The journey of GPS - innovations that change the way we live

It’s not unusual that great innovations start based on industrial needs and then develop into something ordinary people can use in their daily lives.


SMS is one example. At first, it was used for telecom-service engineers to communicate between themselves so as not to overload the newly developed GSM network. GPS is another, which started as a military application that answered a very precise need to find a specific location. It was then further developed, to help a unit find its own location.

Today, it has changed our lives to the extent that all we need is a vague idea of our destination and the GPS can guide us to basically anything:

  • During busy traffic hours, the GPS will guide you to a shortcut. Leave the highway and take the minor road through the countryside, and you’ll see more pleasant scenery and get there faster.
  • If you are off on vacation to a place you’ve never been before, the GPS will guide you to restaurants, museums, and the best beach.
  • If you have had a late night out or you are just lost, GPS shoes will guide you home.

So what does this tell us? Two things, I believe. First, that it’s important that states drive and support innovative thinking and its development – not only for military reasons, but in any field of development where strategic importance matters. This means a state/municipality having the means and access to the intelligence/knowledge needed to manage creative development. Second, it’s hard to tell the real potential of an idea until people and society have had time to get used to it. For GPS, it took some 30-40 years before it could promise ordinary people they would never get lost again.

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