Place Lab has a pretty slick way for Wi-Fi users to figure out their location without buying any new equipment. The free software picks up the signal strength from three nearby hot spots, compares them against a map of known hot-spot coordinates (latitude and longitude), then triangulates the users location. At 20 to 30 meters, its not as accurate as GPS, but it will work indoors. Place Lab hopes to improve the accuracy to GPS levels in the future.
Higher accuracy is one of Place Labs less spectacular goals. According to the Web site, the group “endeavors to provide planetary-scale and privacy observant user positioning.”
Were not sure how Place Lab might deliver global coverage outside of major cities, even if the system takes advantage of emerging long-distance broadband technologies such as WiMax. Well buy in on the privacy concept. Place Lab doesnt require checking in with a central service, and it would take an extraordinary effort to begin tracking Wi-Fi users by their MAC addresses. (Not to mention access to a huge array of Wi-Fi hotspots.)
The Place Lab client is available for Windows XP, Linux, Mac OS X and Windows CE/Pocket PC.