Skyhook Wireless

Skyhook Wireless

Based: Boston, MA

Founded: 2003

Why it’s Fierce: These days it’s all about location, location, location. As LBS applications in the mobile world heat up, Skyhook Wireless will play a key role. The company has pioneered the development of the first-ever metro-area positioning system that leverages WiFi rather than GPS satellites or cellular towers to deliver precise location data. The Skyhook WiFi Positioning System (WPS) requires no new hardware, works indoors and outdoors, offers an instant location and is more accurate than current technologies in crowded downtown areas. WPS today serves as the WiFi positioning backbone of some of the world’s most recognizable services and devices, including AOL’s AIM, ReignCom’s iriver W10 portable media player and SiRF’s Multi-Mode Location Platform.

Every WiFi access point (every Internet device, in fact) has a unique fixed-in-hardware machine identifier, which is transmitted whenever it is on. A database can be used to log these AP identifiers and their physical locations, and then the WiFi radio in a laptop or PDA can triangulate against that data. Keeping the database of what's where updated is the tricky part. Employing patent-pending techniques, Skyhook’s Location Database computes the precise location of each access point using hundreds of observed readings. The Database also determines the propagation characteristics for each access point based on its unique local environment. Each access point can perform differently depending on its location within a building, the position of other buildings on a street, the physical topography of the area and a host of other environmental variables. All of these factors are taken into consideration by the WPS location algorithms. With this level of sophistication, WPS is able to produce reliable and accurate readings throughout our coverage areas. Skyhook has deployed a national network of access point scanners to expand its network coverage.

What to look for: As WiFi becomes a standard piece in devices ranging from laptops to digital cameras, Skyhook’s technology will not only play a critical complementary role in E-911 but in a host of commercial LBS applications.