Microsoft MapPoint Location Server "Attention-focuses" Mobile Devices
When Will MLS Have Widespread Adoption?
MLS adoption is difficult to predict. At this stage, it is a new product that Microsoft is keen to educate developers about. MLS is expected to be available on the Sprint network sometime this summer. Widespread adoption will lag until all the major networks are integrated. Several obstacles may delay widespread adoption, not the least of which is society's perception of tracking technology. People are bound to wonder whether MLS poses a threat to their privacy. That was my concern, but a cursory review of the product revealed that it has many advanced security features, such as the ability for the asset (cell phone) to be notified when its location is being queried. I felt much more comfortable after learning that. I would, however, advise fugitives to discard cell phones when trying to evade law enforcement officials.
Let's face it; it's always been possible to locate someone who has a cell phone. MLS just makes it somewhat easier. You can learn about lots of other security features elsewhere, if you need more reassuring. What seems significant is that we as consumers will soon change the way we perceive our cell phones. Forgetting your phone or having its battery run low is not uncommon. As the role of the cell phone is augmented with attention-focusing applications, cell phone users will have to be more responsible. Of course, that's assuming we all want to be reachable and locatable all the time.
Licensing & Pricing
MLS is a component of MapPoint Web Service. There is NO charge for MLS!
You must have a valid MWS agreement with Microsoft (MWS agreement or Trial MWS agreement). The MWS access fee is approximately $8,000 per annum and includes 500k transactions and 50 locatable devices. Additional locatable devices cost about $2 per device. It's highly likely that the cellular operator will also charge a small fee (I've heard between $5–10 per device per month).
Opportunity for Developers?
Here's the good news: The availability of MLS represents a major opportunity for entrepreneurial developers. Developers must write the applications that will serve as a front end for users to query MLS. Of course, MLS comes with an application, Microsoft Mobile Locator, which tracks assets. The following screen shot displays a screen shot of the Microsoft Mobile Locator.
The application above is useful, but it will not represent the business rules associated with specific applications (for example, the application will not know that it should not display assets owned by employees who have taken vacation that week). Developers will have to write these types of applications.
Applications for taxicab routing are a perfect example. A developer will write the code that will place an automated voice call when the taxi is within five minutes of its pickup location; placing a phone call from your C# application may sound difficult but it's a snap with VS.NET 2005.
Getting Started with MLS
From a purely technical perspective, building location-based applications requires developers to learn more about MapPoint Web Service. If you are interested in learning more, acquire a free subscription to MapPoint Web Service. This offer is available to MSDN® Universal, Enterprise, and Professional subscribers. Once you have created a MWS account, you should install MLS. Then, go ahead and build your applications using the Fixed Location Plugin, which Microsoft provides so you don't need to have a cell phone. The locations are hard-coded into a file. You can also sign up for a new MLS newsgroup.
Whether or not you'll use MLS depends on whether you can find a use for it in your current line of business. One thing is for certain, however (regardless of whether you are a Microsoft fan or not), this is cool!
For more information on Microsoft Location Server visit:
About the Author
Jonathan Lurie has been working with information systems in numerous verticals from accounting to law enforcement. In addition to writing, he teaches .NET and XML classes. He holds a BSc in Computer Science and has several certifications including Java Programmer, IBM XML Developer, Solomon, MCT, MCDBA, MCSD, MCSE, and MSF Instructor.
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