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Google Maps GPS Simulator 205

garbletext writes "A new version of Google Maps introduced this week includes a beta feature dubbed My Location that was designed to simulate the GPS experience on mobile phones and handheld devices that do not include GPS hardware, like Apple's iPhone. Essentially, the My Location feature takes information broadcast from mobile towers near non-GPS equipped mobile phones to approximate the device's current location on the map down to about 10 city blocks. "It's not GPS, but it comes pretty close (approximately 1000m close, on average)," the Mountain View, Calif.-based search giant explained on its website. "We're still in beta, but we're excited to launch this feature and are constantly working to improve our coverage and accuracy." The My Location feature is currently available for most web-enabled mobile phones, including Java, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Nokia/Symbian devices."
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Google Maps GPS Simulator

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  • iPhone (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Except this doesn't actually work on iPhone.
  • by rustalot42684 ( 1055008 ) <fake.account@com> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:38PM (#21512421)
    Now I can pay to have my cellphone tell me I'm somewhere in downtown Toronto. Just what I've always wanted - I always keep forgetting these minor details.
    • by QuantumG ( 50515 )
      You're saying you'd rather type in "Toronto", on a cell phone, rather than just have Google Maps know already?

      What, are you some kind of privacy nut? (rim shot)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by colonslash ( 544210 )
      That's better than somewhere in Canada; a map zoomed in to near your current location could be much more helpful, especially because of slow networks and high bandwidth costs
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Fyre2012 ( 762907 )
      I've used the service on my Blackberry 8800 in downtown toronto, and in my experience I was able to narrow my location down to within 10 meters or so on any given downtown street.
      It even points in the direction you're moving
      Pretty neet to have it using the satelite view as well. Very quick and responsive, and you can always just press '0' to go to 'my location'
      Works well using directions too... you just tell it to use 'my location' as a starting or destination point.

      Tho it doesn't work indoors...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ILuvRamen ( 1026668 )
      lol that's not what it will tell you. When you're inside a building it will tell you you're 2 miles away from the tower. And in the elevator it will tell you you're 4 miles away from the tower. And as soon as you walk out, you're suddenly one mile from the tower! All it can go by is the signal strength as far as I know. That's so stupid. With one tower, it can tell you you're somewhere on a ring around the tower. With two it can approximate a linear area that you're in. With 3 towers it can tell you
      • Wow, Google is better than I thought. Now, the (my) body will be in two places at once.

        (I had to borrow a modified phrase from Captain Crain of the Seaview, when the enemy agent in Sickbay hosed their INS (inertial navigation system), in the episode "Hail to the Chief"; her brain-cooking MK-G machine at full power threw off Seaview's compass in the Control Room (proximity of the MK-G), but not in Maneuvering Control... Crain got reports on the two directions, and, frustrated as hell, he proclaimed to Adm. N
      • Even with 3, it won't be accurate because signal strength goes up and down.

        It won't be "accurate" regardless, but it will still be ballpark. Your examples are nisleading. If you're in a building, or an elevator for that matter (per your example), the signal strength is degraded for all nearby towers and thus you can still be triangulated in the same way.

        Obviously a GPS-enabled phone is still the best solution.
        • by p0tat03 ( 985078 )

          Except your GPS-enabled phone won't be able to reach its satellites *at all* inside that elevator, which makes your Google approximation better by process of elimination ;)

          The only solution is GPS + IMU (inertial motion unit), which will track your movements via accelerometer while you are without GPS signal, and resync when it reacquires. I look forward to buying my own $5000, 4-lb phone!

          • If they use the miniature laser-based accelerometers used in Segways, and include them in mass production, the cost wouldn't rise too high.
            • by p0tat03 ( 985078 )

              I was being facetious... But let's explore that idea.

