Global Positioning by Cellphone
THE man in the Verizon Wireless commercials wearing thick-rimmed glasses may be constantly asking, "Can
you hear me now?" But the most commonly asked question over mobile phones might
actually be, "Where are you now?"
The combination of global positioning systems and cellphones may make that
question moot. Cellphone carriers are now mandated by the Federal Communications Commission to provide location information for 911 emergency
use. Many now have G.P.S. chips that can pinpoint the phone's location to within
a few feet, though others rely on triangulation, a technology that approximates
location based on proximity to cellphone towers.
Even some phones without G.P.S. can help you navigate. The iPhone from Apple,
for example, cannot precisely locate you or track you as you drive. But its Google
Maps feature can be used to plan a route by entering a start address and a
destination. It displays directions or a map.
But as more phones come equipped with a small and relatively inexpensive
G.P.S. microchip, the technology is being used for all sorts of location
services that the carriers and other companies offer for additional fees. The Disney
Family Locator service on a Disney-branded mobile phone uses G.P.S. to track a
child's whereabouts. Parents buy special child and parent phones. The child's
phone is programmed to beam locations to the parent's phone, which has the
ability to display and map the approximate street address where the child is at
any given time.
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