Location-Based Services – Components

copyrights:Aleksander Buczkowski 2011-2012

Creating and developing Location Based Service is very a challenging task. There are many components, players, and factors involved. Creating and maintaining interoperability and cooperation of LBS components requires from service developers using several standards discussed in details below.

LBS architecture is only one of the challenges, the other one is providing a service, which will reflect user needs or create a demand for such a needs, and will allow service providers to make a return on their investment. Otherwise, the business is unlikely to be sustainable. End user needs have to be given a significant attention during all stages of design process. In most of the literature user is considered the operator of the mobile device.  As the driver of the development and monetization of location-based services, the role of the user, cannot be diminished. Number and engagement of users reflects value of Location-Based Services and is one of the biggest assets of the LBS provider. It creates marketing possibilities and opportunities that properly utilized bring value to customers and return on investment.

Engaging users into active usage or participation in the service community is one the most difficult tasks. The example of one of first location sharing LBS – Loopt – shows how seemingly small problem can cause the service to be unsuccessful project. Loopt has faced early adoption issues because of its methods of recruiting new users with SMS text messages. By signing up to the services users were unconsciously authorizing Loopt to send invitations to the service to everyone in the user’s address book via SMS. The public did not accept this method and Loopt received a lot of negative attention.

Most of Location Based Services require several components. I have proposed the model of “5+1” components of LBS – five technological and 1 human related:

  1. Positioning systems – allow geographically localizing the mobile device both outdoor and indoor using: satellite-based systems, Cell-ID, RFID, Bluetooth, WiMax, Wireless LANs.
  2. Communication Network – the wireless network that allows for transfer of data between user (thought mobile device) and server (service provider).  Nowadays it is in most cases wireless internet (e.g. GPRS, 3G, 4G)
  3. Service and Application Provider – the LBS provider, including the software (e.g. GIS) and other distributed services and components that are used to resolve the query and provide the tailored response to the user.
  4. Data and Content Provider – service providers will usually not store and maintain all the information, which can be requested by users. Therefore geographic base data and location information data will be usually requested from the maintaining authority (e.g. mapping agencies) or business and industry partners (e.g. yellow pages, traffic companies).
  5. Mobile Devices – any portable device that has capabilities to utilize stated above components of LBS, for example: mobile phones (including smartphones), tablets, palmtops, personal navigation devices, laptops etc.
  6. User – operator of the mobile device and the person that is utilizing potential of modern mobile device and infrastructures in order to get value added information or entertainment.

‘Service and Application Provider’ and ‘Data and Content Provider’ might be the same actor in the LBS architecture. For example in the LBS application 3D World Gaze, Nokia is provider of both the data and the application. The majority of smartphone LBS applications developed by use geographic data of one of mapping services e.g. Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, Bing Maps, Open Street Maps.