Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mobile! More than a device for communication!!

We have had many posts stressing upon the advantages of a mobile, I share some more ideas. Though a few of the ideas which I have written about below currently exist on a piece by piece basis, a complete implementation of these ideas is yet to happen in the markets.

Have you ever thought of an application on your mobile through which you can do banking, access your company e-mails, pay your bills, fix an appointment with your doctor, pay your child’s school/college fees, book your tickets, and more? All these facilities together in a single application on your mobile?

Yes, the day has come! Without the pain of registering on different sites, without much of GPRS charges and with the facility of offline access to your details JAVA ME has made this possible. And the day when you use your mobile as a remote to open and shut doors, swipe it before a reader in a shop to buy a ring for your loved ones, or use it to buy vegetables in vegetable shop, is very near! The day will mark the complete evolution of Golden M-Commerce era with the support of JAVA ME.

What is JAVA ME?

Java Platform, Micro Edition (Java ME) provides a robust, flexible environment for applications running on mobile and other embedded devices—mobile phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), TV set-top boxes, and printers. Java ME includes flexible user interfaces, robust security, built-in network protocols, and support for networked and offline applications that can be downloaded dynamically.

The Java ME technology is based on three elements;

a configuration provides the most basic set of libraries and virtual machine capabilities for a broad range of devices,

a profile is a set of APIs that support a narrower range of devices, and

an optional package is a set of technology-specific APIs.

Over time the Java ME platform has been divided into two base configurations, one to fit small mobile devices (Connected Limited Device Configuration )and one to be targeted towards more capable mobile devices like smart-phones and set top boxes (Connected Device Configuration). The MIDP specification was defined through the Java Community Process (JCP) by an expert group of more than 50 companies, including leading device manufacturers, wireless carriers, and vendors of mobile software. MIDP 1.0, MIDP 2.0, MIDP 2.1 mobiles are currently available world wide. MIDP 3.0 devices are yet to be released in the market.

Why is JAVA ME world’s popular Development Environment?

Rich User Interface Capabilities: MIDP applications provide the foundation for highly graphical and intuitive applications. The graphical user interface is optimized for the small display size, varied input methods, and other native features of modern mobile devices. MIDP provides intuitive navigation and data entry by taking full advantage of phone keypads, extra buttons such as arrow keys, touch screens, and small QWERTY keyboards. MIDP applications are installed and run locally, can operate in both networked and unconnected modes, and can store and manage persistent local data securely.

Extensive Connectivity: MIDP enables developers to exploit the native data network and messaging capabilities of mobile information devices. It supports leading connectivity standards, including HTTP, HTTPS, datagrams, sockets, server sockets, and serial port. MIDP also supports the Short Message Service and Cell Broadcast Service capabilities of GSM and CDMA networks, through the Wireless Messaging API (WMA) optional package.

Multimedia and Game Functionality: MIDP is ideal for building portable games and multimedia applications. A low-level user-interface API complements the high-level UI API, giving developers greater control of graphics and input when they need it. A game API adds game-specific functionality, such as sprites and tiled layers, which take advantage of devices’ native graphics capabilities. Built-in audio provides support for tones, tone sequences, and WAV files. In addition, developers can use the Mobile Media API (MMAPI) optional package to add video and other rich multimedia content to MIDP applications.

Over-the-Air-Provisioning: A major benefit of MIDP is its capability to deploy and update applications dynamically and securely, over the air.

End-to-End Security: MIDP provides a robust security model that complies with open standards and protects the network, applications, and mobile information devices. HTTPS support enables applications to use existing standards such as SSL and WTLS to send and receive encrypted data.

Challenges in JAVA ME Business Application Development

1.Wide range of mobile models manufactured by different companies with different technologies.

2.Non-compliance of few mobiles to the MIDP standards with few documented bugs related

to the execution of the executables on mobiles.

3.Restriction in JAR size, Runtime memory size, processor speed in the mobile devices.