              Currently there's no good way to build an IMU that's small enough to fit in your average handset, let alone cheaply. Heck, we'd have trouble building one that'd fit in 5 handsets. Accelerometers vary greatly - you can get really rough ones like the MEMS accelerometer you see in the Wii-mote, or you can get extremely, extremely accurate ones that can maintain highly accurate positioning even without GPS assistance for extended periods of time. Clearly, f

              • Could we not use the same accelerometer built into the iPhone to detect landscape/portrait changes? Perhaps it's not extremely accurate, but I'd be interested to get my hands on an iPhone for a week or two just to code something up to try to handle inertial navigation to see what the results are.
      • by nmg196 ( 184961 ) *
        I think in some cases it doesn't solely use signal strength. I seem to remember reading a couple of years back that on one network, it usesd the latency of the signal to estimate your distance from the tower if you're connecting from a 3G phone (eg it effectively pings your phone and measures the delay in microseconds). The masts themselves often have 3 aerials (which is sometimes easily visible []) which are focused in three different directions. This means they also know roughly which side of the mast you ar
    • by ashitaka ( 27544 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:17PM (#21512807) Homepage
      Remember, this is just telling you where you are, not where you should or would like to be.

      Which probably isn't in downtown Toronto.

      And no matter where you go, there you are.
    • by kevinbr ( 689680 ) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @04:13AM (#21515519)
      Location on a phone has always been potentially very useful as a part of user context. You might not be able to use it as a turn by turn mapping guide, but what the stupid mobile operators forget is that other people could think of useful location services. Example: Travel Agent. I used to fly from Nice to London via Frankfurt a lot. My connection in Frankfurt is at 9:15. If my phone reports that I am in Frankfurt at 9:30 and the flight left at 9:15, then I missed my flight. An application could use this to automatically rebook me.

      I order a taxi from an office. Today I wait on the street because I do not know within a minute when he will arrive. With location, when the taxi enters the same cell as me, it could trigger an SMS for me to go down to see taxi. Saving me time and money.

      Wap Link: Give me the weather HERE. I remember years ago showing a friend the weather forecast on the phone. After I typed in the City, he asked why? He was right of course , the phone knew what city I was in.

      Going for a train - rush or have a cup of coffee and wait? Push the button "Next Train" and application knows you are in work not home and tell you next train from work to home. Or vice a versa.

      Too many people stupidly believe that location has no real use unless it can locate a person within meters. The granularity is fine as a basis to give contextual input to many many app.

      I could go on and on, but for 7 years the mobile operators have blown their lead in this space all because the idiot marketing people believe that if THEY cannot imagine a service no would could possibly want such a service. I had to laugh at Vodafone idiot CEO in a recent interview discussing how he "owned" location as a service and Apple did not. He owned it for 7 years and did fuck all with it.

      • It's also nice for mapping. No, seriously. If you do the map from [my location] then you only have to add the destination address. It saves one entry, which may be a big deal if you don't know your zip code or you can't see an address number (how long is Main St. anyway?).

        "Doesn't do much good if your location is a half mile away," you may say. Well it's much easier to move your starting point to your real location than it would have been to find it from scratch. You're already on the screen instead of
  • So, hypothetically speaking, if I had been driving to my relatives' house on, say, Thanksgiving, and I possibly took a right turn instead of a left one and ended up 3 miles away before turning back, I was, in theory, also pretty close?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Not every invention you see started off being perfectly usable. That's what development is for. The very cellphones that one will be using this on were not exactly convenient to carry around once upon a time, were they?
      • I'm not sure that's what he's talking about -- that he expects the tech to be mature immediately.

        However, one can do expect the description to be worded a bit more truthfully.

        In this case, why not just skip the "close" part but still describe what it does? Because one can really say this isn't very close, at least for the uses I can imagine with this.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DigitAl56K ( 805623 )
      Yes, 1KM is pretty close for a non-GPS-equipped phone.

      Think about the workflow - Google Maps can automatically zoom you in to a really small area of global mapping data, and in most cases you're going to want to browse 1KM or greater anyway to have an overview of where you are, what the nearby roads are, and where you are going. You can easily zoom in and out or scroll around from there, getting to exactly what you want to view in seconds.

