Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Introducing the Gears Geolocation API for all laptop WiFi users

By Charles Wiles, Product Manager, Google Mobile Team

I am thrilled to announce that today we have enhanced the Gears Geolocation API so that developers can now securely locate users to within 200m accuracy in major desktop browsers in hundreds of cities around the world. Whether your users are Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Firefox or (soon) Opera users, you can now automatically deliver an experience that is tailored to their current location. For example, lastminute.com's new Radar application allows users to find nearby hotels, ITN's Google Earth mash up in Firefox allows users to see nearby news stories and Rummble's social discovery site allows users to automatically set their current location for friends to see.

When we originally proposed the Gears Geolocation API our goal was to make it easy for developers to deliver location enabled web sites on mobile phones. However we realized laptop users would benefit from location enabled web sites too. Today we are adding WiFi signals to the Geolocation API so that laptop users can benefit from location enabled web sites for the first time and mobile users from the increased accuracy. And because the Geolocation API is the same for developers in both desktop and mobile browsers you can even use the same code on both platforms!

In Chrome and Android, with Gears built in, you can deliver a location enabled web site without requiring your users to install a plug-in, but in other browsers they will need to go through a simple plug-in install process. We also submitted a simplified version of the Geolocation API as a WC3 specification and the upcoming Firefox 3.1 plans to support the W3C version directly. The Gears Geolocation API is completely free to developers and users through the default Google location provider.

To protect user privacy, the Gears Geolocation API server does not record user location. However, third party sites may do so, and we recommend that users only allow web sites they trust to access their location. Gears will always tell a user when your site wants to access their location for the first time and the user can either allow or deny your site permission. We recommend users check the privacy policy of your web site if they are in doubt as to how your site may use location information.


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  2. It's amazing that the service can find your location by at most 200m error. However, the sample on Google Gears website was not able to find my place accurately. Is there something I am missing? How exactly does the API use this Wi-fi spotting technology?

  3. The Gears Geolocation API has far, far worse data than Geode (that uses Skyhook); it can't locate me right now better than somewhere within a 24 km circle, whereas Geode literally has me down to the right building.

    Any thoughts on how Gears Geolocation is going to improve its data?

  4. It would be interesting if somebody ran a side by side test of Geode/Skyhook and Google Gears. Maybe go around town and do 15-20 look-ups to see how they compare?

    Hmmm. Looks like I have something to do this weekend...

  5. Yep, now at a different location -- my home, with seven wifi access points visible to me, I'm being geolocated by Gears at a location over 25 miles away from my *actual* location. I hate to say it, but this Gears geolocation info is uniformly not useful in its current incarnation.

  6. Skyhook seems to be 100% better than Gears. I couldn't look up _any_ of ~30 BSSIDs with Gears, but _all_ with Skyhook.

  7. Its putting me on a bridge across the harbour from my house, whereas skyhook on loki is putting me in the neighbours house.

  8. Does Google plan to release a REST API to query their CellID and SSID database ?

    SSID and CellID would be two useful query parameters for Google Maps, though.

  9. I love Google API!
    I know a very good site tha uses this. Its a real estate search engine called Imobilien.

  10. Google has hopped on the WiFi positioning bandwagon by adding support for an undisclosed database of WiFi network locations to its Gears Geolocation API.Google said on its Code Blog that the service for laptops "securely locate[s] users to within 200m accuracy"and Google's Mobile Blog said the improvement is immediately available for BlackBerry users who download an updated Google Maps for Mobile application.It will soon be rolled out to other platforms,including the Google-backed Android.The new update to Google Gears will now work with Location Based Services.

  11. I've checked two positions today. One had an accuracy of less than 100m, the other one about 1km. The accuracy error for the second location is caused by my own wifi router...it's been at my previous house during data survey. However, the guessed location been less than 20m from the former position of the wifi router.

    I'm thinking of using the API for one of my sites.

  12. Congratulations on enhancing the Gears Geolocation API! An interesting post! Thanks for sharing this!