Localization with smartphones: how it works tracking mobile

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The tracking of cell phones is a topic that is still relevantespecially now that the European Union will be used in the fight against the coronavirus. Although from a long time ago that people are afraid of the geolocation, that it is possible to know where they are in each moment, and these data are used without your permission. But it is also a topic about which little is known, and in which there are more myths than facts.

How really works the localization with smartphones? This is a topic that Fernando Cuenca, founder of Panoramio, the first Spanish startup bought by Google. In a thread on Twitter has explained it better the operation of the tracking of mobileshowing the methods that are used.

There are several main methods that are used for crawling of mobile, such as the use of GPS, triangulation antennas, WiFi and other. The operation of each one of them is different, in addition to vary in the precision with which they are able to measure or detect the location of the user. A topic that had relevance these past few months.

Triangulation of antennas

Mobile antenna

This is a method that allows you to know where it is find a mobile phone without the need of applications. You simply query to which antenna is connected to this phone. The operator will be able to see what mobile phones are connected to the antenna, in addition to how well or poorly you receive the signal. The intensity with which they receive the signal already gives information about your location at that moment.

Thanks to this, it is possible to know the city in which you are. In addition, in big cities it is possible to have data about the area or neighborhood in the city in which is located the said phone. In function of the intensity of such signal, you can also know the distance to that of the antenna in question. If there are multiple antennas in this zone, as occurs in many large cities, is known with greater precision the location of this device. This method is normally more effective in the city than in rural areas, although it is not the most accurate.


Localization with smartphones: how it works tracking mobile 1

The GPS is a method known to the majority, and that previously I have explained how it works. In order to determine the location of a cell phone, the GPS makes use of satellites, which will establish that location. Although this method works very well outdoors, as we already know, indoors is where it has clear performance problemsand may be inaccurate on many occasions or not working.

Although the GPS has a clear advantage in front of the antennas, for example, and it is more accurate. In your case the accuracy is about 10 meterswhich allows you to have clear information about the location of that mobile. It is therefore not surprising that applications like Google Maps rely on this method.


Localization with smartphones: how it works tracking mobile 2

Another method that can be used to determine the position of a mobile. When you activate the WiFi in your phone, to see the number of networks that are available, the list tends to be wide. If you can’t connect to most of them, because they are protected by a password, this listing serves as an indicator to determine your location, because you are in the radius of all these networks.

In addition, Google used in its day, the car with which I photographed the streets to store the WiFi networks in each area, something that you were fined in your day, but allows you to have data is fairly precise about the location. You can give data with a precision of between 40 and 50 meters, which is less accurate than GPS, but still better than the antennas. In addition, it is a method that consumes little battery.



The so-called Bluetooth LE Beacon, that what they do is emit a signal to short distance (about two or three meters) and in this way you can set the location of the mobile accurately. In addition, one of the big advantages is that this type of devices are inexpensive, which facilitates their application to be able to determine the location of the mobile.

This type of apparatus can be used in many different actions, as entering stores and receive promotions of the same, which will certainly lead to the expenditure on the part of the user. In addition, the phone can act as a transmitter and receiver in this case. It is an inexpensive method, which gives data enough accurate because of the short distance in which these devices are located.

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