MOBILE COMMERECE: INTRODUCTION, FRAMEWORK, AND MODELS. What is mobile Commerce?.
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The term Mobile Commerce, mCommerce has been used to describe a variety of transactions conducted through mobile devices connected through the wireless network. Wireless networks like GSM, GPRS, TDMA, CDMA and UMTS enable the mobile device user to access a variety information stores on databases on connectivity providers, other service providers, and information providers, including information stores on web servers.
The term mobile device is used here to refer to devices like:*Cellular phones*Hand-held computers such as *palmtops, tablets PCs, etc.*Messaging/pager devices*Laptop computers*Personal digital assistants (PDAs)
Mobile commerce can be defined as any electronic commerce activity conducted over the wireless network through mobile devices.According to Tarasewich, Nickerson, and Warkentin (2002), mobile commerce includes “all activities related to a (potential) commercial transaction conducted through communications networks that interface with wireless (or mobile) devices”.It is the exchange of information, goods and services through the use of mobile technology.
Mobile Commerce is thus concerned and influenced by evolution in the following aspects:*Availability of information, goods and services. * Mobile devices and applications capable of effective and efficient interaction and rendering of goods and services. * The movement of information goods over a reliable network or bandwidth.
Vencent Cerf, the Internet pioneer, predicted several decades ago that the internet is likely to become so ubiquitous that it would disappear. The wireless network connected Internet is making this prediction come true. Handheld devices, like the blackberry, work on the internet mode, and users of these devices continually receive and send electronic mail, These handheld products have already made ubiquity a reality.
The dream sequence of yesteryears science fiction, such as, a refrigerator keeping track of inventory inside and sending alerts to a mobile user’s devices for refills, are all virtual possibilities today. The capability of monitoring household gadgets and turning them on and off while on the move has all been made achievable by mobile company connectivity.
Mobile commerce is all about integration of wireless networks accessed through handheld devices and internet. Much of the benefits offered by internet and electronic commerce are offered by the mobile commerce as well. Since the customer using the handheld device comes through specific wireless network through which the location can be identified. The location identifiable connectivity offered by mobile commerce not only enhances the benefits made available but the electronic commerce but additionally helps in providing more relevant content.
The round the clock (24X7) availability offered by the internet is also available to mobile commerce users. This benefited many users of electronic commerce as they could conduct their business and access information at convenient times and from the confines of their homes or any other place, provided it had internet connectivity.
The handheld device user, connected to a wireless network, can also meet the information access and transactions need round, the clock from any place, even while on the move. Mobile commerce extends the ‘anytime access’ paradigm offered by the electronic commerce to that of anytime and anywhere access.
In the mobile network connection, handheld devices successes the wireless network through the connectivity provider covering the current location. Thus, it is easy to identify the physical location of the handheld device user at a particular moment. This added knowledge about the physical location of the user provides the additional ability of customizing contents and offering location specific services.
Mobile service users can receive customized alerts, pointing them to the stores, friends, and restaurant in the vicinity of the user. A mobile user trying to locate an ATM teller can contact the banking service provider which in turn can download the location of the nearby ATM centre.
Mobile commerce offers a greater deal of flexibility in accessing the information through a personalized mobile environment. Timely information, such as flight availability and flight schedules, can be obtained even at the last minute. The last minute on-the-move access offered by mobile commerce extends electronic markets further as the last minute availability information often leads to immediate purchase.
Mobile devices, as they remain connected all the time and in possession of the user, can also be used for delivering time critical as well as emergency information. SMS based notification and alert services can be put to use to inform users of changes in flight schedules, stock prices, etc.
The very nature of wireless infrastructure assists in identifying mobile users in certain specified geographic regions. Thus, region specific promotion or information dissemination can be easily accomplished in the mobile commerce environment.
Mobile commerce offers better opportunity for personalization of information and delivery of content that is relevant to the mobile user. The mobile user can transmit the profile of services it is interested in at the moment. Based on the current location and the specific profile, the information can be customized to a match the user requirements in that local area.
For example, advertisers can deliver discount coupons that can be cashed in and around the location of the mobile location of the mobile user on the wireless handheld device. If the user requests information regarding certain products, the advertiser can deliver the wireless coupons of stores that stock the targeted products.
In other words, mobile commerce offers advertisers an opportunity to deliver time sensitive, geographical region specific information along with promotional discount coupons anytime, anywhere. The capability obviously enhances the reach and effectiveness of the cyber market.
Electronic commerce payment models require third party mechanisms such as credit cards. Mobile commerce, on the other hand, can utilize the mobile device itself for payment purposes, and payments made on the device can appear as part of the phone bills. Users can thus pay for parking meters, taxis, petrol, etc. through the mobile device. Pepsi and Coke have already experimented in Japan by letting people charge the cost of drinks to their phone bills.
Mobile device Handheld devices commonly used today include phones, and palm sized computers. The very nature and purpose of these devices offers a limited screen size.
In web browsing users can get a rich experience of browsing the product details on 800X600 pixel sized screens with rich colors and a tool set to offer 3-D and even video experience.
The graphic user interface of the web browser offers the point and click interface. Handheld devices provide a great deal of flexibility and mobility in accessing the information, they have far lesser convenient user interface when compared to personal computers.
Mobile devices offer menu based scroll and click interface.
The physical lightness and small-size of the device poses limitations in the development of convenient input and display interfaces. Additionally, mobile devices also have limited computing power and memory and storage capacity. As a result, they are unable to run and support complex applications.
Incompatible Networks; The cellular networks evolution in the past decade has created multiple competing protocol standards. In the United States much of the mobile networks deployed have been using Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA).
