Practical Technology

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You can’t hide from location-based apps


Where the heck am I?” I’ve asked that question many times as I’ve gotten lost on America’s interstates. It’s not as common a question now as it used to be, thanks to GPS devices such as Garmin’s NĂ¼vi 200W, Magellan’s Maestro 4350 and TomTom’s GO 930. Such dedicated GPS devices will probably go extinct before too long, but even after they’re gone, you’re unlikely to hear anyone ask “Where the heck am I?” again. That’s because everything from your mobile phone to your laptop will incorporate GPS technology or tools that duplicate GPS functionality.

Meanwhile, we’re going to see a new breed of applications that incorporate GPS data: location-based software, or LBS.

What will these applications do? One example is Xora’s GPS TimeTrack, offered by AT&T as software as a service. Igor Glubochansky, director of industry solutions at AT&T, explains that users of these vehicle-installed devices can track field personnel and their activities from a password-protected Web site that provides up-to-the-minute information on location, speed and stop times.

On the consumer side, there are offerings like Loopt’s “buddy finder” application, which allows friends to see one another’s locations on an online map, thanks to an LBS infrastructure that works with Qualcomm’s QPoint location-based server software. I can already foresee games of Twitter tag and Twitter hide-and-seek.

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