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epokh
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« on: May 26, 2008, 09:47:18 AM »

It's a simple proof of concept to track gsm position.
http://my-symbian.com/s60/software/applications.php?faq=27&fldAuto=951

The symbian application logs the ID cell of the actual position, then eventually send it to a remote server by data connection.
In theory if one can access to the geographical location of the id cells, he can rebuild  the movements his path.
There are some project in Italy that are mapping the base station position to geo referenced data, quite a long process.

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Graham
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« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2008, 10:56:10 AM »

Not sure if I'm totally following this but it reminds me of the "locate me" function built into my iPhone where the device uses cells to triangulate my position without the use of a GPS service and then overlay my position onto Google Maps.

I had cause to use this function recently when I stopped to give assistance to somebody who needed an ambulance. I was not in an area of London particularly known to me and, as usual, street signs where non-existent. Using "locate me" I was able to report our street location during the 999 call.


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epokh
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« Reply #2 on: May 26, 2008, 02:17:30 PM »

For instance I don't have an iPhone, but what it does is:
  • triangulation: calculate the centroid of the area intersecting the 3 gsm cell signals
  • lookup the 3 cell ids to the geographical database
  • do a coordinate trasformation from the local to the absolute system
  • show the coordinates on the google maps

For the ones who are interested about the resolution of the gsm position:
http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~walex/papers/are_gsm_phones_the_solution_for_localization_wmcsa2006.html#mainidea

For the indoor localization they achieved 5-7 meters of resolution!
An open database of CellID is this one:
http://www.opencellid.org/
Or this one:
http://www.cellspotting.com/webpages/cellspotting.html

GSM operators provide an interface for the geographical lookup, but the service is not free.
So i guess the iPhone application use this kind of database and apple paid some license usage to the operators.
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Graham
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« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2008, 11:49:40 AM »

I'm not sure if Apple pay a licence fee to use a database or not but I know that a 3rd party developer from Germany has also produced a "Locate Me" application for iPhones that have been jailbroken to allow 3rd party applications to be installed.

I suspect that the developer involved isn't licensing a database to achieve this nor paying an operator, i.e. perhaps this db is in the public domain?
 
Wink

Checkout:
http://www.soneso.com/Site/utilities.html

Some information also in the developers blog:
http://www.soneso.com/blog/2008/01/locateme-05-new-features-improvements.html
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wolfluecker
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« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2008, 02:00:13 PM »

Graham, that Soneso app is intriguing. To get the cell tower locations they would have to go through the operator/GSM provider first, so there is no way they could do the triangulation 'by stealth'. And that cell ID data costs money. Either they're very clever or doing something fishy.

As Paolo points out there are public cell ID databases (OpenCellID and Cellspotting), but they're not as big as for example the one Google has. They're built up in the same way though, by collecting users' cell location information and just sticking them into a large look-up table.

If you do it on the fly (like your 'Locate me' functionality, which is probably provided by O2 - ie you pay for it through your bill), the operators charge you an arm and a leg for the privilege. There was a really successful pervasive mobile game (I think in Sweden) once which used cell triangulation to find your 'opponents', ie other players. They had to stop it when they realised how much money it cost the players. The network operator wouldn't give them a discount although it would have been great marketing for them!

Which is why now everybody has started slowly building their own lists. It's another one of the many attempts to get reliable, exact and accurate location information on your device. GPS, GSM cells, CellID lookups, WiFi triangulation, etc...
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Graham
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« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2008, 02:19:02 PM »

Hi Wolf

An, ahem, "acquaintance" of mine  Wink has an unlocked iPhone and is using LocateMe from Soneso. It works very well and is quite accurate in central London performing well against a Tom Tom GPS (which takes ages to find a satellite lock and doesn't work well in built up areas with tall buildings) and is curiously better than the Apple version that, as you suggest, is probably supported by O2.

I have no idea how the developer has achieved it but my gut is telling me that they are not a well-funded corporate outfit with access to the $$$ needed to deal with operators etc.

It integrates really nicely with Google Maps on the iPhone also.

My thought was that if it was understood how the developer achieved this feat then it would be possible to produce similar software for other phones, e.g. Nokia, etc.

Maybe we should just ask Soneso?  Cheesy
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epokh
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« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2008, 05:03:51 PM »

Well there's nothing that cannot be reversed, but unfortunately I don't have any experience on the iPhone platform  Cry .
Well let's try to ask first and see if the developer ends up with a plausible explanation.  Roll Eyes
Maybe he found some hack to login to some database for free or he's an insider.
The other option is that we are in Matrix. He knows the architect or something like that.
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