It’s a Sunday. You’re meeting your friends for a Harry Potter marathon and apparently the films will be shown in a downtown cinema you’ve never been to before. Uh-oh… You’ve never heard of that address! But, wait. Click on the link you’ve been sent and… bingo! You’re a 23-minute walk away.
This simple gesture that spared you from carrying a paper map (and turning it around a thousand times to find your bearings) is made possible thanks to a satellite. Well, not a single satellite, but a network of about twenty that talk to each other in real time to guide you at ground level. They are collectively known as called Galileo and will be your most helpful pals from now on.
You’ve probably heard a thousand times about GPS, the satellite navigation and geolocation system developed by the US military, but perhaps you’re not so familiar about Galileo, a much more precise version that Europe develops since 2011 for civilian purposes.
Last generation mobile phones are Galileo-compatible. Galileo provides a key benefit: an accuracy to the nearest 3 m. This is quite a step forward from the American GPS system open signal, which has a higher margin of error. That’s why sometimes your phone goes nuts and can’t decide whether you are on one side of the street or the other, or what lane of the motorway you are driving in. I’m sure this has happened to you at some point!
Perhaps you weren’t aware that one of the great challenges for any geolocation systems is buildings in city centres. These make the signal bounce, compromising accuracy. What is Galileo doing to prevent this? It boasts a system that recalibrates the data received from several network satellites when its signal bounces off buildings, so it can seamlessly ‘walk’ along the user through the city in real time. Enjoy your adventures at Hogwarts! Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus!