Why geolocation? Why mapping? At the time, I couldn't quite put my finger on it, except for the fact that the CRN Test Center has looked at some GPS solutions and geolocation apps over the past year and found their usefulness continues to build.
AT&T Wireless, for example, offers a Family Mapping service for people with a family plan. Family Mapping allows the owner of an account to track online the location of several phones at any given time. Parents who give an AT&T cell phone to the kids can see where they are when the phone is turned on. A number of different social networks, including Twitter, provide integration with geolocation applications on the desktop and on smartphones to keep in touch.
We've seen RFID and GPS used in geolocation applications to track people and packages, from hospitals and prisons to freight trains in the desert of Nevada. The iPhone has, until now, been a major platform for geolocation.
Last month, Apple revealed its newest creation and hardware platform, the iPad, and that will also include geolocation services. iPad developers are now writing apps, to be made available via the iTunes App Store, that will extend geolocation functionality even further. Here are some areas where you might see geolocation extended on the iPad platform in the coming months:
CRM: Salesforce.com has been among the most aggressive enterprise software makers to embrace the iPhone platform. Combining geolocation, the iPad and CRM could create incredible new ways to provide customer service and opportunity.
Productivity: The introduction of realtime presence awareness into mainstream productivity applications in newer, more powerful ways—from e-mail to IM to document workflow -- should become available, cheaply and easily, for the masses. That has the potential to dramatically change use patterns of those applications.
Asset security: Currently, Apple gives iPhone owners the ability (through MobileMe) to locate their iPhone on a desktop map should it get lost. That capability, provided in a tablet or notebook PC, could be the asset-management app to end all asset-management apps in an enterprise.
The iPad will have its shortcomings, of that there will be no doubt. However, Apple is definitely raising the bar for its competitors in driving more powerful functionality at a scale and cost of acquisition that could be yet another tectonic shift for use models. Geolocation, as part of the mix, will challenge software makers and hardware vendors alike to tap into those use models in a big way.
In past years, mapping and GPS were difficult to weave into business technology in a profitable, useful and valuable way. Going forward, though, those things shouldn't be too difficult to find.
E-MAIL ED MOLTZEN AT EDWARD.MOLTZEN@EC.UBM.COM
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