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Google may want to organize the world's information, but Microsoft wants to let you know how long you're going to have to wait for a table at Red Lobster on Friday evening. WebProNews Reports:

Imagine a world where your Windows Mobile smartphone can pull up a Windows Local Live map with specific details about your city: which florist has peach calla lilies and birds of paradise in stock; where to find the closest Godiva chocolate boutique; and whether or not you can find a parking space near your date's apartment.

Technology Review reported that Microsoft Research has its eyes on that much detail in its Local Live maps, courtesy of a project called SenseWeb.

The project collects data from sensors, which people can place in a variety of places. It can also incorporate information contributed from people directly, and gather all of it into a framework that can be analyzed and made available to users of Live Local.

Real-time data provides the difference between accurate search results and timely, accurate search results. To paraphrase Technology Review's example, while local search can identify restaurants in a given neighborhood, a neighborhood equipped with SenseWeb and providing data to it will show just how long people are hanging around the bar waiting to be seated.

That permits the user to drill down to an average for the neighborhood, or even farther to individual restaurants.

       SenseWeb is composed of three basic parts: sensors (or data-collecting units), Microsoft's database indexing scheme that sorts through the information, and the online map that lets users interact with the data.

The sensors used in the project can vary in form and function, and can include thermometers, light sensors, cameras, and restaurant computers. SenseWeb puts baseline sensor information, such as location and function, into a database that's searchable by location and type of sensor information. Then, if someone wants to check traffic conditions along a stretch of highway, for instance, the database will direct queries to cameras ("Web cams") located along the route -- and an image of traffic shows up on the map.

Mapping has been a hotly contested area among the major web players. AOL has long held a strong position in maps and directions with its MapQuest service.

Google and Yahoo debuted competing maps with satellite imagery, and worked at integrating their products with local search. Microsoft upped the ante with the "bird's eye view" of a number of cities available in Windows Live Local. SenseWeb represents their next step.

The project's next step involves bringing more data into SenseWeb, and hammering out consistent methods of reporting data to make it usable across the SenseWeb platform. Even with consistent data though, SenseWeb won't be able to tell you that your date decided to get back together with her ex, now that he's out of prison.

It may be able to show where the nearest happy hour can be found after that revelation. So don't pitch the flowers and candy right away. The night is young.

Posted on Tuesday, May 9, 2006 10:24 PM | Back to top

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