03 Dec, 2007

Google Can Now Find You

Google announced the release of a new version of Google Maps for Mobile, a two-year-old local search and mapping application that now employs cell tower identification information, not just GPS data, to locate mobile users. The new cell tower capability, which Google is calling My Location, will work on phones without GPS and complement GPS on phones that do, a Google representative said. According to Google’s data, My Location kicks in faster than GPS in most cases, so the new version of Google Maps for Mobile can determine approximately where a user is located before GPS can make its calculations. “There are delays and blind spots in GPS in situations where the user is indoors for instance, and I am sure Google has been able to correct some of that using either cell towers or a combination of cell towers and GPS,” said Joe Nordgaard, director of wireless consulting firm Spectral Advantage. Using mobile search has a number of drawbacks. For instance the requirement that users key in the zip code or the name of the city in which they are located could be difficult if the user is driving or traveling in a place in which he or she does not know the zip code. By using information broadcast from cell towers to automatically locate cell phone users, Google believes it will significantly increase the market for its mobile search application since its own data shows that fewer that 15 percent of mobile phones that will be sold in 2007 come equipped with GPS. And by definition all working cell phones, and by extension all cell phone users, can be located when they travel within range of a cell tower. The latest version of Google Maps for Mobile runs on a number of mobile software packages including many Windows Mobile, Symbian, Blackberry, and Palm devices, but it does not run on a number of devices including BREW-enabled phones.

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