I try to keep abreast of mobile-enabled geolocation software, and two of the largest contenders in this space (as I see it) are Google and Yahoo!. At the moment, Yahoo!’s Fire Eagle software has been publicly available (with an open API) for over a year (I talked about it previously) and, according to Ars Technica, about 70 third-party applications have been developed.
There are major updates coming to Fire Eagle:
…users will soon be seeing an ActionScript Fire Eagle library and a Mozilla Firefox geo-plugin that locates users via WiFi MAC addresses. Also coming up are new XMPP libraries. (Source)
It’s the focus on the Firefox geo-plugin that I think will be most interesting to watch. Given the Mozilla is currently developing their Fennec browser for mobile environments, it suggests that the Fire Eagle plugin could come to phones and other mobile devices that are Internet-by-WiFi but not GPS or data plan enabled. Using a browser plugin, it should be possible to identify your location on a map simply by being in vicinity to wireless APs, regardless of whether you can actually authenticate to them (similar to how users with iPod Touches can currently roughly locate themselves on Google Maps via WiFi MAC address detection). Below is an image of Mozilla’s beta-version of Fennec.
As a person with an iPod Touch, I absolutely adore it’s WiFi location features – I haven’t gotten lost in my new city since purchasing the Touch. At the same time, and as an ardent user of the device, I have to wonder what impacts might be associated with the truly mass deployment of such technologies, how it could integrate with behavioral advertising systems.