05 June 2007

Mobility is a demanding feature

Mobility is a natural part of human life, but for devices and systems it is only a feature or an add-on. While “human systems” move around as independent units with all their data embedded, most of the mobile devices use and need fixed “mother systems.”
This is especially true with mobile search. Mobile devices may be able to store some search results and a tiny portion of search targets on-board, but the real data mines are in fixed locations. Mobile search has to get its data from fixed networks. The mobile data (and fixed) connections are fast enough to be practical, but the search results that have been tailored for the larger screens of the fixed world are problematic.
Mobile environment demands that the search results need to be modified. In order to respond fast enough to queries the data is traditionally pre-sorted into useable indexes.
Indexing data in mobile environment turns out to a Sisyphean task, according to Kimmo Paaso of Mobile Content Network Inc. (MCN). (In Greek legend Sisyphus was punished in Hades for his misdeeds in life by being condemned eternally to roll a heavy stone up a hill. As he neared the top, the stone rolled down again, so that his task was everlasting and futile.)
Paaso was part of the team that was developing back-end technology for Nokia’s mobile search. In 2004, when Nokia gave up the effort of indexing the world for mobile search, Paaso and the whole outsourced developing team kept at it.
California based MCN team took a different approach to mobile search. Paaso says that mobile environment is just moving and developing too fast; it is too taxing and time-consuming to develop and fine-tune indexes in this environment. MCN’s answer is a mobile search platform that can be quickly linked to service provider’s existing databases. (Marc Bookman, the CEO of MCN, will be talking at Helsinki MobileMonday on June 4).
Mobility might be just one new feature for computer based systems, but it is not trivial. The number and limitations of terminals, and the number and limitations of users require faster responses and better digested content.

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