Conceived of as an exclusive channel for communication and information transfer at the time of its launch in the 1970s, the Internet has transitioned over time into a vast, highly active business arena with millions of transactions being concluded daily owing to its e-commerce capability.
Data is transmitted over the Internet by a process of ‘packet switching’ over the Internet Protocol (IP). Thus the primary requirement for any device – computers, mobile phones or personal digital assistants (PDAs) – to be able to transmit and receive information over the Internet is an Internet Protocol (IP) address. Voice over IP (VoIP), Internet Broadcasting, and Wireless Mobile technology are the major IP based technologies that are in use today.
The latest technologies for broadband wireless data transmission to high-performance mobile terminals, has made it possible for mobile users to access the Internet just as if they were doing so from a PC. A deluge of handheld and other devices flooding the market now link to the Internet using the latest wireless and mobile technologies, thereby enabling users to access the Web without necessitating the use of a computer. The ability to interlink different mediums over the Internet using newer technologies has resulted in achieving levels of convergence today that could scarcely have been conceived of as being possible in the past.
Wireless Mobile Technology
Inter-net Protocol version 6 (IPv6) is set to supplant the concurrently running version (IPv4), owing chiefly to the potential it offers for a much larger address pool, besides several other advantages it offers over IPv4 for rolling out mobile technologies over the Internet. The five major areas where IPv6 scores over IPv4 are: addressing and routing, network address translation, administrative workload, security, and support for mobile devices.
The ability of IPv6 to support virtually unlimited IP addresses for networked devices is a boon for IP enabled mobile devices, as each device can potentially have its own IP address under IPv6. The routing of IP datagrams to moving terminals is now being achieved by the extension of the base protocol or IP by a macro mobility protocol called Mobile IP. IPv6 support features for Mobile IP (Mobile IPv6), far exceed those of IPv4 in areas like routing and network auto-configuration. More specifically, IPv6 eliminates triangular routing and simplifies the deployment of mobile IP-based systems. GPRS is the currently used technology in mobile handsets today, enabling users to access the Internet directly via their cellular phones. Online gaming, audio and video streaming are just as easy to access as information and email. Instant connectivity is achieved by the use of Wi-Fi technology with the added advantage of phenomenally high speeds of data transmission. In some parts of Europe and Asia (China & Japan), mobile IP enabled devices like cell phones and PDAs, are predominantly used, to a much greater extent than are desktop/laptop PCs.
According to Ross Dunn, CEO of StepForth Placement Inc., a search-engine marketing company, “the marketplace will see significant growth in 2007-2008 as Internet marketing companies jump into the fray and begin offering mobile site creation, promotion and optimization.”
Going the e-commerce way with Mobile technology
Commercial exploitation of the Internet has experienced explosive growth in recent years, but the best is yet to come with the promise of higher levels of service quality (QoS) with IPv6. The new IP protocol makes it possible for specified traffic flows to be labelled for special handling, including real-time service.
One of the significant events that has marked the advent of mobile e-commerce is the launch of a construct called dotMobi during end 2006.The concept of domain names was extended to the world of wireless mobile connectivity. Businesses could buy top-level domains to allow mobile devices to provide web-enabled services. Well known names like Hutchison, Samsung Electronics, Ericsson, Vodafone Google, GSM Association, Nokia, and Microsoft have displayed serious interest in this offering.
Although signing up for a .mobi domain is not a pre-requisite to doing e-commerce in the mobile environment, having a .mobi domain lends a certain stamp of credibility to the mobile site. By certifying that it conforms to dotMobi organizational standards, (which means that your mobile site will work hassle-free across a multitude of devices), it amounts to a stamp of approval for your site.
Experts have identified two distinct routes for businesses wanting to go mobile with their products and services:
a. To develop mobile applications that can be run on mobile devices to enable customers to buy the proffered goods or services. For instance, WeatherBug, an application designed by RiffWare delivers real-time weather content to subscribers who install it on their mobile devices. eBay Mobile is a services application which allows buyers to search for items, view a simplified items listing and bid and buy on selected goods, much like the website they host.
b. To have a mobile web presence by hosting a site that can be viewed directly on mobile devices. There are limitations in respect of screen sizes, graphic capabilities, and web elements have to be delivered across a range of different devices. So websites have to be custom designed for delivery to mobile devices, as the traditional forms are not likely to lend themselves to the mobile environment. It’s important that information can be accessed with a minimal number of clicks and typing.
There are a number of tools available today for businesses looking to build mobile websites. For instance, Mobisitegalore.com makes it possible for users to build a mobile website in a few clicks of the mouse – without necessitating any technical knowledge. Compliance with international standards is however a must for mobile websites, as consistency is assured. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3.org) charged with developing universal web standards, has approved a markup language for this purpose called the Device Independent Authoring Language (DIAL), which is similar to HTML in structure, although different in syntax. Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the Web says: “W3C and mobile industry leaders are working together to improve Web content production and access for mobile users and the greater Web.”
Mobile web hosting and payment gateways
When it comes to hosting, mobile sites can be stored on servers in much the same way as a conventional website. Both websites can share the same server, and in such cases, web hosting service providers will allow you to create sub-domains that point to folders on the server. Thus, a sub-domain for a businesses website would point to a folder on the same server that houses the related mobile web pages.
The way consumers buy goods and services via the mobile web are the same as for would in most respects be the same as the way they transact in the PC-accessed Internet. An e-commerce merchant account accessed via a mobile website would function exactly the same way as the traditional online payment methods. For instance, PayPal has launched PayPal Mobile, which allows PayPal account holders to send and receive money to and from other mobile consumers using password protected PIN numbers to put through the transactions. Users can make purchases on the mobile web with a single click.
Dealing with security concerns
Most web users are familiar with the https:// protocol and the closed lock at the bottom of the browser window that go together to indicate that the payment gateway is secure, when they are about to make a payment. In the mobile environment, there is a Wireless Transport Layer Security (WTLS) encryption in place that affords the requisite level of protection for monetary transactions.
Mobile web is still at its infancy in the U.S. as well as in other countries, given the interoperability and usability issues encountered in its promotion and proliferation. However, estimates show that with widespread usage of mobile devices that far exceed the use of PCs in many countries, the mobile web will gain the edge over the traditional PC-accessed Internet in the very near future. The W3C has published a Best Practices guide (“Mobile Web Best Practices 1.0”) and developed a Best Practices Checker Software Tool for mobile content. Work is afoot to develop a technology to support a range of Device Descriptions to address the issue of diversity in devices, one of the major challenges facing the expansion of the mobile web world. Under its W3C’s Mobile Web Initiative (W3C MWI), the World Wide Web Consortium proposes to make Web access from a mobile device as simple, easy, and convenient as Web access from a desktop device.