Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Diagram & Use Case of Location-Based Service System

I'm not a systems' theorist, but I do think to understand technology it helps to place it in relation to the larger technical picture. As such to help understand the various facets of how location-based services function, I developed a system-type diagram and a couple use cases.

Although they both simplify the actual technical and individual processes, I think they help explain how the various functions work together to deliver locative content.

Diagram: System perspective of location-based services (a digital library can be any database of digital content)
Diagram: System perspective of location-based services (a digital library can be any database of digital content)

Use Case A

In the first case, a user opens an application on a mobile device and submits a query. Queries may be general, such as “What happened here?” or “What’s here” or specific, such as “trees” or “architecture style”.

This query, along with the geographic coordinates of the user, which has been automatically or manually identified, is sent over the Internet to a digital library or information repository system.

The system then queries its database to determine which entries match the search criteria and the geographic location of the user. Automated indexing, manual classification, or author-supplied metadata can be used to determine the geographic footprint of an information object.

A method then determines the match between georeferenced information objects and the user’s query. Algorithms determine matches and sort the results, using geographic relevance and keyword analysis, information retrieval relevance factors, or a combination.

So a search for trees would return information about the specific trees found at the user’s location.

Use Case B
In a second case, the technical infrastructure is the same, but instead of a user querying the system directly, a user arrives at a location, accesses a location-based service to see a list of proximal points of interest (POI). These POIs could be businesses, attractions, landmarks, public spaces, etc.

To see these POIs a user may directly enter their location into the system (known as a check-in) or may have the location automatically determined.  The user then sees information concerning the POI, either facts (e.g., contact information, photographs) or user-generated content (e.g., reviews, ratings).

The user may elect to share their location with their contacts or add their own content about the POI.

As mentioned, this diagram and use cases offer a brief overview of the underlying and interconnecting topics. Although my future research looks at the individual meaning-making process upon receiving geotargetted information via a location-based service, there is certainly a need for research that examines the system as a whole.

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