The Global Positioning System, or GPS as we all know it, may soon have a navigational rival thanks to new technology.
Among the guns, tanks and planes being churned out in the labs of arms manufacturer BAE Systems is a technology known as NAVSOP – standing for Navigation via Signals of Opportunity - which uses the same wireless technologies as mobile phones, TVs, radios and Wi-Fi.
This represents a break from the use of satellites spinning some 12,000 miles from Earth that GPS employs. And by utilising a wider range of signals than GPS, NAVSOP has greater resistance to interference such as jamming and spoofing – where a bogus signal tricks a device into misidentifying a location.
In its current guise, the prototype is a large box-like piece of hardware placed on the back of a car, but the product will be no bigger than a GPS dongle (barely larger than a coin) by the time it hits the market.
"The potential applications of this technology are already generating huge excitement in both civilian and military circles," said Dr Ramsey Faragher, a Principal Scientist from BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre.
Colleague James Baker adds, "At a time when the need to be innovative and resourceful is more important than ever, this capability represents truly outside-the-box thinking by providing a cost effective system with a wide variety of different applications."
"This technology is a real game changer when it comes to navigation, which builds upon the rich heritage that both BAE Systems and the UK have in radio engineering."
Since BAE Systems main contribution to the world has been supplying arms to anyone with enough cash to buy them, NAVSOP promises to have a more positive civilian impact, by helping fire and rescue services find their way through smoke filled buildings and enhancing the safety of lone workers and security staff.