Lately mobile devices have incorporated processors that allow the management of global positioning by different technologies.
Nowadays the geolocation system using GPS technology is no longer exclusive for specific devices (GPS navigation). This system has become popular thanks to its integration into mobile devices. They have been so widely accepted that GPS equipment manufacturers are afraid that this will be the end of their devices.
Although one year ago the conflict between GPS providers would have seemed unthinkable, the truth is that the number of mobile terminals that offer geolocation services and maps is increasing. These services are called LBS services – Location Based Services. It is estimated that in 2014 there will be over 90% mobile devices with GPS tools.
What is geolocation?
This term is frequently related to GPS technology, but we should know that this is just a technology that allows geolocation.
The term, geolocation, refers to the ability to determine the position of an object or a person using their geographical coordinates (latitude and longitude) on a regular map through any of the available technologies. This technology will determine the way in which we acquire the information necessary for the geolocation through the identification of the IP of a device connected to the Internet, the network provider or mobile device GSM network or through GPS.
- Through GPS: modern browsers allow to obtain information from a GPS receiver. This is very common in the case of mobile devices. It is the slowest method of all, but it’s very accurate. It is the most reliable and it provides the greatest coverage. GPS: Global Positioning System, is a network of 24 satellites placed in geostationary orbit at about 20,000 km from the Earth. They are provided with atomic clocks that allow them to transmit accurate time and position in space.
Examples: dedicated devices, some smartphones, navigation systems.
- Wi Fi networks Proximity: this technology analyzes the names and MAC addresses of the Wi Fi networks placed near us and these data allows us to find out exactly where we are. In some cases, when a device combines this technology with GPS, it can reload the database so we can find the information about where the different wireless networks are. There is an hybrid system that combines this technology with GPS. It can be the best solution for indoor geolocation, where the GPS signal is weak or non-existent.
- Mobile repeater triangulation: this method is mostly used on mobile devices’ browsers. It’s based on the relative distance to several cell phone towers. This system is fast, but very expensive (some companies block the access because the cost isn’t very competitive). Its accuracy is great if we are in an urban environment where there are many phone towers, but if we are in a rural area we will have problems when locating our position.
Example: mobile with the two last generations, some smartphones use it as an alternative, 3G connections.
- IP Address: this technology is the least accurate and it’s used for a long time now. It uses the IP address associated with your service provider (ISP). There are many scripts and new standards that offer location through the IP address, but it isn’t well accepted because of its inaccuracy (if we are connected through a proxy or a tunnel it will give us the location of this IP instead of ours).
Examples: computers and devices with Internet connection.
Geolocation on social networks
According to a study published by Pew Internet & American Life Project, three out of ten social network users have created their accounts to include their location into their status updates. It isn’t surprising that the users that are more prone to use location services on social networks are young users.
There are 34% of North American users aged between 18 and 49 years and 26% of users aged between 50 and 64 years that use geolocation services on social networks. When talking about mobile location-based services, they’re much more common among mobile users.
There are 76% of male mobile users and 72% female mobile users that use location based services on their smartphones or tablets. These services are quite popular among all kinds of audiences. Nonetheless, 80% of mobile users aged between 18 and 29 years use location-based services, versus 65% of mobile users aged between 50 and 64 years.