Blog 7: GPS and GIS

This week in ENP 162 Human-Machine System Design, we worked with the data lab at Tufts in order to learn more about GPS and GIS. The GPS, global positioning system, was originally developed by the US military; however, GPS has had profound impacts on technology industries. The GIS, geographic information system, is a way to visualize, interpret, and analyze data provided by GPS’s.

Image result for GIS systems
An example of a GIS system (1).

There are around 30 satellites constantly orbiting the earth at around 20,000 km (2). At any point on the Earth, there are at least 4 satellites that are able to read your position. Satellites, receivers, and ground stations all work together in order to express a location through longitudinal and latitudinal ordinates (3).

Image result for gps stand for
An overview of how GPS works (4).

GPS and GIS have a myriad of applications. Here is a list of everyday applications of when you may use GPS and GIS:

  • Google Maps
  • Uber Eats
  • Facebook “check-in”
  • Yelp
  • Snapchat “filters”
  • Google search engine: “find bike stores near me”

GPS and GIS also have a lot of implications in academia and research. Here are some examples of important questions researchers examine with this data:

  • Migratory patterns of endangered animals
  • Displacement of refugees
  • Spread of anti-biotic diseases
  • Oil spills
  • Spread of invasive species

The future of GIS and GPS have a dynamic future with serious potential consequences. With the farther development of big data and increased ability to track and locate users and individuals, in the wrong hands, this type of technology could raise serious ethical and societal-related issues. Although this technology has the potential to cause harm, it also has an incredible ability to help humans, environment, and animals. If epidemiologist were able to faster identify the spread of harmful diseases, then many human lives could be saved. Or, if researchers were better able to identify migratory patterns of endangered species, then mechanisms could be enabled to limit human’s impacts on these species.

Image result for gis data epidemiology
GIS of health-related issues in the USA (5).

In conclusion, like most other technological aspects in this course, GPS and GIS capabilities are going to continue to improve, and we must consider how these technologies will impact society–both positively and negatively.




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