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Open standards in location based services

Sumit Sen
Sumit Sen
[email protected]

Smita Sengupta
Aplied Technology Group, Tata Infotech Limited
SDF V , SEEPZ Andheri (E), Mumbai
[email protected]

Location based services encompass broad areas of technology and the need for standards is evident for interoperability between technology components. Such components include Content & Applications, Gateways & Middleware, Network Equipment, Service Provider, End-user Devices. Seamless integration of these into a reliable Location based service requires Open standards for data exchange and application interfaces. Conventional methods of proprietary data and components have distinct disadvantages in terms of interoperability and integration and do not allow much flexibility in cost and scalability. With Open standards evolving in both GIS and Wireless technology area the Scope for viable Open standards in Location Based services have become feasible.

XML based data interchange has evolved as a clear choice and geographical data through XML has come a long way with GML3.0 standards. Challenges however exists in working together for providing interfaces to the various components and integrating as system where components can be conveniently introduced, modified or removed under an open standards framework. We discuss opportunities and threats in the path of developing such systems as we analyse the requirements of interoperability and the path to achieve it. Benefits of open location based systems are also discussed with context of consumers and service providers.

Location based services are gaining prime importance in our increasingly mobile and highly IT enabled world. With Modern legislation and interest in utilising Geo-spatial information for providing practically useful information to users of Mobile services the scope and capability of informing, alerting and involving the user.

Location services are defined as applications that deliver location-based information where and when it is needed. Users can access these services via the desktop, Web browser, mobile phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), pager, or other device. Diverse applications include fleet tracking, emergency dispatch, sensor monitoring, and customer location for target marketing and advertising, roadside assistance, stolen vehicle recovery, navigation, directory services, and more.

OLS Architecture

The Kelsey Group predicts that the Location-based service (LBS) market is expected to exceed $11 billion in revenue with as many as $1b Internet-enabled handsets in use by the year 2005. Also the LBS industry has the following striking features, which makes it important to have an initiative for Open standards.

  • 300 companies comprise the LBS business space
  • No definition of fundamental service architecture
  • No agreement on best of breed
  • No assurance offerings work together to form end-to-end solutions

Concepts of Location based services
Location based services are primarily composed of three major components

  • Mobile Computation Services (Communication and computations using mobile devices)
  • Location Enabling Services (User Location Providing)
  • Location Aware Services (IP based applications)

The Open GIS Consortium (OGC) vision of the LBS technology area is as shown in Figure 1. This approach provides for independent existence of players in all the service areas and also provides for standard interfaces between each.

The Pizza Story

Here the Client services are the part of solutions that exists within the mobile units whereas the gateway services are a part of the Wireless network service providers system. Application Service and the Warehouse services.

An offering in the area of LBS combines technical offerings in the area of wireless communication, mobile computing, positioning technology (GPS or alternative), GIS and GIS based services.

Also based on the flow of information the services can be classified as Push, Pull or Combination services. While pull services mainly require the user to request for the information the push services are delivered to based on the position automatically.

Open Standards LBS Vision

Conventional Services in Location Based Services
The Following points briefly describe the conventional services that are available in the area of location-based services.

  • Wireless Service Providers (also termed as Gateway Service Providers) have provided basic Location based services to its consumers. The positioning technology involved in such offerings ranged from signal based technology to GPS systems.
  • The data interchange between each module uses proprietary formats and interfaces to the system are available at the periphery only
  • Application Service Providers who are partners to these service providers mentioned above develop LBS applications on Development platforms given to them.
  • The Application service provider rents GIS data servers and data updating to third party vendor or by them.
  • The GIS data Servers are based on proprietary or open standards based. The server is chosen based on the Application Service Provider’s requirements.
  • The Mobile Device manufacturers in association with Network Gateway Manufacturer provide LBS applications capabilities on the handheld devices.

The user of the service receives LBS information through different proprietary systems that are under a common business understanding. Commercial and technical interoperability between each system is on case-to-case basis.

IP Layering and Protocol Encapsulation with Location Data The Need for Standards in LBS
Cliff Kottman’s “Pizza Story” illustrates the various future network-resident services that might come into play when a motorist tells his “personal information appliance” that he needs Pizza for his kids when they are driving for beaches:

Voice Recognition software interprets a spoken request as a query for the nearest Pizza places. The broker submits the request along with coordinates and direction from the onboard GPS to a Pizza restaurant Database, which reports the nearest three Pizza restaurants’ addresses to a Mapping Service. The Mapping Service queries a Road Map Database and a set of preferences describing how the Pizza seeker prefers to have the data presented – map, voice directions, etc. It presents route information and preferences to the presentation service, which packages information for delivery to the Pizza seeker.

The Story illustrates the complexities involved in this area

Component on Network Data Updation

Emerging Standards in Technology
Standards have evolved over that last decade in information Technology and those have shaped major technological development. These include besides others

  • TCP and IP
  • WAP
  • XML, XLS and XLD and other W3C recommendations
  • OGC and ISO TC 211 recommendations, GML

The key to interoperability is in the use of standards. The use of Open standards insures faster development of such interoperable modules in a system of diverse technology components

Projected Benefits

  • All devices work any where, any time
  • Devices from different companies (perhaps with different positioning systems) work with all Net Servers – they will give the same answer
  • Services will be delivered on different wireless systems easily
  • How will hand off from one to the other be conducted by specified methods
  • Security can be ensured by owner encryption
  • Services can be extended beyond retail goods and services

The Road to open standards

Developing of standards for Geographic Data
The data formats about the point of interest have to be standardised for inter-module communication in a LBS. This includes standardisation of Meta Data and the geographic data itself. The ISO TC 211 and the OGC framework on Simple Geometry features provide the background to further development in this regard.

It follows that all such development would be based on XML specifications and others by the W3C.

Developing Standards for data interchange at different levels
Standards for data interchange have to be set up at an industry level that encompasses all parties involved. The TCP headers that need to be embedded at various levels of transport as shown in the figure need to be decided.

Development of components based on standards Iterations of Deployment, Improvement and Redeployment
Tools based on standards decided have to be developed quickly and benefits have to be demonstrated at the earliest. For example a product for Real-time updating of route network data for Route finding servers could be designed based on the architecture shown below. This would use standard data types defined for the geographic data and could be developed independent of the other applications on route finding.

As these tools and component are deployed and further opportunities are discovered need for further specifications and standards would come up.

This cycle of development and specification would thus help to ensure a better future for the LBS as a whole.

Open standards do pose an important opportunity for the Location services including that of faster developments, interoperability, wider competition and collective efforts in the industry.

It also calls for higher interaction between industry players. This would lead to lesser accountability for the entire Location based systems, as individual components would be obtained. This perhaps is the biggest challenge in the path of Open standards.

The authors wish to thank Tata Infotech Ltd for permission to carry out the work presented in the paper. The views presented are that of the authors alone.