Apr 26 AT 3:58 PM Matt Demers 9 Comments

Motorola to integrate Skyhook location services for new Android phones

In a move that at first seems a little mind-boggling, Motorola has dropped Google location integration for their future phones, instead going with Boston-based Skyhook. Google doesn’t exactly need people jumping ship, but this is purely an internal change; Skyhook will be providing the phone with the data it uses to keep itself location-aware, not replacing Google Maps or its functionality.

It is interesting to note that Skyhook has developed a Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS), which finds your location via the MAC addresses of nearby wireless signals. Through this usage, it reduces the dependency of satellites to provide the user’s location. Gowalla has already taken advantage of it and so have countless other Android apps.

This integration will be available for all developers to use in the future, and looks to roll out for use “later this year” amongst “much of the company’s portfolio of Android devices”. Whether this means current users will be using the old framework or will receive an update remains to be seen.

Skyhook Wireless Announces First Platform Integration Of Location System On Motorola Android-Based Devices
Skyhook provides Motorola’s Android-based devices with enhanced location performance worldwide

BOSTON, MA — April 27, 2010 – Skyhook Wireless, the worldwide leader in location positioning, context and intelligence, today announced that Motorola, Inc. will deploy its Core Location across much of the company’s portfolio of Android-based mobile devices. Skyhook-enabled Motorola smartphones, which will begin shipping later this year, will have the ability to better support a new wave of location-aware applications by leveraging Skyhook’s precise, reliable, and fast-performing location engine.

Location is at the center of an extraordinary explosion of mobile innovation, and is fundamental to many emerging mobile services. Today there are thousands of mobile applications that incorporate location as a part of their user experience. Precise location enables consumers to check-in with friends, find nearby concerts and exhibits, or get directions to the destinations of their choice. For some experiences, such as turn-by-turn navigation or local search, location is the central feature, but increasingly, new types of applications in music, sports, and entertainment are incorporating location to personalize content delivery.

“Motorola is committed to providing rich location services for our customers and developer partners,” said Christy Wyatt, corporate vice president of software and services product management for Motorola Mobile Devices. “Precise location is central to the mobile experience, and Skyhook’s Core Location will enhance Motorola’s Android-based mobile devices with its innovative location technology.”

Skyhook is the recognized leader in mobile location technology and produces over three hundred million location requests every day over tens of millions of mobile devices. The ground-breaking Core Location uses a combination of Wi-Fi, cellular and GPS readings in order to produce a single, accurate location quickly and in all environments.

“Motorola is creating ground-breaking and innovative mobile devices,” said Ted Morgan, CEO, Skyhook Wireless. “Skyhook is excited to further enhance the location accuracy and availability of these devices.”

About Skyhook Wireless

Skyhook is the worldwide leader in location positioning, context and intelligence. In 2003, Skyhook pioneered the development of the Wi-Fi Positioning System to provide precise and reliable location results in urban areas. Today, Skyhook’s Core Location provides positioning to tens of millions of consumer mobile devices and applications. For more information visit www.skyhookwireless.com.

Source: Engadget

Matt is a Toronto blogger who enjoys writing opinion columns about culture, comics and of course, Android. You can find more of Matt's work on his personal site.

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  • http://Website Jack

    I don’t understand why all the news sites are making such a big deal about this. I do not believe this means that they are replacing google-maps or google-navigation apps on the devices. It just means that the very backend (completely shielded from user) stuff of getting the lat-long value will be replaced with skyhook (which may infact be better than whatever google is using to get that data now).

    • http://androidandme.com Taylor Wimberly

      The iPhone has had Skyhook location integrated at the platform level for a long time. Many Android apps have to add it in because Google does not use it at the platform level. I’m not sure why Google is not using it, but I guess they have something better coming up.

      • http://Website Daniel

        Google has their own Wi-Fi database. I don’t know which one is better, though; they both fail horribly in my city. But if Skyhook’s is better, I wouldn’t doubt Google will eventually surpass them, since they have the street view vans and Android phones collecting data for them.

        • http://www.goldfishview.com David Shellabarger

          Are we sure the Street View Cars are gathering wifi data? It would totally make sense if they did, but I haven’t heard that anywhere.

  • grellanl

    Skyhook were first to develop a non-GPS method of tracing location; they decided that WiFi would become prevalent enough that it would eventually be possible to tell where you were (almost anywhere) by looking for any WiFi routers in the vicinity. They called this their WiFi positioning system. Google released an alternative service some time after.

    Skyhook’s database was compiled by spending a lot of money wardriving and noting SSIDs and cell tower locations; Google’s network location service used mostly crowd-sourced data.

    Skyhook’s data is generally better, from what I’ve seen and heard, and its lookups faster; although Google’s has certainly improved in recent times. I wonder if there are any other, less-obvious benefits to Skyhook? Do they have some goodies in the software stack that help save battery, for example?

    What I’d really like to see here is a more intelligent usage of positioning than we see at present. Many apps switch on GPS for no good reason – for example, location tagging in Twitter clients shouldn’t even try to use GPS unless you’ve actually specified so. Most of the time when this happens for me, I’m inside and it never gets a signal anyway. It sounds like iPhone OS 4.0 is making some good strides in this area, by classifying the level of accuracy to give to certain classes of apps.

    • http://Website Daniel

      Google has certainly been using their street view vans to scan wi-fi networks. This kind of service needs a good base before they can rely on crowdsourcing.

      Android apps can pick between “coarse” and “fine” location. Mileage is an example of an app that captures location just fine without ever turning on the GPS. If I understood you correctly, iPhone OS 4 will allow you to override the application’s preference, is that it?

    • http://Website Fabian

      Just a quick info, Apple is once more way behind. Android has a way to ask for not so accurate but power saving location data from the beginning.
      That there are applications that wrongly state that they need very accurate location is bad, so tell the app authors that you disapprove!

      The code is something like this:

      Criteria criteria = new Criteria();
      String provider = mLocMgr.getBestProvider(criteria, true);

  • http://Website treefq

    Will skyhook be available as an app for non-moto?

    • http://www.goldfishview.com David Shellabarger

      Skyhook isn’t really an app as much as it is a developer tool. And in this case, it seems like it going to be baked into the platform, so much so, that developers might not even know they are using it.

      Skyhook does have some Android tools for non-moto developers. I’ve talked to them before and they seemed to indicated it would be useful for getting location indoors or where GPS signal was weak or unnecessary.

      GPS is pretty much the same in every device. They all use the same satellites and they all get the Latitude, Longitude and Altitude. Getting the name of the street you are on requires a service for Google or Skyhook.