Skyhook Wireless, the location-services company that has been embroiled in lawsuits with Google (NSDQ: GOOG) over patent infringement and restraint of trade, has added another customer to its platform that gives it one more route to working on Google’s Android devices anyway: it is announcing today a partnership with Symantec-owned Norton for a new service that can track and disable lost Android smartphones and tablets.
Norton Anti-Theft, which also works with Windows-based laptops, provides a web-based service for users to remotely lock, locate and recover devices that have been lost or stolen. The system will use Skyhook’s Core Engine platform — which uses a combination of WiFi, cellular and GPS networks to help triangulate a location — for identifying where that device is located.
Although device tracking is something that had once been the preserve of enterprise customers, the growing number of smartphones and tablets among consumers has driven these kinds of services to become mass-market propositions. That has also meant the rise similar services that are also provided directly by handset makers themselves: for example both HTC and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) offer respectively HTC Device Finder and Find My iPhone.
However, it seems like Norton Anti-Theft is upping the ante for what comes as part of its deal. One feature for the service includes a “sneak peek” for users to be able to see pictures taken from the cameras of their stolen devices, which could be useful for identifying who has taken it (although to my mind does raise questions of how such a service could be abused if it got compromised). While device makers may bundle their service into the price of the device itself, Norton’s product begins at nearly $40, which covers three devices.
Although Skyhook has seen some big setbacks from Android partners like Motorola (NYSE: MMI) pulling out of deals to use its technology, and from Apple opting to use its own services rather than Skyhook’s for determining a phone’s location, the company’s current roster of licensing and partnership deals mean that it is currently profitable, according to this article in the Boston Globe from earlier this month.
Skyhook says its technology is currently used in some 100 million devices.
Skyhook this month was also awarded an additional patent for its location technology, and how it uses WiFi as the initial locator in a hybrid system. While it continues to find new customers to integrate its platform into their products, building up that patent portfolio is also useful insurance for the longer run, too.