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Skyhook: Location Technology, Without The Battery Drain

  Any basketball fan would associate the skyhook with Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s unstoppable high post move, a seemingly effortless toss over his right shoulder. Fitting,…

Any basketball fan would associate the skyhook with Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s unstoppable high post move, a seemingly effortless toss over his right shoulder. Fitting, then, that Skyhook Technologies, a creator of location-based positioning software used on over 100 million devices worldwide, positioned themselves to share the definition. It allows mobile device users to see where they are in relation to their surroundings in the most accurate, reliable, and flexible way — taking advantage of hundreds of millions of wifi access points around the world.

Skyhook has been around since 2003, when it first began integrating its technology into mobile devices. Today, its leading software is Skyhook 4.6, which integrates new and innovative technology into mobile applications and hardware. Skyhook’s 4.6 location software development kit (SDK) provides easily integratable location positioning technology for devices’ operating systems. The always-on-location feature enables the mobile devices to run Skyhook all day without noticeable battery use, even at 40,000 feet.

This feature was pivotal for Skyhook’s success. Other forms of location-based technology, integrated into apps like Highlight and Sonar, have recently come under fire for significantly draining batteries to limited benefit. Obviously, for an app to be successful and useful it cannot inhibit the use of the phone while running.

When Ted Morgan, Skyhook CEO, was asked by Wired about the battery issue version 4.6 solved, he explained that it was the biggest impediment to exploring these new use cases. In other words, in order for Skyhook to move forward with its technology, such innovations had to be made. Users save battery life because when information is checked for the first time in a region, all the reference data is brought down, while cell tower info is stored on the mobile device for a 10 mile radius. While in that 10 mile radius, Skyhook calculates everything locally saving the energy that would have been used to refer back to the server. This change in software is what differentiates Skyhook’s energy saving technology from other companies that provide the same service.

With companies such as Sony, Samsung, Lenovo, Dell, HP, and apps including MapQuest, Kayak, Grindr, and Layar Reality Browser all using Skyhook, it is apparent that it is an industry leader in the service it provides. However, iOS used Skyhook until Apple began using its own database to help determine the location of its mobile devices. Apple’s increasing vertical integration justifies its goal of being self-sustainable and maximizing its profitability. Even though losing an industry leader as a client in 2010 was a big hit for Skyhook, it is not a direct reflection of the quality of their product given that Apple likes keeping control over the technology that goes into its products. Such a scenario was seen recently when Apple stopped using Google Maps. In both instances, companies losing Apple’s business led to a decrease in revenue; however, the decrease was seen gradually as the relationship with Apple remained civil. Skyhook even stated that the business relationship with Apple continued to be financially enriching even after their partnership ended.

Although Skyhook’s SDK only supports Android applications given its large customer base, advanced technology, and wide ranging consumer base, Skyhook is taking steps to continue to expand its product to hardware and software companies all over the world.

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