HCI blog

Friday, December 10, 2004

Our Conclusion on WAP

After looking at the history of WAP, the technology behind it and several debates (some loud, some not so loud). We finally came to a conclusion. WAP is only in its growing stages and is still new the British market, there are so many features that WAP and WAP sites have to offer the public, yet for some reason it never became a big hit.

We discussed as a group the advantages and the disadvantages and noticed that the advantages out weighed the disadvantages, upon further disccussion we realised why WAP never took off. UK telecom operators over priced WAP and therefore it became to expensive for users to be persuaded to use such great techonology. We think that WAP has still got a long way to come and thanks to telecommunication networks like 3 and Voda who have introduced 3G phones, WAP is slowly becoming regonised with video clips. TV stations, like MTV advertise WAP sites to get free ring tones, again encouraging the user to make use of these services. When WAP first came to Orange, Orange customers were offered 3 months free GPRS, which made users realise that 1MB of WAP pages is a lot of pages. We think that the misunderstanding of users being charged per Mb on GPRS has also led to its failure, simply because they have not been educated enough to know that each web site take about 10K-20K.

WAP is definately a great techonology but with handset manufacturers now making devices that are compatible with most WAP sites. The future of WAP lies with the mobile telecommunication companies. Once they have made WAP more affordable then it will encourage people to use it, and businesses to adopt it.

limitations on WAP

As we have discussed earlier, there are many advantages to the use of WAP. However, the main problem with WAP is limitations. Mobile devices are with limited CPU, memory and battery life, and with a simple user interface. Wireless networks are constrained by low bandwidth, high latency, and unpredictable availability and stability so it can be used for limited work only. However, new developments are in progress to overcome these problems.

Thoughts on WAP

Well, what more can we say about WAP. The mobile phone manufacturers who represent 90 percent of the world market across all technologies have committed to shipping WAP-enabled device. So, this WAP technology will keep developing and the day is not far when you will be able to use WAP to do exciting things like watch movies or see the person who your are talking to while you use your phone. Why not as you can use WAP to download multimedia and viewing images.
As a group we have discussed how WAP has effected our mobile lifes. We couldn't find any problems. Only minor ones, but the main advantages are:
1. Ease of Use : Mobile device using WAP may be used by people who have no computing experience what so ever. How cool is that. Even my grandma can use WAP. Accessing Internet using WAP is simple and easy to use.

2. For Short, essential tasks : Mainly it is not for "Surfing the Net" as we do on the desktops. Subscribers access wireless data to retrieve information like weather forecasting, News headlines, Stock Quotes, Scanning e-mails etc.

3. Location Based Information System : Location based information can be provided to users using WAP. They are like nearest Hotel, Bank, Restaurents, Market Place, and path finder like applications which are based on location of user. GPRS is also being embedded to enhance this facility in coming mobile devices.

WAP security gap

The challenge of preventing security breaches in wireless communication is essential. The obvious reasons spring to mind, for example, data protection issues when sending personal information and also secure transactions. Most communications have a physical barrier, e.g. the individual machines are bolted to workstations and are contained within a padlocked tower. The doors have various security checks, for example the computer labs in the school's main building. However, when dealing with a wireless connection, it becomes hard to keep the communications self-contained. As the data is not traced it could be intercepted and there will be no detection of this activity occuring.

The main device used to access WAP related content is a mobile phone. These are a lot smaller than laptops and are more easily misplaced/lost and also stolen. This means that another person has access to WAP content dedicated to the owner and also could potentially download information from the phone for other fraudlent activity. When you consider the data stored could be a link to the corporate database security becomes a key issue.

When the first WAP was being developed, namely WAP 1.0, the high levels of security it provided was impressive. It had built in encryption, WTLS(Wireless Transport Layer Security). WTLS used less power, due to the efficient cryptographic algorithms and also less memory because of the better compression methods utilized.

Data is sent from the sender to a gateway, which deciphers the meesage and then encrypts it to be sent to the destination. As long as the gateway at which this occurs is within the trusted domain it is not a problem. However, if the gateway occurs outside of the trusted domain there is a potential security risk.

