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There's a reason Google can shut down its Street View cars and still maintain a quality geolocation service on mobile devices: it's crowdsourcing the data.
Mobile-phone and some laptop users who use Google applications to get a fix on their position or share their location with friends are helping Google build out a database of Wi-Fi hot spots, the company confirmed Tuesday. Users generally understand when they are sharing their own location with Google or its partners, but they may not realize they are also helping Google match Wi-Fi hot-spot location data with GPS coordinates by transmitting the location of any Wi-Fi access point in wireless range.
When a Google Maps Navigation user, for example, requests a fix on their location, they send Google a list of all the MAC (media access control) addresses associated with wireless hot spots available within range to be checked against a Google database of those addresses gathered through the Street View project, said Steve Lee, group product manager at Google. Wi-Fi hot-spot triangulation is a commonly used method of determining location on modern smartphones, as GPS doesn't always work in urban locations and cell-tower positioning can be inaccurate.
Location determined by WI-FI and.or mobile networks