Revolving around presence

Posted: July 15, 2007 in Mobility

Mobile devices has became an integral part of our lives and today they have became small computers which touches every aspect of our life. Today’s mobile devices lets you do a lot of things right from making voice calls and sending text messages to checking emails, instant messaging and listening to streaming radios over the Internet. However I feel that this is not the end or saturation of services that can offered over mobile devices. The best services that can be offered over mobile devices are yet to come and I believe that those services would essentially revolve around a combination of services of user personalization and automation.

Take “Presence Technology” for example, this technology enables you to figure out if a user is available even before placing a call to him. There are a lot of personalization services that can be built around using this technology as the base. However privacy is one issue which makes user uncomfortable to enable himself with this concept. I mean, how uncomfortable would it be, if you have a feeling that some body is watching you all the time, someone knows, exactly where are you and what you might be doing. This uncomfortable feeling is a result of the idea, that your location coordinates is being continuously broad casted over the network.

However I still believe that most of the future mobile centric services would be based on presence. Not the current Presence Technology, I am talking about and technology that works just for you and not for others. A technology that doesn’t push out the coordinates of your device, but rather uses the coordinates of your nearest tower to offer you a variety of personalization and automation services.

Now what exactly do I mean when I say personalization and automation service ? Don’t confuse yourself with personalization of your device, when I say personalization. Here with personalization, I mean personalizing, not your device, but the information on your device to automate certain services for you.

So exactly what kind of information can be personalized ? I see the “Cell Info display” as one such service that can personalized. “Cell Info display” is available on almost all the devices today and almost all the users, happily keep it switched on, just to get an idea where they are. My idea of personalizing “Cell Info display” involves a small software that needs to be installed in your device. This software is a passive agent which does nothing unless you plan to use it.

Now the step 2 is, the user needs to define, just as one time activity, how a cell information relates to him. So say when my cell info display is showing “Accenture”, I would open up the software and map “Accenture” as “Office”. Similarly when my cell info display shows “Kumaraswamy”, I would map that info as “Home”. So now with this personalization of information, my cellphone knows my location. Here I am not broadcasting or requesting for any additional information. I am just personalizing those which are already there in every cellphone.

Ok now that I have personalized an information, how can I have automated services on this. The first service, that I see can be built over this is a “Reminder” kind of service. This service, unlike the current reminder service which works on the base of time, works on the base of location. Say for example, I need to return a book I borrowed from my office library, so I setup a reminder on a time based reminder service for next day at 10:00 AM. Now there is an unforeseen activity that I need to take care of in office at 10:00 AM (I came in at 9:00 AM, but had completely forgot that I have to return the book), the reminder service prompts me of my task, at 10:00 AM, but I am too busy to take care of it, so I ignore it and later I again forget about it. Or there might be a scenario, in which I have setup the reminder, but I didn’t go to office. The reminder goes waste and I have to setup a new one.

The reminder service could have been improved, if your cellphone had some personal information about you. This reminder service is based on the location, not on time. The location that you personalized from your cell info display. This is how the location based reminder service would work. I setup my reminder for the activity which I need to take care at office. So the next day, the moment I enter my office at 9:00 AM, the reminder service would immediately prompt me to return the book, I still have that unforeseen activity at 10:00 AM. Now further on, if I couldn’t go to office that day, my reminder would be quite as it knows that this activity cannot be completed as I am not in office. Later whenever, say after a week I enter the office campus, my reminder would remind me of the activity.

A combination of time element and location element can provide a lot of automated services, like send a text message to a local pizza store near my office, ordering for a pizza at 1:00 PM. So that at 3:00 PM, when my wife calls up, I don’t realize that I forgot to order for my food. A combination location + GPRS can help users dynamically update their address book when on the move. So when I am back to Mumbai, my cellphone will update itself the phone number of a Mumbai based Pizza Hut, rather than having one of Bangalore.

In summary, your cellphone can become more powerful, only if it knew where are you and you can sleep in peace, only if you are assured that no body is keeping an eye on you.

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