Firms have developed solutions to combat this risk, namely Cylink. Cylink developed an application layer which sits above the WTLS layer and provides two way cryptographic authentication, seamless end-to-end security levels.

Security measures are constanltly being updated. Until strong security measures have not been enforced, for example, biometrics, it is essential that useres of such devices are made aware of the potential risks and that they should protect their devices physically and logically, by enforcing password restricted access maybe ?

A good website with more information of the security gap can be found at: http://www.digigan.com/WAPGap/WAP%20Gap%20for%20Web_files/frame.htm another good site is http://www.serverworldmagazine.com/sunserver/2001/01/wapgap.shtml

WAP’s impact on e-commerce

A major advantage of WAP being developed is the fact that employees can now complete transactions from virtually anywhere, as long as there is a cellular network in place. This means that employees have that extra flexibility, which could improve their productivity and increase sales for a firm.

However, having mentioned the above, the firm would have to develop special WAP pages to allow employees to conduct small parts of their trade using this innovation. Not only would the firm have to develop and update the normal HTML sites, which should be accessible from a PC with an internet connection, they would also have to develop WML, Wireless Markup Language.

Another reverberating issue would be the fact that WAP can only be used for small amounts of data, due to the constraint on bandwidth. This means that some of the functionality will not be achievable, ergo, the employee may still have to access the HTML sites in order to finalise business deals.

In addition to allowing employees to finalise deals, the firms could also present a virtual shop to users from which they can order goods from. Although WAP does not have high security, this functionality could be achieved. However, the company needs to have a good infrastructure in order to deal with enquiries of such a nature as an order could be placed at anytime and from anyplace. Also due to the display constraints, mentioned in a previous blog, of mobile phones, the information must be displayed to make it easy for the viewer to easily digest the information.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The HCI link with WAP

So far the blogs have covered the interesting history behind WAP, the technology behind WAP. But let us not forget what this blog is about, and how WAP has conformed to provide excellent HCI or appauling HCI.

WAP, its like the second generation teletext or the baby Internet. So how does this baby Internet bring HCI to our life compared to its older brother "The Internet". Well, firstly WAP was initially designed for mobile devices, the key word there is MOBILE. This allows anyone to access information anywhere providing their phone is WAP enabled.

Secondly WAP is direct information, Internet tools like google just don't cut it anymore, if you want something specific you might have to visit a few sites before you get past the information you didn't want. WAP due to its small size compared to the Internet is currently hosting just information based service, although this is changing quite rapidly.

So lets run a test. Just for the record, I am about to run this test while writing this blog so we can compare and contrast, using broadband and GPRS.

The Scenario, I live in Redditch and I want to get to University, so train is the best option I reckon. Here is the exact methodolgy I will run through to get the information I want using WAP:
- Connecting to Orange via GPRS
- Home Page appears with my name on screen :S
- Select travel conviently placed near the top

- 1 second later it asks how I am planning on travelling the following options appear:
Road, Trains, Flights, Tube, Directions (walking, driving)

- Selected Trains and within a second another menu
Timetables and live info, London Travel, Travel Deals

- Selected the Timetables and live info and ooo whats this, its remember some routes I did about a year back :S

-I Selected to look up a timetable anyway to make it fair, and a link says departure "Where I am now" and top of the List Redditch, select that.

- Type in the Destination ("University") and amazing its found it

- I now get asked if I want the next train, depart after a specific time, or arrive before a certain time, and a few more options, but i selected the next trains and before you can say Swiss Family Robinson, its on screen with the number of hops needed (none in this case)

So i just a quick review, it took 1 minute in all to find the information I needed (less if i choose a previous route), it was a case of Java 2 Route Finder project eat your heart out.

