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Skyhook Embedded in MapQuest Android App

Tue, 05/03/2011 - 8:33am
Monica Alleven

There's more than one way to get onto Android phones. Skyhook and MapQuest today announced that Skyhook's Core Engine is getting embedded into MapQuest's free Android app for better navigation on Android phones.

Skyhook, which has been in a legal tussle with Google since last fall, is focusing on app providers to get its technology onto Android; it also has deals to supply its Wi-Fi location system to the likes of Citysearch, Gowalla, Flixter, Priceline.com and for TwiDroyd from UberMedia.

"App developers can improve the location by working directly with us," says Skyhook CEO Ted Morgan.

MapQuest's app includes voice guidance/turn-by-turn navigation, voice search, map toolbar, walking directions and live traffic flow information. It's in competition with Google Maps for Android, but Morgan says it's more accurate.

Just relying on GPS for turn-by-turn navigation is dicey because it loses sight around high buildings and, for example, within parking garages when the user wants to get a fix on their location and figure out their route before leaving the garage. When GPS is combined with Wi-Fi, location fixes get within 10 or 20 meters.

Skyhook had deals for its technology to be embedded in Motorola and Samsung Android devices but alleges that Google interfered, threatening the certification process if the devices used Skyhook's technology instead of Google's. Google and Apple are due to appear at a May 10 Senate hearing on their location policies.

Boston-based Skyhook, founded in 2003, basically built what Google and Apple are trying to build today. It put cars on the road and scanners in vehicles to find and map out Wi-Fi access points. It combines the Wi-Fi positioning with GPS and cell tower triangulation for software that's used for location-enabling smartphones, apps and other devices. Skyhook's technology still is used in a lot of iOS devices even though Apple embarked on its own mapping endeavor.

Morgan says Skyhook's system only checks for location when a consumer wants to turn that on – to check in with Foursquare, for example. In addition, all the millions of requests that Skyhook gets each day look the same – the company doesn't know what device is asking for the location or what the user looks like. "They all look like anonymous user requests," he says.

For its part, Google says it provides users with notice and control over the collection, sharing and use of location and any location data that is sent back to Google location servers is "anonymized" and not tied or traceable to a specific user.

Skyhook conducts drives around the areas it covers about every year and a half to keep data up-to-date. Right now, it's collecting a lot of new data in places like China, Korea and Japan. Morgan acknowledges that getting location data in China is challenging, but already, Skyhook has mapped some of the bigger cities there.

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