Location-based services in the spotlight

European network powerhouse Alcatel SA is one of a pack of vendors showing off location-based offerings at the CTIA trade show starting Tuesday in Las Vegas.

Alcatel and others are playing on the zeal among new breed mobile commerce vendors eager to send customers targeted ads and marketing offers based on the exact whereabouts of their cell phones.

Alcatel's new version of its Intelligent Location Server (iMLS) is billed as a way service providers can quickly roll out location-based services. The latest version of iMLS lets service providers offer voice and Internet-based services through new modules.

Meanwhile, Toronto-based wireless vendor Paradigm also jumped on the location bandwagon with a new application dubbed Destinator. Destinator is a small navigation system that operates on Compaq's iPAQ Pocket PC and uses mapping graphics to guide users through their travels. Paradigm claims Designator will rival elaborate mapping systems installed in luxury cars.

The ability to pinpoint the position of potential customers as they use their wireless phones is already a technical possibility, given systems developed for government emergencies and for 911 service.

And as evidenced at this year's CTIA show, location-based offers are likely a new frontier for wireless applications.

However, such services -- sometimes called L-commerce, for location electronic commerce -- are laden with high-profile privacy concerns associated with companies knowing the exact whereabouts of users.

Alcatel's iMLS, therefore, comes equipped with a privacy manager that is supposed to extend to users a way to better manage how their personal information is disclosed. The server also has an internal coordinate routing database offered to carriers needing to coordinate latitude and longitude data on customers.

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