Real-Time People Tracking Planned - InformationWeek

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Real-Time People Tracking Planned

Sprint to offer location-based services using Microsoft's MapPoint app

For nearly 10 years, Microsoft's mapping applications have helped travelers navigate streets. Now Microsoft's compass is pointing in a new direction: The market for real-time, location-based business services.

Before year's end, Sprint is expected to introduce a service that uses Microsoft's MapPoint Web Service and MapPoint Location Server to let companies track field-service representatives, vehicles, or other assets as they move around the United States. Businesses can expect to see a growing number of similar offerings from other location-service providers, says Tom Bailey, director of marketing with Microsoft's MapPoint business unit, which generated about $50 million in sales in fiscal 2004.

Such services already are available from specialists that use other technologies. But Microsoft's MapPoint combo will lead to new and cheaper options, Bailey says. And he expects small and midsize businesses to eagerly adopt location-based services for everything from tracking cabs and bread-delivery trucks to elevator-repair personnel.

MapPoint Web Service, an online version of the company's geographic application, was launched about three years ago and is used by several hundred companies, including FedEx and Hilton Hotels. MapPoint Location Server, introduced in March, merges the mapping capabilities of MapPoint Web Service with the real-time location data available to wireless network operators.

MapPoint is behind a growing number of consumer-oriented location services, too. In August, Microsoft introduced Streets & Trips 2005 with a Microsoft- branded GPS locator used in combination with a laptop, Pocket PC, or Smartphone. Listed at $129, tens of thousands of the software-and-device packages have sold in the past few months. Says Bailey, "We're seeing the units fly off the shelves."

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