May 24 2014
Most of you probably have already know that GPS began its life as a military technology in the 1970s, but then in the late 80s everything has changed since the US government decided to allow the civilian to use the satellite network. It means that every mobile device on the planet has a GPS chip built-in that lets you to find your way around, but now GPS is getting old and it does not work well in all situations. Recently, the British Ministry of Defense is hard at work in developing a so-called as quantum compass that can be the successor of GPS. And just like GPS, it probably can land in your pocket one day.
The UK military is now investing millions of pounds in the quantum compass mainly for use in the submarines. The GPS systems require a view of the sky or little obstruction to get a location fix. It makes a tube of metal sliding through the water 100 meters beneath the waves cannot really get a GPS lock. The submarines currently use a type of inertial location system that based on accelerometers. Each twist and turn of the sub will be recorded and used to calculate its position that based on the last known coordinates. And then, this is called as dead reckoning navigation. However, it has a wicked cool name and also it is only as good as the system that it is built on, besides the accelerometers are not very good. The subs can regularly drift more than a kilometer after being submerged for a day. Then this compass can replace the accelerometer and provide the extremely precise location analysis for the long periods of time underwater. This will be super cool right?
Even it is not launched yet, but it can be great news for you who are disappointed with GPS system. However, even later on one day if this quantum compass ever makes its way to smartphone, it will probably still need to be paired with some sort of the GPS system. Actually it needs a point of reference in order to calculate your position with those super-cooled atoms. Of course, it maybe only need to fire up the GPS once every week or few days to recalibrate the compass. Just wait and see, when the UK military finally will launch this GPS successor, and wait if probably it can be used for civilian as well.