The world’s biggest land speed, or land area, records are in danger of being lost in the internet age, with many in Asia, Africa and Latin America failing to capture the new era of GPS-equipped mobile phones and satellite navigation.
With most of the world still relying on traditional maps, satellite imagery and old-fashioned radio signals to determine their location, some of the best-known land speed zones are no longer accurate.
The world has lost a record of more than 3,200 kilometres (1,900 miles) a day in some parts of the tropics and tropical Africa has lost an average of more then 2,400 km (1.2 miles) every year since 1980.
But the new technology has the potential to improve the accuracy of many of the more than 2,500 known zones, according to a study by the Global Landscapes Institute (GLI), a UK-based research group.
The researchers estimate that the global land area now covered by GPS-guided mobile phone towers could have shrunk by more than a quarter in the past 15 years.
The problem of poor accuracy is compounded by the increasing use of GPS in urban areas, where the technology could make it harder for people to be tracked by the system.
Globally, the world lost a total of 5,927 kilometres (3,858 miles) of land area from 1980 to 2012, according a study published in Science Advances in April.
In 2012, the researchers estimated that the world had lost around 3.8 million km (2.5 million miles) in land area over the same period.
But many of these zones are not accurate, said Prof Tom Pecora, the GLI’s lead researcher and a lecturer at the University of Reading.
“Most of the zones are based on a single point of measurement, which makes them very inaccurate and could result in a lot of uncertainty,” he said.
“The only real measure of a location is what the land is used for, and that has changed in the last 15 years with GPS.”
GPS and land speed The main reason for the slow increase in accurate land area is the declining accuracy of GPS.
This is partly because of technological improvements, said Dr Pecoras.
GPS has become a “virtual reality” technology that allows a mobile phone to sense the position of other objects in space, making it more accurate.
In the past decade, GPS technology has made it easier for GPS-enabled mobile phones to track objects on the ground.
Mobile phone use in rural areas has also increased, partly because it is cheaper than in cities.
With this increased use of the technology, more GPS stations have been built, and the system is being used in countries around the world, including China, India and Africa.
However, the technology is also making it harder to track people using the satellite navigation system, said Pecors study.
Scientists can now measure distances using the Earth’s gravitational field, but they do not have an accurate map of land mass, making accurate maps difficult to create.
Another problem is the increased use in urban environments of satellite imagery, which has also become more accurate over time.
Satellite imagery is used to determine the position and speed of ships, trains and planes, and it is also used to track the movements of people.
Although the satellite imagery is often used in the UK and US, most countries around other continents and regions still use their own satellite imagery.
Dr Pecoras study suggests that the satellite technology could become a major source of information for the world.
A GPS-based map of the US, for example, could provide a better estimate of the amount of water being pumped into the Chesapeake Bay, the study found.
The research, which is the first of its kind to use a global land-based system, showed that the accuracy was now better than any other global land measurement system.
“This is a significant milestone for the global accuracy of land areas.
It will enable us to better understand how the oceans and land are changing and for the creation of new maps for areas such as the Great Lakes and Arctic Ocean,” said Dr Rolf Klaas, the head of the research team.
“More accurate information will help us to improve coastal planning, reduce pollution, and protect the environment.”
However it is not just the land that is getting better.
Other countries have also become much more accurate in the way they measure land.
The US, Germany and France have all surpassed the accuracy that the GLi achieved in 2011.