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In case of emergency, your cell phone will know where you are

In case of emergency, your cell phone will know where you are

  • 2015-02-10

Two of the world's largest manufacturers of cellular phones, Ericsson and Nokia, have both announced licensing agreements with start-up Sirf Technology to use its patented Global Positioning System (GPS) technology for use in their wireless phones.

The so-called E911 mandate from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is the stimulus behind the deal. By 2001, the E (Enhanced) 911 mandate requires cellular phone manufacturers to incorporate the necessary technology into wireless phones that will pinpoint within about 400 feet the location of an emergency call placed from a cellular phone.

A wired 911 telephone infrastructure is already in place to locate land-based 911 callers. But, over 30,000,000 emergency calls are placed every year from wireless devices. Often, these emergency calls are made from a highway where a driver does not know his location.

"Being able to locate a 911 caller quickly on a highway will save lives," said Phyllis Koch, director of information technology, for the city of Miami Beach, Fla.
The Global Positioning System consists of 21 U.S. government satellites circling the earth, plus three spares in the air, which transmit a constant data signal. The signal is received by any device dialed into its frequency.

GPS devices, currently used for everything from tracking rail cars and trucks to measuring the length of the drive of a golf ball, work by measuring the time it takes for the signal from four of the satellites to arrive at the receiver. This creates an X, Y, and Z position with the fourth, R, calculating the time.

Up until now, the cost of overcoming the large power requirements needed to receive GPS' weak signals, have delayed its use in inexpensive consumer devices such as electronic organizers, notebook computers and wireless phones.

However, all that may soon be changing. Sirf Technology, in Santa Clara, Calif., has developed a low-cost, low-power set of GPS chips that are able to enhance the weak signal.

"A drop of rain on a leaf can attenuate a GPS signal," said Sirf co-founder Kanwar Chada. Sirf's weak-signal detecting and tracking solution is called, appropriately enough, Foliage Lock, and can detect a GPS signal at only 10 percent of its original strength.

The technology is attracting numerous large investors including Nokia, Acer, and Umax. Nokia and Ericsson plan to incorporate Sirf's chip set and software package into forthcoming cellular phone products.

While the government mandate will aid in locating emergency calls made from wireless devices, the Sirf technology will also have more everyday uses such as for security and asset management.

"Location intelligence can be built into a database," Chadha said.

For example, rather than a worker downloading all of a company's updates while on the road, a sales person will be able to get only the information pertinent to his sales territory.

Or, America Online users can find local access numbers determined by using location as a parameter in the database search.

Finding the nearest hospital

Finding the nearest hospital, the best three-star French restaurant, or hotels within a certain price range will be possible with the use of a GPS system that knows your location.

Stolen equipment can be tracked and even deactivated if it moves beyond a certain area.

According to a number of industry sources, manufacturers of Windows CE handheld devices and the 3Com Palm Pilot are currently investigating the use of GPS in their products.(from CNNnews)

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