Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

Google is giving mobile app creators more ways to tap into people’s activities and locations without draining too much phone battery power.

More and more apps look at a person’s location to offer services, advertising, and discounts that are relevant to what they’re doing, and also to help people track their own activities. Google itself is at the forefront of this trend—with its Google Now service, it uses sensor data and other inputs, like e-mail, to try to anticipate people’s needs before they have to open an app or a search box. The more services it provides to other Android developers, the more people may see similar in-the-moment features in third-party software.

One new service announced today at Google’s annual developers’ conference in San Francisco will let developers build apps that recognize whether a person is driving, walking, or cycling without having a power-hungry GPS sensor reporting data in the background. Rather, the “activity recognition” service would let them tap into the device’s accelerometer and run Google algorithms that can learn over time whether a person is stuck in traffic or just out for an evening stroll.

Another service will allow app builders to create what are called geofences. These allow them to define an area on a map—say, an office park or a shopping mall—and trigger notifications or automatic actions once a person enters that area. It might pop up an offer or set an alarm clock, for example. The Google service will make it easy for developers to use Google maps to create up to 100 map-based triggers. Eventually, apps could allow people to draw their own geofences around their homes or workplaces.  

Many apps could already do a lot more with location data, but one barrier is the battery drain. A person who realizes that an app uses too much power might decide to turn it off or not download it in the first place. To overcome that problem, Google also announced a “fused location provider,” which has rewritten location algorithms so they use all the phone’s sensors—not only GPS—to more quickly and accurately target location.

Hugo Barra, Google’s senior vice president for Android, noted that the Google Play app store has seen rapid growth, with 48 billion total app installations. But apps on Apple’s iOS platform tend to generate more money for developers, which is a big reason why many apps often launch for Apple devices first. Helping Android developers better track their users’ activities and locations could help reverse that trend.


Making Money in Mobile

Looking to make money in mobile computing? It’s the fastest-growing consumer technology in history. But 65 percent of the world isn’t even online. That means the real change in the mobile technology business is only just beginning.

Free download courtesy of Intel Software Adrenaline: Download report

Brought to you by
Intel Software Adrenaline logo

1 comment. Share your thoughts »

Tagged: Computing, Business, Web, Mobile, Google, Android, Mobile Summit 2013, mobile apps, Google Maps

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me