Print 27 comment(s) - last by Polynikes.. on Dec 5 at 11:15 PM

Every step you take, Google will be watching you

Cell phone GPS is no big deal in the tech industry -- it has been around for a while on various "smart" cell phones.  Google took the concept behind this existing technology and on Wednesday unveiled how it is modifying this idea into something new and different.  Google is looking to give those without a GPS equipped phone the ability to use their phone as a locater on Google Maps.

The feature which is available for most cell phones which are able to access Google maps.  Typically only smart-phones come with built in GPS.  Google estimates that the vast majority of user's cell phones -- 85 percent -- do not contain GPS support.

The technology is part of Google's cell phone market push, which includes, most significantly, the Android OS, Google's new cell-phone OS which is gearing up to take on Microsoft and Symbian.

The new locater service, will automatically enter the user's location information when Google Maps is loaded.

Google doesn't want its users to feel likes its watching them -- to alleviate privacy concerns, the system is designed to have minimal access to user information.  It will not collect or access the user's phone number or any other personal information that might help to reveal their identity.  Steve Lee, product manage for Google Mobile Maps also said the feature could be easily disabled by clicking a link in the help menu, as a further safety measure to set the consumer's mind at ease.

The service is drawing early enthusiasm from analysts, who say it will be great for on the go business people and travelers.

Google's service also has a couple of feathers in its cap over GPS.  Its service will work indoors, which the satellite-based GPS can not.  Further, it will drain the cell phone's battery less that GPS, which could also be very helpful to business travelers with a long and tricky travel route.

However, Google's service does have its downsides.  Google has rather vaguely stated that its range will be "on the neighborhood-level" , and will be between one-quarter to three miles of a user's location.  One-quarter mile might be acceptable, but three miles is very different.  If the service turns out to have a range of three miles, it would be virtually useless for in-city navigating, which would eliminate a large section of its market.

Also the service's backing database is currently under construction, so for now it will often draw a blank if it does not have the particular location in its memory.  Google says it will fill in more and more of these holes as more users adopt the service.

The service does have fairly wide international coverage.  It will support the US, much of Europe, the Russian Federation, Australia, and New Zealand.

There is also a somewhat long list of unsupported nations and phones.  There is no support currently for service in China or Japan; there is no current support for the iPhone, the Motorola Q, the Samsung Blackjack, or the Palm Treo 700w.

Google hopes to use the device to increase its profitability by targeting users with local ads when they surf the web.  Advertisers are willing to pay Google more to provide local ad content, as it is more effective in generating a user response.

With it cell phone drives, a new renewable energy initiative, and a constant array of new online offerings, the tech industry will constantly be wondering what the geniuses at Google will be cooking up next.

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its not gps,but still nice.
By 8steve8 on 12/1/2007 1:54:39 PM , Rating: 3
I've been using this feature with the google maps app on my blackberry curve 8320 (w/o gps)...

I've been using it in Boston.

It's not accurate enough for like in-car turn-by-turn navigation...

so its not really competing with GPS per-say..

but it is nice to have a ballpark location.

RE: its not gps,but still nice.
By ninjit on 12/1/2007 4:17:50 PM , Rating: 5
I don't think it should really be used for navigation.

In my mind it'll be more useful to find relevant stores in your general area.

Say you were in a new town for business, and wanted to find the nearest coffee shop or Sushi-bar.

RE: its not gps,but still nice.
By 8steve8 on 12/1/2007 4:42:38 PM , Rating: 2
yup, agreed.

RE: its not gps,but still nice.
By cochy on 12/2/2007 2:37:17 AM , Rating: 2
Just heard that in London they are implementing something similar. You can text the word: "Bathroom" and you will get a reply with the nearest public bathroom to you. This was done in hope to reduce people urinating outside.

RE: its not gps,but still nice.
By Ringold on 12/2/2007 3:10:38 AM , Rating: 2
This was done in hope to reduce people urinating outside.

In the 21st century, one would hope this wouldn't be a problem.. But yet it is.

RE: its not gps,but still nice.
By Polynikes on 12/3/2007 1:14:27 AM , Rating: 3
Well in many European nations you have to pay to use public bathrooms.

Perhaps there's a connection. ;)

RE: its not gps,but still nice.
By TITAN1080 on 12/3/07, Rating: 0
RE: its not gps,but still nice.
By Polynikes on 12/5/2007 11:15:06 PM , Rating: 2
Me, too.

RE: its not gps,but still nice.
By heffeque on 12/2/2007 8:49:01 PM , Rating: 2
These kind of things have been working for a loooong time (at least in Europe), the bathroom thing is just a curious new thing that has been added recently. The news about it is not the way that Google is doing it because it's been used a long time now by mobile operators. The news is about it being implemented for Google Maps.

RE: its not gps,but still nice.
By feraltoad on 12/2/2007 9:51:56 PM , Rating: 2
You text that in New York the reply is "Piss Off!"

RE: its not gps,but still nice.
By camped69 on 12/3/2007 11:47:19 AM , Rating: 1
Sure, let the man know where anyone they want to find is. IDIOTS

RE: its not gps,but still nice.
By 8steve8 on 12/2/2007 1:29:59 PM , Rating: 2
an update:

its accuracy is sometimes horrific,, sometimes even way outside the margin of error.. this becomes normal as you leave the metro areas and major highways.

but other times its very accurate, especially on I-90 or other major highways.. probably simply correlates with the number of cell phone towers nearby and the amount of signal attenuation for reasons other than distance (physical obstructions and such).

the technology is accurate when all attenuation is a simple function with distance (probably power received = original power/(4*Pi*distance^2) <-assuming a true omnidirectional transmitter... are cellphone towers truly omnidirectional? or do they transmit 360 degrees on a flat plane, if thats the case it would be power recieved = power transmitted/(2*Pi*distance)),

so ... yeah there are huge issues when u have weird obstructions which attenuate un-related to distance.

as someone else said this tech is not new.. but just like apple gets credit for mp3 players.. google will likely get credit for this... people only remember who brings it to mass market.... ask a regular person who invented the gui operating system... they will likely say Apple or Microsoft... not xerox.

RE: its not gps,but still nice.
By 8steve8 on 12/2/2007 1:45:16 PM , Rating: 2
those equations are a bit not entirely correct..

but it'll give u an idea.

(obviously those equations are irrelevant at very small distances... (power received will never be higher than power transmitted)

maybe something better would be

power received = power transmitted/ (1+(4*Pi*distance^2))
... for omnidirectional transmitters../

and power recieved = power transmitted / (1+(2*Pi*distance))
... for towers that transmit 360degrees on a plane.

i dont have any time to think about this now, anyone wanna contribute a better equation?

and these towers, how do they transmit... i seriously doubt they are omni or planar transmitters.

probably has a vertical angle transmission which is then transmitted on all directions on the plane?

or is it simply cone transmitters in 4 or 8 directions? each direction coplanar?

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