Advances in e-commerce have resulted in significant progress towards strategies, requirements and developments of e-commerce applications. However, nearly all e-commerce applications envisioned and developed so far assume fixed are stationary users with wired infrastructure. A new e-commerce applications that will be possible and significantly benefit from emerging wireless and mobile networks is envisioned. To allow designers, developers and researchers to strategize and create mobile commerce applications, a four level integrated framework for mobile commerce is proposed. Since there are potentially an unlimited number of mobile commerce applications, several important classes of applications such as mobile financial applications, mobile inventory management, proactive service management, product location and search and wireless re-engineering are attempted to be identified. It is discussed how to successfully define, architect and implement the necessary hardware/software infrastructure in support of mobile commerce. Also, to make mobile commerce applications a reality, networking requirements is addressed, support from wireless carriers is discussed, and some open research problems is presented.
Advances in e-commerce have resulted in progress towards strategies, requirements and development of e-commerce application. Nearly all the e-commerce applications envisioned so far assume fixed or stationary users with wired infrastructure, such as a browser on PC connected to the internet using phone lines on LAN.
Many people do not use a PC outside the office, but keep the mobile phone at their side all the times. Mobile commerce is perfect for this group.
M-commerce allows one to reach the consumer directly, not his fax machine, his desk, his secretary or his mailbox, but ones consumer directly, regardless of where he is.
M-commerce is the delivery of electronic commerce capabilities directly into the hands, anywhere, via wireless technology and putting a retail outlet in the customerâ„¢s hands anywhere. This can be done with just a mobile phone, a PDA connected to a mobile phone or even a portable PC connected to a mobile phone. M-commerce is also termed as wireless e-commerce.
BACKGROUND AND MOTIVATION
Electronic commerce has attracted significant attention in the last few years. Advances in e-commerce have resutled in significant progress towards strategies, requirements and development of e-commerce applications. Nearly all the applications envisioned and developed so far assume fixed or stationary users with wired infrastructure, such as browser on a PC connected to the Internet using phone lines or a Local Area Network. A new e-commerce application such as Wireless e-commerce or Mobile e-commerce will benefit one to reach the consumer directly, regardless of where he is.
The emergence of M-commerce, a synonym for wireless e-commerce allows one to do the same function that can be done over the internet. This can be done by connecting a PDA to a mobile phone, or even a portable PC connected to a mobile phone. Mobile Commerce is perfect for the group who always keep a mobile phone by side all the times. A study from the wireless data and computing service, a division of strategy analytics, reports that the mobile commerce market may rise to $200 billion by 2004. The report predicts that transactions via wireless devices will generate about $14 billion a year.
We are aware that consensus within business and industry of future applications is still in its infancy. However, we are interested in examining those future applications and technologies that will form the next frontier of electronic commerce. To help future applications and to allow designers, developers and researchers to strategize and create mobile commerce applications, a four level integrated framework is proposed.
This framework has four levels: m-commerce applications, user infrastructure, middleware and network infrastructure which simplifies the design and development. By following this framework a single entity is not forced to do everything to build m-commerce systems, rather they can build on the functionalities provided by others. The framework also provides a developer and provider plane to address the different needs and roles of application developers, content providers and service providers.
Content provider can build its service using applications from multiple application developers and also can aggregate content from other content providers and can supply the aggregated content to a network operator or service provider. Service providers can also act as content aggregators, but are unlikely to act as either an application or content provider due to their focus on the network and service aspects of m-commerce. Wireless carriers can play a very active and important role in the mobile commerce applications and services due to the fact that mobile user is going through their network to perform all mobile commerce transactions. Mobile user is likely to prefer a common bill for voice, data and mobile commerce services.
EMERGING MOBILE COMMERCE APPLICATIONS
There are potentially an unlimited number of mobile applications, we attempt to identify several important classes of applications and provide examples within each class.
Mobile Financial Applications [MFA]
Mobile financial applications are likely to be one of the most important components of m-commerce. They could involve a variety of applications such as mobile banking and brokerage service, mobile money transfer, and mobile payments as shown in the figure.
One interesting mobile financial application is micro payment involving small purchases such as vending and other items. A mobile device can communicate with a vending machine using a local wireless network to purchase desired items. Micro-payments can be implemented in a variety of ways. One way is that the user could make a call to a certain number where per minute charges equal the cost of the vending item. This approach ha been used by SONERA, a finish wireless provider, in the famous Coke machine service. In effect it collects money from the users and credits it to the vending providers.
Mobile advertising is also a very important class of mobile commerce applications. Using demographic information collected by wireless service providers and information on the current location of mobile users, much targeted advertising can be done. The advertising messages sent to the user can be location-sensitive and can inform a user about various on-going specials (shops, malls and restaurants) in surrounding areas as shown in figure.
