal operating level. Landline is not affected.
“GPS appeared during the significant development of the telecommunications sector and has played a crucial role in the digitization of the telecommunications infrastructure and the development of wireless technologies,” the scientists write. “Wireless technology continues to evolve, increasing their dependence on high-precision synchronization, which in turn, increases dependence on GPS. Numerous technology trends, from Autonomous cars to the “Internet of things” — will extend the limits of wireless technologies in the coming years.”