4.Security of the details stored on the mobile device, details transmitted through the air.

5.Risks in case of mobile being stolen/lost.

6.Not supported commonly in CDMA mobiles.

Ways to overcome the hurdle

1.Applications are to be developed after market analysis of the devices and the kind of API or executables which they can support. Since Symbian leads the World markets, developing applications for Symbian devices can be our first target. Blackberry devices require few changes for the execution of the same application.

2.Security of the details stored/transmitted can be enhanced by usage of customized encryption algorithms.

3.Implementation of TWO factor authentication.(For authentication of the registered user -RBI guideline for Mobile Banking)

4.Securing the application on the mobile with password. So that even in case of theft of the mobile the application cannot be misused.

The other good news is that most of the recent devices released by the manufacturers like Nokia, Sony Ericson have JAVA ME support (unlimited or increased JAR,Memory Heap sizes)and GPRS connectivity which has made JAVA ME available in the hands of every common man.

Also the capability for establishment of the HTTPS connection through JAVA ME applications has made it have a clear edge. JAVA ME based applications can perform equally good to the traditional computer based internet applications

What Next?

The introduction of the Unique Id concept and the existing PAN for every individual have brightened the path for the development of the JAVA ME based Mobile solutions. The Mobile Banking guidelines released by the Central banks (In India RBI has released the guidelines in 2008 and notifications regarding the same in 2009) also has made the path clear for development. A person’s Mobile number, PAN, Unique id can be linked for developing a secure M-Commerce system.

Banking solutions: User can perform the normal enquiries/transactions done through internet banking. User must register his Mobile number for this service. Since funds transfers are covered by the Banking guidelines the activation of the banking services forms the fundamental step for the usage of M-Commerce solutions.

Payment Solutions: Payment based services can replace the concept of credit/debit cards with M-Wallet. JAVA ME devices with bluetooth and NFC API’s can replace the cards and transactions can happen through the NFC API’s in them which will communicate to the access points/readers placed at the shops,hotels,cinema halls. In future devices supporting bio-metric features will be easily available and these transactions can be made more secure with the following factors.

What he knows?(Passwords)

What he has? (Mobile/SIM ,GRID cards, NFC cards)

What he is? (Bio-metric solutions)

Insurance solutions: Insurance based solutions can be provided through which the user can perform the payment of premiums and can register the claims. (IRDA rules if any must be followed)

Mutual fund solutions: Mutual fund based solutions can be developed which can help the user to check the status and also invest in the funds by transfering from his registered bank accounts. The present plan of introducing Super ATMs by SEBI will be a boost to the mutual fund industry and the introduction of such a mobile based solution will help them reach common man in all regions of the country.

Mail: Mails from the server can be synchronized with the mobile application and the contents can be accessed easily.

Ticket booking: Booking of tickets for cinemas,trains,flights can be made easy and the usage will appear similar to the internet based booking.

The guidelines for the mobile based stock trading are expected very soon from the SEBI and development of successful Mobile based trading solution requires the support of JAVA ME for development of the client application running in the mobiles.

JAVA ME also known as J2ME has great potential of developing business solutions for Mobiles.

The success of the application depends on the way how we tackle the hurdles before us.

Facts to be remembered

1.There are 2.7 billion number of mobile users in the world .

2.India ranks second in mobile phone usage to China, with 506 million users as of November 2009.

Rich User Interface Capabilities,Extensive Connectivity,Multimedia Functionality,Over-the-Air-Provisioning,End-to-End Security(capability of establishing SSL connection) have made JAVA ME a brilliant technology for the development of Mobile based business applications. Recognising the importance, popularity of JAVA ME Mobile manufacturers are also launching mobiles with >75% of models supporting JAVA ME.(Approximately mobiles costing >Rs.3000 have JAVA ME supported.)

Friends! please share your views regarding my above write up. Also you are invited to share your thoughts regarding the advancements in M-Commerce.

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