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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Matt Day.

January 9, 2008 at 1:11 PM

Loctronix targets popular GPS technology

Woodinville-based Loctronix, which has been quietly operating for the past two years, said Tuesday that it has raised $1 million to go toward a second round of funding.

I wrote a brief in today’s paper, but wanted to elaborate here since I had a chance to talk with John Chapple, an initial investor through his investment company Hawkeye Investments and who was CEO of Nextel Partners. I also talked with Loctronix CEO Michael Mathews.

Loctronix is developing a way for GPS to be used in buildings and throughout urban environments where connections are often lost.

I thought the timing of the announcement and the company’s coming out party couldn’t be better.

The release landed in the middle of CES, the largest Consumer Electronics show in the world. In the countless stories I’ve read or viewed, GPS was a central theme.

The stories were about demonstrations of car navigation systems integrated with voice commands or even a new GPS puck for your camera. The puck would help mark the location where on each photo was taken.

CEO Mathews said this is just the beginning of widespread GPS adoption. He imagines many more applications, such as tracking the location of patients in hospitals or even tracking your kids.

However, the one big drawback of GPS is that it typically needs plenty of clear sky above it to work.

Mathews said Loctronix is working on technology to fix that through a series of antennas outdoors (on cell towers, for instance) or indoors that would strengthen the GPS signal. Loctronix is developing the technology, but looking for manufacturers and companies to implement it.

It sounds a bit similar to another new company recently funded by Chapple’s old friend and colleague, Craig McCaw. McCaw, through his investment arm Eagle River, invested in S5 Wireless in Utah, which is working on a technology similar to GPS that would track a person’s location.

The big difference is that while Loctronix is a technology developer, S5 is a service provider.

The biggest barrier to each may be that the end user’s equipment will have to be updated with technology built by S5 or Loctronix.

Mathews said that won’t be needed initially, but eventually the handset will have to be tweaked in order to work.

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