Qualcomm location tracker turns phone into GPS system

Qualcomm can convert cell phones into mobile GPS (Global Positioning System) devices by adapting emergency-tracking technology for display on individual phone screens, the company announced Wednesday.

The gpsOne positioning technology designed by Qualcomm subsidiary SnapTrack Inc. uses A-GPS, or assisted GPS, a form of location detection in which cell phone towers help GPS satellites fix a cell phone caller's position. SnapTrack's SnapSmart software uses the gpsOne hardware to serve location information to client devices like cell phones, wireless PDAs (personal digital assistants) or other wireless instruments.

Police, fire, and ambulance services can use SnapTrack's positioning system to track down cell phone callers in an emergency -- but until now callers themselves have been unable to see the same information displayed on their own cell phones. Qualcomm expects the SnapSmart location server software to be released before June, the company said.

Commercial applications for location technology in cell phones have been lagging, partly due to slow rollout of new phones with the system, and partly due to the service providers' focus on establishing 3G (third generation) wireless services for high-speed data. Few phones in current use have any position tracking ability.

Qualcomm touted several potential business applications for position-location services, such as mobile yellow pages directories, traffic reports and commercial-tracking services. Position-based mobile games like a high-tech version of tag and friend-finder services also become possible, Qualcomm said.

Mobile phone companies are under orders from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to incorporate some kind of location reporting technology into cellular phones. Dubbed E-911, or enhanced 911, the communication initiative is meant to give law enforcement and emergency services personnel a way to find people calling 911 from mobile phones when callers don't know where they are or are unable to say.

No carrier was able to make an October deadline to fully implement E-911. The FCC issued waivers permitting carriers to add location detection services to new phones over time, so that 95 percent of all mobile phones are compliant with E-911 rules by 2005.

Qualcomm has two CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) chipsets with integrated GPS systems that are compatible with SnapSmart. Qualcomm's multimode MSM6 family of chips for CDMA2000 1X/1xEV, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and W-CDMA (Wideband CDMA) mobile communication standards will also have versions with integrated gpsOne technology, Qualcomm said.

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