Play with and understand WiFi Positioning System

Apr 4, 2009
Updated • Jun 13, 2017
Google Maps, Internet

A few months ago, Mozilla generated lots of buzz through its Geode extension, which locates users through the WiFi access point they were using. Other popular tools have similar features, such as 'Locate me' on iPod Touches.

So, a very interesting question is how does such technology work?

They consult a service called Skyhook Wireless. They drive around settlements in several countries and record the GPS co-ordinates of where they pick up certain wireless access points, so when users send the access point's MAC to them, it can return the co-ordinates. Many areas aren't covered but if you would still like to use it, and let others use it, one can manually add details to the system. The same system is used to correct erroneous listings.

Many services already make use of WiFi-based location services.

For example, GPS units may struggle to provide an accurate location indoors or in an urban environment, but Skyhook Wireless doesn't have this problem. Software like Google Maps on the iPhone use WiFi-based location in such scenarios.

Several online websites also use WiFi-based location services to return information based on the locality. Some are social networking, like brightkite and Fire Eagle to local search, although these services tend to be American. MyLoki is another service which relies on geolocation, and this allows location data to be exported to RSS feeds, Facebook or even Twitter. It can also grab data from 'channels' and plot things nearby on a map. These 'channels' include everything from Starbucks coffee shops to geotagged photos, Yelp reviews and cinemas.

Google Gears uses its own geolocation service, which websites like ITN use, but this is much worse than Geode/Skyhook, being accurate for me to about 150 miles instead of 15 meters!

Skyhook-based locations are built into the iPhone, the Opera web-browser and Mozilla Geode.

Privacy concerns are put to ease as data is only sent if you confirm the website can have access to it, and the software lets you specify how accurate a location you're willing to send.

The idea of geolocation and WiFi positioning is fantastic. Eventually, it will allow you to open your laptop and then share your location with others, should you choose, or find the nearest restaurant in a distant city!

Play with and understand WiFi Positioning System
Article Name
Play with and understand WiFi Positioning System
The article explains how online and mobile services may use the WiFi Positioning System to locate users through WiFi access points.
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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

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