"Researchers at Microsoft are working on technology that they hope will someday enable people to browse online maps for up-to-the-minute information about local gas prices, traffic flows, restaurant wait times, and more. Eventually, says Suman Nath, a Microsoft researcher who works on the project, which is called SenseWeb, they would like to incorporate the technology into Windows Live Local (formerly Microsoft Virtual Earth), the company's online mapping platform." informs Technology Review.
The idea of real-time maps is exciting, but really expensive. At the cost of privacy, you could see webcams from any part of the Earth. You'll become ubiquitous: you won't need news channels that report from conflict areas, forensic detectives for criminal investigations, Discovery documentaries to show you wildlife or real estate agents to track hot properties.
But Microsoft doesn't think that far: they just want to track information about traffic, status of public transportation, weather condition. They could also develop an application for traffic management at a global scale.
"SenseWeb is composed of three basic parts: sensors (or data-collecting units), Microsoft's database indexing scheme that sorts through the information, and the online map that lets users interact with the data. The sensors used in the project can vary in form and function, and can include thermometers, light sensors, cameras, and restaurant computers. SenseWeb puts baseline sensor information, such as location and function, into a database that's searchable by location and type of sensor information."
While the customers will be happy to find out which restaurant has the smallest waiting time, I wonder if the restaurant owners will think the same. Sometimes too much information doesn't make sense to business.