Some of the most compelling apps on the iPhone and upcoming Android phones take advantage of the GPS chips inside those devices to create services that filter information based on your location. While GPS chips are particularly good at pinpointing your location, other techniques are also used. For instance, the iPhone uses cell-tower triangulation and Wi-Fi positioning. No single technology works all the time, so having a couple fallback methods is always a good idea.
Although not talked about as much, the Wi-Fi positioning is made possible through a deal with Skyhook Wireless. Now Broadcom, which makes many of the GPS, Wi-Fi and other types of chips in a vast array of phones, is adding Skyhook’s Wi-Fi positioning to its chips as well. That means more phones will be able to take advantage of location-based apps in the future.
Skyhook keeps a constantly updated database of millions of geo-coded Wi-Fi hotspots around the country. So any phone with a Broadcom Wi-Fi chip will be able to tap into SkyHook’s database. (You can test how good SkyHook’s location detection works yourself on your laptop using its MyLoki service, which is based on the same technology).