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Brian Cain

Brian Cain

Brian Cain is a sergeant with the Holly Springs (Ga.) Police Department, and is known as the "Millennial cop" on Twitter. He has been in law enforcement since 2000. He hosts and produces a podcast for Millennials in law enforcement.

Doug  Wyllie

Doug Wyllie

Doug Wyllie has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips aimed at ensuring that police officers are safer and more successful on the streets. Doug is a Western Publishing Association “Maggie Award” winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column. He is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Michael Bostic

Michael Bostic

Mike Bostic, of Raytheon Corp.'s Civil Communication Solutions group, specializes in open architecture, systems integration of communications and data programs. Mike spent 34 years with the LAPD. He managed IT and facility development, as well as the SWAT Board of Inquiry, which developed new command-and-control systems.

App Review: Google Maps

In the absence of GPS, a leading mapping app offers tremendous value.

April 05, 2013  |  by George Rudenko

Screenshots via Google.
Screenshots via Google.

For officers who aren't issued patrol vehicles equipped with GPS for positioning and call routing, Google Maps offers a very useful alternative. GPS will always be the best choice, but it's more costly, making Google Maps a tool that's within easy reach.

Google Maps and other mobile-device mapping/GIS (geographic information system) apps are often confused with GPS systems. They shouldn't be lumped into this category. A smart phone—with its built-in accelerometer—measures the strength of a signal emanating from cellular towers to approximate your position. An accelerometer is a tiny gyroscope-like device inside your phone that orients the device with movements in space. This is what helps your compass app know how to find true north.

The cell tower's strength is also an approximation because your device doesn't know if there are any objects between you and the tower such as a building, tree, or hill that may interfere with the point-to-point signal. In an urban area, your approximation may be off by as many as 500 yards. In a rural area, it could be off by as much as 2 miles.

In comparison, a GPS unit operates by taking conical signals from a constellation of approximately 32 satellites. Your GPS unit knows exactly where those satellites should be, so when those signals intersect, your device does the math and can pinpoint your location. As a side note, after Gulf War in 1991, the U.S. military reduced most of the selective availability and some course acquisition restrictions from the GPS satellites.

Because Google Maps isn't as precise, keep in mind that there's a lag in processing position information of up to several seconds. When using a mapping app to navigate, keep that lag in mind. Also, the more information you ask your app to deliver, such as dynamic satellite views, the longer the app will take to process your commands. Lastly, if you like to multi-task and run other apps with your mapping app, your phone will slow down.

Google Maps is the best map for the money (it's free) because it displays an incredible amount of detail.

App Review         Ratings (of 5)
Name Platform Developer Price   Usefulness Ease  Support  Value Overall
Google Maps Android/iOS/Win. Google Free   5 5 4 5 5

George Rudenko is a senior officer and HazMat specialist with the Department of Homeland Security at the Los Angeles Seaport.

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