Google “lifts the lid” on how their my location service works

 In location

…well not really. The summary from the official Google mobile blog reads

“Wireless phones can make and receive calls because they are connected over the air to a nearby cell tower. The phone knows the ID of the cell tower that it’s currently using. If the phone has GPS, the Maps application on the phone sends the GPS coordinates along with the cell ID to the Google location server. Over millions of such updates, across multiple phones, carriers, and times, the server clusters the GPS updates corresponding to a particular cell ID to find their rough center. So when a phone without GPS needs its own location, the application on the phone queries the Google location server with the cell tower ID to translate that into a geographic location, i.e., lat/long coordinates. Nifty, huh? We think so.”

Google also announced on their blog that they will be opening up their platform to 3rd party developers – which is to be welcomed.

“….we wanted 3rd party developers to also have access to the same location technology across multiple platforms. Gears for Windows Mobile and Androidalready contain location APIs and we expect to see an explosion of mobile applications that use location technology, particularly on the iPhone starting this month”

At the Navigation and Location Europe conference I attended last week as a speaker, there was much discussion about Nokia and Google (and perhaps one other…) possibly opening up their cell-ID databases to 3rd parties.  This would enable small LBS developers crying out for reasonably priced access to LBS services to bypass the carriers altogether, and make use of these proprietary, yet well developed cell-ID databases to develop reasonable accuracy LBS services.

I think we’ll all watch this space (location) with interest in the coming months.


Based in London, The Actionable Futurist and former Global Managing Partner at IBM, Andrew Grill is a popular and sought-after presenter and comementator on issues around digital disruption, workplace of the future and new technologies such as blockchain. Andrew is a multiple TEDx and International Keynote Speaker.