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Cell phone locator snags funds from Intel, Ericsson

The chip giant and the cellular equipment maker invest in upstart Cambridge Positioning Systems, which builds technology for tracking cellular phones.

Chip giant Intel and cellular equipment maker Ericsson have invested in an upstart that builds technology for tracking cellular phones.

The two companies are part of a larger group of investors, including 3i Group, Infineon Technologies and Prelude, contributing to a third round of funding that raised $32 million for Cambridge Positioning Systems, CPS said Thursday.

CPS software allows network operators to track the location of cellular phones to a 50-meter area, using a GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) method it calls Enhanced Observed Time Difference. The company said it has conducted trials of the software in Europe, North America and Asia.

The Cambridge, England-based company competes against makers of satellite-tracked devices that have gained support from large phone companies. Ericsson and Nortel Networks, however, have signed CPS to integrate its technology into their networks and devices.

The investment by Intel and Ericsson illustrates a growing interest in the young market for mobile location technology. Untethered devices such as cell phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) hold the promise of allowing wireless data companies to deliver services and advertisements to consumers wherever they go.

However, tracking technology and practices have sparked criticism from privacy advocates, who are worried about allowing big telecommunications companies to track the movements of individuals.

CPS also has offices in Baltimore, Singapore, Hong Kong and Milan, Italy.