      The alternative is to have you sit there and type in your location, w
      • How did your Curve come with GPS? Mine comes with the ability to pair to a Bluetooth-enabled GPS receiver, but does not include GPS functionality built in. Sad day =(
  • Still... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by E. T. Moonshade ( 591333 ) <sirepsilon@h[ ] ['otm' in gap]> on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:40PM (#21512443)
    It's not terribly useful if you're truly lost. Once they can get the triangulation between towers to work better, it'll be pretty damn slick. Until then, 'tis just a toy.
    • by Snowbeam ( 96416 )
      For a toy, it has been fun to use so far. Of course this is just with locations I know. The truth in the end is that there's room for a lot of improvement. Alas, for something that is free, it is pretty sweet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TubeSteak ( 669689 )

      It's not terribly useful if you're truly lost.

      Define truly lost.

      If you're "truly lost" in [major city] then stop and ask someone.

      If you're "truly lost" out in the middle of nowhere, a 10 city block guesstimate from your phone is more than enough to get you back on the right path.

      For anything in between those two extremes, I can't imagine how the guesstimate won't be helpful. I mean... how lost can you be that you don't know what street you're on? And you're staring at a map.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by centinall ( 868713 )
      If you do have GPS on your phone you'll find that it probably IS "useful if you're truly lost". For those that don't have GPS and until they can get the triangulation between towers to work better you might be right that it's just a toy. However, it will certain save some time bringing up a map of your general vicinity.

      See your location on the map, with or without GPS. Save time and tedious keystrokes finding where you are, what's around you, and how to get there.

      If you have a GPS-enabled device, thi

    • "You're within 1000m of coffee. Can you smell it yet?". Thanks!
    • by rindeee ( 530084 )
      It is indeed very useful, if you can eyeball either sat imagery or a topo map (both of which are available from Google of course) you can easily identify exactly where you're at. The problem with doing this (normally) is two fold. First, you have to have access to the map (Google of course had solved this already). Second, you have to know what map to view, or in this case, what portion of the Earth to look at and establish you location. In this case, Google is simply pulling the right map for
    • IF you can't find your own position on a map of the area less then 1km across, you SUCK. My god, even females should be able to do this.

      Hint, look around you for any landmarks, then look on the tiny area of the map you KNOW you are on thanks to this new tech and voila, you found where you are.

      If you can't even do that, find a nearby river and drown yourselve and stop being a disgrace to the species. Whatever that may be.

  • by Colin Smith ( 2679 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:41PM (#21512465)
    Um... What's the standard deviation on that?

    While I like the sentiment, I suspect the usefulness is going to be... limited... It'll be as easy to put in the street names and such.

    • During the daytime. I do a fair amount of traveling, and street sign legibility at night is usually far less accurate than even this method.
  • MapPoint? (Score:5, Informative)

    by phatvw ( 996438 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:44PM (#21512493)
    I believe MapPoint Location Server [] had these same features based on GPRS/GSM available back in 2004. For a price of course :)
    • [] - I haven't tried this so I can't vouch for it, but it looks interesting and is also free.

      Note that when people say "GPS" in the context of cellphones, they are usually talking about GPRS/GSM location-based services which use celltower triangulation. There are very few cellphones that have GPS satellite antennas, although there are a few Bluetooth GPS add-on devices available.
      • by ShmuelP ( 5675 )
        I believe that is true only for the GSM carriers. Most CDMA carriers put some GPS hardware on the phones that, together with information from the tower, can compute the position (on the provider's side).
      • by dwater ( 72834 )
        > There are very few cellphones that have GPS satellite antennas,

        Nokia have quite a few available. I tried to use the 'search by feature' facility on this [] site to figure out how many, but I just don't believe the results. I know there are at least 'several' though.

        Some of them also have an assisted gps feature which seems to work similarly to this new google feature, though I don't think it works at all if the phone doesn't have gps. I read somewhere that Nokia intend to implement it on all their GPS pho
        • by dwater ( 72834 )
          FYI I'm told the A-GPS on these phones is completely different to what google are doing, so I was wrong about that.
    • [] is another alternative that uses a community-based approach to build its database of cell tower and wifi access point locations. Users who want to use the service pay a small fee, while users who have a GPS can get paid for contributing location data.

