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How You Can Use Location-Based Services

Now all you need is Wi-Fi to find out what's nearby.

The field of location-based services is tremendously promising. In enabling these services, the focus has mostly been on GPS and cellular technologies. Skyhook Wireless takes a somewhat different tack. Its Wi-Fi Positioning System, or WPS, uses a database of Wi-Fi access points to provide location-based services to Wi-Fi-enabled devices. Skyhook has launched WPS in the 100 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. using more than 8 million mapped Wi-Fi points. WPS has the advantage of a potentially large user base that is already equipped with Wi-Fi.

One of Skyhook's first offerings is Loki, a toolbar for FireFox or Internet Explorer that turns a Wi-Fi laptop into a virtual GPS device and then integrates that information into the user's internet experience. Skyhook has the potential to help businesses send advertising to local customers. Traveling entrepreneurs can use Loki to pinpoint themselves on a map and find nearby restaurants, wireless hot spots and gas stations, as well as get directions and weather reports. Skyhook isn't as relevant in rural areas, but city dwellers will be able to get lots of use out of WPS as the service continues to expand nationwide.

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This article was originally published in the October 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Hook It Up.

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