While electronic commerce (e-commerce) continues to have a profound impact on the global business environment, technologies and applications have begun to focus more on mobile computing and the wireless Web. With this trend comes a new set of issues and problems specifically related to wireless e-commerce. Ultimately, researchers and developers must determine what tasks users really want to perform anytime from anywhere and decide how to ensure that information and functionality to support those tasks are readily available and easily accessible. This paper provides an overview of some of the relevant technologies, applications, and issues in the relatively new field of wireless e-commerce. Wireless e-commerce (also called mobile commerce or m-commerce) is the promotion, buying, and selling of goods and services through electronic data communication networks that interface with wireless (or mobile) devices. Wireless e-commerce is a subset of wireless computing, which is the accessing of information systems by wireless means. Many of the issues that affect wireless computing in general also affect wireless e-commerce.
Mobile Client Device Technologies and Issues
Cellular networks are increasingly used for more than voice calls. Improved handsets and the networks' increased data transfer speeds have resulted in the development of a range of sophisticated mobile phones or'smart phones'andhandheld PCs/personal digital assistants (PDAs).
Technologies connected with cellular phone services include:
- global positioning system (GPS)- allows the position of a device to be precisely located
- short messaging service (SMS)- text messaging
- multimedia messaging services (MMS) -allows the sending and receiving of other communications such as images, audio and video
- wireless application protocol (WAP)- the collection of services that allow web access on mobile phone devices
- global system for mobile communication (GSM)/general packet radio service (GPRS)- data transmission services carried over cellular networks
- 3G- third-generation data transmission services that promise higher data rates equivalent to broadband networks
Mobile phone handsetscan offer access toemail,SMS,GPS,MMSandWAP.Smart handsetscan offer remote workers access to mobile business applications and wireless internet services. For example, combining MMS with internet technology enables staff to take, record and show images in real time.
Using web-service technology, businesses can create new applications for mobile phone business use - eg enabling customers using mobiles or PDAs to access wireless ordering, billing and online buying.
3G networks offer faster data transferand allow the development of more handset-based real-time business applications. Although GSM and GPRS data services will still be available for many years, the faster data rates available with 3G mean that it offers a more attractive service, and over time it will replace the other two services.
- Costs for handsets and network operators' packages vary enormously.
- Data services may initially be expensive to use.
- Mobile network speeds have not increased as quickly as predicted.
Communications Infrastructure Technologies and Issues
The communications infrastructure necessary for the wireless Internet environment is quite complex. Wireless devices are likely to remain at a disadvantage over their wired counterparts in terms of bandwidth. Limited bandwidth is a significant problem that requires organizations to rethink how users interact through a wireless device with an information system. An important issue is how to create efficient applications that can realistically work with current technology.
Local Area Network Technologies
IEEE 802.11 and IEEE 802.11b are established wireless standards commonly used with laptops or personal computers for wireless local area networks. This technology provides speeds of 1 to 11 megabits per second (Mbps). Bluetooth is a relatively new, inexpensive short-range wireless standard that allows different devices (such as laptops and mobile phones) to communicate with each other. The maximum distance between devices is about 100 meters, and data exchange rates are 1 to 2 Mbps. HiperLAN is a set of wireless LAN standards, primarily used in Europe, which provides speeds up to 20 Mbps.
Issues that must be addressed concerning local area network technologies include a lack of compatibility between the different standards and the related difficulties involved with devices trying to interface with more than one communications environment.
Frequencies used for wireless LANs are expected to become very crowded very fast. There has also been recent concern about possible interference problems between different signals of different standards.
General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), based on GSM, is a continuous packet data service. Using this technology, network connections are "always-on", and mobile users need not dial into the Internet each time they need to access an application. GPRS promises data rates from 56 to 114 Kbps. GPRS communication channels are used on a shared basis, only sending or receiving packets as needed, rather than maintaining a continuous dedicated line as with circuit-switched services.
UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) is a so-called "third-generation" (3G) technology. It offers broadband, packet-based transmission at rates that exceeds 2 Mbps. Based on GSM, UMTS is the planned global standard for mobile users. With the implementation of UMTS ,computer and phone users can be constantly attached to the Internet and have access to a consistent set of services worldwide.
Many of the issues with telecommunications technologies are similar to those found with LANs. There are distinct bandwidth limitations with the older generation technologies, which make it difficult to develop efficient applications for all technologies.
