Thursday, November 29, 2007

Google Helps Callers Find Themselves With Maps App [MediaPost]

GOOGLE ON WEDNESDAY ANNOUNCED A new version of its popular mobile maps application that includes a new feature giving users their approximate location.

The "My Location" feature allows people without GPS-enabled phones to find out where they are by pressing "0" on their device keypads.

The technology uses information broadcast from cell towers combined with Google algorithms to determine location within a neighborhood. In relation to privacy issues, Google says that it doesn't gather any personally identifiable information or link any personal information with location data through the new My Location feature. "So that means we don't know name, phone number, email or even account log-in as part of this feature," says a Google spokesperson.

It can also be disabled when the new version of Google Maps for mobile is downloaded, or through the application's help menu.

Launched two years ago, Google Maps for mobile lets users find nearby businesses such as restaurants and hotels through interactive maps and satellite imagery. The My Location feature is aimed at simplifying searches by saving uses from having to enter their locations manually. "Google is trying to push this [Maps for mobile] application out to the masses, and this new feature makes it more accessible for people to use," says Greg Sterling, founding principal at Sterling Marketing Intelligence, who has tested the My Location option.

Though not as accurate as GPS, less than 15% of phones sold in 2007 come equipped with GPS technology. Google says My Location also kicks in faster than GPS so users can figure out where they are faster.

The new technology is available on most smartphones including all color BlackBerry devices, most Windows Mobile devices, newer Sony Ericsson models and some made by Motorola.

Google says the current release of Mobile for maps has no associated advertising. But Sterling notes that the My Location feature could help to provide more targeted advertising. "Google is keen on monetizing mobile search," he says. "The more precise nature of the location information will allow more precise search results to come up." Stay tuned.

// Mark Walsh, Thursday, Nov 29, 2007 7:00 AM ET


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