‘Quantum Compass’: Navigation technology that might replace GPS


GPS is synonymical identified with navigation and is a commonly used for positioning technologies. GPS is one of the best inventions of the internet age but there are a few issues that limit the usage of GPS. The fact that GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite Systems) are based on Satellites mean that they cannot be used if there are signals e.g. inside a cave, underwater, inside the parking lot: The drawbacks of Space based technology.

GPS_SatellitesScientists from UK claim to have found a way to replace GPS and without any kind of space based technology. It all started with research findings that revealed that LASERS can trap and cool atoms placed in vacuum. How cold? To temperatures just a millionth of a degree above absolute zero and of course, The research went onto win the Noble Prize. At these temperatures, atoms are extremely sensitive to changes in Earth’s Magnetic and Gravitational field.

Scientists at the UK Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (DTSL) have utilized these research findings to trap the atoms on a small device, study their fluctuations to allow them to track their movements and pinpoint their locations with precision.  At the moment, trails have been carried out using a device that is roughly 1 metre in length. The key really lies in the ability to create these devices at miniature sizes that can then be fitted inside a Smartphone.

Quantum Compass

Quantum Time, Navigation and Sensing (TNS) technologies could really change the way we navigate in the future. One of the biggest advantages of using Quantum Compass is that there is no known Physical law that can disturb these devices unlike the GPS which is vulnerable to attack and disturbance.

While this technology is perhaps more interesting to Militaries around the world with the ability to locate underwater and no vulnerability, it is only natural that with time this could really change the Navigation world. Already we had several interesting research papers on utilizing the magnetic field of the earth for positioning and navigation, this is perhaps the biggest research to have emerged in that direction. 

Aside from navigation, quantum clocks could also be a lucrative market around the world.

The exploitation of quantum mechanics that underpins the laws of nature at the smallest length scales has already given the world a wealth of new technologies including semiconductors, microprocessors, lasers, nuclear energy, thermal imagers and digital cameras. – DailyMail

Quantum Compass: Navigation Technology of the future? What do you think? Let us know 🙂

Source: DailyMail


I am one of those passionate "Geo-geeks" and "Geo-people" who is just too excited about everything Geo and Management. Location information and spatial technologies are just too big to take a back seat and watch them revolutionize the world. Always curious and looking for ways to innovate, I guess that it comes naturally by the gene pool I inherited from an engineer Mom and a researcher Dad.
  • Dear Muthu,
    You are absolutely right that this kind of technology would solve the many problems of GPS navigation. In addition to the military sector, commercial and recreational divers are longing for a reliable way to navigate underwater.

    In addition to the size, costs would also be a challenge. In the GPS system, the costiest parts are in the orbits. Although satellites are very expensive to launch and maintain, their costs haven’t really reflected to the consumers, because they have been financed by the governments. If the whole navigation system is fitted into the portable part, all the costs will be also paid by the users.

    • Hi Jouni,

      Spot on with your observations. GPS Satellites are expensive but the economic value of GPS is also immense, in some sense PNT applications have become a necessity than a luxury. In fact the main reason why this research is being carried out is to assist submarine positioning. Militaries are always the one researching new things 🙂

      • You are absolutely right, Muthu. Let’s hope they will advance quickly and not hold back their eventual success from the civilians. We are working to bring the scientific diving community to the 21st Century. Now we can work a tablet computer underwater, but the positioning still works poorly. The alternative technologies include very expensive sonar triangulation or doppler, or a more economical but accurate surface buoy with a GPS receiver…

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