By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols
FAQ: How Google Latitude locates you
I don’t have a GPS chip in my phone. Can I still use Latitude?
You betcha. Latitude can use Wi-Fi access points, cell towers or GPS to work out your location.
How does Latitude do that?
Google is using technology that’s similar to that of Skyhook Wireless in its Latitude service. Like Skyhook, it is a software-only location solution that allows any mobile device with Wi-Fi, GPS or a cellular radio to determine its position with an accuracy of 10 to 20 meters. What sets XPS apart is that it uses land-based Wi-Fi access points, GPS satellites and cellular towers to determine location information.
In other words, Latitude can use any of the three kinds of signals — Wi-Fi, 2G/3G/4G mobile or GPS satellite — that a device can pick up to work out its location. By leveraging these wireless capabilities, the software can combine positioning data from satellites, carrier assistance servers and Wi-Fi base stations to significantly speed up positioning, or TTFF (time to first fix). TTFF for some devices can be up to a minute, but by using multiple reference sites, Latitude can reduce TTFF to a few seconds.
It does this essentially by figuring out, for example, that if you’re two blocks from the cell tower at the church, and you’re right under the Wi-Fi AP at the coffee shop, and you’re at x distance from a GPS satellite, you must be at Buster’s Coffee Shop. Typically, devices can use up to 24 reference points to work out your location.
By John Kennedy
Competitor to Google Latitude pitches to Facebook and Twitter
Dublin firm Locle, which was one of four businesses to win a share in the €100,000 Eircom Web Innovation Fund earlier last year, launched a service in October 2008 that uses a patent-pending method to retrieve mobile phone IDs in dense populations through mobile masts, which have an accuracy down to 50m. The service can currently be accessed at http://m.locle.com.
[…] Pieter Oonk who set up Locle with Ronan Higgins believes that the technology has strong potential on established social-networking sites like Facebook and fast-rising services like Twitter.
They presented their technology to both companies before Christmas and are hopeful both social-networking firms will see merit in taking social networking to the streets.
Yesterday, online search giant Google unveiled its new mapping software that allows mobile users to see where their friends are on maps via their cell phones.
Using your Google account, you can opt into the feature, and then invite friends and family to join Google Latitude. Once they accept, you will see their profile picture appear on a map through your mobile device or your desktop PC.
“By contrast Locle gives users control over their location to share with other Locle users only and communicate with other users.”
Locle has done a number of deals with social-networking players including Netlog, the biggest social network player in western and central Europe, as well as the Irish gay dating site, GSVP.com. Locle is also in discussions with Netlog about developing an iPhone application.
The company has also become a member of an organisation for European mobile social-networking partners called LocAllies to work on an open standard to enable people to share locations information.