Garmin Opens GPS Data to Web Developers

Garmin International Inc. has published some APIs for connecting to its GPS devices, making it easier for Web developers to write applications that use information about where consumers are located, the company announced Tuesday.

The Garmin Communicator Plugin API (application programming interface) will allow developers to transfer information about a user's location between a Garmin GPS (Global Positioning System) device and a Web site. That means a user could build a fitness Web site, for example, that uses the location data to track how much exercise a person has done.

Garmin already offers such a service, called MotionBased, but it's been difficult for third-party Web sites to build similar services, and the APIs will now make that easier, the company said. It's also hoping that developers will come up with new, more innovative services.

If developers take to the APIs and build more Web sites that link to Garmin devices, it could help Garmin stave off the increased competition from cell phone makers, who have been adding GPS functions to more of their products. Nokia's N95, for example, which began shipping in March, is the first of many devices from the Finnish company that will include GPS.

Garmin hopes Web sites that depend on its GPS systems will help to spread its name more widely among consumers, it said. Developers can also benefit because they can have a new market to develop services for. Garmin is one of the biggest makers of GPS devices.

The APIs and other tools are available now on the new Garmin developer Web site. Some are available free and some must be licensed, the company said. Other tools include the Content Toolkit, for creating services that send information about "points of interest" such as Wi-Fi hot spots or speed cameras.

The developer tools are being shown at the Where 2.0 conference in San Jose, California, which starts Tuesday.

Garmin already released the Location Based Toolkit in November so that customers can use the GPS data in applications for delivery fleets and other mobile workers.

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