Science & Technology

Location! Location! Location!

UW Professor Jignesh Patel’s invention helps people find everything from the location of friends to a bus ride home from work. Photo: Jeff Miller.

Spinoff Locomatix becomes part of Twitter.

Jignesh Patel MS’93, PhD’98 sees the world in motion. People and things are rarely static, and four years ago, Patel, a UW–Madison professor of computer sciences, set out to devise “location aware” technology for smartphones. His work will help people to pinpoint the whereabouts of the things they want to find, such as friends traveling through the same airport, products in transit, or the bus that carries them home from work.

The upshot of Patel’s endeavor is Locomatix, a Silicon Valley company founded with Karthik Ramasamy PhD’01 that recently became part of Twitter. Locomatix technology actively trolls the “cloud” for the masses of data generated by computers, smartphones, RFID chips, and GPS receivers. Plugging into such publicly accessible information underpins the “mobile commerce” phenomenon, a market already estimated in the billions of dollars.

“The signals you tap into are proxies for what is happening in the real world,” Patel says.

“For me, this is really exciting,” adds the UW–Madison computer scientist. “In the last five years, if you think of companies that have changed the world, near the top of the list is Twitter.”

Published in the Winter 2013 issue


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