A government report has found that the UK could lose £1 billion per day if the Global Positioning System (GPS) experienced major disruption.
With society now reliant on this technology for everyday navigation on mobile phones, for tracking, and even gaming, the impact of an event such as this would be dangerous beyond the financial haemorrhage.
Emergency services would be unable to handle the demand, emergency calls would be longer, congestion would be severe, and navigation systems would be not be operational.
GPS would not only impact navigation, it would affect multiple industries that rely on the technology for mapping, tracking, and timing.
The report outlines a day in the UK of using services that operate using GPS, some you might not have thought of include social media and online news, which are synchronised using GNSS time.
Shops, scientists and merchant vessels would also be included, with other examples spreading right across the industrial spectrum to fisherman and farmers.
The report is titled ‘Economic impact to the UK of a disruption to GNSS’, it was commissioned by Innovate UK, a non-departmental public body operating with connection to the Government. London Economics, a specialist policy and economics consultancy worked on the report.
The report summarises the capabilities and uses of the system: “The Global Positioning System (GPS) is one – albeit the original and most utilised – of four Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) that provide positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) information via satellites orbiting in space. This information allows users with a compatible receiver (e.g. smartphone) to determine their position, velocity and precise universal and local time.”
Impact has been felt before in the UK from disruption of this kind, as British industries were affected when a US satellite was decommissioned; it is thought that other satellites were also impacted.
With the potential for such all-round chaos, there is now a conversation rising surrounding government intervention, and possibly the implementation of a commercial GPS backup in the event of disruption.