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The iPhone, Google Maps for Mobile, and e911 – where is the disconnect?

DSCN0592Google Maps for Mobile will soon include a GPS-like ability to find your current location.  A little while ago Gizmondo wrote about an iPhone hack that allows almost, but not quite GPS functionality.  The hack itself sounds a lot like the way phase II of the wireless E911 service works, and my guess is that Google Maps is fairly similar.

If you take a look at this map, you can see than many states have > 80% deployment.  On the FCC site you can find reports of the e911 deployments completed by cell phone companies.  Any company that doesn’t have over 95% of their customers with E911 capable handsets is currently getting fined.  So it’s a shame that Google and random iPhone hackers have to reimplement all this.

I’ve never worked on E911 support (or anything cellular, for that matter), but it seems to me there is an incredible opportunity here.  One of the great things about the iPhone is that it drives adoption of data plans.  How about including psuedo-GPS capability in nearly every phone as soon as you sign up for a data plan?  That would be a huge incentive.

Here’s an even more radical idea:  why not come up with a standard way to communicate presence and location data so users can do things like local search?  It might take use years and millions of dollars to develop proprietary systems to do this, but if we use an open standard perhaps this could be adopted as quickly as things like the web and email.

Even better, operating under an open standard will allow geeks in garages all over the world to develop new social software systems we can’t even dream of.