Editor's Corner

Location-aware solutions help the mobile workforce 
Location-based services have received some bad press of late, as a result of Google's plan to include such services in the San Francisco WiFi project that it is putting together with EarthLink. Google will use the location-based system to beam location-specific advertising to users of the network as they walk about the city. Privacy advocates are worried, and these worries have not been assuaged upon hearing that law-enforcement agencies are interested in using the system to track criminals and suspected terrorists.

These concerns notwithstanding, location-based services may offer many advantages in the work place. Location systems firm Newbury Networks is integrating its WiFi location solutions with the Vocera Communication System. You may recall that Vocera was among the first companies to realize the commercial potential of serving the needs of the mobile workforce, offering employees in sprawling facilities that distinct Vocera badge which allowed them to be in constant communication with HQ and with each other.

Location-based services and real-time location services are growing (see story #3), so integrating the two solutions makes sense. The integration will make it possible for employees on the go to access Newbury's location services from Vocera's VoWLAN solution. The two companies believe that the healthcare industry is a prime target for this solution as doctors, nurses and critical equipment often have to be located quickly during an emergency situation. 

Location-based solutions offer many benefits in healthcare. For example, medical crash carts are typically moved about a hospital as the need arises. In an emergency, a nurse wearing the Vocera badge can locate the nearest device--in this case, the crash cart--by  issuing a voice command. 

This integrated solution which Newbury and Vocera offer is an example of why context maters: A technology that may be misused or even abused in certain contexts may be beneficial in others. -Ben