Mobile Commerce (M-commerce)
HOME M-Commerce Links Web Services Technology XML Technology


Rarely has a new area of business been heralded with such enthusiasm as "mobile commerce", that is the conduct of business and services over portable, wireless devices. Due to the astronomical growth of the Internet users, maturation of the Internet technologies, realization of the Internet's capabilities, the power of electronic commerce, and the promising advancement of wireless communication technologies and devices, mobile commerce has rapidly attained the business forefront. An m-commerce application can be B2B, B2C or any other of the classifications available with e-commerce world. M-commerce, although not fully mature, has the potential to make it more convenient for consumers to spend money and purchase goods and services. Since wireless devices travel with the consumer, the ability or perhaps temptation to purchase goods and services is always present. This is clearly a technique that can be used to raise revenue. Also, the successful future of m-commerce depends o! n the power of the underlying technology drivers and the attractiveness of m-commerce applications.

Motivating Factors for M-Commerce

Internet use has grown to such a level on the strength of PC networks. Due to the huge base of installed PCs, which is predicted to grow in a faster pace in the days to come, electronic commerce and other communication applications are bound to thrive further. Also, these computing systems will have greater power and storage capability, the best ever price-performance ratios, more powerful and sophisticated applications will likely emerge for desktop computing and the Internet. However, there are two major limitations on PCs. First , users have to sit in front of them, PCs, even portable-notebook computers, have to load software, dial into and connect with a network service provider and await for the initial process to be accomplished before launching an Internet application.

It is predicted that by 2004, the installed base of mobile phones worldwide will exceed 1 billion - more than twice the number of PCs at that time. In addition that, there will be a huge increase in other wireless portable devices, such as wireless PDA. The advantage with these wireless devices is they do not need no booting process and thus facilitating immediate usage of them. This makes them attractive for quick-hit applications.

Wireless Technologies

Just as the TCP/IP and the general purpose Web browsers are being the current principal drivers of Internet growth and this in turn makes disparate devices to connect themselves and communicate and interoperate. Similar protocols, technologies and software will play a very important role in heterogeneous wireless devices to interoperate without any complexity. In the recent past, a common communications technology and uniform interface standard for presenting and delivering several distinct wireless services on wireless devices - Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) have emerged. The WAP specifications include a micro-browser, scripting language just like JavaScript, access functions and layered communication specifications for sessions, transport and security. These specifications enable interface-independent and interoperable applications. Many of the wireless device manufacturers, service and infrastructure providers have started to adopt the WAP standard.

The transmission rate of Current access technologies (2G), such as TDMA, CDMA and GSM, is dramatically slower ( between 10 and 20 Kbps) than the dial-up rates of desktop PCs connected to the Internet. 2G technology has steadily improved, with increased bandwidth, packer routing and the introduction of multimedia. The present state of mobile wireless communications is often referred to as 2.5G. It is believed that by the year 2003, 3G wireless technology will be available for use. This, in addition to higher bandwidth rates, can take the transmission speed up to 2 Mbps. 3G is expected to facilitate: enhanced multimedia (voice, data, video, and remote control) transmission, usability on all popular modes (cellular telephone, e-mail, paging, fax, video-conferencing and Web browsing), routing flexibility (repeater, satellite, LAN) and operation at approximately 2 GHz transmit and receive frequencies.

M-Commerce Applications

The general m-commerce applications are categorized as transaction management, digital content delivery and telemetry services. The applications can be further subdivided into passive and active m-commerce applications. Active application relates with the applications in which the user has to take the initiative on his wireless device. In contrast, the passive applications themselves get activated towards accomplishing the assigned jobs or facilitate the users to carry forward.

Active Applications

M-commerce transactions point to online shopping Web sites tailored to mobile phones and PDAs which are being equipped with the capabilities of browsing, selection, purchase, payment and delivery. These sites also include all the necessary shopping features, such as online catalogs, shopping carts, and back office functions as currently available for desktop computers. Leading online booksellers already started the commercial activities for wireless devices. Another important m-commerce transaction is to initiate and pay for purchases and services in real time. The highest volume of m-commerce transactions using wireless devices in the days to come is bound to occur on the side of micro-transactions. When individuals reach for their e-cash-equipped mobile phones or PDAs instead of coins to settle micro transactions, such as subway fees, widespread use of digital cash will become a reality.

The second important one is regarding digital content delivery. Wireless devices can retrieve status information, such as weather, transit schedules, flash news, sports scores, ticket availability and market prices, instantly from the providers of information and directory services. Digital products, such as MP3 music, software, high-resolution images and full-motion advertising messages, can be easily downloaded to and used in wireless devices when the 3G transmission technology becomes usable. The proposed arrival of better display screen and higher bandwidth will surely trigger the development of innovative video applications. This will help wireless users to access, retrieve, store and display high-resolution video content for a time of entertainment, product demonstration and e-learning.

The last major application of m-commerce is telemetry services, which include the monitoring of space flights, meteorological data transmission, video-conference, the Global Positioning System (Global Positioning System), wildlife tracking, camera control robotics, and oceanography. Thus in the near future, wireless phones and appliances can be used by people to contact and communicate with various devices from their homes, offices or any where at any time. For example, delivery drivers will ping intelligent dispensing machines or users can transmit messages to activate remote recording devices or service systems.

Passive Applications

This type of applications seems manifold and exciting. Instead of using dedicated cash cards for automatic collection of toll charges, digital cash can be used by integrating cash cards with mobile devices. Mobile users can easily pay and record payment of toll, mass-transit, fast-food, and other other transactions

Nowadays mobile users can send and receive short text messages up to 160 characters that show up on the user's display screen. As digital convergence becomes more commonplace, all kinds of mail, such as e-mail, fax documents and digitized voice mail, can be received passively. Thus it is felt that in near future there will be many novel services for mobile users for a fixed fee. Further on, users may be tempted for some services free of cost for viewing audio or video advertisement delivered to their wireless devices. Any kind of security breach, illegal intrusion, unusual event or unacceptable condition will trigger automatic notification to users irrespective of location. Airline companies are testing this technology to alert frequent air passengers regarding seat availability and upgradation, to notify the changes made in the timings etc. through wireless devices.

Passive m-commerce telemetry is the foundation of still another form of interactive marketing. Stores will be able to market their products and services by constantly transmitting promotional and inducing messages and doling out something towards getting the attention of both passers-by and remote mobile users.


As m-commerce applications and wireless devices are evolving rapidly, one will take forward the other one towards empowering innovation, versatility and power in them. There are a number of business opportunities and grand challenges of bringing forth viable and robust wireless technologies ahead for fully realizing the enormous strength of m-commerce in this Internet era and thereby meeting both the basic requirements and advanced expectations of mobile users and providers.

There are news articles and pictures displaying people, who are ordering things over the Internet while waiting for a bus, downloading merchant coupons on their PDAs as they enter a store or bidding for the last table at a hot restaurant by digital phone in a spur-of-the-moment auction. Actually this process represents a tip of a very big iceberg. The advent of m-commerce, as widely referred to among the users, has far-reaching implications. But there are many limitations in the technologies that Once its relevant technologies get matured, widely available and competent, the host of portable devices will be ready to handle the bigger transactional activities not envisioned so far successfully apart from these minor activities.