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From left to right: Ashish Pandya, director of corporate strategy at HERE; Pieter Gillegot-Vergauwen, VP of TomTom product management and maps; Heather Blatchford, director of global alliances at Esri; and Chris Pendleton, Microsoft principal program manager of Azure location-based services, at the Microsoft Technology Center in Detroit. (Microsoft photo)

Microsoft has partnered with TomTom, a Dutch firm specializing in electronic navigation and mapping, to help build up location-based services in its Azure public-cloud service, and to increase Azure’s appeal to U.S. car-makers.

TomTom, based in Amsterdam, makes GPS devices, wearable fitness devices and ruggedized action cameras. Its draw for Microsoft is its location technologies, which Microsoft said are optimized for fast updates, and its High Definition Map and RoadDNA technology for autonomous driving.

Azure will incorporate that technology “to make it even easier and more flexible for developers to build and manage enterprise, mobile, web and Internet of Things applications that are location-aware,” Microsoft said in a blog post. Microsoft’s ambition is to create the next “world graph,” a data index of physical places, objects and devices and their points of connection. Together with partners, it wants to “enable worldwide location-based services for customers, differentiated by an open platform, with large data sets and integrated functionality for developers and integration with other data graphs.”

The partnership was announced at a Microsoft event in Detroit for business and automotive influencers.

Microsoft also said it will extend its collaboration with longtime partner HERE, a location-technology company co-owned by German automotive firms Audi, BMW and Daimler. HERE captures location content such as road networks, buildings, parks and traffic patterns. It then sells or licenses that mapping content, along with navigation and location services, to other businesses.

HERE already powers location data in Bing, Cortana, Windows and Office. A new agreement lets Microsoft expand its use of HERE data and services into “productivity scenarios” in cars.

Microsoft is already partnering with a third company, Esri, a leader in geographic information system (GIS) technology. Esri’s real-time GIS already runs on Azure and can ingest real-time, location-based data, including weather data, social media feeds, live sensor data and location services data from companies including HERE and TomTom.

“We look forward to . . .  partnering with automakers as they continue to bring connected cars to life,” Microsoft said.

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