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A software that provides information about the place a person is visiting? Well, that is exactly what a group of computer engineering students at Jadavpur University have developed. We took a closer look at the software and its developers.
Under the supervision of Prof P.K. Das at the Centre for Mobile Computing and Communication, five computer science students of Jadavpur University, Kolkata, are working on providing Location and Context Based Services (LBS) for handheld devices such as PDAs, mobile phones and laptops.
Known as ‘Find Location’, the application provides accurate and useful information about the current location of the user. “Presently, there are some limitations to providing location-specific information on handheld devices from the existing GSM network. Our LBS project is about the implementation of a proposed cell-based architecture, where a base station detects Bluetooth or
How it works
To understand how Find Location works, let us look at a situation in which a person with a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi enabled mobile phone enters this magazine’s office . As she enters, a message will appear on the device’s screen, asking her if she wants to accept messages from the base station. If she presses ‘Yes’, then her mobile device receives messages that give information related to the magazine—such as the position of the different departments, the names of people heading those departments, etc. There is also, a device-specific application that would help in making a connection with the nearest base station, to which a query can be sent. Applications are location-specific—the same consumers with the same portable device will receive different sets of services and information, depending upon their location. A shopping complex with an LBS facility will provide different services and information from that provided by a bank with an
According to the application’s developers, LBS is the most rapidly expanding field in the mobile communication sector. The proliferation of the mobile/wireless Internet, and the increasing use of handheld and mobile devices, as well as position tracking technologies, have all laid the foundation for the introduction of such services.
The technology behind the application
The architecture of Find Location consists of a base station and mobile devices. The base station is nothing but a computer that is Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled, and connected to a GSM network. Bluetooth has a communicable range of 10 metres, while Wi-Fi has a range of 50-100 metres. It is the task of the middleware, which is developed using Java, to detect Bluetooth or Wi-Fi enabled devices in its vicinity, and to provide location-based services on to mobile devices.
The middleware consists of Wireless Markup Language (WML) and JSP, and it is deployed on a Tomcat Web server. The application that runs on the mobile device has been developed using J2ME. On the device front, the handset should have Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi connectivity. As Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are both device-oriented features, this LBS service will work on any device that is Bluetooth or Wi-Fi enabled, irrespective of the manufacturer or mobile service subscribed to.
The Bluetooth and Wi-Fi edge
The advantage of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi is that they can give location-specific details. For instance, if a base station is set up in the New Delhi railway station, it would give information regarding the arrival, departure and status of trains pertaining to only that station. GPRS, on the other hand, does not remain location-specific—it would give information about all trains at all railway stations.
“The novelty of Find Location is that the base station can provide services and location-specific information to heterogeneous mobile devices. Most of the researchers working in this field are trying to provide LBS over GPRS connections. Our proposed LBS platform utilises Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, when the device is in the vicinity of the base station,” points out Pampa Sadhukan.
The students aim to make their technology commercially available in the coming days and to also make it affordable. It is for this reason that they have opted for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth rather than GPRS, which is a paid-for service and does not have very good connectivity in closed areas (buildings, railway stations etc).
The road ahead
“In our proposed architecture, mobile devices would be able to invoke services anywhere in this world. This LBS platform could be used in the banking sector, in university campuses, airports and railway stations to invoke location-specific interactive applications from handheld devices. Service providers could integrate this LBS platform into their existing network toprovide LBS to consumers,” saysProf Das.
The next stage in the project is ‘Content Mapping’. Presently, with the Find Location service, the user gets the name of and the information related to that location, but the new service will display a map on the screen of the mobile device, with the path between the current location of the consumer (obtained from the ‘Find Location’ function) and the desired destination (specified by the consumer) highlighted.One can wave goodbye to getting lost, if that happens.