The History of Telematics

The History of Telematics
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Telematics is the combination of telecommunications and information processing.

The term “telematics” refers to many things in the academic world, but in everyday conversation it’s usually about vehicles sending and receiving information.

Courier companies use telematics to track their vehicles; shipping companies use telematics to track their containers. In newer cars, drivers can use telematics to locate their vehicles and remotely unlock their doors.

But how did telematics develop, exactly?

Military Origins

Telematics was born in the 1960s, when the U.S. Department of Defense and Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory began developing the Global Positioning System (GPS)..

When you’re fighting a war, intelligence is half the battle. GPS used satellites in the sky and receivers on the ground to help the U.S. military keep track of soldiers and equipment. It made their missiles more accurate as well.

In 1978, the first GPS satellite, NAVSTAR 1, was launched. Over the next ten years, nine more satellites were successfully launched and added to the system (today, GPS uses a constellation of 31 satellites).

1978 was also the year that the term “telematics” first came into use. It appeared in a report to the French government about the computerization of society. They called it “télématique”. Translated into English, this became “telematics”.

Open To The Public

Originally, the U.S. government had no plans to make the GPS public. But in 1983, tragedy struck.

A Korean airliner drifted into Soviet airspace and was shot down, killing all 269 passengers and crew members aboard. Afterwards, President Ronald Reagan announced that GPS would be made available to civilians. The hope was that improving everyone’s access to information would help prevent miscommunications with such terrible consequences.

There was a catch, though – public GPS was hampered by Selective Availability (SA). The U.S. Military didn’t want GPS technology to be turned against it, so it limited public GPS to an accuracy range of 300 feet. The military version was accurate within centimeters.

The Gulf War (1990 – 1991) between the United States and Iraq was the first conflict to see extensive use of GPS technology.

On March 29, 1996, President Clinton signed a directive making GPS an international utility. Private citizens and businesses would be able to use GPS free of charge, and it would be operated at taxpayer expense by the U.S. Air Force.

2000 And Beyond

In 2000, Clinton ended SA. After that, civilian GPS devices had an accuracy range of 40 feet.

In 2005, the U.S. Military launched the first modernized GPS satellite, which made civilian GPS devices even more accurate.

Now, it’s hard to imagine daily life without telematics. Can you believe that, just a couple decades ago, people had to use a paper map to navigate? It’s so much easier to just plug in your destination and have a computer tell you how to get there.

The revolutionary technology of the future, such as delivery drones and driverless vehicles, will also be made possible by telematics. Indeed, telematics has truly changed the world.

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