Opera Adds Location Awareness

The browser will utilize Skyhook's technology to detect Wi-Fi access points and then compare them against a database of geolocated points.
Opera Software on Thursday said it will be bringing location information to its browsers thanks to a partnership with Skyhook Wireless.

Skyhook's W3C geolocation application programming interface detects Wi-Fi access points and compares them against a database to determine the user's location. Opera will be integrating this into its browsers to give the user local search and advertising, and make it easier to geotag photos and discover nearby content.

"Location is always relevant when someone is browsing the Web," said Tatsuki Tomita, Opera's senior VP of consumer products, in a statement. "By embedding Skyhook's technology into Opera and making it available through the W3C geolocation API, we ensure that every Opera user gets the same high-quality, location-based experience out of the gate."

The location features of the browser are opt-in. Opera will open up the location platform for developers to create content with a few lines of JavaScript. Opera isn't the first browser maker to integrate geolocation features, as Mozilla also has baked it into the Firefox 3.1 browser.

While location awareness may become very convenient for the home user, many industry watchers believe it will really take off once it's properly integrated into the mobile space with GPS. Opera said the new functionality also will be coming to Opera Mini and Opera Mobile.

Skyhook is quickly becoming the de facto standard for location awareness, as its location engine is utilized by Apple for the iPhone 3G, Android, Symbian, and Qualcomm. By using Wi-Fi, the company said its platform can work indoors and outdoors, requires no new hardware, and can be more accurate in congested areas.

In the near future, smartphones will be using Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, and cell phone towers to determine a user's location. Accuracy and responsiveness will be critical if location-based services take off, but analysts already are expecting the market to hit $13.3 billion in five years.

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