Now the Internet:

- Loading browser with Google.co.uk (milliseconds)
- Type in train travel UK
- returns  
Results 1 - 10 of about 3,160,000 for train travel. (0.29 seconds) fast!!
- Select the top one which is national rail
- Typed in information (not so user friendly as i can't find the next train and have to give a time)
- Done that anyway and now am waiting for Active Server Page to load, ok thats done
- Yup it finds the same as the WAP

So the Internet has less steps, but is it as good as WAP, well to make it fair I thought I would try one last medium, the granny (not just in age, but in speed as well) Teletext. 3.2.1.GO!! ok index page..................(having a bottle of lucozade so energy levels aren't being drained) ok now I have to wait because there are loads of pages to visit, o great I think I am on the wrong channel, needs to be Channel 1, need to start again. In fact I am going to abort this mission simply because by now I would have missed the next train or lose my temper at teletext.

The results, in last place Teletext, needs no explaination why. Second place is the Internet and in first place is WAP. So why did WAP win over the Internet. Well time wise both were equally as quick, even though WAP did need more steps it was nice to know that you have options available to you, walking directions is something I never heard of. Later on I did do a test to for walking directions and using "Where I am now" the pinpoint was excellent. But I think the main difference that won it over was the HCI behind it all, WAP is wireless, its mobile and its those little things, like remebering my name, my previous journeys that make life easier and WAP more pleasant to use. Its got that edge over the Internet, because the Internet is not easily accessible from anywhere and in most cases requires something larger than a mobile phone to access it. So bottom line, if you want information quick and direct and anywhere then WAP's your technology otherwise the Internet is still king of the information highway.

Disadvantages of WAP

Well seeing as Jas mentioned the advantages I thought it would be a good idea to mention the disadvantages. Looking at WAP currently, there are a lot of formats and that Nokia phones and Sony Erricson use a different method of mark-up language. It also requires the WAP Gateway and WAP designers to contruct a site and at present they are not really widely available. There are other issues like bandwidth, but seeing as the wap sites are soo small this is not a major problem.

Advantages of WAP

Everyone in the world uses WAP without knowing that they are using it. WAP means Wireless Application Protocol for those who dont know what it means. The only time i use WAP are on phones. There are a huge advantages to it such as the users of WAP will benefit from easy, secure access to relevant Internet information and services such for example messaging, banking, and entertainment just through the click of their mobile phones.
Intranet information such as corporate databases can also be accessed via WAP technology. Because there is a huge range of handset manufacturers that already supports the WAP initiative, users will have significant freedom of choice when selecting mobile terminals and the applications they support. Users will be able to receive and request information in a controlled, fast, and low-cost environment, a fact that renders WAP services more attractive to consumers who demand more value and functionality from their mobile terminals.

Design of WAP pages

The design of web pages and software as a whole needs to bear in mind the end user. The on screen display must be clear and the user must be able to move freely within the program/website. For example, if you wish to check the global news on a website, you would find it much more convenient if the news headlines were categorized.

WAP pages differ from conventional internet websites, due to the main constraint of the mobile phone's screen size. In the past colour has been an issue, however, with the development of colour screens for mobile phones this has been eliminated. Therefore, users are now able to view multimedia content, through their wap phones. Some are even able to present the user with short video clips that the user is able to download to their phone.

In the past there has not been a need to develop WAP due to the mobile technology lagging behind. However, with the ever increasing complexitity within the mobile phone industry, WAP is a gateway to multimedia and current events.

WAP: A generation ahead for Mobile Devices

The other day, I wanted to see the score of an International one day cricket match between England and India, the only device I had on me was a mobile phone. Yes, the match was interesting and it was all possible because of the WAP enabled mobile phone. Today we have a whole range of hand held devices like smart phones, mobile devices, pagers, communicators etc which have a technology called WAP (Wireless Application Protocol). This technique is a powerful tool to access information, sharing files and uploading/downloading data almost instantly from any part of the earth being compatible with most operating systems like Windows OS/9, Java OS, Palm OS, Windows CE etc.

