Location services are becoming an increasingly important part of a carrier’s data offerings, as evidenced by today’s announcement by Sprint of new tools to help enterprises use location for their business applications.

Joe Averkamp, senior director of Sprint's emerging markets sector, said the carrier believes 2005 will be a significant year for location services. Sprint believes the LBS initiatives it is launching will generate increased network usage, driving new revenues. The initial services will help make subscribers aware that their handsets can be mapping devices, Averkamp said.

The carrier today rolled out its “Business Mobility Framework” on a nationwide basis after early successes with target customers in recent months. The framework is in partnership with Microsoft’s MapPoint, using the MapPoint Location Server (MLS) to integrate location with business applications.

Barry Tishgart, product development director for Sprint Business Solutions, said the framework provides presence information for Sprint devices as well as location. It also enables SMS and voice alerts and presence and location notifications when a device is turned off or on or when it leaves a defined area.

“Customers can use the gateway to locate their employees, devices, either at a specific point in time or using geo-fencing,” he said. “They can also use it to track and manage mobile employees, vehicles and inventory.”

Stephen Lawler, general manager of MapPoint, said some of the 6 million developers using Microsoft Visual Studio are capable of writing enterprise applications that integrate location. MapPoint handles about 20 million mapping functions daily. Sprint also has about three dozen application partners that enterprises can work with to add location to existing applications.

Sprint said the new framework would be ideal for adding location to such applications as field service automation, field force management, fleet management, and asset management and tracking.