Skyhook Wireless said today it will provide its Wi-Fi-based location awareness technology for users of Locr software who want to automatically add geographic information to their photos. Although fun, like many location-based services that have been long promised and poorly delivered, it’s certainly not the type of killer application destined to drive the market forward.
However, Skyhook’s technology, which consists of software already embedded on the device (such as the iPhone) adds a missing component to the location conundrum. Skyhook maps the location of Wi-Fi hotspots and uses them to triangulate a cell phone’s location. It works well indoors and in urban areas where Wi-Fi hotspots are dense. But it’s not going to help much if you’re in the middle of a field somewhere.
That may be a downer for Locr photographers who want to geotag their nature photos, but it’s an opportunity for cell phone manufacturers to do their part in pushing LBS. The current location methods rely on triangulation around cell towers, which can be off by quite a bit, or using GPS chips, which aren’t in a majority of handsets on the market today and because of their reliance on satellites, work better in open areas and outdoors. Combining Wi-Fi and GPS would lead to ubiquitous coverage of a user’s location, making services beyond navigation a bit more compelling.
Last year Skyhook announced a partnership with SiRF, a maker of GPS chips, to provide both options for mobile phones and navigation devices, and earlier this week Skyhook’s CEO Ted Morgan promised more such deals in the future. Despite last month’s deal that makes Skyhook the provider of location awareness on the iPhone and iPod Touch, the other major handset device makers aren’t biting. So if you’re looking for seamless LBS, don’t hold your breath.