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Telecommunication has undergone quite some changes over the latest century. In its first - wired variant - it started of as a rarity for the happy few, and only became generally adopted after the second world war. This was both the case for television (which is one-way communication) and for telephony (two-way communication). Over the years the technology improved (e.g. color television, tone dialing), which made it more pleasant to use and enabled new applications (e.g. phone banking). Also the devices were continuously improved (e.g. bigger screens, pre-dial keys), and peripherals were built to go along (e.g. video recorders, answering machines). By now, both television and telephony are completely embraced by (our Western) society and have a place in the daily routines of almost everyone.

A similar evolution, but faster, took place for mobile telephony in the eighties and nineties. Mobile phones have evolved from a ”dumb piece of technology” into something that cannot be thought away from the daily life. For this reason, some sociologists prefer to speak of a revolution, as habits and social reflexes have altered quite radically. Improvements to the technology brought new functionalities, some were fast embraced by the users, others failed to gain market share. An example of the first are text messages (SMS), which led for certain groups (e.g. teenagers) even to a specific subculture with its own language. An example of the latter is WAP, which is one the first attempts to connect the internet with mobile phones.

Since then the situation has changed. Technology has improved and needs have evolved, making that we are currently in the middle of another (r)evolution: mobile data access. Think for instance of the trend to be constantly reachable in business circles (e.g. Blackberries), or in a social context (e.g. mobile implementations of instant messaging software). How things will evolve is difficult to predict, but it is a fact that the usage statistics of mobile data show a monolithic climbing line for years already. Whether it will cause a revolution in our behavioral patterns, is totally an open issue.

At the same time we stand at the beginning of a possibly new subsequent (r)evolution: location-based services (LBS) – that is: mobile access to data (or information) that is pre-filtered with the position information of the user. Think for instance of a ”restaurant finder application” on your cell phone that takes your current location into account, and only suggests places that are in your vicinity at that moment. The work presented in this thesis contributes to the field of research that will eventually enable location-based services to be mass-deployed. Whether these services will be embraced by society, and how well they will blend in with the ruling habits and routines, is left for time to show.

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ISBN: 9789054874942

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