UMBC ebiquity
Google Maps adds location Information

Google Maps adds location Information

Anupam Joshi, 7:18pm 18 December 2007

I recently bought a GPS (Garmin Mobile 10) that works with my WM5 Smartphone. In the process of trying to install the Garmin Mobile XT application (which was very problematic and a huge pain, but I digress ….), I ended up uninstalling Google Maps.

When I went to download and reinstall it though, I noticed that they have a new beta feature (My Location) that shows you where you are. It can either use a GPS, or use cell tower information. Basically, it sees which cell tower your phone is signed up to (and what signals it is seeing from others), and uses this to estimate where you are to within a 1000 meters.

This is interesting, because we did it the same way back when there used to be AMPS / CDPD and Palm IIIs and Vs with cellular modems. Our project was called Agents2Go, and we published a paper about this in the MCommerce workshop of Mobicom in 01. I remember that Muthu et al from AT&T had a similar paper in MobiDE that year as well.

The problem at that time was that there was no publicly accessible database of all cell tower locations. Also, we heard informally from at least one telco that while doing this for research was Ok, if anyone ever tried to make money from it they would want to be a part of the loop. I guess Google has found a way to work with the various telcos ? Or maybe in the interim cell tower ids and locations have been made public knowledge ?

Of course Google maps also works with GPS, except that it refuses to work with my Garmin. I’ve tried all the tricks that a search on Google will reveal (mainly, setting the serial port used by Bluetooth to talk to the GPS) , but to no avail 🙁

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