Five helpful ways to use your GPS during your summer adventures
If you’ve ever been lost on the road, you probably appreciate the power of the Global Positioning System — commonly known as GPS.
Originally built for tracking using a satellite-based navigation system, GPS has become an integral part of many people’s day-to-day lives. Since the launch of the first GPS satellite in 1978, the technology has evolved to be highly accurate, often within meters despite tree cover, tall buildings or extreme weather conditions.
GPS has many amazing applications ranging from general mapping and navigation on your smartphone to specific, purpose-built devices designed to locate valuables and monitor vehicle fleets.
Here are five ways to use your GPS tracker this summer.
Track your hike, ride or run and let your loved ones know you’re safe
Whether you’re training for a race or just counting your steps, GPS is a key component of fitness tracking. Fitness wearables and smartwatches from Garmin, Suunto, Fitbit and Apple use GPS technology to map routes and collect data ranging from distance and pace to heart rate and cadence.
You can also upload a predetermined route and follow turn-by-turn directions as you hike, run or ride. There are dozens of smartphone fitness apps with similar capabilities that can stand alone or connect to your wearable tech.
Fitness trackers are also useful for personal safety. Use a service such as Strava Beacon or Garmin LiveTrack to notify friends and family when you start and finish an activity: These tools also allow your contacts to follow your progress in real time.
Keep an eye on your kids
One of the toughest challenges of being a parent is monitoring your children’s safety when they aren’t within eyesight or earshot. The summer can be especially stressful as kids head off to day camps, play dates with friends, sports practices and neighborhood activities.
Even in an objectively safe environment, kids will be kids. They will test boundaries, explore on their own and find ways to skirt supervision.
Fortunately, the world of wearables now extends to GPS tracking devices for kids. Set up a safety zone — a virtual radius around your home, for example — and set the tracker to alert you when your child steps outside this designated boundary.
You can also enable two-way calling, which allows you and your child to communicate directly through the device, as well as real-time tracking. There are many options on the market to meet a wide range of functional needs, aesthetic preferences and price points, and many even come with added features like learning games and video calling.
Locate your adventurous pets
Your dog, cat or pet pig, no matter how well trained, has a mind of its own. Pets will chase after anything that catches their eye, hide when they are scared and follow their innate urge to explore.
The loss of a pet is devastating. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that 15 percent of pets will become lost at some point, though anecdotal evidence has suggested that number might be higher.
Consider using a GPS tracking collar to pinpoint your pet’s location in real time. This technology can also prove useful if you are traveling with your pet or exploring a remote or unfamiliar place.
Head out on your road trip with confidence
If you own a smartphone, chances are you have used a mapping app to get from one place to another.
However, GPS is good for more than just finding a route to your destination. It is also a tool for directing emergency first responders or roadside assistance to your exact location.
For example, roadside assistance apps use GPS-dispatch technology to match drivers with the closest tow truck and, like Uber, allow users to monitor their truck’s location in real time. Your phone can also provide coordinates to emergency vehicles.
Go on your summer road trip confident that you’ll be able to get the help you need in a sticky situation.
Put a pin in the perfect hunting, fishing, or camping spot
There’s nothing worse than finding the ideal remote location for your favorite outdoor hobby and then being unable to find that exact spot at a later date. With GPS technology, you can leave those metaphorical breadcrumbs to mark your path.
Both handheld devices and smartphone apps have the capacity to help you scout and save specific locations.
If you don’t want to spring for a separate gadget, you can download Google Maps and use it offline in places with no cell signal. These tools are also pretty good at preventing you from getting lost out in the wild.
With hundreds of devices on the market and many potential uses, GPS tracking is a great tool to ensure a fun and safe summer.