LBS, flexibility of information, semantics and transparency

Matching User's Semantics with Data Semantics in Location-Based Services by Shijun Yu, Lina Al-Jadir, Stefano Spaccapietra, Proceedings of the 1st Workshop on Semantics in mobile Environments (SME 2005), Ayia Napa, 9 May 2005.

One of the major issues for flexible information services is how to be able to correctly understand what is being requested by users, and how to find information that is relevant to the request. This paper focuses on such semantic issues, aiming at outlining the general problem as well as the specificity attached to location-based services, one of the major trends in mobile information systems. (...) From a semantic viewpoint, the major characteristic of, and challenge for, LBS is the fact that they serve as mediator between a possibly unknown user and possibly a priori unknown data sources. Moreover, the mediation has to be run on-the-fly, i.e., it cannot be prepared in advance as the partners in the mediation are not necessarily known. To overcome the difficulty, contributions from most advanced techniques are welcome. They include: ontology assistance (to understand what it is all about), peer-to-peer information search (to increase chances of finding relevant information), incomplete information handling (to cope with missing data), and approximation techniques (to determine what could be a reasonable answer when a perfect matching is not possible). (...) In this paper we showed how using semantics can help in finding information that is relevant to the mobile user, and thus improve the quality of location-based services. The context, user profile, user history, and data profile are dynamic semantic components that should be used in the matching process in order to give a tailored and useful information to the user.

Why do I blog this? even thought the LBS scenarios proposed in this paper are quite common, it deals with very pertinent issues with regard to what the users need, which information might be relevant for them and in what context. Besides, I like the idea adressed in the conclusion (I'm not a great fan of the example but...):

Nowadays, a user can use his mobile phone in Paris or London, without having to know that s(he) is using the telecommunication services of this or that local operator. Location-based services should offer the same flexibility. A tourist, whether s(he) is in Paris or London, should have tourist assistance by local LBS providers, and get relevant information according to his/her profile.

Of course, the idea of 'profile' might be expanded but I think the service 'transparency' to the users is important.