​Will there be chaos in the world if GPS fails?

07-04-2021 07:20 pm

If you prefer the railway, know that without GPS on the station board there will be no information about the arrival of the train.

Call a taxi service and you will hear the dispatcher trying to locate his drivers. Open the Uber app and ... you get it.

Without GPS, emergency services will have a hard time: they will not be able to determine the caller's address by phone location and will not find the nearest ambulance or police patrol.

God knows what would happen in the ports, because to unload ships, cranes also need a GPS signal.

Shelves in stores will be emptied due to disruption of timely food supplies. Factories will stop without raw materials.

Agriculture, construction, fisheries, and surveying are just some of the industries that, according to a report by the British government, will suffer $ 1 billion a day for the first time if the GPS system fails.

If the failure lasts more than five days, we will need to start worrying about the stability of other systems, the connection of which with GPS is not obvious to ordinary people, who are accustomed to consider this system only as a means of geolocation.

Basically it is, but GPS is also an accurate time service.

The GPS system consists of 24 satellites, each of which is equipped with a clock synchronized to fractions of a second.

When your smartphone uses GPS to determine your location on the map, it uses signals from some of these satellites and makes calculations based on when the signal was sent and where the satellite was at the time.

An inaccuracy in the satellite clock of at least one thousandth of a second will lead to an error in determining your location at 200-300 kilometers.

Or take, for example, mobile networks: your calls do not merge with others thanks to the multiplex system - the data is recorded over time, encoded, and then decoded at the other end.

Failure in a hundred thousandth of a second will lead to problems in banking transactions, stock trading, power grids, digital television, cloud storage.

All these areas directly depend on the time synchronization of different geolocations.

If GPS fails, how long will the backup systems support all of these features? The answer is not very encouraging: no one knows.

No wonder GPS is called invisible but invaluable support. It has become almost impossible to evaluate it in dollars.