Focus: The value web of the Location Based Services (LBS) and its challenges.
Defining LBS: LBS is a location technology that can be provided on any mobile unit (PDA, SmartPhone, personal navigation Device). The location of the mobile can be computed by triangulating the device by three adjacent Mobils Switching Centers (MSC) or by GPS imbedded in the device.
To make an LBS Service work , the following components talk seamlessly to each other. These include:
- The Mobile Unit (PDA, Mobile, Smart Phone, GPS etc.)
- The GSM Network of the Mobile Service Provider
- All the other OSS systems of the Network operator (for security, validation and authentication of user)
- The Location Enabling hardware and Software
- The systems of the Application Service provider (The LBS Provider responsible for fulfilling the request from mobile user)
- Enterprise Servers of other Business Service Providers (Like Pizza Hut, Travel Agents, Hotels, etc.) The LBS Engine and the GIS Applications and Databases.
How LBS Works?
Bill is traveling for the usual sales call and now needs a hotel reservation for his overnight stay. He sends an SMS to a Number say 7656 from his mobile, which is indexed to the hotel services. As soon as Bill's SMS is received, the service provider's OSS Systems (Billing, Security etc.) authenticates his credentials and immediately his request is routed to the Application Service Provider (ASP) to which 7656 is indexed.
Now the major task of the ASP is to provide Bill with hotel reservations information at location nearest to his current location say 15th Street. How does the ASP do that? The ASP fetches Bill's current location from the cellular Service provider at a cost (if Bill himself does not provide the ASP with his current location) and feeds it to the LBS engine.
The LBS engine does two things with the location information. Firstly, it fetches the reservation information (form Enterprise servers of hotels that have a tieup with the ASP) for Bill nearest to his location, and secondly fetches the navigable map of the area from a map database (hosted at the ASP). The LBS engine then overlays the hotel reservation information on the navigable map and sends the package to the ASP which further sends it to Bill through the cellular service provider.
This makes Bill's life simpler. All he did was sent an SMS. Now he knows where he is going to spend his night. And the good part is, he has directions to the nearest hotels.
While Bill was having a burger in the filling station on the 15th Street after he sent the SMS, some major events have occurred at the ASP and the GSM Network Provider’s systems:
- Locating Bill (Initiation of query by the LBS Engine based on Bill’s location)
- Interaction of LBS Engine with the GIS Server (for spatial data and map) and the Enterprise Servers (for Hotel Information)
- Information Exchange between the GSM Network (Bill) and the ASP (Through any installed network between the ASP and the GSM Network Provider)
- Display of information on Bill's Mobile (Graphical or Text)
- And finally the use of the GSM network of the mobile service provider.
In all of this accurate location of the Mobile is a major input. The other factors are speed of execution by the ASP and accurate information by the Enterprise Servers of hotels.
Bill's is a simple example of the LBS application. LBS could find usage in other areas where the location plays a crucial role. However, the major challenge is that the location obtained from the cellular service provider is not accurate (not as accurate as a GPS position) and involves a cost. As long as there is a cost factor involved in obtaining the location of the mobile, services will remain premium.