Finding Our Way

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The Global Positioning System is quickly becoming one of those technologies many of us wonder how we managed without in the good old days, circa 2001.

But how do those high-tech gadgets work? “Maps: Finding Our Place in the World” is a new exhibit hosted by The Field Museum in Chicago from November 2 through January 28. Sponsored by the Chicago-based NAVTEQ, the exhibit shows how GPS works so you can find any country place, and how a GPS position is pinpointed through old-fashioned legwork.

NAVTEQ supplies data to GPS in-car systems, as well as to Internet map sites such as MapQuest, Google and Yahoo. Even the U.S. Army uses NAVTEQ databases. Click here to view the full story.

Beginning with digitized information from existing maps, charts, satellite images, local governments and other sources, NAVTEQ analysts take to the road, driving millions of miles each year to collect the tiny details that help guide us on our trip to Grandma’s house. They also verify data, ensuring that new roads and changes to old roads are included in the current database. As one member of the two-person teams slowly drives an area, the other person feeds information into a laptop computer connected to a GPS tracking their route. The information is then used to update databases around the world.

Current systems use static data stored in each vehicle’s GPS. However, the technology exists for real-time data to be fed into those systems, so one day soon, drivers will be able to avoid accidents, road repairs and traffic jams.

The Field Museum’s exhibit is only a glimpse of the technology awaiting future drivers, whether they’re trying to find the family homestead or the nearest McDonald’s. For more exhibit information, visit The Field Museum’s Web site at www.FieldMuseum.org, or for GPS information visit NAVTEQ’s site at www.NAVTEQ.com.