A new approach to social networking for mobile devices, such as tablet PCs and smart phones could improve the user experience and boost battery life by up to 70% by exploiting shared data between users in the same location. Details are reported this month in the International Journal of Intelligent Information and Database Systems.
Social networking sites, like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter can now all be accessed via mobile devices and offer location-based services, these are explicit networks. But there is a second kind of network that can be created by virtue of the users' context (e.g. location) and preferences (e.g. favourite multimedia content), an implicit network that could hook together users who are physically close to each other and share similar interests.
Now, Vedran Podobnik and colleagues at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, have developed the software, or middleware, that could sit between telecommunications provider and users and allow a richer and faster experience for users as well as reducing the bandwidth burden on providers and even save mobile battery life substantially. The system works through serendipitous cooperation, via more energy-efficient Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, between users close to each other in an urban environment. The team suggests, based on simulation of such peer-shared activity, that users could boost battery life by almost three quarters.
"Our MAgNet middleware enables creation by the telecommunications company of an overlay network (i.e. social network) on top of the network of users physically situated in a mobile network environment and using mobile devices," explains Podobnik. "The system identifies mobile users near each other who are interested in the same multimedia content," he adds. "Each mobile user would download only a part of the requested content from the mobile network and then share it with other users in their locale via an ad hoc Bluetooth or Wi-Fi network." It is peer-to-peer downloading but on a local scale for the mutual benefit of users and providers.
The team has used three proof-of-concept services to demonstrate that the MAgNet middleware enables mobile users to define and customise their social relations with other (mobile) users, to use established relations to plan and manage group events as well as to create and use wish lists. "We believe this proves that software agents represent an adequate solution for implementing a middleware that enables social networks for users in the mobile network domain," the team concludes.