RIM Bolsters Blackberry API To Allow Cell Tower Location In Addition To GPS

As you likely already know, it’s all about location in the mobile world these days.  GPS is the primary driver in determining one’s location, but it doesn’t always prove reliable inside buildings or areas without a clear and unobstructed view of the sky.  Because of this, other technologies are used as back-ups, especially as nearly every mobile service and app utilizes location in one form or another.

One such technology is cell tower triangulation, or the act of measuring the distance between a device and the nearest cell towers to determine an accurate position.  As long as the device maintains a radio signal, a rough estimate of the device’s location can easily be acquired.  It’s the same technology that’s long been used in emergency services and E911 to locate a cell phone, but was historically reserved for use only by carriers.

RIM announced today that it’s included this functionality through its Blackberry API, allowing developers to use cell tower data when grabbing location for their apps.  The BlackBerry Developer’s Blog details how the geolocation service works and gives some examples of how it can best be utilized.  The service can even be used in apps that require a higher degree of location accuracy by showing users approximate locations while querying for a more accurate spot via GPS.  As the blog post notes, this could have a huge impact on speed and user experience.

The new geolocation functionality is part of RIM’s “Locate Service” toolkit, and can be used with BlackBerry Maps to tie in points of interest with the Maps app, or to show a map display as it relates to a user’s location, for example.  It’s interesting that RIM is including this functionality, as usually developers have to utilize a third-party service to do so.