It is amazing how important location based services have become over the last few years. You can now find mapping, routing, and navigation services as intrinsic and expected features of all of the major search engines as well as making asset tracking, incidence reporting, and delivery routing possible.A leader in this field is Telcontar, which provides consumer-oriented location based services for Google Local, Yahoo and Rand McNally on a private-label basis as well as supplying telematic services (defined as the convergence of mobile phones, the GPS and call centers) for companies such as BMW, Ford and Mercedes-Benz.Telcontar's platform is the Drill Down Server (DDS), a set of core services. Various plug-ins that deal with different location based services connect to the server, including the Vector Map Image Plug-In, which generates vector-based maps and polyline points to support thin clients, and provides cartographic operations like panning, zooming and image rotation. A GIF Image Plug-In generates GIF map images as either a data stream or as a file.Other plug-ins include:* Routing Plug-In for "turn-by-turn" maneuver descriptions and distances.* Proximity Plug-In which provides reverse geocoding and finds the nearest geographic objects (points, lines, or polygons) to any latitude\/longitude or any geographic object.\u00a0* Snap-To Plug-In for developers to correlate the same locations in different map databases.* Attribute Edit Plug-In allows developers to dynamically change map data attributes, including renaming streets and changing road speeds.* Database Overlay Plug-In allows developers to store, retrieve and display points of interest (POI) and other variable field data from an external database management system.* Power Plug-in Development Kit for developers to create custom Power Plug-ins.* Lookup Plug-In, which supports geocoding functionality for telematics and location based services applications, including retrieving latitude and longitude from a street address.There's also the Web Services API (WSAPI), which provides access to the DDS.On a Windows 2000, 1.7 GHz dual processor Pentium III with 1G byte RAM using commercially available map data the DDS was benchmarked at 7 GIF images\/second, 7 routes\/second, 16 vector-based maps\/second, 33 address look-ups\/second, and 9 proximity line and area queries\/second.Compatible with Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 and 2000, Red Hat Linux (v. 7.3), Sun Solaris v.7 and v.8, Free BSD v.4.1 - 4.3, and HPUX 11.x, DDS pricing is on a per transaction basis starting at around $2 per thousand maps generated.