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In the article “Mobile Commerce Technology” by Chung-wei Lee, Wen-Chen Hu and Jyh-haw Yeh, the authors set out to discuss the mobile commerce technology on business.
Mobile commerce technology has emerged as a distinct and important entity influencing the traditional business environment significantly. This technology promises to revolutionalize the manner in which business is carried out thereby changing the businesses world profoundly. An understanding of the technology that makes mobile commerce possible is therefore important.
The paper begins by highlighting how the World Wide Web revolutionalized commerce and paved the way for electronic commerce. It notes how advances in mobile networks have made possible mobile commerce. In a few years, mobile commerce has gained ground with millions of users engaging in e-commerce activities using their mobile devices.
The article goes on to describe a mobile commerce system, which involves a wide range of disciplines and technologies. The major components of the system are mobile commerce applications, mobile stations, mobile middleware, wireless networks, wired networks, and host computers. An explanation of how the six components work together following the submission of a request by a mobile user is provided. The mobile commerce application provides the client-side and server-side programs that will be used.
The mobile station relays user requests to the other components in the system and displays the results of the processing to the end user. The mobile middleware makes the interaction between the internet contents and the mobile station seamless. It does this by supporting a wide range of software standards and operating systems thereby making it possible for mobile stations to understand a wide variety of content.
Mobile middleware also enhances security by providing some encryption standards for communication. Wireless networks are networks that use radio waves for communication. They make use of the wireless access point or a base station to deliver user requests. Wired networks are not a mandatory component for the mobile commerce system but they may be used by the server computers that are used to process user requests. The host computer is the machine that has software that processes the user requests.
Considering the wide scope of each individual component, the authors proceed to explain the elements in components that are related to mobile commerce. The first element is mobile commerce applications and this many of these applications have been developed and implemented in many phones.
The applications have the capabilities of electronic commerce applications and additional functions such as inventory tracking and dispatching. The mobile station is the handheld device used by the end user. This device has features of computers, telephones, and personal information managers.
However, the mobile station has significant differences from a personal computer or laptop. The mobile devices have limited bandwidth, limited power and processing capabilities, and mobility features. The authors observe that the limitation in bandwidth makes it impossible for most multimedia material to be displayed correctly on the microbrowser present in the mobile station.
The paper defines middleware as “the software layer between the operating system and the distributed applications that interact via the networks” (Chung-wei, et al., 2009, p.2586). The middleware later provides transparency by hiding the network environment complexities and enabling diverse systems to work together.
The middleware is able to translate requests from mobiles stations into a form that the host computer can understand and translate the host computer responses to a form the mobile station can understand. As of the year 2000, the most widely used middleware by wireless internet users was i-mode with 60% of users followed by WAP which had 39% of users and lastly Palm with 1% of total users.
Wireless networks are interconnected computing devices where the nodes are capable of communicating with each other without the need of physical connections. The network infrastructure provides the medium through which communication takes place.
The move from electronic commerce to mobile commerce necessitates the use of wireless networks to support the mobility of mobile devices. Wireless local-area networks (WLANs) and wireless cellular networks are the two major wireless networks technologies used in mobile commerce. WLANs are well suited for office and home networks as well as personal area networks and ad hoc networks.
The wireless environment can be made up of mobile devices and an access point that acts as a router. The article explains that in a one-hop WLAN environment, the mobile stations connect directly to the access point through radio waves. The Access point relays data packets from the transmitter device to the receiver device. The mobile devices can communicate amongst themselves without an access point in what is referred to as a wireless adhoc network.
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In addition to the WLAN products available in the market, Bluetooth technology can also be used for wireless communication although this technology has a very limited coverage range and throughput, which makes it only useful in personal area networks. The most popular wireless networks currently use industry standards such as the IEEE 802.11b. However, standards with much higher transmission speeds such as the IEEE 802.11g are predicted to replace this popular standard in the near future.
Cellular system users can make use of their cellular phones for mobile commerce. The phone connects to the nearest base station and the requests are forwarded to a fixed network. The authors advance that while cellular systems were originally designed for voice-only communication; they have evolved from analog to digital and are capable of transmitting data packets, which makes them usable for mobile commerce.
The standards used by most cellular networks are 2g and 2.5G although it is predicted that 3G systems will dominate future wireless cellular services. The article states that CDMA (WCDMA) and CDMA2000 are the two main Wideband standards for 3G
The host computer acts upon the user requests by processing and storing the information for mobile commerce applications. This component has three major parts; a web server, database server, and application programs and support software. The host computer is unaware of the nature of the client and it provides the same kind of response for mobile devices and personal computers. The mobile commerce application programs have to structure the information in a format that is usable for the mobile station.
The article then sets out to discuss future trends in mobile commerce technology. It begins by noting that 26% of the 50million wireless phone users in the US used their devices to take part in some mobile commerce activity in the year 2006. Mobile commerce has risen to prominence because of its effectiveness and convenience.
The user can engage in commerce at anytime and from any place. The potential for mobile commerce has led many companies to start offering mobile commerce options to their customers. Majority of the big US companies plan to implement mobile solutions in future.
The article reveals that security will play a major role in the future of mobile commerce. Potential customers will be wary of using mobile commerce systems that do not guaranty security of information and exchange over the mobile network. Security issues encompass the entire mobile commerce system.
The article discusses the WAP security system, which is provided through the WTLS protocol. This system ensures data integrity and guarantees privacy in the system through data encryption. However, the system has a loophole since the encrypted messages appear as clear text on the WAP gateway during processing. This problem can be solved by having the WAP gateway reside on a server network with major security mechanisms implemented on it.
The authors state that the Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) protocol is used to provide security in the IEEE 802.11 standard. In this security protocol, each mobile host has a private key shared with the base station.
An encryption algorithm based on RC4 is used to generate the ciphertext in the encryption process. However, this method is not very secure since there are methods of breaking the approach. Future systems need to employ standards that provide better security. Payment presents another challenge in mobile commerce since there is not global standard.
The Secure Electronic Transaction (SET) protocol currently favored requires processing and memory capacities that are too much for most WAP client devices. A “thin” SET wallet approach is proposed for future systems since it will have less processing and memory demands therefore making it usable by all WAP client devices. The paper concludes by reasserting that wireless and mobile networks have extended electronic commerce.
The article sets out to provide an informative discussion on mobile commerce technology. Considering the space limitations of the paper, it does a good job of explaining the multiple components of a mobile commerce system.
The article is able to provide a brief yet informative enough description of the components of a mobile commerce system therefore providing adequate background information for a person who is not familiar with the components. The authors are able to prioritize on the components that are most important for a mobile commerce system and provide more information on the same for the reader. The article makes use of graphical figures that are very important in enhancing understanding on the topic.
The authors make use of a lot of expert opinion on the subject. This increases the credibility of the statements and arguments made in the article. The reader can therefore have confidence in the material presented in the article since reliable experts in the field of mobile application technology are referenced all through the paper.
However, the article introduces too many technical issues that a person who is not conversant with computing technology cannot understand. Without background information on concepts such as IEEE standards, Wideband systems, Access points, and encryption algorithms, the non-technical reader will not have a good understand of what is being discussed.
While the authors attempt to take care of this by providing a definition of key terms at the end of the paper, the descriptions still introduced other terms that the layperson will not be familiar with. In overall, the article is well written and very informative. A person gains significant knowledge concerning mobile commerce technology from reading the article.
Chung-wei, L., Wen-Chen, H., & Jyh-haw, Y. (2009). Mobile Commerce Technology. In M. Khosrow-Pour (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Information Science and Technology (pp. 2585-2589). Pennsylvania: IGI Global.