A computer scientist at the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, and colleagues at the Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois have devised a new way of working out where you are located by pinning down your internet connection location.
While similar techniques are currently in use, they are not as accurate is this latest design. The current best system can be out as much as 22 miles, but this latest technique could track down your current location to within a few hundred metres.
Yong Wang, who headed this mission and his team, used Google Maps to find both the web and physical addresses of organisation. This information provided them with around 76,000 landmarks.
Their new method zoomed in through three stages to locate a target computer. The first stage compromised of measuring the time to send a data packet to the target and convert this into a distance. This is nothing new; a common technique to narrow the target’s possible location to a radius of around 125 miles.
The next stage was to send data packets to the known Google Maps landmark servers within this large radius to find which routers they passed through. When the target computer and a landmark machine shared a router, researchers could compare how long a packet takes to reach each machine from the route. Thus they could convert this information into an estimate of distance, narrowing the search down further.
The final step was to repeat the landmark search at this new, narrowed-down level. They established which landmark server was closest to the target. Although the results would never be entirely accurate, they were much better than the current best system.
On average, their results were within 690 metres of the target, and the closest results were within 100 metres.
This new method could potentially allow advertisers to target a certain street.