The “father of GPS” Bradford Parkinson don’t like to use his brainchild

When about 40 years ago Bradford Parkinson and his team of engineers prepared the first specification for a GPS system, he made several sketches, which depicted the expected use of this technology in the future. On one of the sketches created on a plain piece of paper, Parkinson in 1978 introduced as the GPS can be used as car navigation systems. On the other, the inventor has considered using this system in agriculture. Such concepts were few. However, one variant, the inventor did not foresee. And now various companies around the world use the system for silent surveillance of hundreds of millions of people through their smartphones.

“I really don’t like it. We are not talking about the legality or illegality of such use, I just don’t like the idea of permanent control over anyone,” said Parkinson in an interview with Forbes after receiving the award of Queen Elizabeth II in engineering as one of the founders of GPS.

Many companies around the world use the GPS system for quiet track our location. For example, in a recent journalistic investigation of the newspaper the New York Times said that at least 75 companies operating in the United States, anonymously gather data on the exact location about 200 million users through mobile apps. It was also mentioned that some apps are able to track the location of people to within a few meters, several thousand times a day.

Bradford Parkinson was the leading engineer of the scientific group, which worked on the development of GPS in the late 70-ies

Held in January of this year, independent investigation by journalists of the portal Motherboard showed that to help track defendants surety companies even buy data about users from local mobile operators AT&T, T-Mobile Sprint.

One of the original sketches depicting the concept of the use of GPS, developed by Bradford Parkinson in 1978

In the late 70-ies of Parkinson played a very important role in the development and testing of a global positioning system that is now used everywhere, so it is often called the “father of GPS”.

The system, developed in collaboration with three other engineers – James Spillerom, Hugo Fruhauf and Richard Schwartz uses to get from 24 artificial satellites that are synchronized with ground monitoring stations and receivers. Monitoring stations are required for determination and control of orbit parameters, calculate ballistic characteristics, the adjustment of the deviations from trajectories of movement, and control equipment on the Bor spacecraft. The signal receiver measures the propagation delay from the satellite to the receiver. From the received signal, the receiver receives location data of the satellite. To determine the distance from the satellite to receiver signal delay is multiplied by the speed of light. To work GPS required data from at least 4 satellites. The signals allow to obtain the latitude and the longitude of the fourth satellite gives information about the height of the object above the surface. The resulting values can be reduced to a system of equations from which to find the coordinate of the user with accuracy up to 2 meters.

Of course, GPS was originally developed as a military technology that opens the possibility of more accurately guide a ballistic missile to equip the aircraft a more precise navigation equipment and also get the exact coordinates on the ground of its troops and enemy troops for artillery fire adjustment. However, soon this system was used in the civilian sphere.

For example, the organizers held this month of the award of Queen Elizabeth II in engineering noted that GPS has simplified the mission for humanitarian support in various conflict zones, is an indispensable tool in the so-called precision agriculture, as well as just helping people get from point a to point B without the use of normal maps.

As it turned out, among other things, and are worried about the Bradford Parkinson. Speaking at the event, he noted that the global positioning system has become a victim of its own success. Firstly, people have forgotten how to use normal maps, and secondly, various malfunctions in the system can lead to catastrophic consequences.

According to Parkinson, the scope of the GPS for the past almost 50 years has expanded to incredible proportions, and sometimes the ways of its operation was surprising even its creators. In addition to navigation assistance for cars and trucks, aircraft and ships, this system is also used in the financial sector that is of concern to professors.

“You can buy little gadgets, so-called devices, providing the secrecy, which not only give your boss to track you when he decided to see his sweetheart, but block all other GPS systems,” said Parkinson.

Anxiety Parkinson appeared to agree John brown, former CEO of BP and one of the chairmen of the commissions of the award of Queen Elizabeth II in the field of engineering, who stated that the development of the most important technological solutions throughout history was always accompanied by unpredictable consequences.

“One of those consequences in this case is the threat of personal life,” commented brown Forbes.

Parkinson, in turn, understands and even to some extent agree with why companies try to justify the use of positioning technologies people — so it will be easier to give people “more relevant” advertising. But the developer of the system, do not agree with what the people themselves of this usually do not ask.

“You must first obtain my permission to do so”, — complains one of the founders of GPS.

“In 1978 I created about eight concepts of my vision of using this system. For example, in one of them it was about technology that could be applied in the [driverless] cars. There were a number of ideas, which I could clearly imagine. Unfortunately, later there were also a lot of concepts that I imagine just couldn’t”.

Discuss this article in our Telegram chat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *