Skyhook promises always-on mobile location tracking with tiny battery hit

Mobile location expert Skyhook has outed its latest version, promising always-on positioning without draining your smartphone or tablet battery. The new Skyhook 4.6 mobile engine features a new Always-On location system with clever background power management that allows the company to promise all-day geo-fixing "without a noticeable change in battery life."

Skyhook is coy on exactly how the technology works, but generally it makes more use of caching to reduce the number of power intensive positioning checks. When a phone or tablet checks in with nearby cell towers and WiFi access points to compare their location with Skyhook's database of known positions, the device also saves a broader map of positions covering a wider area. Subsequent movement within that area can use the cached database, rather than poll the cell towers again.

Meanwhile, there's also a new geofencing API in v4.6, which attempts to cut down on the number of positioning tests required to keep an accurate lock on the user. Geofencing is used in services like Apple's iOS Reminders app, flagging up notifications when you enter or exit a specific location. With the new Skyhook engine, the geofencing API can use distance and speed cues to calculate position, rather than resorting to traditional GPS fixes.

Finally, Skyhook has also added a new airplane-tracking feature, enabling location tracking even when flying at 40,000 feet. Whether airlines and the FAA will be happy with people monitoring their position in such a way is unclear, but Skyhook believes app developers will be quick to jump on the possibilities of flagging up points of interest and other data based on where passengers are in the sky.