Standards vary from country to country, making it difficult for devices to interface to networks in different locations. An additional issue is the high initial cost of establishing a wireless network that uses these technologies.
Other Wireless Technology Issues
Security of wireless information is another important technical issue in m-commerce. Users and organizations will want assurance that their wireless communications and transactions are not intercepted. Organizations that set up wireless LANs must realize that there are no physical boundaries limiting their networks, and that people and devices outside the organization may have (inadvertent) access to their systems. Frequency hopping can make it more difficult to intercept data communications. Encryption technologies can also help, but will need to be made more efficient and more foolproof. The increased use of wireless devices for e-commerce makes the issue of positive identity verification even more important yet more difficult to ensure. One consequence of this need is the increasing importance of biometrics. Location technologies, especially the Global Positioning System (GPS), will also play a large part in wireless communications. However, privacy issues must be addressed, such as how personally-identifiable data and location data should be used.
The global use of wireless technologies and applications adds another layer to the problems and issues in m-commerce. One important issue is the current lack of standardization throughout the world. Mobile phone standards vary from country to country and even within a country. A global initiative for universal standards would foster greater growth in m-commerce.
Security in wireless technology
Wireless networks can be more vulnerable to attack than traditional wired networks. Potentially, anyone can connect to a network or intercept another's connection. Security is, to a large extent, dependent upon the user making the most of the options available, such as the in-built encryption mechanisms offered by wireless networks and virtual private networks (VPNs). The main points to bear in mind are:
- Access to a wireless local area network (WLAN) should bepassword-protected- most products allow this facility but you must make sure that it is enabled.
- Security standards are constantly evolving, soresearch the marketthoroughly and choose upgradeable kit.
- Always activate thedata encryption methodsthat come with most wireless networks and remember to reset the default passwords. Some WLANs can be upgraded to the new WiFi (wireless fidelity) protected access standard, so check what is on offer before you buy the hardware.
- The use ofVPNscan further enhance the security of wireless networking - see our guide on how toget the most from your network.
Security of networked devices
- If a personal digital assistant (PDA), smart phone, or laptop is lost or stolen, make sure youshut down access to the networkquickly by informing the service provider, and by revoking access privileges associated with usernames and passwords.
- Use thein-built security and encryption optionsto bolster device security - the operating manuals will describe how this is done.
- Usepersonal firewall softwareto determine what data the user is permitted to see in potentially insecure places, for example when the user is accessing the network from a WLAN 'hotspot'.
- If your staff access sensitive data on mobile devices, give them training to ensure that they keep these devices and their data safe.
Some of the applications of wireless technologies to e-commerce activities that have started to appear across the globe are summarized here. Many of these are currently constrained by technology limitations and issues described previously. Two fundamental application issues that researchers and developers must address are what tasks do users want to do without regard for temporal or spatial constraints and how to provide support for these tasks through wireless applications.
E-commerce payment systems can also benefit from wireless technology. One scenario involves a consumer not having to standin line to make a purchase, but simply paying for an item though a wireless device. Final payments might even be billed to a telephone company. Bluetooth technology may enable a list of available services to be generated automatically on a device when a user walks close to a Bluetooth-equipped cash register.
Wireless technology is well suited for bringing e-commerce to automobiles and other forms of transportation. Traffic advisory systems can warn of impending traffic jams. Cars will eventually be able to report potential problems to service centers themselves. The service center might even make minor adjustments to the car online. Car-mounted devices will eventually allow regular Internet access, although safety issues of "browsing while driving" must be addressed.
While most initial mobile commerce applications seem to be aimed at the business-to-consumer market, business-to-business and intranet applications are also appearing. Service technicians can be dynamically assigned new tasks and sent problem information while they are traveling. Sales people can go literally anywhere in the field and access product information and customer accounts, although the applications right now are still subject to the constraints of current wireless devices. Organizations must address the issue of designing complex, robust applications that work well within these current (and any foreseeable) device limitations.
Flexibility can be integrated into designs to enable future functionality.
Wireless devices continue to change rapidly. Wireless technology has brought great evolution in ecommerce and its improving rapidly. This day's mobile version of website are created. Customer prefers shopping and trading through mobile. In many situations all the bills are paid via mobile phone. Wireless ecommerce occupy great deal of market and its growing rapidly. Wireless technology is easy to use and had more benefits but there are some security loop holes.
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