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Qualcomm turns cell phones into GPS systems

PC World

By George A. Chidi

(IDG) -- Qualcomm can now convert cell phones into mobile Global Positioning System devices by adapting emergency-tracking technology for display on individual phone screens, the company announced Wednesday. GPS systems help lost travelers by pinpointing their location and suggesting directions.

The gpsOne positioning technology designed by Qualcomm subsidiary SnapTrack uses A-GPS, or assisted GPS, a form of location detection in which cell phone towers help GPS satellites fix a cell phone caller's position. SnapTrack's SnapSmart software uses the gpsOne hardware to serve location information to client devices such as cell phones, wireless personal digital assistants, or other wireless instruments.

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Police, fire, and ambulance services can use SnapTrack's positioning system to track down cell phone callers in an emergency -- but until now callers themselves have been unable to see the same information displayed on their cell phones. Qualcomm expects the SnapSmart location server software to be released before June, the company said.

Slow to Roll

Commercial applications for location technology in cell phones have been lagging, partly due to the slow rollout of new phones with the system, and partly due to the service providers' focus on establishing 3G (third-generation) wireless services for high-speed data. Few phones in current use have any position-tracking ability.

Qualcomm touted several potential business applications for position-location services, such as mobile yellow pages directories, traffic reports, and commercial tracking services. Position-based mobile games, such as a high-tech version of tag, and friend-finder services also become possible, Qualcomm said.

Enchanced 911

Mobile phone companies are under orders from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to incorporate some kind of location-reporting technology into cellular phones. Dubbed E-911, or enhanced 911 (see "Wireless 911 service slowly sppears," link below), the communication initiative is meant to give law enforcement and emergency services personnel a way to find people calling 911 from mobile phones when callers don't know where they are or are unable to say.

No carrier was able to make an October deadline to fully implement E-911. The FCC issued waivers permitting carriers to add location-detection services to new phones over time, so that 95 percent of all mobile phones are compliant with E-911 rules by 2005.




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