Ever wondered how our navigation systems work? We’re explaining Galileo and why the Global Navigation Satellite System is so important.
If you live in Europe you may have come across the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS). If you own a recent wearable like the Garmin Fenix 7 or Apple Watch 7, you’ll also have likely seen in it on the products’ specs page. But what is it, and why is it important?
Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about Galileo and why it’s so important.
What is Galileo?
Galileo is Europe’s Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and it helps provide accurate and reliable positioning information as well as timing information.
GNSS is also an umbrella term that covers all global satellite positioning systems, such as GPS or GLONASS, which feature the constellations of satellites that orbit above the earth and transmit signals that allow us to determine our location.
There are actually four different global GNSS systems; Galileo is for Europe, GPS is for the USA, GLONASS is for Russia and BeiDou is for China.
It has been operational since December 2016 and is more commonly used than you may think, popping up in mobile devices, cars, railways and aviation, among others.
As the name implies, GNSS uses small satellites to help pinpoint exact locations. GNSS receivers are able to accurately determine their own location by measuring the distance to at least four other satellites.
It uses a processor and an antenna; the antenna catches signals while the processor decodes the information, which then allows the user to see their exact location on a map.
You can check out this short video explaining Galileo from the EU Agency, just below, if you want more information.
What are the benefits of Galileo?
Other than what we’ve already mentioned, Galileo is one of the most accurate systems for precise location positioning, which is why many critical and emergency services use this system. It also helps to keep Europe’s roads and railways safer and more efficient. The more GNSS constellations available, the more reliable the navigation, which is why there are so many satellites used.
How is GNSS different to GPS?
GPS, or Global Positioning System, is another form of navigation system that was originally developed by the US Department of Defence for military use.
GPS is used in collaboration with GNSS to provide better location positioning, but the main difference between the two is that GNSS equipment can use other navigational satellites from other networks beyond the GPS system.
So in laymen’s terms, all GNSS receivers and satellites are compatible with GPS, but not all GPS receivers can connect to GNSS. This is why GNSS is more accurate overall, as it has access to more satellites which will provide better positioning readings.
GPS is still a very popular system for navigation, currently featured in cars and railways.
What devices currently support Galileo?
Some devices such as mobile phones and smatch watches utilise Galileo since it is so reliable. According to InsideGNSS, the vast majority of GNSS receivers today are installed in smartphones, with 1.5 billion devices produced every year.
Check out the list below to see some of the devices that use GNSS technology:
While this is not the conclusive list of devices that feature Galileo, you can see how many products and brands have taken on the technology. If you are an avid outdoorsman, it can be helpful to check if your smartwatch or mobile feature GNSS, as it’s more accurate and could come in handy on long hikes. That’s why our reviewers tend to score hiking, running watches and general outdoor trackers with support for GNSS higher, with most providing far better mapping services, based on our experience testing them.