GPS Spoofing and Jamming: How grave is the threat?

GPS Terrorism. Image Courtesy: Fox News

GPS Terrorism. Image Courtesy: Fox News

Global Positioning System has slowly evolved to the point where it is the most widely used positioning system in the world. Aircrafts, Ships, Missiles, Cars and UAVs rely on the positioning provided by this system to make their next move. In a world where GPS is vital and in fact the most revolutionary positioning method since the days of “celestial object” based navigation, is the system fool proof? Can it sustain against attempts to sabotage its service and mislead people and machines?

Unfortunately the answer is a BIG NO! GPS Jamming is a real threat and its really very easy to deny GPS positioning. But it is pale in comparison with to the effect and destruction that GPS Spoofing can cause. GPS Spoofing took centre stage when Dr. Humphreys, Professor at University of Texas and his team built a GPS spoofer to misguide an UAV. The experiment made the Department of Homeland Security, USA to invite Dr. Humphreys and his team to showcase their latest findings on GPS spoofing and the real gravity of the threat.

Dr. Humphreys has done it again; his team of GPS experts from the University of Texas took control of the navigation system ob board an $80 million super yacht in the Mediterranean just using a laptop, a small antenna and an electronic GPS “spoofer” built for $3,000. Clearly proving that the GPS flaw could let terrorists hack ships and planes.

Dr. Humphreys gave a wonderful talk on TED regarding GPS spoofing and its threat. Definitely worth a watch

The worst thing is that GPS Spoofing can go undetected. Your navigation system will not find anything amiss until the fateful moment. Consider the case of an UAV that is scheduled to launch a missile; GPS spoofing can not only alter the direction of the UAV but potentially cause destruction by rigging the navigation of the missile as well. The military has it easier as they can use the encrypted signals which make it harder to be spoofed.

It gets even more frightening to note that there is no real defense for civilian aircrafts if such an attack on the navigation system is to take place as encrypted signals are not something they have access to. The GPS signals used by the civilian aircrafts are like a WiFi network without any kind of password or encryption which essentially allows anyone to latch on and communicate/control your PC or Laptop that’s connected to the WiFi. The way forward to prevent such spoofing attempts is still very much a research topic but on the face of it, encrypted signals will solve the issue. But the real problem is, it’s almost impossible to provide the encryption to everyone as it defeats the purpose of encrypting the signal. As we know, the L2 signals sent by the GPS satellites are encrypted and only the military can utilize them but I have my doubts regarding the efficiency of positioning when only L2 signals are used.

The answer to the question – gps spoofing and jamming: How grave? Really not good!


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Hi Tech GPS gadget in Football: Tracking player performance and fitness!

Football is probably the most popular sport in the world and is some countries it is even considered as a “religion” . It’s only naturally that Football clubs around the world and especially in the cash rich English Premier League want the latest gadgets that are available in the market to ensure they have a competitive advantage over their rivals. One of the biggest concern for any club is the fitness of the players. Are they running as much as they can, what is their heartbeat rate, etc., are things that any coach would love to have on his/her desk to evaluate player performance and fitness.

GPS/GNSS and Sports Performance Monitoring

GPS/GNSS has been used in a lot of industries ranging from precision agriculture to measuring hurricane wind speeds. With the advent of multi-sensor systems in sports, it is time for Global Positioning on the football field! One such Multi-sensor system that is being widely used by some of the biggest and well-known clubs in England happens to be STATSports Technologies Viper system, a multi-sensor Sports Performance monitoring tool.



 The Viper unit or Viper Pod as it is called, is essentially a GPS system that collects a multitude of statistics regarding player speed, distance covered, acceleration, deceleration and dynamic stress loads. The Pod contains a long list of other components as well. The list includes a 3 dimensional accelerometer , a 3 dimensional gyroscope,  a 3 dimensional digital compass, a long range radio and a heart rate receiver. As you aware of, the accelerometer helps gather statistics regarding speed and direction of acceleration, the gyroscope regarding orientation and balance while the radio is the main communication channel.

It’s a remarkable machine considering that it’s weight is equal to that of 2 AA batteries and the parameters are calculated over 100 times per second. Mind boggling numbers.. Let me do the math, that is 6000 entries in a minute and 5.4 million entries in a 90 minute game!  The system can be utilized in a million ways and provides valuable insights which can be used by a manager to pull out a player if he’s not playing properly. Besides the obvious implementation in setting workload and goals.

This heat map for ex-Arsenal player Martin Angha super imposed on top of his GPS tracking data.  Image Courtesy: Daily Mail

This heat map for ex-Arsenal player Martin Angha super imposed on top of his GPS tracking data.
Image Courtesy: Daily Mail


What’s amazing in this system is the size of this viper unit and its ability to utilize GPS in such accurate manner. The smallest GPS card that I have seen is half the size of a visiting card. That’s really really small for a high precision GPS card. By the look of it, the Viper Unit looks about that size, besides containing the other sensors and communication channel. It’s like a low weight smartphone with GPS enabled in it. I wonder if we can get the GPS accuracy plotted and see if it compares to the commercial high precision GPS cards!

More applications

There is another Sport where I heard that GPS units were being used as a pilot projects – Horse racing. I heard that the GPS units were strapped to the race horses during training to analyze whether or not a particular horse is a marathon runner or a sprinter besides evaluating which horse should race on that day.

GPS is slowing expanding its footprint in new and novel applications. The smaller the units get, the more applications and ideas that evolve! The GPS gadget in football is an example of that evolution! (Read more: The role of Wearable Tech and Internet of Things in Geomedicine).

Source: DailyMail

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