Identifying User Location
Location-identification technologies allow businesses and individuals to determine wireless users’ locations to within yards. Some of the most impressive m-business applications are lo-cation-based services, or applications that are supported by location-identification technologies. Location-based services can be used to improve wireless marketing, customer relationship management (CRM) and business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-employee (B2E) applications. For instance, if a business knows that a customer is near one of its stores or offices, the business could send notification of a sale or promotion to the user’s hand-held device. Emergency services and wireless accessibility also can be improved through the adoption of location-identification technologies. In this section, we introduce location-based services and their enabling technologies. We also examine the E911 Act, a government man-date that requires all cell phones to host location-identification technologies.
Location-based services are made possible by relationships among cellular service providers, cellular networks and mobile-device users. Many leading wireless companies have developed their own methods of determining a user’s location. Some considerations that affect these methods are bandwidth availability, communication speed and multipath errors (errors resulting from signals reflecting off objects like buildings and mountains).
1. E911 A\ct
The E911 Act (the “E” stands for “Enhanced”), put forth by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 1996 and signed into law in 1999, is designed to standardize and enhance 911 ser-vice across mobile devices. Its goal is to improve emergency response time to 911 calls made by cell-phone users. In addition, the Disabilities Issues Task Force of the FCC is making efforts to ensure that hearing- and speech-impaired people have access to 911 ser-vice through mobile devices. Although the E911 Act will improve the efficiency of emer-gency services, it raises concerns about wireless users’ privacy. Privacy issues in relation to wireless communications are discussed in Section 23.6.
The first phase of the E911 Act requires all wireless services companies to provide Automatic Number Information (ANI), or the phone numbers of cell phones calling in 911 emergencies. Carriers (such as AT&T, Verizon or Cingular) must also provide the loca-tions of the cell sites (a cell site identifies the coverage area of a tower that receives and transmits cell-phone signals) receiving the 911 calls. Emergency technicians can use this information to determine users’ locations, although only to within the range of the nearest tower. The second phase of the bill mandates that all mobile-phone carriers provide Auto-matic Location Identification (ALI) of a caller to within 125 meters, 67 percent of the time.
There are several benefits to the E911 Act. In many emergency situations, drivers do not know their exact locations. Information provided by the new technology can help emergency response teams accurately locate callers, improve response times and reduce the conse-quences of injuries. In addition, if a call breaks up or the operator cannot understand the caller, emergency personnel can obtain the information necessary to find and assist the caller.
2. Location-Identification Technologies
Location-identification technologies enable businesses to provide wireless users with loca-tion-based services. For example, when a user asks for directions to the nearest coffee shop, the wireless carrier can use triangulation to determine the location of the user’s wireless device. Triangulation is a popular technique employed by many location-identification technologies. A user’s location is determined by analyzing the angles of cell-phone signals from (at least) two fixed points a known distance apart. This information is presented to the content provider (the business offering the location-based service) in the form of a geocode (the latitude and longitude of the user’s location). The geocode is then translated into a map or step-by-step navigational instructions with the help of a mapping service and this infor mation is passed to the user. Figure 23.1 outlines various location-identification technolo-gies and their accuracy levels.
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