Through Waze and Means: How Navigation Software Detects Your Location

a woman using a navigation appNavigation apps such as Waze and Google Maps have become very important tools for over 100 million active users every month. If you need to find the best route with the least amount of traffic or are going through an unknown area for the first time, these apps may be handy for your trip.

Everyone may already know that these navigation apps use Global Positioning System (GPS) to determine your approximate area and show you the path to go from your location. But for those who can’t memorize directions or read their phone in traffic, one feature from Waze is very helpful: It determines where you are and how fast you’re moving and can tell you when to turn. This feature requires more than GPS and uses the Inertial Navigation System (INS) to track down accurately where you are.

Inertial Navigation Systems

INS works hand in hand with GPS. GPS can track your location, but only until a certain point. If you look at Google Maps and see a large circle encompassing an area you’re in, that’s where GPS estimates your location. It is correct, but it is not accurate.

INS, however, uses “dead reckoning,” a method that tracks your starting point and last known location to determine where you might be heading and estimating how fast you are going.

Navigation software companies, automotive, aeronautics, and other industries that require GPS and INS need to calibrate their software to ensure maximum accuracy. By using inertial simulators and other technology for rigorous testing, users can quickly pinpoint where they are, where they are going, and how far they are from their destination. It applies to all GPS/INS uses, from high-level military operations down to everyday navigation apps.

How It Works on Navigation Apps

Imagine your car driving down the street. INS takes the GPS of your last known locations and detects that you are driving down the road because the GPS is changing as you drive. Based on how long it took you to drive to the end of the street, INS can determine where you’re going and how close you are towards the next street you have to turn to.

Using INS, apps can also determine traffic. Say that there are 10 app users scattered within one street. It’s a traffic jam, and all of you are moving at less than two miles an hour. The app detects that you and the other users haven’t progressed very far from your last location within an amount of time and, from that data, detects there’s a density of vehicles in that area and warns other users from using that street.

Advanced technology has made life easier, and navigation apps are one example of it. Using GPS and INS, these apps can lead people safely and efficiently to their destination, which is why app companies have to keep fine-tuning their technology to provide accurate information.