      Since Navizon also combines wifi access points (which are generally have shorter ranges), it can theoretically narrow down your position even more accurately than relying just on cell towers.
  • It could be useful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xarien ( 1073084 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:45PM (#21512499)
    The usefulness will come from the fact that you now have a localized map of roughly where you are. As long as you think of it as a personalized map service instead of a GPS replacement service, it still quite handy
    • The usefulness will come from the fact that you now have a localized map of roughly where you are. As long as you think of it as a personalized map service instead of a GPS replacement service, it still quite handy

      Or, you could use Google Maps as it exists right now, look at a nearby landmark, like an address or a street sign, punch that into the "Find location" field and find exactly where you are with almost no guesswork. Sure, the tech is interesting, but currently it doesn't do anything that you can
      • anything that cuts down on the amount of typing that's required on a cellphone keyboard to accomplish a task is a good thing
  • No, it's not going to tell you your exact location. But if you need to get somewhere it can give you direct starting within 1000 feet of where you are.

    It is NOT for Geo caching, or to give you constant real time updates as you hurl down the road.
    So if you are in downtown Toronto and decide you want to check out the new book store in BF Canada, you can get a close start position on Google maps. If you can't figure it our from there, then please stop using technology.Any technology.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by beav007 ( 746004 )
      Incorrect. According to the summary, it's within 1000m (1km, 3280 feet, 7143 linguine, 108 double decker buses, or more than 7 brontosaurii) of where you are - significantly more than 1000 feet, and much less useful.

      Free unit conversion tool []
    • I don't need any fancy technology to do all that. Give me a map and a street intersection and I'm there. Or just call the store for directions.
    • It's also a good starting point when you bring up the map. A map of the surrounding area of 1000m x 1000m in your palm is very useful. You could hilight all the bookstores or subway stations within that area, or if you're lost, you might recognize the street name you're on at a glance.
    • Google Maps for mobile devices automatically searches with the assumption that the center of your screen is where you're looking for. The map scrolls very easily, so you can move the map to the general area where you think you are and then punch in your search. It works. I do it all time.

      You can get more exact results if you look at a street address and punch it into the "Find location" feature. The technology is cool. I think the concept of being able to automatically acquire my position without any add
  • Not Exactly Global (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cybermage ( 112274 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:49PM (#21512545) Homepage Journal
    If it's based on the deployment of Cell towers, it's not exactly a *Global* Positioning System. I think GPSs are more useful in remote areas than urban ones and probably less dangerous [] there too.

    I think this product might lead people into a false sense of security:

    "Hey, I think were lost out here in the middle of the Oregon woods in a blizzard. Better check the GPS on my iPhone.


    "We're doomed!"
    • by ashitaka ( 27544 )
      I hope you aren't referring to the case [] where Google maps or some other direction-giving site might have lead to the death of a well-known CNET editor.
      • I hope you aren't referring to the case where Google maps or some other direction-giving site might have lead to the death of a well-known CNET editor.

        Actually, I'm referring to exactly that. Too many people, especially otherwise smart ones, are too eager to allow technology to substitute for common sense.
  • It found my location to "within 2400 meters". It is about 2K off actually.

    But I am impressed by the fact alone that it started zoomed right into my city. And I am connected with WiFi, not even GPRS.

    Pretty swift if you ask me.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by stg ( 43177 )
      I think it's pretty cool. I tried through WiFi (as my packet data connection is awful AND pricy), and I wasn't within the limit it drew, but about 800 meters off. That, in a minor town in Brasil.

      That is not revolutionary, but it's clearly very useful.