This type of advertising can be performed using Short Messaging Service (SMS) or by using short paging messages to mobile users. The messages can be sent to all users located in a certain area, a user-specific message can be sent independent of the userâ„¢s current location. Since the services need the current location information of a user, a third party may be needed to provide location services. However this may require a sharing of revenues between the network service provider and location service provider.
As more wireless bandwidth becomes available, content rich advertising involve audio, pictures and video clips can be produced for individual users with specific needs, interests, and inclinations. It is also possible that direct advertising to users may be performed without much control from the wireless service providers.
Mobile Inventory Management (MIM)
This class of application involves location tracking of goods, services and even people. The tracking of goods may help service providers in determining the time of delivery to customer, thus improving customer service and obtaining a competitive edge over other business. One very interesting application is rolling inventory-which may involve multiple trucks carrying a large amount of inventory while on move. Whenever a store needs certain goods/items, it can locate a truck (preferably in nearby area) and just-in-time delivery of goods can be performed. The rolling inventory and delivery application can reduce the amount of inventory space and cost for both vendors and stores and may reduce the time between when an order is placed and the goods are delivered (shown in figure).
Location tracking of components can be broken into two components: indoor and outdoor. Indoor tracking can be performed by a chipset (TX/RX) And location information may be transmitted over a satellite or cellular/PCS system to the component supplier where such information is needed.
Product Location and Search (PLS)
This class of application includes locating an item in a particular area or location. This is concerned with finding an item with certain specifications and whether it is available in a specified area or not. Potentially, there could be multiple places where such an item or items of similar attributes are located. Currently many people are going to several stores to find an item (certain brand/size of TV, VCR or an automobile) and compare prices and features. Using a mobile device and centralized/distributed database containing information on products, a user should be able to find the exact location of the store where a certain item is located. After that the user can buy online using a browser on his/her mobile devise. In the case of multiple stores/vendors carrying an item desired by a user, they could compete to get customer by real time manipulation of prices or by offering instant discounts.
From the technological point of view, a mobile user can send a query message to a centralized location (shown in figure), which in turn can interface several different stores/dealers and decide if the item is available or not.
Proactive Service Management
This class of application is based on collecting pertinent information about current or near future user needs and providing services to users proactively. One such application may involve collecting information about the aging components of an automobile (shown in figure).
This would help reduce anxiety levels of owners and improve the general conditions of automobiles on the road leading to the reduced number of traffic jams, accidents and even fatalities. From the technological point of view, automobiles can be equipped with smart sensors that keep track of how much wear and tear a car component has gone through. This information can then be transmitted using a radio/microwave/satellite system to a specified service center or other location. Some implications of such applications are privacy, security, reliability and cost of deployment.
Wireless Business Re-engineering
Many insurance business situations involve going to customerâ„¢s premises, taking notes of a particular situation, going back to the office and then taking suitable actions. This process takes a long time and is not very efficient. To improve this business practice, a wireless re-engineering application can be used which allows on-the-spot claim adjustment. In such a scenario, a claim adjuster goes to the customers place, takes picture and stores them in his/her mobile device for uploading to the companies database. Using a small printer attached to the mobile device, he/she prints a claim check. This entire process is performed in minutes as opposed to days.
WIRELESS USER INTERFACE AND MIDDLEWARE ISSUES
To make the application described previously a reality, several functional components are necessary as highlighted in the first figure.
Although it is able to do some simple mobile commerce transactions using a simple hand-held device, many sophisticated mobile commerce applications require other capabilities. For example,
Dynamic, adaptable and smart user interface that learns from and with user,
Ability to accept user input in many forms including voice,
Ability to display rich and usable contents,
Location awareness and ability to track users, products and devices,
Multi network interfaces for increased and reliable wireless access,
Basic security features to handle malicious code, support for authenticating user, services and applications,
Ability to work with and adapt to mobile commerce applications with diverse requirements,
Possible support for context awareness,
ability to discover and download upgraded applications and software proactively,
An operating system that can manage resources to support many of the functions.
Some of these features are already available in hand-held devices. Many of these capabilities will increase the size and weight significantly, and thus, potentially affect the usability and portability of these devices.
Wireless and mobile middleware for mobile commerce
Traditionally, middleware unites different applications, tools, networks and technologies; allowing user access via a common interface. Mobile middleware can be defined as an enabling layer of software that is used by the applications development to connect the m-commerce applications with different networks and operating systems without introducing mobility awareness in the applications.
To allow for web content to be accessible from everywhere, from PCs to TVs to palm devices to cellular phones, the World Wide Web consortium (W3C) had developed several recommendations. These recommendations include the Extensible Makeup Language (XML) for richer semantic information, improved Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) and Extensible Style Sheet Language (XSL) to further separate content from presentation, and a Document Object Model (DOM) which defines a language independent application programming interface that applications can use to access and modify the structure, content and style of HTML and XML documents.