Isn't it amazing a traveller connected to Internet via a WAP gateway on his notebook making his journey more fun and worthwhile? Accessories like WIN WAP( that's the browser used to access WAP services on regular desktops/laptops), Gelon.net (converts WML files to HTML files), Teraflops ( converts jpeg, gif and bmp files to WBMP's), Symbian (an operating system for a data enabled mobile device) and MobileDev ( a tool for developing wireless application programs) are going to be widely used standards in upcoming future.

Although run on a low memory device with low bandwidth device yet it is an emerging winner once a standard adapted by amateurs and professionals around the world. They said, 'Internet shrunk the earth' but 'WAP will shrink the Universe'. 'Who knows one can interview an astronaut in space almost instantly as others in the same session whilst sitting in entirely different parts of the earth"

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

How it works!!!

The blog ("How does WAP work?" (below)) demonstrates an image on how WAP technology works, I will now try and explain in words the way in which this techonology works.

For WAP to work it will need to consist of three devices:
WAP Device (the Mobile phone/WAP device)
WAP Gateway (the transceiver/converter of data between WAP Device and HTTP Server)
HTTP Web Server (the internet/companies intranet server)

Wireless Network Analogy
Firstly the WAP gateway, this performs the mediator between the two other physical devices. Image the following home setup for a computer scientist with a wireless network. Each WAP device represents a wireless computer, the WAP Gateway is the router and the HTTP Server is Broadband service provider.

The router (WAP Gateway) acts as a mediator between the Computer (WAP Device) and the Service Provider (HTTP Server). This sort of setup is mainly used in a telecoms network, where the WAP Gateway would be the telecom provider (3, Orange, Voda, T-mobile).

The Service Provider receives a request from the router, processes the request and sends the output back to the router, which then in turn sends this information to the computer device using it's wireless network. 

The More Techy version:
A WAP device sends the WAP request to the WAP Gateway, which in turn translates WAP requests to WWW requests, allowing the WAP client to submit requests (WAP address) to the Web server. After receiving the response from the the HTTP Web Server, the WAP Gateway translates Web responses into WAP responses or a format understood by the WAP client and sends it to the WAP device.

How does WAP work?

Basically the mobile WAP device is attached to the mobile network such as GSM, CDMA, etc. This then dials the modem which is attached to a dial-in server i.e. RAS, or Remote Access Service. This server gives the WAP device access to the protocols it needs. These are the same lower level protocols as a normal Internet Service Provider will give you. We call this the PPP or Point-to-Point Protocol.
Here is a diagram showing the basic working system of the WAP.

These protocols are used to access the next step in the chain, which is the WAP gateway. The WAP gateway is the link between the wireless and the wired world, basically giving the WAP device or the mobile phone the access to the common internet.

A Brief History Of WAP

Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) allows a user to bring Internet content on their mobile phone.

WAP's development began during the middle of the 1990's. During this period the two major manufactures; Nokia and Ericsson, were interested in providing such sophisticated technologies to gain a competitive advantage in the mobile information market. This competition resulted in various methods being implemented; Nokia developed Narrow Band Sockets (NBS) and Tagged Text Markup Language (TTML) where as Ericsson developed Intelligent Terminal Transfer Protocol (ITTP). A third player was Unwired Planet's who developed Handheld Device Markup Language (HDML).

In 1997 the WAP forum was founded. The forum’s main aim was to bring together the various technologies by a standardised protocol. This meant developers would have to follow similar guidelines, set by the common protocols and technologies at the time. The significance of this was to prevent the market becoming too fragmented by each manufacturer developing their own specialised technology. Also it would prevent the problem of incompatibility between users.

