It was odd… when I would hit the Maps icon on my iPhone from inside my house, the application would act like it was triangulating from cell towers (the blue circle would show up and waver, then zoom in), but it always homed in on my old address. We moved six or eight months ago. I had never actually had the iPhone in that house (we moved before I bought it). I thought maybe it was using the old address from my contact record, so I cleaned that out, but it didn’t make any difference (which makes sense… unless I had told the phone to use it, how would it know which one to use?).
So I went digging.
I finally ran across Skyhook. I’ll admit, I didn’t know that this thing was out there, but here’s what it is, in a nutshell:
Similar to Google Streetview, where they drive around with cameras installed on top of cars and take pictures of everything in site and tie them to map coordinates, Skyhook rolls around and collects information on wireless access points (using the MAC address) and hooks those to geographic coordinates. At some point in the past, the friendly Skyhook van rolled through my circle and geocoded my WAP. When my iPhone goes to see where I am, it sees that I’m connected to a wireless access point and uses the MAC address to ask Skyhook where I am. Last time they heard from it, that WAP was in another city, so it takes me to my old address.
So I used their form to submit an access point, which required my address, my MAC address, and an email address so that they can update their database. I have mixed feelings about how much they know about me now, but it’s all becoming so transparent today anyway… everyone knows a lot more about you than you would rather they did, or they can find out easily enough if the mood strikes them.
So, for good or for ill, Skyhook knows where my WAP is sitting now, and within a few days (hopefully) my iPhone will figure it out as well. Skyhook offers a plugin called Loki that will make your notebook computer able to locate itself based on the WAP it’s hitting as well, share that information with friends, etc. Attempting to install Loki didn’t work, though… Firefox 3 claims that the plugin does not provide secure updates, so it told me to take a walk.