What is GLONASS and Galileo and how does it improve GPS

How is GPS related to GLONASS and Galileo?

Surely you have heard at some point the acronym GPS and you know what it is. Most likely, you have GPS in your car, on your mobile phone, on your tablet, and even on your camera, thanks to which the exact place where you took your last photos was recorded.

GPS has been among our devices for years and we had never asked ourselves many questions about it, but it turns out that now when they talk to us about positioning they also talk about GLONASS and Galileo, and the doubts begin.

Do these systems do the same thing as GPS? And if they do the same, why are they necessary? Is a device that receives GLONASS and Galileo better than a device that only receives GPS?

I asked myself all these questions recently, as I was looking for the best GPS sports watch and I had to research all this thoroughly before buying my watch, so now I can share it with you in a concrete and simple way.

What is GLONASS and Galileo?

Yes, as you suspected, GLONASS and Galileo are the same things as GPS. Each of these names refers to one of the Global Navigation Satellite Systems ( GNSS ) that are currently functional.

What is GLONASS and Galileo

That is to say, all of them are made up of a series of satellites that orbit around our planet and serve to offer geographic information such as place, altitude, speed, and time for any device that can decode their signal.

The difference between them is that they were designed and sent into space by 3 different nations :

  • The United States was the pioneer in creating GPS.
  • Then Russia with GLONASS
  • And Galileo is the most recent, owned by the European Union.

Within a couple of years, we will surely have new systems, as there are other nations developing their own.

In this study from NovAtel, a Canadian global positioning company, you can see details about existing GNSS and those under development, as well as an excellent explanation of how GNSS works.

Do GLONASS and Galileo improve GPS?

In effect, GLONASS and Galileo improve GPS, since GPS has a high margin of error.

As explained in this article by GPS America, a Mexican Electronic Security and Technology Company, for reasons of military intelligence, or due to interference from the atmosphere and ionosphere, the positioning accuracy offered by GPS can fail by a margin of between 1 and 30 meters, which could be fatal if, for example, you get lost while hiking.

The GLONASS and Galileo systems were launched into space more recently, so their technologies are more advanced.

In fact, the Galileo system is not yet complete, today the missing satellites are still being built and programmed and it is expected that they will be put into orbit this year, for which it will be the most modern global GNSS, and it was also designed completely for civilian use, so it does not have the typical military security restrictions.

Thanks to all this, the GLONASS and Galileo satellites offer much more precise positioning information, which, when combined with GPS, reduces the margin of error to just centimeters.

Are the new devices with GLONASS and Galileo necessary?

Yes. I have had several sports watches in recent years, and while the ones that only had GPS gave me an approximate location, the most recent one I bought receives GLONASS and Galileo and tells me the exact point where I am, and updates with the efficiency that location, whether you’re walking, running, cycling or in the car.

It has helped me to locate myself in seconds inside a very thick forest and with terrible weather conditions, which I would never have imagined doing only with the GPS.

I find this a highly important function, which is why I made sure to include the best sports watch models with GLONASS and Galileo in my top sports watches of the year.

These can be configured to capture either the L1 frequency band, which simultaneously supports GPS and GLONASS, or the L1/E1 and L5/E5a frequency bands, which simultaneously support GPS and Galileo, so that any device with this technology: “it is capable of offering centimeter accuracy with minimal power consumption and a small size to rapidly expand precise positioning applications”.

Having access to GLONASS and Galileo on your devices will prevent your geolocation capabilities from becoming obsolete, so if you don’t already have it, don’t hesitate to update your technologies as soon as possible. 

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