Geographical Information System (GIS) and Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies are expanding their traditional applications to embrace a stream of consumer-focused, location-based applications..
Through an integration with handheld devices capable of wireless communication and mobile computing, a wide range of what might be generically referred to as “Location-Based Services” (LBS) may be offered to mobile users. “
A location-based service is able to provide targeted spatial information to mobile workers and consumers depending upon their location. These include utility location information, personal or asset tracking, concierge and route-guidance information, to name just a few of the possible LBS. The technologies and applications of LBS will play an ever increasingly important role in the modern, mobile, always-connected society.
LBS “aims to provide specific, targeted information to users based on each specific user’s location at any time”. In the case of emergency calls, it is obvious that if the call responders have information concerning the location of the people making the call, then the response time can be reduced. Hence security and safety are important considerations for a “mobile society”. The second type of application is concierge services where location-specific information on something nearby is sought. The requested information may be related to points-of-interest such as hospitals, restaurants, cinemas, car parks, ATMs, and so on. Such a service may provide information about the point-of-interest, or route-guidance to find it.
There are also many examples of applications in typical work practices which might not be viewed as a form of “l-commerce”, but which nevertheless benefit from using procedures that have a “spatial component”. For example, in the case of a gas pipeline breakdown emergency call, a worker has to go into the field and quickly find the location of the broken pipe, details of the owners of nearby properties, etc. A mobile device (with positioning capability) can be used to query a GIS database of valves that would permit the isolation of the gas supply at the appropriate location.
In essence, LBS can only be provided through the integration of wireless communications and computing technologies, with ‘spatial elements’ such as positioning technologies and spatial data sets. These components form a network using wireless communication standards to transfer service requests and information between a mobile user and a service (or server) facility. The location-based service facility is able to perform spatial functions based on the user’s location, generally with the aid of a Geographical Information System.
Standards that support LBS
LBS span technologies from 2 generation (2G) wireless communication through the so-called 2.5 generation (2.5G), to the third generation (3G). 2.5G is an evolution from the 2G technology such as GSM, and currently includes SMS and GPRS. These are ‘always connected’ network standards. The 3G technologies such as EDGE and HSCSD are with higher capacity for data transfer. The so-called ‘Wireless Internet’ or ‘Mobile Internet’ also permits telecommunication carriers to add more services, including location-based services, to existing wireless networks. The Mobile/Wireless Internet is being developed under some constraints. First of all the range of wireless communication systems is very diverse. The Mobile/Wireless Internet must be compatible with GSM, CDMA and AMPS. Secondly, the small size of mobile devices means a restricted user interface, less powerful CPU and comparatively low memory capacity. The wireless network, in comparison with the standard wireline network, “has limited bandwidth, longer latency and lower degree of reliability to deliver wireless data” (Lin & Chlamtac, 2001). Moreover, standard Internet content will not be interpreted correctly by the micro-browsers found in mobile devices. Therefore new mobile Internet standards are needed, such as the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) and the Wireless Markup Language (WML).