Skyhook: Helping Apple’s Devices Know Where You Are Without GPS

Skyhook‘s technology uses signals from WiFi hot spots to triangulate and find a person’s location, instead of using a chip that lets a mobile device communicate with the satellite-based Global Positioning System.Skyhook, founded in 2003 by Ted Morgan and Michael Shean, has gathered and catalogued the WiFi fingerprint of streets in thousands of US cities and towns by driving along roads and collecting the unique signatures of 23 million WiFi signals that flow out of houses, businesses, and public access points. The company uses that data to let WiFi-enabled devices know where they are. (…)The software upgrade that includes the new location feature – it’s available free on an iPhone and for $19.99 on an iPod Touch – allows people to simply press a button to see where they are.

A map displays a bull’s-eye that’s centered on the user’s location; Morgan said Skyhook’s technology typically is accurate up to about 165 feet. The technology builds in the likely margin of error and draws a circle on the map, taking into account the likely error of the location technology, so that the user will be within the radius 95 percent of the time.

(via Boston.com)

ipod touch

(flickr photo by tibopoix)

What it means: I believe Apple is betting that location-based services represent the future growth for their iPod line of product. During Apple’s Q1 2008 conference call, their execs called it potentially the “first mainstream Wi-Fi mobile platform, running all kinds of mobile applications”. With the upcoming release of the iPhone SDK, we should be monitoring the growing installed base of these devices.

2 thoughts on “Skyhook: Helping Apple’s Devices Know Where You Are Without GPS

  1. Sebastien:

    I think you are totally correct in predicting an increase play from Apple in the LBS (Location-Based service) world. Currently Apple customers in the US can already experience some of this with the association with Starbucks and the ability to instantly know what songs are playing in a particular store.

    They are using this technology (Wifi beacon sensing) to derive in which store you are about to buy your grande latte and then report on the current playing song. (http://location-based.blogspot.com/2007/09/is-apple-entering-location-based.html)

    The wifi sensing technology is a very interesting concept and some VC money has been injected in those companies. However i has not become mainstream yet. Push from Apple and Google (with the MyLocation feature of Google Maps) is helping pave the way.

    I will explore the inclusion of Skyhook Wireless technology in more technical details in an upcoming post on my blog if you are interested.

    L8er – Martin

  2. Sebastien:

    I think you are totally correct in predicting an increase play from Apple in the LBS (Location-Based service) world. Currently Apple customers in the US can already experience some of this with the association with Starbucks and the ability to instantly know what songs are playing in a particular store.

    They are using this technology (Wifi beacon sensing) to derive in which store you are about to buy your grande latte and then report on the current playing song. (http://location-based.blogspot.com/2007/09/is-apple-entering-location-based.html)

    The wifi sensing technology is a very interesting concept and some VC money has been injected in those companies. However i has not become mainstream yet. Push from Apple and Google (with the MyLocation feature of Google Maps) is helping pave the way.

    I will explore the inclusion of Skyhook Wireless technology in more technical details in an upcoming post on my blog if you are interested.

    L8er – Martin

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