I am currently taking a self directed course called Understanding Geographic Information from ESRI, as a refresher course. My undergraduate degree was in Geographic Information Systems. When I graduated from college, civilian use GPS on an individual or recreational level was impossible to due a deliberate random error introduced into the GPS signal by the Department of Defense. The reasoning behind this was to give military troops tactical advantage in times of war.

The reason that GPS units have become so cheap and popular for recreational use is that the DOD removed the random error from the GPS signal a few years ago, making civilian GPS units (nearly) as accurate as military or government models. Has the DOD given up on having a geographical tactical advantage? Heavens no, don’t be silly!

It turns out, the DOD can introduce GPS satellite signal blackouts in selected geographic areas when needed. Hmm. I’d be tempted to say that if you’re out camping or backpacking, have a clear sky and no tree cover and suddenly your GPS signal is lost, you’d better take cover from the impending shock and awe!

Shouldn’t I be studying medicine? Ah, but I am! The field of medical epidemiology is rife with opportunites to integrate Geographic Information Systems technology. It will just require that I be out of the hospital a lot, running around with my GPS!