If there’s one common quest among those involved in mobile advertising and marketing, it’s the constant pursuit of gaining wireless user location-data that’s seems so heavily guarded by wireless carriers. Google may have cracked the code to getting this information, even without the carriers, and has even filed a patent on the technology its devised to do so.
The patent filed on Google’s behalf depicts a method for sniffing location data from wireless packets sent to and from a mobile user’s device, essentially giving Google the same information the carriers posses without having to continue to fight for it. Having this information would give Google a serious leg-up in the increasingly competitive world of mobile advertising- a segment where Google’s dominance isn’t as prolific as they’d hoped.
Google’s purposed system, which looks at all forms of wireless — including cellular carrier networks, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth — discusses estimating the location of wireless access points (whether a Wi-Fi hot spot or a cellular tower), determining the accuracy of the locations, and then deducing the user’s position based on these for the purpose of “location-based services.” From the patent application:
“…In accordance with an embodiment of the present invention, a computer-implemented method of estimating the location of a wireless device is provided. The method comprises obtaining a packet of data transmitted from a first wireless device to a second wireless device; determining whether one of the first and second wireless devices is a wireless access point; determining the data rate of the transmitted data packet; if one of the first and second wireless devices is the wireless access point, then evaluating the determined data rate against a predetermined criterion; and assigning an estimated location to the wireless access point based upon the evaluation…”
Sniffing data packets in hopes of determining location is easier said than done, but with the amount of mobile location-oriented services Google has available, they can basically rely on the users providing the packets themselves by way of simply continuing to use the location-based services they know and love. Google could also presumably provide location information as a service to its advertising or marketing partners, which could provide the packets for analysis as well. Either way, Google has something up its sleeve, and will use its massive mobile reach to determine the most accurate location info available.
If what Google has planned is true, and it works the way they say it works, then it could mean a monumental shift in what Google can provide mobile advertisers. An AdWords-type ecosystem, focused on mobile advertising, combined with user location data that rivals that of the wireless carriers would make Google a force to reckon with in the very near future. Google undoubtedly has huge plans for mobile advertising, but this patent application signals the possibility of overcoming one of the largest hurdles yet in a quest to turn wireless carriers from powerful gate-keepers to simple data-pipes.