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Location-based Services Get Big Boost from Microsoft Wi-Fi Router

The old adage "location, location, location" no longer applies to just real estate. Location-based mobile services are shaping up to be the most valuable (and profitable) products that service providers can add on, and literally dozens of companies were touting their location wares at CTIA, including Microsoft, Autodesk, Tele Atlas, TruePosition, Trimble, Telcontar, AtlasBook, and others.

Vindigo proved early on that end-users would pay for things like city guides, movie information, maps, and driving directions. Tying that type of information to the customer's current location is infinitely more helpful and relevant, so the user doesn't have to enter an address, but can simply ask for the nearest ATM, gas station or Chinese restaurant.

Vindigo was one of the first to cash in on location-based services. Microsoft's big announcement this week was actually made at its Mobile Developer Conference in San Francisco. Bill Gates demonstrated the new Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition update, with support for higher-resolution displays, as well as the coming MS MapPoint Location Server (MLS). MLS allows the integration of real-time location data into business and consumer applications, and should start being available from service providers like AT&T; Wireless later this year.

Microsoft's entry into the fray should give a boost to the whole location services industry. Another major player in this area, Autodesk, also announced its innovative location stamp for photos taken by cell phones, so that you can always tell exactly where you were when you took a certain pic. The technology should also be useful for vertical applications like traffic accident records, building inspections, and so on.

All location services must rely on either the incorporation of GPS units into cell phones, or TDDA (Time-Distance Difference to Arrival, a fancy way of describing cellular triangulation). TDDA capabilities are advancing rapidly due to the requirement that 911 services be able to locate cell phone calls, although not fully deployed.

Once the technology and services start ramping up, however, location services should explode rapidly, with everything from traffic reports and weather, to finding friends and relatives, to site-specific advertisements ($10 off dinner for two at the restaurant around the corner). We can hardly wait.