What Type of Data Does GPS Use?


Angela Bailey

What Type of Data Does GPS Use?

Global Positioning System (GPS) is a technology widely used today for navigation and location tracking. It relies on a constellation of satellites orbiting the Earth to provide accurate positioning information.

To understand how GPS works, it’s essential to know what type of data it uses. In this article, we’ll delve into the different types of data that GPS utilizes to determine precise location coordinates.

1. Satellite Signals

GPS devices receive signals from multiple satellites in orbit around the Earth. These signals contain vital information that helps determine the user’s position accurately.

The satellites transmit two types of signals: navigation message and pseudorandom noise code (PRN code).

Navigation Message

The navigation message includes important data such as satellite positions, clock corrections, and system status. It provides the necessary information for your GPS device to calculate your exact location on Earth.

PRN Code

The PRN code is a unique binary sequence transmitted by each satellite. By comparing the received PRN codes from various satellites, your GPS device can calculate the distance between itself and each satellite.

This distance measurement enables precise positioning calculations.

2. Time Data

Accurate timekeeping is crucial for GPS calculations. Each satellite in the GPS constellation has an onboard atomic clock that provides highly precise timing information.

By comparing the time signals received from multiple satellites, your GPS device can accurately calculate its position.

3. User Inputs

GPS devices also rely on user inputs to function effectively. Users often provide their intended destinations or waypoints through manual input or via external systems like smartphones or computers connected to their GPS devices.

4. Almanac and Ephemeris Data

Almanac and ephemeris data provide essential information about the current positions of GPS satellites. The almanac data contains approximate orbital information for all satellites in the GPS constellation, while the ephemeris data provides precise orbital parameters for each satellite.

5. Mapping Data

In addition to the above-mentioned data, GPS devices require mapping data to display accurate maps and provide navigational guidance. Mapping data includes road networks, points of interest, topographic features, and other relevant geographical information.


GPS technology relies on a combination of satellite signals, time data, user inputs, almanac/ephemeris data, and mapping data to determine accurate positioning information. By understanding the various types of data that GPS uses, you can appreciate how this technology enables precise navigation and location tracking.

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