Patt Morrison for August 22, 2012

Cell phones know where you’re going before you do

Google Debuts Its Nexus One Cell Phone

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A screen shot of the Google Earth application on Google's Nexus One smartphone.

Was your 3 p.m. appointment in downtown L.A. or near the beach? Maybe your phone can remind you. A group of computer scientists from the University of Birmingham in England have developed a formula that, through analyzing cell phone data of a person and their closest friends, could predict where a person would be at any given time within 60 feet.

Though attempts to predict locations based on individual’s cell phone in the past were not very accurate, by including data from friends, results markedly improved. That way, if two people were driving towards a coffee shop they frequently met at, the formula would be able to predict they were heading there.

The better ability to track an individual could lead to advertising opportunities to track customers and efforts by law enforcement to track criminals, but privacy concerns are also a large part of the issue.


Does your cell phone know where you're going? What do you use it for?


Mirco Musolesi, computer science researcher at the University of Birmingham

Scott Steinberg, CEO of business consulting firm TechSavvy

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