      And I really like that it can use my phone's GPS (which was off for the test) - Google Maps is absurdly better than Nokia Maps, as far as directions and map data goes.
  • by the_wishbone ( 1018542 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:05PM (#21512717)
    It may not be as accurate as full-on GPS, but now you can do searches for nearby businesses...without having to type in your location. I don't know how many times I've been looking for something NEARBY and either didn't know what zip code or city I was in (keep in mind in a place like LA, something might be nearby but technically in a different city, and sometimes it wouldn't find things unless you gave it specific locations - I know this from experience). I finally resorted to doing a browser Google search because the maps app just wasn't finding stuff.
    I've also noticed that now, when you search without putting in a location (i.e. "pizza" instead of "pizza los angeles ca") it will search the nearby area visible on the map. With the previous version, for some reason, it kept giving me locations in the UK when I didn't specify a city/state in the US instead of just searching the area of the map that was currently visible.
    Too bad the "My Location" feature doesn't currently work on Sprint Touch and Mogul phones (whether this is a Google or Sprint thing, who knows...) as it says the phones aren't reporting any cell towers (you can see this in Help>About where it says "myl: N/A". Oh, well...hopefully it will work sometime in the future.
  • Working pretty well on my BB - About one half block from exact location. Pretty cool for the price.
  • Privacy? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bhmit1 ( 2270 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:45PM (#21513047) Homepage
    Where are they getting the information about what tower you're connected to and how strong the signal is? If it's from the app running on the phone, and you selected to install the app (plus agree to a very long disclaimer) then I have fewer issues. But if they are getting the information from the phone company or from the network requests (e.g. http headers added by phone company) then I'd question if the phone company is giving away private information on their customers.

    And if they get the information from the app on the phone, I'd be curious of what api's there are to do this ourselves and if that access infringes on some kind of separation between the phone and app that users and phone companies may want (e.g. apps dialing 900 numbers or racking up charges for sms messages without your knowledge).

    (And FYI, testing this on a Sprint Treo 600 claims to download the 2.0 version, but it's really the 1.2 version after the installer runs, so it doesn't work for me yet.)
    • Google getting tower identifier information from the GSM chipset. You can pull it through a programming interface. BUT! The problem is, those tower identifiers have no geo-location information. So how does Google get it? Easily. The have the MyLocation Google Maps client running on GPS-enabled devices send back GPS coordinates with tower identifier information. As more and more people have the client running, Google gets a bigger database to play with. Once a significant dataset has been compiled, MyLocati
    • I just wanted to add, the tower identified information isn't private. The phone has this information the same as it has diagnostic information from the tower on signal strength. Just as your phone can tell the tower signal strength, the tower send back info on how well it can pick up your phone. This is why phones placed near speakers will make the speakers hum when a call is incoming. The tower is commanding the phone to ramp up it's radio to a higher power output (something it doesn't need to know while s
  • The purpose of this is not to tell you where you are. It's to get you to the right map, without needing to type a location using clumsy cell-phone input. Once you're looking at a map, you can figure out where you are by looking at street signs. Think of it as a road atlas which always opens to the right page.
  • my mini review (Score:3, Informative)

    by johnjones ( 14274 ) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @10:34PM (#21513417) Homepage Journal
    my review -


    My Location actually WORKS !
    My Location works outside of the USA (at least in the UK)
    well put together app not a resource hog on my symbian Nokia Series 60 v2 phone (e50)


    you cant do ANYTHING with "My Location" except watch a pretty blue point on the map
    No My Location for route finding
    No traffic outside USA
    Route does not work for a found location it adds a ")" at the end for some reason.

    Nice but you need to actaully finish it or it's just a plaything

    I am curious what Database of cell locations is google using do you gut think ?
    (the phone companies often lie about locations in there headers so you have to build your own (wiggle) or use OFCOM in the uk)


    John Jones []
  • Too bad google maps won't use the built in GPS on my 7520... it'll talk to a bluetooth gps receiver though.

    Though, with the below dialup speeds of the blackberry, and 8 dollar a meg transfer charges, I'm not sure I'd want to do much with google maps anyways.

