In some ways, a digital compass is like its analog counterpart. Both compasses use the Earth’s magnetic field to determine which way is North, and both help bikers, hikers, mapmakers and trail makers know which direction they are heading. The difference is that an analog compass can wobble because of movement and may encounter interference from strong magnetic sources, so inaccuracy is a problem. A digital compass is much more accurate and sturdy, because it will only use the North Pole as a guiding mechanism. Aside from serious hikers and trail makers, the military also uses these compasses for the best accuracy.
The compass, whether traditional or digital, is made to help users know which direction they are heading. Both are supposed to use the Earth’s magnetic field to determine which way is North, and all other directions are based off that. With a traditional compass, while it can be accurate, there are many problems with its operation. If there are magnetic metal deposits nearby, or just a powerful magnetic field, the compass will consider the deposit to be North or will spin aimlessly. The needle on a compass also can wobble, which may cause it to show the wrong direction.
A digital compass overcomes these problems. Instead of a shaky needle, this type of compass has a digital screen that presents the four primary directions and plainly tells the user which way he or she is facing. The screen is easier to see than an analog compass needle, and the compass itself is far more accurate.
Instead of determining direction based on magnetic pulses, which can be inaccurate or random, a digital compass determines direction by using the North Pole as a guide. For this end, the compass usually has some global positioning system (GPS) features, which may or may not be available to the user. Along with this feature, most digital compasses come with extra features, such as a thermometer, and can be used to tell directions on foot, on water or in the air.
Digital compasses are used by many different people and industries, mostly because of the accuracy a digital compass has over a traditional model. Airlines use these compasses to ensure that their planes are flying in the right direction, and cars that have compasses usually contain digital ones. The military also use digital compasses to ensure there is never any inaccuracy during combat or other situations.