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@Road Picks Up Wireless Networking Patent

Mobile business software maker @Road Thursday said it has secured a patent for its way of keeping customers connected.

Titled "Method for distributing location-relevant information using a network," Patent number 6,529,159 describes a method for communicating valuable business information to mobile workers based on their position in the field at a given time.

The invention is part of the Fremont, Calif.-based company's RoadFORCE and GeoManager platforms.

Using a Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network to identify the location of the mobile worker, @Road says the information is then transmitted to a database, where it is automatically analyzed and matched to other data about that location which is already in the system.

For example, prior to a business trip, @Road says a traveling salesperson hooked up to its service can enter itinerary information into a database from a desktop terminal. Data can be input graphically using an interface that displays a map or by specifying each location's street address. The system can easily convert the street addresses or map coordinates in the itinerary into corresponding GPS positions. The salesperson can then access the itinerary from a mobile unit while on the road and can query the database for location-relevant information, such as detailed directions and estimated travel time.

The mobile worker could access other types of location-relevant information from the database, such as traffic conditions and local points of interest data. Mobile workers may receive this information in the form of audio, text or graphical messages sent over the network. Since the location-relevant information may be proprietary -- for example, a customer list -- access can be limited to only authenticated and authorized individuals.

According to another aspect of the invention, a method is provided for conducting a business or financial transaction over a wireless network. For instance, a mobile worker from a courier service may have in his possession a package that requires proof of delivery. The sender of the package may wish to be alerted when the recipient claims the package. Using GPS to determine the position of the worker, the sender can validate when the package reaches its destination, that the package was delivered to the proper location and, with the help of a system for capturing digital signatures, that the recipient has signed for the package.

"We view the conversion of our inventions into patents as a process by which we distill innovation into new and richer MRM services while creating a defendable competitive barrier-to-entry," @Road CEO Krish Panu said in a statement.

@Road said this patent is the eighth awarded to the company and the second since the beginning of the year. The company says it has 34 additional patents still pending.