Washington, June 20 : Thinking about trying a new restaurant and want to know what others think about it? Well, all you need to do is tap a few buttons on your mobile phone. An Indian-origin scientist has developed a new GPS-enabled software system, which allows you to leave "virtual sticky notes" or site-specific messages for others on their mobile phones.
A team led by Romit Roy Choudhury has developed a new software system, called the micro-blog, which enables users to obtain location-specific, real-time information, either passively or directly, from other mobile phone users across the world. It will be as if every participating mobile phone works together, allowing each individual to access information throughout that virtual network.
"Every mobile phone can act as a telescope lens providing real-time information about its environment to any of the 3 billion mobile phones worldwide," said Romit Roy Choudhury, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering in Duke's Pratt School of Engineering.
Other than knowing about the restaurants, one can know where to find a traffic jam on the way to the airport or to the office via micro-blog. Sensors in the phones detect movement and can relay back to the network where traffic is the heaviest.
"We can now think of mobile phones as a 'virtual lens' capable of focusing on the context surrounding it. By combining the lenses from all the active phones in the world today, it may be feasible to build an internet-based 'virtual information telescope' that enables a high-resolution view of the world in real time," said Roy Choudhury.
The application combines the capabilities of distributed networks (like Wikipedia), social networks (Facebook), mobile phones, computer networks and geographic positioning capabilities, such as GPS or WiFi.
"Micro-blogs will provide unprecedented levels and amounts of information literally at your fingertips no matter where you are, through your mobile phone. We have already deployed a prototype, and while some challenges remain to be addressed, the feedback we've received so far indicates that micro-blog represents a promising new model for mobile social communication," said Roy Choudhury.
He said that people who use the micro-blog application will enter information - photos, comments, videos - into their mobile phone, where it will be "tagged" by the user's location. Passive information, such as location or speed, can also be recorded. All this information is then sent to a central server, where it is available to all participants.
"So if you're planning a trip to the beach or a restaurant, you can query the micro-blog and get information or see images from people who have been or are currently there," said Roy Choudhury.
Another application consists of individual, localized pockets of information.
"Say you are in a museumAs you pass a particular painting, your phone could download comments from art experts providing relevant information about that painting," he said.
Currently, the prototype works with the Nokia N95 mobile phone, but it will eventually be written for any kind of programmable mobile phone. He also believes that these, and other as-yet-to-be imagined applications, will be commonplace within five years.
However, this application has its own limitations that include the trade-off between precise geographic location and battery power and privacy
Roy Choudhury presented the details of the micro-blog application at the MobiSYS 2008 6th International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications and Services in Breckinridge, Colo.