WAP is a collection of various standards to be used when developing such wireless systems. It is not a single entity.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Introduction to WAP

WAP stands for Wireless Access Protocol. WAP is a standard that allows mobile devices, such as mobile phones and PDA, users to receive internet access. This was designed as a measure to prevent internet protocols from being used in portable devices such as mobile phones and PDAs. This is due to the fact that, internet protocols consume large amounts of bandwidth, which needs to be conserved as bandwidth on such devices is very expensive and speeds are slower than conventional internet access points.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Seeing is not believing

The Quality of entertainment available in the form of cinema has evolved ever since created. We have come a long way from the days of silent black and white films. Many revolutions have taken place in this technology, the most obvious being; television, surround sound, DVD, wide screen and plasma screen. The latest form of cinema entertainment is available in the form of I-max

Last year I had the opportunity to visit the I-max theatre at millenium point. IMAX 3D technology is the most advanced 3D film technology in the world and is based on human vision. When you look at an object, each of your eyes sees a slightly different view. Through a process called "stereopsis" your brain brings the two views together into a single three dimensional image. To enable the 3D effect, polarized glasses worn by the audience are precisely matched with the polarizing filters of the projector's twin lenses. While the lenses superimpose separate left and right eye views onto the screen, the glasses make sure that each eye sees the appropriate image, allowing your brain to create a single 3D image. Alternatively Electronic glasses can be used. To complete the effect of the IMAX digital surround sound system, the huge IMAX flat screens and dome screens are perforated with thousands of tiny holes to allow the crystal clear sound to flow through freely.

The trend in which cinema technology is progressing in is to improve the quality of both the picture and sound so that the overall cinema experience becomes more believable. Looking back, cinema has always been improving. So what’s next?

Thinking on the lines of making cinema more believable, what if the images seen on the flat screens could be produced in mid-air? Holography is a technology that is still in its primitive years. However, I believe that this could be the new break through in reality cinema.

Holography is three-dimensional laser photography. The hologram is a true, three-dimensional record of the original object. It contains depth and parallax, which is the ability to see around the object to objects placed behind. Holograms are made with a laser, lenses, mirrors and other optics. To make a hologram, the laser beam is split into two beams. One part of the laser beam is directed by mirrors and spread by lenses to illuminate the object. The laser lights the object, then bounces off and hits the holographic film or plate positioned in front of the object. If the number of laser projectors is increased then a true 3D image will be produced in mid air. It would seem as if you could reach out and touch it. Now suppose, an entire Hollywood action movie was created in holographic form, and this technology was available at a domestic scale. It would seem as if you were actually in the middle of the movie your self. Films such as Jurassic Park would be viewed at a whole different level. However, there are obvious draw backs, the holographic movie could only be viewed properly in a dark room and laser projectors would have to be positioned accurately in order to produce the correct image.

Day by day we getting ever closer to making our dreams into reality, it should be remembered that there is no movie more interesting than real life; holography is just the next best thing.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Health problems using computers

After hours sitting on the computer at the labs, my neck starts to ache. I thought it was due to pressure and stress for example java. I know you have to sit comfortably in front of the computer having the monitor aligned to your eye sight. But I also found out that there have been many case of severe muscle aches in the different part of the body. Wrist and hand problems are common with computers. For example, 'floating' your hand over the mouse for long periods leads to strain on the ligaments in the back of the hand and the wrist. Also health problems may occur as a result of high repetition of hand movements, forceful typing, or having bent wrists whilst using the keyboard.
I asked people in the computer labs if they experienced any problems for example the atmosphere. They said the atmosphere is really bad when lots of people are in the labs at once. Also its hot and sweaty and very distracting. Also, some chair are very uncomfortable. The cs staff should do something about his.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Itronix GoBook Max: Fastest Notebook

Time, Technology and Travelling are the three T factors heart-rending the computing systems in today's world. Guess what? The Itronix GoBook Max is the fastest known notebook computer in the world as it's highly resistant and surpass even water, dust, drop and vibrations. It can also stand the most severe conditions like extreme cold, torrential rain and scorching heat. With experts' predictions on how global warming can lead human race to another ice age, one tends to think about how these machines like Itronix will fair superbly?

Although the Itronix GoBook is highly durable and full of amazing features its lacking something; An integrated web cam!

The days of text and multi media messaging have been superseded by live video conferencing. If there will ever be an apoplectic event then the GoBook couldn’t do without this.

With just a small simple addition of an integrated camera to this already top of the range computer, a whole new level of communication will be available.