Reliance on advanced technologies: Progressive or detrimental?

Will the GPS signals be affected by LightSquared's ground station developments?

I have had a nagging thought in the back of my mind for years that our continued reliance on technology will one day bite us in the butt. Perhaps I watch too many science fiction movies—and I certainly don't mean to imply that machines will take over the Earth—but I worry that we are so centered on continually one-upping our latest technological advancement that we fail to take the necessary forward-thinking precautions.

My job, for example, has become so dependent on computers and the internet that if either technology fails to work, getting anything accomplished becomes nearly impossible. As we become increasingly reliant on technology, our ability to troubleshoot and remedy problems on our own diminishes.

Cell phone use is another example of how an advanced technology can almost make a person helpless should it fail. If your battery died on your cell phone, would you know all of the numbers to call from a landline, or do you rely on your phone's contact list to call someone? If you were stranded with no cell phone, how would you get help?

This calls to light a recent development in the GPS and precision systems industry. Interference with GPS is a potential problem due to LightSquared's planned deployment of 40,000 ground stations (read more on this topic on page 26). 

The Coalition to Save Our GPS released a press release commenting on the potential financial and economical detriments to position system-dependent industries like agriculture and construction estimated upwards of $90 billion and 3.3 million jobs, based on a study done by NDP Consulting Group. 

LightSquared issued a statement recently stating that the GPS industry could have prevented much of the interference issues had it been manufacturing products correctly the past 8 years, a statement dismissed by the GPS industry.

Michael Gomes, Director of Global OEM Solutions at Topcon Positioning Systems, also clarified a necessary distinction that needs to be made between interference to consumer-grade usage of GPS systems and precision positioning systems as used in the ag and construction industries. Gomes says, "Testing results have shown that the Precise Positioning receivers are subject to in-band interference, based upon the sophistication of the solution they provide and all manufacturers within the Precise space are affected to some degree or another.

It will be interesting to see what solutions and product development changes (if any) come from this public issue.

You can participate in the discussion on OEM Off-Highway's Facebook page (, our LinkedIn Group or send me an email with your thoughts on the GPS situation. 

Of course, if you want to avoid reliance on technology altogether, send us a letter to 1233 Janesville Ave., Fort Atkinson, WI 53538.