Thursday, November 29, 2007

How much does Google pay the operators for the My Location info on Google Maps?

Google has launched a location service for Google Mobile Maps that doesn't rely on the Global Positioning System (GPS). The My Location feature locates users who don't have GPS-enabled phones based on their location to nearby cell towers. The result isn't as accurate as GPS, but it works pretty good in cities. Om Malik got located just half a block away from his real location when he checked out the service yesterday.

I wonder how much Google has to pay for that location info, because it's not free. In Germany the mobile operators charge €0.10 from third parties for every localization, and Google's new service works also here.

The disclaimer on the mobile phone explains pretty good the functionality of My Location for Google Maps:
With the My Location (beta) feature, just press [0] to move the map to your approximate location. [...] Your approximate location will appear as a flashing blue dot. If you have a GPS-enabled device, this blue dot correspondents to your GPS location. At times, and if you don't have GPS on your phone, you may see the dot surrounded by a light blue circle to indicate uncertainty about your location.

Why the uncertainty? The My Location service takes information broadcasted from nearby mobile towers to approximate your current location on the map - it's not GPS, but it comes pretty close. [...]

As part ot the My Location (beta) feature, Google Maps sends anonymous radio information back to Google servers to improve the service. You can disable / enable this and all location features by selecting from the options below.

In Germany we have a company called Qiro which does quite the same, but they are more advanced with their service. I visited them in July 2007. You can locate yourself and your buddies on a map. Qiro shows nearby movie theaters with their current program, ATM machines, Burger King restaurants, train stations, travel agencies and many more things.

Unlike Google Maps, Qiro is already based on localized online advertising. The prices for advertisers are similar to the banner ads on your web browser. This means it's cheap, between €3 and €150 for 1.000 ads. Qiro needs a razor sharp calculation to earn the money back for the localization and still make a margin.

How does Google do it?

Do they get better prices? Or do they just don't care because they are drowning in money? I guess we have to read their next stock report and look for an item called "locator info".

1 comment:

  1. Markus, I suspect they don't pay anybody anything and rely on data from GPS enabled devices that also have Google Maps installed. From these devices, Google can pull both the geo-coordinates as well as the tower identifier, privacy issues notwithstanding. Certainly an interesting approach...


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