Just wrote up the following advice about geolocating SMS for a user and thought I'd share for feedback. Any comments?
'There are a number of ways to geolocate an SMS:
- cell tower triangulation - technically impossible without special equipment unless you are the operator
- GPS - there are some apps which can send a GPS location in an SMS, but this has implications for the handset and so isn't a good option if you're communicating just with the community
- Analogue! I am in Tbilisi, or NAIROBI here is the text of my message.
- Knowing where people are before they text you - this is the easiest thing to do by far with a bounded network, so, where you're using agents or people you know in advance. If you know someone's in Saskatchewan, for example, and they text to report an issue, then you know to map the report there.'
Some phones can show their Cell ID - that's the ID of the cell tower they are connected to.
You can use a database like http://opencellid.org/ to get a rough location of the handset.
Interesting. What makes a handset able to share its Cell ID?
It depends on the manufacture. Some allow you to see it in a menu, others require more complex means (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nokia_network_monitor).
If you can run very basic apps, Symbian phones let you get the cell id using Java http://www.developer.nokia.com/Community/Wiki/Determining_Current_L...
Android apps also have access to this http://developer.android.com/reference/android/telephony/gsm/GsmCel...
Have you heard about Forget Me Not Africa? http://www.forgetmenotafrica.com/ I wonder if an app could be developed to translate an SMS with typed location info into GPS coordinates.
2 years on... any more progress on this? Our disaster assessment teams would love to have a feature like this.
We have not implemented this within FrontlineSMS, but we are keen to learn about new technology that we can share with our users. Please share what you find.