Mobile location services, the subject of Andrew Jagoe's excellent new book, are poised to be the leading technology market of the first decade of the new century. Just as the synergy of computing and data communications produced a whirlwind of development, investment, and innovation in the 1990s, the rapid evolution and combination of wireless technologies, location determination, and enterprise computing ”globally linked through the Internet ”are generating the next great wave of creative growth in technology markets.
Jagoe has written the first book that explains and dissects all of the previously discrete technologies that are driving the mobile location services revolution. Through our work at Autodesk Location Services, we have learned that the effective deployment of scalable and reliable mobile location services requires knowledge of a broad, and previously orthogonal, array of hard and soft technologies. This comprehensive text is the first that presents the reader with the latest trends and standards in the entire portfolio of critical technologies: location determination, mapping software and databases, wireless and mobile networks, application software languages and interfaces, and mobile applications and platforms. Engineers and business people with expertise in just one of the aforementioned component technologies will learn how their piece fits into a unified mobile location environment.
The author draws extensively from a growing body of successful mobile location deployments, concentrated in the area of automotive telematics, that are proving a forerunner for a broader, telephone handset-based mobile location services market. The more than 1 million auto-based telematics terminals installed by the end of 2001 are ample testimony of the opportunities and attractiveness of the mobile location services market. This large and growing installed base of subscribers also provides multiple implementation examples, which are incorporated into the text for the benefit of those readers developing new mobile location applications.
I only wish that this comprehensive book was available to our staff as we developed some of the earliest automotive telematics services. In partnership with Fiat, Autodesk Location Services deployed a car-based information system that offers drivers real-time traffic reporting and driving directions, detailed point-of-interest information, and native-language concierge services across Europe. The development team had to integrate global positioning system and global system for mobile communication technologies; database interfaces to leading information vendors (like Michelin's famous restaurant guide); mapping and geocoding software; an administrative, billing, and provisioning platform (Autodesk's LocationLogic); and Fiat's multilingual call center. Experts in various fields needed a common technological baseline to communicate with their development colleagues in other disciplines. System architects and marketing and business managers required a technically rich overview to assess the multiple and interlocking requirements and constraints of a complex mobile location solution. This book provides an excellent and detailed tutorial on all of the necessary and relevant technologies for the mobile application developer.
What we learned through our early experiences developing and deploying the Fiat telematics service was the need to integrate the contributions of multiple content providers and application developers. An attractive and comprehensive solution for the subscriber required that unique value be aggregated from many diverse data sources and applications. It is clear that mobile location services will only thrive if there is an extensive application developer community that applies their creative talents to the problems and the needs of mobile subscribers. The market will develop rapidly and organically if robust and competitive independent software vendors are empowered to address the mobile location market. At Autodesk, we have witnessed the benefits that a large, active, and creative development community has had on the success and proliferation of the geographic information software market, an important component of mobile location services. It is my hope that this book will help enlarge the mobile location application developer community by bringing knowledge of the various mobile location disciplines to a wide audience.
What types of mobile location services are likely to prove successful, and therefore worthy of the application developer's time and effort? Our early experience at Autodesk Location Services points to three critical attributes that successful services incorporate : localization, personalization, and actionability. Localization and personalization provide a context and relevancy, a reasonable set of constraints on the set of possible options that the subscriber can select from the interface. These choice limits, which are determined by both the physical location of the user and his or her personal preferences and data, enable mobile location services to employ a concise and efficient interface. The limitless selection options and endless surfing of the wired Internet is impractical and unattractive for mobile users and, in the case of automotive telematics, downright dangerous.
However, personalization and localization are not enough. Our experience clearly indicates that successful services combine these context elements with actionability ”the ability of the subscriber to immediately employ or act on the information provided, whether that means accessing an alternate driving route to avoid traffic, changing a restaurant reservation because of delay, or buying a movie ticket at the nearest theater for the next showing.
Delivering these three elements to the subscriber requires a delicate and seamless interplay of database, Internet, location determination, and wireless services. It also requires the coordination and partnership of system operators, application service providers, m-commerce merchants , handset manufacturers, and platform providers. Mastering and merging the requirements and perspectives of these different players, and their technologies, is a central theme of this book.
For application developers that rise to the challenge of mastering the diverse mobile location landscape, the financial benefits will be considerable, in my view. With 20/20 hindsight, mobile location services can learn from the missteps of the early, fixed-line Internet application developers. Although this technical book does not advocate specific business models, it does address the critical need for secure billing and high-volume transaction accounting ”the basis for profitable service delivery, and a process at which mobile system operators excel.
I expect Mobile Location Services: The Definitive Guide to inspire a new generation of engineers and help propel a new wave of independent software vendors. Like Mead on VLSI design, or Hennessy and Patterson on computer architecture, Jagoe's book on mobile location services will be viewed as a technology classic and a key reference work. I continue to consult it on a daily basis.
Joe Astroth, Ph.D.