Microsoft licenses traffic technology it developed

Inrix, the first company to license technology from Microsoft Research, is licensing its traffic technology back to Microsoft.

In an unusual twist, the very first company to license technology from Microsoft Research is now licensing it back to Microsoft.

Inrix, based in Seattle suburb Kirkland, initially licensed predictive, real-time traffic technology from Microsoft Research in 2005. Since then, Inrix has built onto that technology and now offers traffic data for 106 markets in the U.S. and the U.K.

On Wednesday, Inrix said that Microsoft will license its real-time, historical and predictive traffic data in online properties such as Live Search Maps, as well as in mobile applications.

Like other traffic information aggregators, Inrix collects data from sensors that state departments of transportation deploy. But it also adds information collected by 650,000 commercial vehicles, like taxis and trucks. Companies that operate those fleets share with Inrix data that they are already collecting about the location, speed and direction their vehicles are heading. In return, Inrix either supplies the company with traffic data or pays them, said Scott Sedlik, vice president of marketing for Inrix.

Inrix has another advantage over other traffic information companies: its predictive model. Inrix uses information such as planned construction work, sporting events, school sessions as well as historical data to be able to predict traffic levels up to one year in the future, Sedlik said.

Currently, Traffic.com supplies traffic data for Microsoft's Live maps. Sedlik could not confirm that Inrix would replace Traffic.com. Microsoft and Traffic.com did not respond immediately to questions.

Just after licensing the technology to Inrix in 2005, Microsoft launched its IP Ventures initiative in order to spin off technology developed in the Microsoft Research group.

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