Like most of us Internet users, I use a few WiFi routers too. This post is to confirm that the Google Maps and Latitude team knows where exactly your WiFi router is placed. This information is loaded up on the Google servers and whenever somebody connects this WiFi router and uses Google Maps, it s hows you near that router. Pretty neat so far? Read on for a catch, a trouble and well, a kind-of solution.
How does Google know your WiFi location?
Your WiFi router is a hardware device that has no GPS or location aiding feature built in. Then how does Google know it’s location? Well, there are other devices with GPS and cellular network capabilities that may connect to this Wifi router. Every router has a physical address (a number burned permanently into the router) and Google identifies these routers with these physical addresses (MAC Addresses?). Whenever an Android phone (or possibly another Google Maps enabled phone) connects to your router, the phone tries to determine it’s own location and uploads the router data along with those GPS coordinates. It is also possible that all pedestrians, neighbors and anyone else who passes by your house get your router’s signal and the Google enabled phones could still get the physical address of your router and could confirm the location of the router through their own phone’s GPS location without connecting to your router at all.
Some people also believe that the Google vans that take images/photographs of all the streets for Street-View feature also collect this WiFi location data. This might be true but it’s not the only source because I live in a country where there’s no Street View available nor a collection of images is going on yet, but still WiFi locations are mapped by Google.
Google’s Wrong Assumption
While mapping Google map and the WiFi hot-spot locations, Google has made a wrong assumption. Google assumes that these WiFi hot-spots are static devices that never change location. This is true for most cases but these WiFi hot-spot routers do change their location in following circumstances:
*- You move out of your appartment, move to a new house, a new town or even a new country and take your router with you.
*- Your router is a mobile device, yes mobile WiFi routers are available now.
*- You are using your Laptop as your WiFi router.
*- You are using your mobile phone (even most Google/Android phones have this feature now) as your WiFi
This means, Google has to refresh the location of the WiFi in it’s database very regularly to make sure it has the latest location of the WiFi router. Due to the wrong assumption, Google does not update it’s router location database that regularly, hence this restults in a serious problem for Google Maps users as described below.
A Problem Scenario
I had a router that I used to use in my house. Then I moved out of that place and took my old router along the rest of the house-hold and moved to another city some 1600km away. Obviously, the Internet worked fine on the same ould router with the new internet connection, but the Google Maps was still showing me in my old house. My GPS enabled phone with Google Maps running on it, whenever connected to this router, changed my location to the incorrect old city location especially when GPS signals were weak indoors.
How to solve t his problem?
Google has provided no web-interface or complaint mechanism for this problem as far as I know (correct me if I’m wrong). Your best bet is to get a new router and sell your router along with the house whenever you move out. The wrong location reporting is very painful at times.
If you are not very aggressive about your own location and this fake WiFi location is not giving you any trouble, you can leave your router as is and keep using it in the new location. Some users have reported it in Google forums that after a few months’ use in the new location their router started reporting the correct location, but it depends on the Google algorithm that how long it will take to get the location updated.
Note: If you know a better solution to above problem, drop me an email asap, it’s basit[at]basitali.com