Foursquare and Facebook Places are hot right now, but how is location being used in the enterprise? There are numerous applications for location-based technologies in the enterprise - such as asset tracking, routing and geo-fencing. Several companies are working in this space now to enable businesses to use location for more than just marketing. Here are a few that we've found.Consumer location based services such as
Since 2002, mobile phone manufacturers in the US have been required to include GPS tracking for emergency location in every phone sold. Until recently, that information has been available only to carriers and emergency services. Customers who wish to use geolocative features in their phones have had to either buy phones with special GPS features, or install software that can access cell tower positioning information.
LOC-AID enables developers to use carrier location information for precise geolocation. LOC-AID has partnerships with AT&T, Sprint and Verizon to collect location data from customers on an opt-in basis. This means that developers can create geo-locative application for any cell phone on the above carriers, without the need to install software on the phones. Once users opt-in, LOC-AID communicates directly with carriers to receive location information and makes it available to developers, meaning developers don't need to be able to communicate directly with the user's phone. That means users with any phone on a supported carrier can sign-up to have their location tracked without installing software on the phone itself.
There are several possible applications, including:
- Asset tracking - Enterprises could use SIM cards instead of GPS chips for tracking the location of equipment.
- Security - LOC-AID is promoting the technology for law enforcement to verify the location of parolees who are required to call in. In most cases, there is voice recognition software in place to verify the parolee is who he or she claims to be, but location verification has been done with LoJack technology.
- Geofencing - Alerts can be sent when a particular phone or SIM card moves into or outside of a designated area. This could be useful for asset tracking, routing, navigation, etc.
LoKast from Nearverse (covered here in April) is a mobile application that allows you to share files or links with other users within a certain proximity of you. It's essentially an ad-hoc geo-fencing application for Android and iOS.
Although most of its use-cases are geared towards consumers, Nearverse CEO Boris Bogatin thinks LoKast could be useful in the enterprise as well. He cites workers sharing files in a meeting and adding media to conference rooms or other spaces as possible uses.
I imagine Nearverse could open up some really interesting possibilities if it were to take advantage of LOC-AID's technology.
Ekahau is Wi-Fi based location system for people, assets, inventory and other objects. For example, Clarian Health recently announced it will deploy Ekahau's real-time location service in its hospitals. This will enable medical staff to locate medical equipment within the hospital in real-time and save time trying to track objects down.
Ekahau is particularly interesting because it doesn't require any additional infrastructure beyond a WiFi network. It's limited, however, by only being able to track people and things
within a specific space. Update: Tuomo Rutanen of Ekahau comments to clarify:
The Ekahau system is not limited to tracking within a certain space. It operates also in a "cloud model" where one can track things across large geographies ( across the country or across continents ), assuming there is WiFi coverage in the locations that items are being tracked. Of course it will not track on the open roads between facilities as GPS with a WAN radio is the only really good solution for that.
Route4Me, a web and mobile app that attempts to solve the Travelling Salesmen Problem, just released an enterprise edition. The free version allows users to plan optimal routes with up to ten stops. The enterprise edition allows users to pick up to 200 stops, and adds additional features such as turn-by-turn navigation. The iPhone app can also use your location information, or you can just enter your location manually.
OpenGeo, an open-source web mapping system, recently released the new version of its enterprise edition. OpenGeo provides enterprise support for its full stack of geospatial tools. It's also available in a fully hosted SaaS.