WIRELESS NETWORKING INFRASTRUCTURE
In this section the wireless networking requirements for various mobile commerce applications are being discussed. Mobile commerce applications would present five general networking requirements: location management, multicast support, network dependability, and support for Quality-Of-Service, and the ability to roam across multiple wireless networks. To help network designers and developers, we translate these five networking requirements into more specific attributes as shown in the table.
Wireless infrastructure requirements for mobile commerce
Networking requirements Specific attributes
Multicast support 1. support for multicast in infrastructure wireless networks
2. support for multicast in ad hoc wireless networks(much more difficult due to dynamic topology and other factors)
3. group connectivity under mobility/failure
4. synchronization/ atomicity of transactions from multiple users
Network dependability 1. impact and frequency of component failure
2. fault-tolerant design
3. user access to multiple networks
4. levels of network availability
Quality -of â€œservice 1. bandwidth requirements
2. delay and delay variation
3. tolerable loss characteristics
Roaming across multiple networks 1. handoff among multiple wireless networks
2. keeping track of users across networks
After identifying the various networking requirements and specific attributes, a global and comprehensive wireless infrastructure for mobile commerce applications is presented as shown in the figure.
This infrastructure also supports efficient location management, multicast and fault tolerance to increase levels dependability.
M-COMMERCE ISSUES FOR CARRIERS AND DEVELOPERS
Wireless carriers can play a very active and important role in the mobile commerce applications and services due to the fact that a mobile user is going through their network to perform all mobile transactions. Service providers can also act as content aggregators but are likely to act as a clearing house for content and application providers in advertising and distributing their products to its customers.
Wireless carriers are also to face challenges involving how to price mobile commerce services, and because several carriers are likely to be involved in completing a mobile commerce transaction, another issue is hoe to divide revenues among multiple carriers.
There are many important issues that need to be addressed before mobile commerce applications can be widely deployed. These include the development of new business models for charging wireless customers and for revenue division among providers, maturity of application software, middleware support, vendor support and user trust necessary for conducting mobile transactions.
There are some important issues for developers of m-commerce applications. These issues are presented in the table below.
Due to the potential values of many mobile commerce applications, atomic transactions may be necessary. It is possible that the mobile middleware may provide most of such functions and thus reducing the amount of work needed to support atomic transactions.
Some important issues for applications developers
Network processing and storage requirements Band width and delay requirements (real-time vs. non-real time applications)
Mobile device capabilities
Multicasting for group communications
Symmetric vs. asymmetric processing and storage
Development Use of any existing Software Development Kit (SDK)
Simulation of environment where application will be used
Maximum number of simultaneous users
The size of application code
Support for secure transactions
Support for fixed users
Compatibility and interoperability Independence from the underlying wireless access technologies
Independence from the device functionalities
Interoperability with IP
Compatibility with Wireless Application Protocol (WAP)
Desirable features Support for intermittent connectivity
Adaptive to the user and network environment
Support for atomic transactions
User specified features invocation
INTERESTING RESEARCH ISSUES IN MOBILE COMMERCE
There are many interesting research problems in mobile commerce. Some of these are unique due to the limitations of mobile devices and wireless networks and some are similar to research problems that are currently being addressed by e-commerce research developers. The problems that are unique to m-commerce are:
Novel applications and services made possible due to the wireless networks and mobile devices.
Security and privacy problems that are unique to wireless networks and mobile devices.
Middleware issues that are unique due to device, network and protocol limitations
Role of different wireless networking standards
Adoption factors of mobile devices that are significantly different in different parts of the world
Context and location awareness in unique to mobile commerce as many of the applications are sensitive to the context and the location of a user.
The research problems that can be addressed by the existing e-commerce research with some modifications and extensions are:
Strategy of new service offering
Role of m-commerce providers
Adoption of new services
Pricing models and sensitivity analysis.
CONCLUSIONS AND FURTHER RESEARCH
Mobile commerce is an interesting and challenging area of research and development. It presents many issues that cover many disciplines and may best be addressed by an active participation of computer and telecommunications experts, social scientists, economists and business strategists.
It introduced several new classes of applications, reviewed networking requirements, and discussed application development support. Since the area of mobile commerce is very new and still emerging, several interesting research problems that are currently being addressed or should be addressed by the research and development community. It is believed that user trust will play a crucial role in acceptance and widespread deployment of mobile commerce applications.
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2. BACKGROUND & MOTIVATION
3. EMERGING MOBILE COMMERCE APPLICATIONS
4. WIRELESS USER INFRASTRUCTURE AND MIDDLEWARE ISSUES
5. WIRELESS NETWORKING INFRASTRUCTURE
6. M-COMMERCE ISSUES FOR CARRIERS AND DEVELOPERS
7. INTERESTING RESEARCH IN M-COMMERCE