iPhone gets Wi-Fi positioning from Skyhook Wireless

iPhone gets Wi-Fi positioning from Skyhook Wireless
During its Macworld keynote today Steve Jobs unveiled a new version of the Map application for the iPhone and Ipod Touch using cell ID and WiFi positioning. With this new version users are able to locate themselves on the map using a combination of WiFi and cell tower triangulation. The cell tower positioning has been provided by Google (read here on this topic) while the WiFi positioning system is provided by Boston-based Skyhook Wireless.

Skyhook Wireless CEO Ted Morgan said to GPS Business News earlier today: “this is obviously a big development and a significant moment for Skyhook Wireless today. There are already more than four million iPhones sold - not to mention the iPod Touch - and the Map application is a core feature on the iPhone”.

Using Skyhook Wireless iPhone’s users will be able to narrow their location in a much precise way than in using only cell tower triangulation. When the location is requested a Skyhook Wireless server sends back a position. But because in urban area there are many more Wi-Fi access points than cell towers it greatly enhance the accuracy of the position.

“We can do 40 meters accuracy 95% of the time with just three access points,” said Jed Rice, vice president market development at Skyhook, in an interview with GPS Business News earlier this year (more here). This technology is perhaps not as accurate as GPS, but in an urban environment where the access to satellites is difficult it is much faster and it also works indoor and in deep urban canyons.

Obviously Wi-Fi positioning works fine as far as the Wi-Fi hotspots are correctly and extensively mapped. Skyhook is said to have a database that represents over seventy percents of the American population and more than 2,500 cities. But in the rest of the world this is still work in progress. “In Europe we expect to have finished the coverage of the United Kingdom, France and Germany in March”, said Ted Morgan. “In Asia the top 15 cities will be ready by the middle of the year” he added.

Questioned about the business outcome of this deployment with Apple, Ted Morgan was rather shy on the business model, “there is an economic relationship between Apple and us, but I can’t give you any more details”.

Tuesday, January 15th 2008

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