Is Somebody Watching Me?

Technology similar to the gizmos featured in the high-tech thriller "Enemy of the State" entered the everyday business application world this week when Microsoft released a new server for building location-based services into applications.

The new server is called the MapPoint Location Server (MLS), and it is free for subscribers to the Microsoft MapPoint Web Service, one of the only survivors of Microsoft's mega-services .NET vision four years ago.

At a high level, MLS allows companies to take location pinpointing technology in mobile devices and feed it into maps in business applications that show the real-time location of people, vehicles or other assets. MLS also gives developers tools and services to help them combine real-time location data and mapping capabilities from the Microsoft MapPoint Web Service without forcing them to delve into the esoteric details of geographic information systems and communications technology.

What the technology allows is similar to the type of intense surveillance attention actor Will Smith received in the 1998 movie "Enemy of the State" as he ran from corrupt government agents. Microsoft is promoting far less glamorous, and more practical applications, such as keeping track of a taxicab fleet to assign the closest car for passenger pickups or routing baker's trucks more efficiently. Still Microsoft does acknowledge the potential privacy concerns inherit in the technologies. Users with the Mobile Locator application running on a computer or Windows Mobile-based device can control their privacy preferences, choose to be informed when they are being located, turn their own visibility off and block anyone or everyone from obtaining their location.

A big piece of the solution is the mobile location data, which is being provided by major mobile operators. The first two mobile operators to sign up are Sprint and Bell Canada. Sprint plans to make commercial services available in the United States this summer.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.