You probably havn’t missed that Google is developing together, with technology partners, Android: the first complete, open, and free mobile platform.
A bit after this announcement, they launched a new version of their Google Maps software on phones that includes a “My Location” feature. This feature basically lets anyone with Google Maps on his cell phone find out its location even if the phone does not have a GPS (which until now was sort of a requirement to get some sort of localisation).
One might ask how they did that ? where does this information comes from ? the answer is quite simple and comes from Steve Lee itself, the product manager of Google Maps:
First, Google figures out which cell towers are where by secretly enlisting the help of a million of its mobile maps users who happen to have phones with built-in GPS devices that are not locked by the carriers (that means no one who uses Verizon). These phones have been reporting to Google where they are, based on the GPS data and what cell tower they are connected to.
Quite interesting and how smart! Google made use of both the carrier network and a piece of software installed on mobile device (sort of a Trojan horse) to build up a very valuable database.
I have somehow the feeling that this is just the beginning… (more to come :-)