back to article Google sued by ex-iPhone location outfit

Google has been sued by Skyhook Wireless, the Boston-based outfit that offers a service for pinpointing a mobile device's location via nearby Wi-Fi signals. On Wednesday, Skyhook filed two complaints against Google, one in US District Court claiming patent infringement. The other was filed in Massachusetts state court alleging …


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  1. Tempest

    Our vehicles should confuse matters!

    All our company vehicles have WiFi access points on them that are either in 'ad hoc' mode or providing interconnection to data services from cell systems. Our on-board equipment links with our man-portable equipment.

    If handsets are scanning WiFi for location these few mobile WiFi set ups will certainly confuse any data collectors.

    1. Wize

      I dare you

      to chase Streetview cars in it.

  2. JaitcH

    Share the loot, Google

    This action seems to be another 'share the loot' where a company is trying to skim some cream from Google.

    Using Motorola's boss as a witness could be risky since all he has to say it never happened. Unlikely Google would that dumb, legally.

    This WiFi scanning technique could, depending on the Apps configuration, cost users a lot of paid-for traffic as data is sent back. And when does this scanning occur - continuously or when a particular handset is searching for location data, at the users command, only?

    If there are millions of dollars in this type of App, how come they are not paying the freight for this back-haul data? My company employees travel widely in less frequented areas which could likely make data collected through handsets more valuable than data from higher densely populated areas.

    Maybe we should sue for our split, too?


    The State judges will likely be more Plaintiff friendly given they are often elected by the public and are more sensitive to their constituents needs. On the other hand, federal judges hold their job for life.

  3. famousringo

    I'm confused

    Let me get this straight. This is a tech lawsuit that appears to be based on a legitimate grievance. And also a patent suit from a company which has actual products relating to those patents.

    Today isn't April 1st, so it must be Opposite Day.

  4. Stone Fox

    The should be more honest about this.

    Mi'lud, we're going out of business not through unfair business practices but because Apple and Google both bundle much better software of their own design in for free... But make 'em give us loads of money anyway for being out of date and shit.

  5. Ralph B
    Big Brother

    Do No ... Now What Was It Again?

    Well, if these allegations prove to be true, I'm sure we can expect Andy Rubin to follow David Barksdale in being kicked out of the Googleplex.

  6. Wize

    Did this bunch drive round mapping all our wifi points too?

    Everyone wants to know our wifi point names.

    Maybe we should have a big database of wifi names with mac addresses.

    Put your config on the list and delete an existing entry (after setting your wifi point to match).

    1. Tempest

      They scan all the time, and send the data on your penny/cent

      A friend who services cell network equipment reported he had isolated a smartphone by swamping it with his WiFi test set and he analysed the data blocks returned and it would appear that when the WiFi identity was changed a report was transmitted reporting this 'new' WiFi system. This required no action by the user.

      I wonder if this is honest use of our data quota, if this is invading our privacy or just another way of monetising smartphone use?.

    2. Ivan Headache

      Mapping our Wifi points too?

      I'm no expert on this but Skyhook was working way before everyone and his gerbil got a wifi point in their house. And working very well too.

      I understood it to use triangulation from mobile phone towers to work out your location - in fact, Ihave had my iPod (first gen - no GPS) draw blue circles onto a blank google map page when I've been out in the country and away from any wifi hotspots. But then again - my iPod has only wifi - there's no phone in it so how was it working out the positioning via cell towers?

      I doesn't do it now though. That must be because Apple doesn't use Skyhook any more. (possibly)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Triangulation from mobile phone towers? Not on your life. Triangulation requires that you know the direction to the points you are using as reference, how many phones can tell you what direction a mast is from their current location?

        I have seen a demonstration of a good geolocation service using mobile phone signals, but this required you to be on the move. It worked by looking at the changes of mast, the more changes there were the more it could estimate your course. It worked even better when it assumed you were on a road because it could cross reference your data with its map data and therefore work out which road you were on.

        However from a static location there are all sorts of problems, particularly when you bring urban "canyons" into the mix. You can be almost under one mast and get virtually no signal because there's the bulk of a building between you and the mast, but you might have line of sight and a strong signal to a mast that is much further away. There is also the confusing matter of bounced signals.

        WiFi works better mainly because the range is so much smaller and because there are so many more APs. I can see three APs from here, if I had a map of where all the APs in my area are I could make a very close guess at location, since the range is so short. Signal strength is not necessarilly reliable in these cases because you don't know what the power of each AP might be or indeed what may be getting in the way of the signal, so it can be disregarded.

        1. Ivan Headache


          Triangulation does need to know the direction of the towers - it just needs to know how far away they are.

          I'm 1 1Km from tower A, and 800 metres from tower B and 1200 metres from tower C, Therefore I am at point X (give of take a few metres or so.)

          In fact a quick gander at Skyhook's webpage explains it all.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hang about

    Isn't this a risky case of sticking your head above the parapet?

    Everybody + dog seems to be having a go at Google for it's WiFi slurping activities at the moment. Shirley Skyhook must have done likewise for their service to work? Has it not occurred to them that if Google do get into bother for their big slurp they have just called attention to themselves and will end up sharing the hot water with Google?

    Realistically though what's the point? If your phone has WiFi these days there are good odds it will have GPS. If it's got GPS why would you need one of these services? Fair enough if your inside a building you won't get a GPS signal, but if you're inside a building presumably you'd know the address.

    1. NoneSuch

      Asking for too much here.

      "Fair enough if your inside a building you won't get a GPS signal, but if you're inside a building presumably you'd know the address."

      Consciousness and awareness beyond your phone!? Wow, what a concept.

  8. NoneSuch

    Die Software Patents... Die... DIE!!!

    Lets get rid of software patents. All of them. As one example, creating a patent describing a finger swiping across a surface of glass for virtual "page turning" is moronic and ultimately limiting to future developers. Microsoft lost the "look and feel" case to Apple many moons ago, but here we are with software patents that do not allow people to do things independently.

    All we are doing is advancing the cause of lawyers...

    1. Dagg

      This one is not a SW patent

      This is based on standard RDF processes and must have an actual physical component (radio equipment) to function. It is not purely software, therefore it is not a software patent. The example you give is also not a software patent. But I do agree that it should not be a patent.

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