Birds do it. Bees do it. And with the discovery of lodestone over 2200 years ago, humans too could incorporate the Earth's magnetic field into their daily lives. Some of the oldest applications for tracking the magnetic field were in land and sea navigation. Magnetic field measurements quickly became an important economic factor in world trade, with documented use dating from the 11th century in China.

The measurements are important in other applications as well. For example, rapid field variations are generated by solar activity and its interaction with the terrestrial environment. Large magnetic storms can disrupt satellite operation, communication systems, power transmission networks, and so forth [Campbell, 1997].Geomagnetism also provides a unique opportunity to explore the Earth's outer core, which is mostly liquid (molten) iron, where the field is generated. Field measurements can also yield valuable insights into the location of mineral deposits and aid in applications in the petroleum industry.