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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