Learn how to use an external GPS device on a browser, such as Edge or Chrome, and what software you need to install to make it work.
If you have an external GPS device that connects to your computer via USB, you might want to use it on a browser to access web applications that require your location, such as Google Maps or Geocaching. However, not all browsers support the Windows Location API, which is the interface that allows the operating system to communicate with the GPS device. In this article, we will show you how to use an external GPS device on a browser, and what software you need to install to make it work.
Why Use an External GPS Device on a Browser?
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Some web applications, such as Google Maps or Geocaching, can use your location to provide you with relevant information or services. For example, you can get directions, find nearby places, or search for hidden caches. However, these web applications rely on the browser to obtain your location, and the browser may use different methods to do so, such as:
- IP address: The browser can estimate your location based on your IP address, which is assigned by your internet service provider. However, this method is often inaccurate, especially if you use a VPN or a proxy server.
- WiFi access points: The browser can use the WiFi access points that your computer is connected to or can detect, and compare them with a database of known locations. However, this method depends on the availability and accuracy of the database, and it may not work if you are in a remote area or if the WiFi access points are not registered.
- GPS sensor: The browser can use the built-in GPS sensor on your computer, if it has one, to get your location directly from the satellites. However, this method may not work if the GPS sensor is faulty, disabled, or blocked by obstacles.
Therefore, using an external GPS device on a browser can offer you several advantages, such as:
- Higher accuracy: An external GPS device can provide more precise and consistent location data than the other methods, especially if it has a high-quality antenna and chipset.
- Greater control: You can choose which GPS device to use, and you can adjust its settings and parameters according to your needs and preferences.
- More compatibility: You can use an external GPS device on any computer, regardless of whether it has a built-in GPS sensor or not.
How to Use an External GPS Device on a Browser?
To use an external GPS device on a browser, you need to install two software components on your computer:
A USB-to-COM driver
This is a driver that allows your computer to recognize the GPS device as a virtual COM port, and to read the NMEA sentences that the GPS device sends. NMEA sentences are standardized messages that contain the location data and other information from the GPS device. You can download the USB-to-COM driver from the manufacturer’s website of your GPS device, or use a generic driver such as Zadig.
A Windows Location Sensor software
This is a software that converts the NMEA sentences from the GPS device into a format that the Windows Location API can understand, and that provides the location data to the operating system and the applications that request it. You can use a free software such as GPSDirect, or a paid software such as Centrafuse Localizer.
After you install these software components, you need to configure them to work with your GPS device and your browser. The steps may vary depending on the software you use, but the general procedure is as follows:
- Connect your GPS device to your computer via USB, and make sure that the USB-to-COM driver recognizes it as a virtual COM port. You can check the COM port number in the Device Manager, under the Ports (COM & LPT) section.
- Run the Windows Location Sensor software, and select the COM port that corresponds to your GPS device. You may also need to specify the baud rate, the data bits, the parity, and the stop bits that match the settings of your GPS device. You can find these settings in the user manual of your GPS device, or use the default values of 4800, 8, N, and 1, respectively.
- Enable the Windows Location Sensor software, and check that it receives the NMEA sentences from the GPS device, and that it shows your correct location on a map. You may need to wait for a few minutes for the GPS device to acquire a satellite fix, and to have a clear view of the sky.
- Open your browser, and go to the web application that you want to use. You may need to grant permission to the web application to access your location, and to refresh the page to update your location. You can also check your location settings in your browser, and make sure that they are set to use the Windows Location API.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: What is an External GPS Device?
Answer: An external GPS device is a hardware module that receives signals from satellites and calculates your position on Earth. It usually connects to your computer via USB or Bluetooth, and it can provide more accurate and reliable location data than the built-in GPS sensors on some laptops or tablets. External GPS devices are often used by hobbyists, travelers, or professionals who need precise navigation or mapping.
Question: Which browsers support the Windows Location API?
Answer: The browsers that support the Windows Location API are Edge, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Opera. Firefox does not support the Windows Location API, and it uses its own geolocation service instead.
Question: How can I test if my browser is using the external GPS device or not?
Answer: You can use a web tool such as [GPS Test], which shows you the location data that your browser provides, and the source of the data. You can also compare the location data with the data from the Windows Location Sensor software, or with another device that has a GPS sensor.
Question: How can I improve the accuracy and reliability of the external GPS device?
Answer: You can try the following tips to improve the performance of the external GPS device:
- Use a GPS device that has a high-quality antenna and chipset, and that supports multiple satellite systems, such as GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, or BeiDou.
- Place the GPS device in a location that has a clear view of the sky, and avoid any obstacles that may block or interfere with the satellite signals, such as buildings, trees, or metal objects.
- Update the firmware and the drivers of the GPS device, and the Windows Location Sensor software, to the latest versions.
- Calibrate the GPS device, and the Windows Location Sensor software, to match your location and time zone.
In this article, we have shown you how to use an external GPS device on a browser, and what software you need to install to make it work. We have also explained the advantages of using an external GPS device, and the steps to configure it with your computer and your browser. We hope that this article has been helpful and informative, and that you have learned something new and useful.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and it does not constitute professional advice or endorsement of any product or service. We are not responsible for any damage or loss that may result from the use of the information or the software mentioned in this article. You should always do your own research and testing before using any external GPS device or software on your computer or browser.