    "My location" doesn't work on this unit anyways.
  • Given that Google maps only finds my location on my GPS equipped Blackberry 8800 about 25% of the time, it will be nice to have an alternative. Now if they could just get traffic information that was worth a damn and actually works consistently. I haven't been able to get traffic information for my commute for the last two days. It says "No Traffic Information Available." despite the fact that I'm in downtown Los Angeles. Trust me, there is all sorts of traffic info available... I'm sitting in it. ;)
  • A few other very interesting features were released this week for Google Maps... and I'm sorry that this story is all we got on /. so far. Here's a copy from the site in my sig.

    Google Maps Adds Terrain
    Google Lat Lon Blog [] announces the addition of terrain to their free Google Maps [] site. In addition to adding the Terrain button, they've removed the Hybrid button. They explain, "You may notice in this screenshot that the handy "Hybrid" button, which shows satellite images overlaid with labels and roads, seems to have gone missing. Don't worry -- this view can now be accessed by clicking the "Satellite" button and checking the "Show labels" check box that will appear under the "Satellite" button."

    New Google Maps Features Launched Including Collaborative Mapping
    In addition to the important new terrain layer [] announced yesterday, Google Maps received a few significant updates, first, Google Maps searches are now providing a thumbnail of the related street view photo [], second, the My Maps feature somehow becomes Our Maps, allowing to collaborate directly on someone else's My Maps [], this has a lot of potential of getting big, and last, you can more easily share KML and KMZ files and GeoRSS feeds through My Maps []. From the Our Maps announcement: "Just click the "Collaborate" link and enter the email addresses of the people you want to invite. They'll receive an email invitation with a link to the map. Once they open the map, they should be able to edit it, as long as they are signed into a Google Account that's associated with that email address. You can also open your map to the world so anyone can edit it by selecting the "Allow anyone to edit this map" checkbox."
  • Works on my N75 (Score:2, Informative)

    by w00d ( 91529 )
    I killed the old version I had (1.7-something), downloaded 2.0, fired it up. Nothing. "Your location is currently unavailable." Rebooted the phone, now it works great. It's showing the blue dot about half a block from my actual location. I'm well within the grey circle around the dot. Pretty awesome for not using GPS.

    • Also works a treat on my N80. As soon as it loaded up it found me to within about 100m. I also have a bluetooth GPS receiver somewhere which I'll try later (anyone know if it works with those?)
  • OK, so this is spiffy. But imagine you're a business: think of all the ridiculously profitable stuff you could do with this kind of location info (once the user grants it)?

    -- Google pushes to your phone which nearby businesses are having sales at the moment.

    -- During non-peak hours, Starbucks sends you a coupon for a half-price latte redeemable in the next 15 minutes.

    -- Capital One, knowing your buying habits, lets you know which nearby clothing stores they can get you a discount at.

    -- tells

  • ...which just displayed a big fat cross on the screen one line of text stating "You are here".
  • OK - I just tried it out - it put me 650-750 meters from my actual location. It seems to have drawn a 1k radius around the dot indicating that you are in that general area. To be honest, this looks very useful to me - Roll on a windows mobile API for me to use it in my own apps without paying license to someone. There isn't a pizza, taxi, video store or motorway (freeway) junction that would be selected incorrectly from using this location rather than my actual one.
  • Why not use PlaceLab? []

    "Place Lab is software providing low-cost, easy-to-use device positioning for location-enhanced computing applications. Place Lab tries to provide positioning which works worldwide, both indoors and out (unlike GPS which only works well outside). Place Lab clients can determine their location privately without constant interaction with a central service (unlike badge tracking or mobile phone location services where t
  • Thought some of you might find this interesting...

    From their site:

    Skyhook's Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) is the world's first location platform to use the native 802.11 radio already on a mobile device to deliver accurate positioning across the US. And soon the world. []

    Never tried it myself.
  • I believe Sprint has had something like this for a while now. "Sprint Family Locator" [] lets you see where your kids are using GPS, or, when unavailable, cell signal approximation.

    My understanding is that many GPS apps use "Assisted GPS" like this, triangulating from cell towers for location help, since traditional GPS requires a clear view of the sky and that's not always practical (you're indoors, or in an urban or actual canyon, etc).

Remember to say hello to your bank teller.