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Annually, more than seven thousand four hundred and nine kidnappings are reported to law enforcement around the world. That's just a tiny fraction of the total; for every kidnapping reported, figures show 8 or more go unreported. It's a gloomy statistic, but there's a happy ending. More and more we're reading about how law enforcement officials were able to benefit from cell phones while searching for kidnapping victims.
The benefits of cell phones that know their location are not simply just restricted to kidnapping victims. Countless applications are online that use this magic new feature of cellular telephone location to do all sorts of neat stuff. They will help you find where your family members are in the city. They'll enable you to have fun gaming. You can be mayor of the nearby fire hydrant. They'll tag your mobile phone photos with where they were obtained. They'll even figure out when you visit various places and alter your cellphone's behavior; say decreasing the ring volume while you're at the local library or launching your selected training monitoring app when you visit the health and fitness center. So how does your mobile phone know where you are all of the time, anyway?
First thing your cellphone has to know in order to function is what tower it is connected to, so all of the time your mobile phone is operating, it's either hunting for a tower or chatting with a cell tower, even if the tower isn't operated by your cellular phone provider. The cell phone companies pay attention to which phones are communicating with which cell towers. That way when a buddy calls you, they'll know how to route the call to the proper cell tower. Cellular phones retain directories of where each cell tower is positioned. On top of that, cellular telephone towers don't move about very much. So just by activating your telephone, both the mobile company and your mobile phone know where you are within a few thousand yards or thereabouts.
After that, nearly all cellphones today have a GPS computer chip on the inside of them. As long as it's possible to receive a signal from a satellite, the unit can figure out within 100-200 feet what your location is. Usually the signal is irregular, but your mobile phone gets the signal when it can and averages everything out for you. Based on GPS information quality, your mobile won't recognize what room you are in, but it'll be capable of telling most of the time what structure you are in.
Phones currently also hook up over local WiFi hotspots, like you find at your local Starbucks or public library. Because these WiFi access points are also fastened and don't move about, companies like Microsoft have gone across the country charting them out. Once your mobile phone connects to a WiFi WAP, it also is able to use that knowledge to estimate what your location is inside a few dozen feet or thereabouts.
Last but not least a few software programs are using sound fingerprinting to discover precisely where you are. Imagine if you're in a bash with a lot of college friends. Your phone can listen in on the tunes, general dialog, and other background sounds and transform that to a signature, then match up this signature with other phones inside the room. By doing this, it understands that you are next to other folks in the back of the room near the bar or that you've stepped into the bathroom.
It is not just one system or the other. Cellular phones use all of these working together in something generally known as location services. When you move about through the day, location services keeps a pretty close eye on you, knowing where you are very easily within a hundred feet or so. New FCC polices require all brand-new cell phones by 2016 be able always to keep track of you inside this range.
As handsets continue to get better at being aware of exactly where you are, look for more helpful and possibly life-saving applications to show up. It's a really wonderful time to own a cellular phone.