The term “mobile era” as a characterization of the 21st century can hardly be considered an exaggeration (Kalakota & Robinson, 2001). Mobile phones are the fastest penetrating technology in the history of mankind, and global mobile phone ownership has surpassed even the ownership of fixed phones. Mobile applications, despite potentially being very different in nature from each other, all share a common characteristic that distinguishes them from their wire-line counterparts: they allow their users to move around while remaining capable of accessing the network and its services. In the mobility era, location identification has naturally become a critical attribute, as it opens the door to a world of applications and services that were unthinkable only a few years ago (May, 2001). The term “mobile location services” (MLS) [or “locationbased services (LBS), as they are sometimes also referred to] has been coined to group together applications and services that utilize information related to the geographical position of their users to provide value-adding services to them (Rao & Minakakis, 2003). This article provides a concise introduction to the major types of MLS and also introduces the reader to the most important positioning technologies that render the provision of MLS possible. Finally, the article also introduces a number of issues that are critical for the future of MLS, including privacy protection, regulation, and standardization.
Categories Of Mobile Location Services
Mobile networks are quickly becoming ubiquitous. The ability to reach mobile phone users regardless of their location and, even more importantly, the ability to reach mobile phone users based on their location has created a new world of exciting and promising applications. While the possibilities for providing innovative MLS are limited only by one’s imagination, we will outline the most important categories of such services in this section.
Perhaps the clearest market application of MLS is the ability to locate an individual who is either unaware of his or her exact location or is not able to reveal it because of an emergency situation (injury, criminal attack, and so on). MLS are even applicable as a means of overcoming one of the most common problems of motorists, namely, the fact that, most often than not, they are unaware of their exact location when their vehicle breaks down. The ability of a mobile user to call for assistance and at the same time automatically reveal his or her exact location to the automotive assistance agency is considered one of the prime motivators for signing up subscribers to MLS (Hargrave, 2000).
Navigation services are based on mobile users’ needs for directions within their current geographical locations. The ability of a mobile network to locate the exact position of a mobile user can be manifested in a series of navigation-based services:
By positioning a mobile phone, an operator can let users know exactly where they are as well as give them detailed directions about how to get to a desirable destination.
Coupled with the ability to monitor traffic conditions, navigation services can be extended to include destination directions that take account of current traffic conditions (for example, traffic congestion or a road-blocking accident) and suggest alternative routes to mobile users.
The possibility to provide detailed directions to mobile users can be extended to support indoor routing as well. For example, users can be assisted in their navigation in hypermarkets, warehouses, exhibitions, and other information-rich environments to locate products, exhibition stands, and other points of interest.
Similarly, group management applications can be provided to allow mobile users to locate friends, family, coworkers, or other members of a particular group that are within close range and, thus, create virtual communities of people with similar interests.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Time of Arrival (TOA): A positioning technology where information is derived from the absolute time for a wave to travel between a transmitter and a receiver or vice versa.
Location-Based Services (LBS): A synonym for mobile location services (MLS) denoting applications that utilize the knowledge of one’s geographical position to provide added-value services.
Global Positioning System (GPS): GPS is the worldwide satellite-based radio navigation system. The system’s satellites transmit messages that a receiver uses to determine its own geographical position.
Mobile Location services (MLS): Applications provided over a mobile network that utilize information related to the geographical position of their users to provide added value to them.