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Review of "Location-based services fundamentals and operation" by Axel Küpper, John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 2005

Ubiquity, Volume 2005 Issue November | BY Keith Willett 


Full citation in the ACM Digital Library

Axel Küpper is the author of Location-Based Services Fundamentals and Operation published in hardback by John Wiley & Sons Ltd October 2005 consists of 365 pages; herein referred to as the text. The target audience includes students, lecturers, professionals, and developers with an interest in Location-Based Services (LBS). The text proposes to define LBS; present LBS commercial and government applications; present LBS actors, their relationships, interactions, and interdependencies; LBS standardization including standards and standards boards; and useful protocols, algorithms, and tools for LBS development… and succeeds in these goals.

In an attempt to compare the author's perspective with a quick Google definition search, a paraphrase of Wikipedia1 describes LBS as a GPS or cell-network providing restaurant location or North American E911 services. In a very broad essence, the text and Wikipedia agree; however, Mr. Küpper elaborates on the details in this definition and adds much more. Axel Küpper is an instructor at Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany (or for the LBS-savvy Elev 515 m N 48o 08' 58'' E 11o 35' 40'') and provides insight into LBS from an instructor's perspective with benefits to the LBS developer and researcher. Mr. Küpper introduces LBS terms, services, standards, protocols, databases, supporting infrastructure, and tools.

The flow of Location-Based Services Fundamentals and Operation includes LBS fundamentals, positioning, and LBS operations. The fundamentals include terms and acronyms to establish a common language; even the colloquial term location bears clarification with such qualifications as spatial-location and further distinctions between Cartesian coordinate system and ellipsoidal coordinate system and how to relate various two-dimensional projections (e.g. maps) to three-dimensional coordinates (e.g., Earth). Spatial-location is contrary to cyber-location where the real world blurs with the virtualities of the Internet connected global village.

Geometry best provides an abstract view of LBS and there follows the need for algorithms of computational geometry (e.g., areas of polygons and vector lengths) and operations research (e.g. shortest path) to relate subscribers, service providers, and service infrastructure. The text touches on this abstract view, the representation of this abstract view in an LBS solution, and certainly raises the awareness level of the reader. The text also provides a chapter on the technical basics of wireless that segues into a chapter on cellular networks and location management.

With a good grasp of LBS basics, the text next addresses positioning, or the "process to obtain the spatial position of a target,"² including positioning infrastructures, methods, positioning mathematics (e.g., partial differential equations), what works, and some insights to potential gotchas of LBS solution development. The text details differences between satellite, cellular, and indoor infrastructures. The depth of the technical details will benefit the serious researcher and developer, but lose the average reader with a casual interest in learning more about LBS. This is not to say the average reader will not benefit, they may find themselves skimming or skipping parts of the technical depth.

Of particular interest to the reviewer (that's me) is indoor positioning, specifically RFID.³ On the positive side, Mr. Küpper takes a step down from global and national infrastructures to provide an overview of building infrastructures; unfortunately, the details are at a very high level and a bit cursory. The good part is the LBS initiate will have awareness of building and campus LBS applications. While not covered in the text, of particular interest to the reviewer are LBS applications with respect to identity and privilege management. Consider an extremely large potential LBS application, e.g., the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) US-VISIT program with a charter to track border crossings and manage visitor presence in the US. The ability to provide global identity and privilege management (e.g., pre-boarding identification on US-bound plane), border crossing (e.g., indoor LBS), and stay management (e.g., national cellular system and GPS) touches on all infrastructures the text presents; that is, should the actual US-VISIT solution avail itself of RFID and other LBS technologies.

Having a grasp of fundamental terms, concepts, and positioning infrastructures, the text then proceeds to LBS operations, which includes the various players in an LBS solution; players may include infrastructure providers, database providers, consumer connection points, commercial service subscribers (e.g., restaurants, hotels), and consumers of LBS services. The details focus on potential protocols and tools to produce an LBS solution but fall short of providing operational examples. On the positive side, as a solutions and security architect, the reviewer finds the text to provide useful information with regard to the inclusion of LBS in enterprise architecture. The text provides enough detail to provide the architect with insight to traditional wired technology and provides a launching point into further research for subsequent engineering and solution details.

As a general principle, technical ability does not inherently include the right to exercise that technical ability; there is the need to consider ethical guidelines and legislative restrictions on the use of LBS and various LBS features. The text introduces privacy policies and considerations of privacy in LBS applications. Consider an example, not in the text, of a car rental company that buries deep a contract clause stating vehicles driven in excess of the posted speed limit will be charged $150 per occurrence, then sending out a bill for violations. Is this protection of company interests or an invasion of consumer privacy? Cool application, but personal preference leans more toward choosing another car rental company.

The text provides no details regarding security and LBS; neither the need nor use of security features within an LBS solution or the use of LBS in security solutions (e.g., the aforementioned US-VISIT example). With regard to identity management, LBS (e.g., RFID) may provide great advantages over land-locked biometrics (e.g., fingerprinting); the text however, does not address business applications to any depth. Mr. Küpper's intents did not include a business focus, so this is not a shortfall, rather an observation for improving future editions or on-line supplements.

Bottom line, having read the text, the reader is prepared to speak in LBS terms in such nuance as to determine the appropriate approach to an LBS project, discuss a variety of options, determine a reasonable approach, and begin the development of a solution. Location-Based Services Fundamentals and Operation, while not a landmark text, is a very good introduction and reference to LBS and related foundational concepts including appropriate enumeration and definition of terms, standards, standard boards, supporting infrastructure, and LBS applications. No single reference is an island of knowledge and is at best a stop over on the winding path from ignorance to enlightenment. This particular stop over on the path of LBS enlightenment contains eight pages of bibliographic references (thank you!) on which to pursue deeper knowledge from the perspective of academic research and the developer seeking services, standards, protocols, databases, algorithms, and tools. The typically astute membership of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) will find this text an enjoyable read as the writing is very good with a good flow to the subject.

[The reviewer, Keith Willett, is a Principal Computer Scientist for Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) Global Security Solutions (GSS) Department based out of Annapolis Junction, MD. With over 20 years in information technology, Mr. Willett performs the tasks of a security architect for commercial, federal, intelligence, and defense clients, authors white papers, RFP responses, and provides business and technical solutions for CSC customers.]

² Location-Based Services p. 123
³ Radio Frequency Identification


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