Friday, December 7, 2007

Google Add "Virtual GPS" to Your Phone

INTERNET search leader Google has unveiled new mobile phone technology that will show the location of the user, even if the phone is not equipped with a GPS receiver.

The new tracking feature, named My Location, has been launched in more than 20 countries, including the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Users will be able to see their location as a blue dot on the latest version of Google's mobile maps application.

The tracking system won't collect a user's phone number or any other personal information that would reveal a person's identity, Google's mobile maps product manager Steve Lee said.

Google's tracking feature will work while the handset is indoors, and drains less power from a phone's battery than a GPS receiver does.

On the downside, Google's service isn't as precise as GPS. In most instances, Google hopes to get within 400m of a user's location, compared to 5m with a GPS.

The database that identifies the location of a mobile phone is still under construction, so the service still sometimes draw a blank. The company expects to fill in the holes as more people use the service.

By knowing more about a mobile phone's location, Google conceivably could make more money displaying ads from nearby businesses hoping to lure in more customers.

The company had no immediate plans to show ads on mobile maps but might in the future, Mr Lee said.

Already the owner of the most lucrative advertising network on the internet, Google eventually hopes to do a better job of mining profits from the mobile web.

To help realise that goal, Google plans to introduce a new mobile software package called Android next year in an attempt to make its online services more accessible to people while they're away from computers at home or the office.

Although a growing number of smart phones come with GPS receivers, Google estimates that about 85 per cent of mobile handsets now in use don't have the satellite powered technology.

Google's alternative will work on most smart phones, including the Blackberry and the latest generation of Nokia handsets. But it's still not compatible with the iPhone, Motorola Q, Samsung Blackjack and Palm Treo 700w and other models.