I have been spending a lot of time lately playing with the latest Windows 7 beta. One of the new features that appears in this beta is something called location awareness. Location awareness is one of those features that were supposed to have been in Windows Vista, but didn’t make it. The basic idea is that the operating system can be aware of your current location via a GPS sensor.
Right now there aren’t many practical uses for this technology. Microsoft MapPoint offers something similar today. It is designed to plot your current position on a map based on either coordinate from a GPS receiver, or based on certain wireless Internet services. Keep in mind though, that this is only a single application. The Windows 7 location awareness feature is going to exist at the operating system level. Microsoft has already made an API available to developers that will allow them to include location information in their applications.
One of the things that struck me as interesting about location awareness is that it is not completely GPS-based. In fact, the location awareness feature is open-ended, and can accept input from a variety of different sensor types. One of the examples that Microsoft uses on their website is that users will be able to use the location awareness feature in conjunction with an ambient light sensor. This will allow Windows to adjust the brightness and contrast of a laptop screen automatically based on the current lighting conditions. I think it will be really interesting to see how this feature plays out over the long-term.