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Microsoft Partner Offers 'Backpack' to U.K. Homeless

One of the finalists for the 2010 Microsoft Partner of the Year award has created a system for storing the information of homeless people in Birmingham, U.K.

Active Web Solutions Ltd. (AWS), based in Ipswich, has produced an Internet cloud-based solution called "Virtual Backpack" in collaboration with Microsoft and the St. Basils homeless shelter charitable organization. The Web portal stores information such as medical and national insurance details, as well as resumes, contact information and passwords for people lacking a home in Birmingham.

Virtual Backpack isn't new, as it apparently was launched as "Virtual Rucksack" in February of last year, getting an endorsement from the Lord Mayor of Birmingham.

A Microsoft U.K. government blog published on Wednesday noted that AWS has also created tracking system for ocean fisherman that leverages Windows Azure, Microsoft's Internet cloud-based platform. The MOB ("Man OverBoard") Guardian solution uses sensors carried by fisherman that are wirelessly linked with a radio base in the vessel. If the seaman falls overboard, radio contact is broken, signaling an alarm to a search-and-rescue team.

While the MOB Guardian system uses Windows Azure, it's not clear which platform is used to host AWS' Virtual Backpack solution.

Virtual Backpack apparently doesn't track the homeless. However, the Microsoft blog suggested that the information might not be so private. It states that Virtual Backpack "will interest local authorities and police forces in particular."

A video showing how Virtual Backpack works can be found at AWS' Web site here.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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