On the other hand, much any European nations and, the Asia-Pacific region adopted the General System for Mobile Communication (GSM). In India, most of the early cellular phone operators adopted GSM while the later entrant, reliance InfoComm, has adopted the CDMA for wireless networks. Although the interconnect arrangements do exist between the multiple players, yet mobile commerce application builders have to be aware of the heterogeneity of the network protocols and ensure that the application is able to operate seamlessly.
Bandwidth Access wireless networks use the frequency spectrum for exchanging information. In order to promote healthy competition amongst wireless operators and judicious use of limited spectrum, regulatory bodies control spectrum. In India, frequency spectrums were initiall allocated and regulated by the Department of Telecommunication (DoT). The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) was later set up to manage the spectrum.
Security Concerns: Mobile commerce operates over wireless networks making it more vulnerable to intruders compared to wired infrastructure. In the wired network, the intruder has to gain physical access to the wired infrastructure while in the wireless network the intruder can be anyone with the ability to receive signals on his wireless intrusion device.
Also, from the technology standpoint, the wireless infrastructure is faced with the following security related concerns:
The atmospheric interference and fading of signal in wireless channels causes frequent data errors and sometimes even disconnection. A disconnection in middle of a financial transaction can leave the user unsure and distrustful. Frequent handoffs as users move from cell to cell also add vulnerability.
Authentication of mobile devices prior to carrying out any transaction is a major issue. In case of GSM, the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) is used for storing the cryptographic keys, of its unique identity called International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI). The authentication server of the wireless GSM network stores the matching key and the IMSI of the subscriber as well.
Calls and short messages in the GSM are handled by the SIM rather than in mobile station holding the SIM card. The wireless networks can thus authenticating the SIM card. This mechanism of authentication is one way where the network is capable of authenticating the SIM but a SIM user cannot be authenticating the network. A sound commerce environment requires that both sides should be able to authenticate each other.
The disconnection and Hand-off issues pose additional problems in trying to maintain the identity of the mobile device and authentication of it being in order.
Mobile devices cannot handle full – fledged Hyper Text Markup Language (HTML) documents. In order to offer web access and offer similar services, two competing but incompatible standards have emerged. The mobile devices that adopt Wireless Access Protocol use Wireless Markup Language (WML) for mobile commerce applications, while the NTT DoCoMO’siMode devices use a condensed version HTML (cHTML).
In order to enable voice access and interface for displaying web content, VoiceXML, a new markup language, has also emerged. Incompatible standards make the task of mobile commerce application and service providers even more complex.
Mobile commerce applications require a reliable wireless network infrastructure to move the information and execute transaction in a distributed environment. These applications also rely upon two key component technologies,
i.e., the information publishing technology necessary for the creation of suitable digital content that can be browsed through handheld devices with limited memory, storage, and processing capabilities; and information distribution technology to move digital contents and transaction information over wireless networks. Thus, in the mobile commerce framework, network infrastructure forms the very foundation while publication and distribution technologies are the two pillars that support the creation of distributed mobile commerce applications.
In addition to technological infrastructure and applications, for electronic commerce to flourish it is essential to have a business service infrastructure. The business service infrastructure companies of directory services, location and search services, and trust mechanism for private, secure, reliable and non-repudiable transaction along with online financial settlement mechanism, that operate over the network.
The multi-layered architecture of electronic commerce, comprising of essential blocks, has been shown in Fig. 15.1.
The framework describes various building blocks enabled by technology for creating new market and market opportunities. The building elements of the mobile commerce architecture are described as follows:
The combination of several technologies such as the availability of digital communication through hand held devices, embedded operating software for processing information, and digital connectivity through wireless networks are all essential requirements for mobile commerce applications to operate.
Wireless networks have evolved from the basic voice only radio based analog transmission and have acquired the digital voice and data transmission capability. Wireless networks today are capable of achieving 2 Mbps data rates. The following Table describes the evolution of the wireless networks.
The early mobile telephone devices were basically analog voice only devices that offered voice communication using cellular telephony. The first generation, referred to as 1G in short, use a product of the analog cellular telephony developed in 1978 and deployed during the 1980s. 1G technologies were designed to transmit voice phone calls from wireless handsets. These calls are sent in the clear, and are easy to intercept using a scanner.
In the cellular mode of communication large geographical regions are identified and allocated to service providers. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) handles the allocation and other regulatory issues, such as how many players can operate within a specific area. Each of service provider is allocated a separate frequency sub-bands within the overall frequency allotment. Service providers operating in a particular region divide the entire region into smaller area called cells.
The cellular communication system consists of the components: the handheld device, the transceiver within a cell, and the Mobile Telephone Switching Office (MTSO). The service provider places an antenna at the center of the cell. The transmission and reception pattern of the antenna, also called antenna pattern or footprint, is such that it covers the entire cell. These antenna footprints are usually circular in shape. However, on the map they are depicted as hexagons for convenience as they offer an orderly pattern, as shown in fig. below.
Each base station is connected to the MTSO through one of the following ways, depending upon the cell traffic capacity, terrain, and distance between the MSX and cell.
In essence, the controlling MTSO for a base transceiver station offers the following functionality:
In essence, the controlling MTSO for a base transceiver station offers the following functionality:
In the AMPS, the handheld device or the mobile unit contains a modem that can operate and switch between many frequencies. The device also consists of three identification numbers.
System Identification Number: This is a 15-bit number that identifies the operator with whom this device is associated. The number also determines whether the device is native to the operator or in the roaming mode. In case of roaming mode, authorization needs to be obtained from the associated operator.