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Why databases are unreliable

If you have ever wondered why information such as updates to GPS devices are so unreliable, it has to do with databases.

A database is an assembly of information that can be accessed and used by a computer. Databases go back to the very beginnings of computers, as they are the way of storing  information that can later be retrieved. And today, just like fifty years ago, they are subject to the problem of "GIGO".

"GIGO" stands for Garbage In, Garbage Out, and is one of the oldest computer terms there is. It means that the information that is taken out of a computer database is only as good as the information that goes into it. And even though the computer may display, or print out, something that looks neat and orderly, it is only as valuable as the information that was put in.

GPS, or Ground Positioning System, was created, and is used by the United States Military. The information input from there is not garbage, it can't be. Lives depend on its accuracy. The precision of GPS is an amazing combination of precision measurements and input using state-of-the-art technology. The ordinary GPS device that you use in your car relies on the information created by, and updated by the database of information that comes from satellites that circle the planet, and have done so for many decades.

But the GPS device in your car relies on additional databases beyond Ground Positioning. And the worst garbage is information about businesses, such as restaurants, etc. This database is provided, not by NASA, but by the businesses themselves. Like the Yellow Pages, it's a marketing tool. And, unfortunately, like The Yellow Pages, not all businesses are interested in supplying, and updating information to databases. Whether you call this "garbage" or just neglect, it adds up to the same thing - call ahead.

"We're sorry, the number you have reached has been disconnected or is no longer in service. If you think you've reached this recording in error, you may have made the mistake of trusting your GPS, or the web."