Summary:

Location data provider Skyhook has an update to its mobile SDK for Android that will provide persistant background location tracking with no or negligible impact on battery life. That could be a big help for location-based apps that have suffered because of battery constraints.

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For all the talk of persistant location apps like Highlight, Glancee, Banjo and others changing the way we live, many consumers haven’t jumped on board, in part because the battery hit to using these apps has been too great. Location data provider Skyhook said it now has an update to its mobile SDK for Android that will provide persistent background location tracking with no or negligible impact on battery life.

Skyhook’s new Always-On feature, one part of its latest 4.6 version, allows developers to grab location data as frequently as every 30 seconds with accuracy down to 10-20 meters. Ted Morgan, Skyhook’s CEO declined to explain exactly how the company is pulling this off. But he said Skyhook is building off of previous location tracking work it’s done, which downloads more data up front and processes more of the location tracking on the phone.

The previous service, which tried to optimize bandwidth, CPU processing and radios, still meant losing an hour or two of battery life over the course of a day. Now, developers don’t have to deal with any trade-offs, he said.

“We’re now getting more intimate with the way the phone is working and we’ve tuned the system to take advantage of all that,” Morgan said. 

This could be a big help for apps that want to surface local offers, highlight nearby services or aid in local people discovery. Now, the apps that use Skyhook have a better shot at delivering real location services without a major sacrifice to the overall user experience. Skyhook is currently deployed on a couple hundred apps that reach 100 million devices.

Developers of location-based apps are getting more help from the likes of Skyhook and, also, Geoloqi, a Portland, Ore. startup that also offers background location processing with very light battery usage. Geoloqi’s SDK works on iOS, something Skyhook isn’t able to do. But Morgan hopes that Apple will allow Skyhook as it sees the need to enable more background location processing.

Skyhook’s updated SDK also offers location tracking for users in airplanes. So apps using Skyhook can determine a person’s location as they fly across the country. That might give rise to some virtual pilot apps that let people know what they’re flying over and nearby points of interest. It could also be a fun addition for location-sharing apps.

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