Smart phones offer users some amazing applications these days. Most of which are really useful in their own way. A smart phone is more than just a simple mobile phone, in fact it’s a mini computer that everybody carries around with them at all times. It allows them to keep in contact with other people like never before.
One of the apps that smartphones now have is being able to pinpoint the location of it’s user. Now in general, this is a very positive thing and one which most people embrace even though they are not aware of which of these location technologies are passive or active. The more authorised apps a person has on their smart phones, the less control they have on these location technologies.
Avi Greengart of Current Analysis believes the first stage of cellphone location is already well established. The second stage goes far beyond this to include mapping and directions as well as social and other apps. But he also believes a third stage will bring apps about some that no one has even thought of. Now this could have many benefits but it could have it’s downsides too. Particularly worrying is the fact that it would involved a users’ privacy, physical safety from stalkers or indeed arrest from the authorities looking for them, as was stated by Seth Schoen, a senior staff technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The link at the end of the article goes into far more detail of how the 10 ways a smart phone can be used to trace person and the technologies used in each one of them giving the limitations of each app as well as the strengths.
To Date It’s An Accepted Application
Most of the world has accepted location-based services. They’ve not considered the ramifications of services providers giving out information about their whereabouts to others who are looking for them. This includes situations where lawsuits are being processed or information being stolen by hackers who gain access to it from app vendors. Many experts think because this is all happening so quickly, people haven’t had the time to think about the situation and where it could lead to.
To date there are around 10 different systems that are either already in use or being developed which could be used to identify a person’s location. A lot of the time a few of these are used in combination so when one of the apps is less effective the other one kicks in to keep track of a person’s location. Below are the 10 apps mentioned above:
1 . Global Positioning System (GPS)
Developed by US Dept of Defence in the late nineties, it is the best-known location outdoor tracker around. Cellphones pick up three signals from three different satellites and pinpoint a persons location. If the cellphone picks up 4 signals, it will tell a person’s elevation too. Works well in open areas.
2. Assisted GPS
Faster than GPS, assisted GPS sends data over a cellular or Wi-Fi network instead of having to download data from satellites after having established a satellite link.
3. Synthetic GPS
Synthetic GPS is able to forecast satellites locations days and weeks in advance which enables phones to identify it’s whereabouts in seconds.
4. Cell ID
All cellphones need to find three satellites no matter how fast they happen to be. Cell ID is a technology that identifies which cell a person is using and how far they are from neighbouring cells. This enables carriers to locate a cellphone by way of a database of base-station identification numbers and locations. It is very precise in urban areas.
There are 2 ways Wi-Fi is used to pinpoint a persons location. Most common is RSSI (received signal strength indication). It identifies the signals of a phone and detects access points and then refers to a database of Wi-Fi networks. The other Wi-Fi location technique is wireless fingerprinting and uses profiles of known places based on the pattern of Wi-Fi signals found in these locations.
6. Inertial sensors
Inertial sensors work in areas where no wireless signals can be found. They keep track of a person’s location based on other inputs. Smart phones have three inertial sensors, a compass, an accelerometer and a gyroscope and these determine a person’s location without the use of external inputs but only for a limited time.
A barometer determines elevation and smart phones have a chip that detects barometer pressure, air is lighter the higher a person happens to be.
Ultrasonic apps in smart phones determines where a person is every time they enter a shop or store that has Shopkick technology installed.
9. Bluetooth beacons
Bluetooth beacons will provide very precise location information via smart phones with Bluetooth 4.0 apps.
10. Terrestrial transmitters
A technology that’s being developed to overcome GPS’ limitations using stationary transmitters that will be more reliable than satellites.
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With so many ways of determining a person’s location via their smart phones it’s easy to see how this may be of benefit in certain situations. However, the other side of the coin is that nobody who uses a cell phone will be able to stay untraced and therefore could be more vulnerable to stalkers or hackers who get hold of their information from apps vendors. It is something that people need to take time out to think about. The only control they’ll ever have over the situation is to limit the amount of apps they authorise on their smart phones and as more apps are being developed and installed into their phones, this is very unlikely to happen.