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Skyhook Introduces In-Flight Location Services, Promises Better Battery Life For Background Apps

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Skyhook, the company that once powered Apple’s iOS location services and that pioneered WiFi positioning in 2003, today announced the latest version of its developer kit for Android. There are two major new features here that should bring some interesting new capabilities to Android apps in the near future. Most importantly, the new SDK (version 4.6) now offers an always-on location feature that, Skyhook promises, can run in the background without draining a phone’s battery. The new SDK now also offers a first in the location space: in-flight location sharing.

In-Flight Location Sharing

Let’s start with the real novelty here: sharing your location from 36,000 feet. The FAA, of course, doesn’t allow passengers to use their GPS systems in flight, so Skyhook had to find away around this. Instead of using the phone’s onboard location features then, Skyhook simply gets its data from the same public sources popular flight trackers like FlightAware or FlightStats get them from. For this to work, users obviously have to have a working WiFi connection on the plane, something that’s still not standard on many airlines (and often doesn’t work reliably even when it is available). According to a Skyhook spokesperson, developers don’t have to tell the system which flight a user is on either. How exactly the company figures out which flight you are on isn’t clear, but Skyhook says that this “is the magic of what we have built.”

Glympse, for example, is already working on incorporating this into tis apps. “Skyhook’s new in-flight location is an exciting new opportunity for our location sharing app Glympse,” said Bryan Trussel, CEO of Glympse in a canned statement. “Our goal is to allow our users to share their location with friends and family regardless of where they are.”

Saving Battery Life For Background Location Apps

As for the new SDK’s always-on feature, Skyhook says that apps can “check user location (on an opt-in basis) as often as every 30 seconds throughout the day, with little or no noticeable impact on the device’s battery life.” That’s a tall promise (and one we can’t currently put to a test), but it’s definitely a problem that has been plaguing developers for a long time now.