Published on January 31, 2009
How Context Awareness InsighT Makes LBS Meaningful! i n recent times, there has been a Location based services (LBS) may be the rage around lot of talk about location-based the world, but have not made their presence felt in India. services (LBS) – applications that Could context awareness hold the key to their success? integrate geographic location while delivering relevant information. Interestingly, LBS as a concept is not new. It is in fact almost a decade old and has been in use in the enterprise domain for years. However, it has not made its presence felt in the consumer sector for some rather interesting reasons. One cannot have a tasty dish without the right ingredients. Well, the same applies to technologies. . Some of the ingredients considered necessary to make LBS relevant to a broader base of consumers were the existence of standards, efficient computing power, friendly yet-powerful human-computer interfaces, higher penetration of feature- rich smartphones, GPS (global positioning system) devices, a geographical database for locations, and a rich collection of points of interests. While most of the ingredients seem to have reached the threshold to enable the use of LBS in developed countries, developing economies like India are still struggling in this regard. Perhaps India’s dense population and middle class dominance doesn’t make investment intensive ingredients like GPS devices, smartphones, PNDs (portable navigation devices), etc, a common need. Thus, delivering location-based services has been a greater challenge in this part of the world and requires different strategies from those that succeeded in the west. 57 i.t.|www.itmagz.com|February 2009|
The need for LBS InsighT One of the developments in the LBS industry has A rapidly changing landscape, been the emergence of technologies that have lack of navigation planning, and demonstrated a viable solution without needing a increasing traffic are some of the GPS device. factors that are fuelling a rising need for highly efficient navigation and allied services for the masses. used via Web browsers and hence context-aware computing technology An efficient navigation system can considered as Web services. The to assist everyday activities. This team also act as the backbone for other additional challenges to be considered admitted that the majority of context- services to be delivered along an are the richness, personalisation and aware computing is restricted to active route the user is travelling ubiquity of services to the mobile location-aware computing for mobile through -- what are known as ‘vertical user, and the linking of services to a applications and not the location- location-based-services’. Live traffic relevant context. context-aware computing. information, local search, permissive Therefore, another challenge Therefore, this is perhaps the local advertisements, mobile contact has been the lack of understanding fundamental intelligence that is needed trackers and SOS, are some examples among application developers about to be delivered to make LBS more of vertical LBS what makes a location-based service appealing to the user. One of the developments in appealing to the common person. What is context awareness? the LBS industry has been the Systems that can deliver intelligent emergence of technologies that information in relation to the context Is the fact that I am at Lajpat have demonstrated a viable solution of the user’s location simply do not Nagar in Delhi, contextual information without needing a GPS device. exist. The entire LBS bouquet has about me? Well, actually it is location Operators themselves have been been revolving around harnessing awareness about me and not location trying for more than half a decade to the value out of the users’ location context awareness. But add to that use dynamic location awareness to awareness and not the location’s the fact that it’s a Sunday afternoon; provide customised mobile services to context awareness. This is a fact Lajpat Nagar is a busy shopping area; consumers, but there has nevertheless that is confirmed by the research and as my office is not located here, been a noticeable delay in bringing team under the Future Computing the chances are that I am probably efficient location-based services over Environments (FCE) at Georgia out shopping, would be contextual mobile devices. Tech, which is dedicated to the information related to my current Today, such services are often invention of novel applications using location. Another example of contextual information would be the fact that as it is December, it is likely to be cold in The graph shows the upward trend being observed over the past few years in the usage of feature rich phones–one of the necessary ingredients for LbS usage Delhi and there’s a fair chance that I might go to a restaurant to have some hot beverage. Similarly, a famous dry-fruit shop in the area may like to notify me that it is offering cashew nuts at a discount. Since most people are in a frame of mind to shop in that area, chances are that they may go there to check the prices and end up making a purchase. Since it is winter, chances are that most shoppers are looking for woollen clothes on discount in the area and, 58 | February 2009|www.itmagz.com|i.t.
hence, a merchant offering special The entire LBS bouquet has been revolving InsighT discounts on woollen clothes may around harnessing the value out of the users’ like to advertise it to every person location awareness and not the location’s context entering the area. This is an example awareness... perhaps the fundamental intelligence of advertising based on the location context-awareness of the consumers. that is needed to be delivered to make these Such information delivered on services more appealing to the general user. mobile phones with the address of relevant merchants and last-mile similar to happen. to the user. Working out ways of directions can act as icing on the delivering context aware information Computing contextual cake and enhance the experience of is quite a challenge because the habits information consumers. and behaviour of people change from However, we have not yet seen The general mechanism for place to place. intelligent ways of collating and computing location contextual What if I update my Twitter managing this information to make it information can be broken into three account saying, “Going for shopping relevant, interesting and useful for the steps: to Lajpat Nagar this evening,” and the customer, while increasing the reach of Information collection: Collecting system linked to my Twitter account advertisers. information on the user’s physical, deciphers this information and sends One way is to passively collect informational or emotional state. me an SMS asking, “Would you like mobile location data in real-time from Context extraction: This involves to receive various discounts and offers users’ mobile devices or other possible analysing the information in relation in Lajpat Nagar this evening?” Now, sources, and then classify people into to other information such as location, that would be interesting. various categories based on their time, environment, social and mental Similarly, before I start my journey, behavioral patterns over time. This state, etc. what if there was a method to push will ease the process of inferring traits Pattern recognition: This entails various discount offers to me between about particular places and the type predicting patterns in the consumer’s certain time slots? Perhaps I could of people that visit them; what people behaviour, over time. even specify the keywords indicating do at these places and what are they All the aspects by themselves which discounts I’d be interested likely to do next. This information require expertise and thus demand in, i.e., offers based on my brand can easily be used to decipher changes individual teams to collaborate and preferences. in consumer behaviour over time, come up with an efficient solution. I cannot see too many consumers predict trends and hence, this data can Issues that may surface in this complaining if such information be correlated with various industry regard are likely to be that of privacy is available to them, although domains like retail, travel, tourism and and spam. Solutions will have to be some might object if too much entertainment. developed to tackle these issues if of it is pushed at them. Like all A few companies in the west, like LBS is to succeed. great products, even context aware Rocking Frog and Sense Networks, applications are subject to overkill. Advantage, consumer! have made some efforts in this That said, if used effectively, such direction but unfortunately, the Indian No technology is going to be applications can deliver phenomenal arena is still waiting for something popular unless it offers some benefit value to the consumer as well as the advertiser. We have not yet seen intelligent ways of collating Piyush Gupta and managing this information to make it The author is the co-founder of RouteGuru: a pioneering LBS startup. As a South Asian Steward for the Institute For The Future at Stanford University, relevant, interesting and useful for the customer, US, he closely observes LBS industry trends. He writes a blog titled ‘Indian LBS Insights’ and can be while increasing the reach of advertisers. reached at firstname.lastname@example.org 59 i.t.|www.itmagz.com|February 2009|
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