Extending the Scope of Physical Presence to the Digital Realm Automatically with Mobile Devices and Geofences

Note: This is the draft of my proposal.

With the ubiquitous nature of smart phones in today’s society the smart phone has become a common “anytime anywhere” communication tool that can be a way keeping track and informing others of ones’s current location. This is done through digital communication tools such as email, SMS, or other chat programs. This allows people to notify others digitally in an reactive manner of their location. Others who are not physically nearby the user can be notified that they arrived or left a specific location, thus extending the scope of the knowledge of physical presence of the user. However, this can be a burdensome task when having to constantly anticipate who will be interested in the updates and what relevant information to share. With today’s use of GPS-enabled mobile devices it is possible to set up pre-defined virtual perimeters  known as geofences that can notify a person’s trusted contacts when they have entered or left a specified ‘public’ geofence that they have decided to broadcast. Users may also be invited to opt-in to public geofences such as libraries, universities, malls, or stores.

I want to explore using GPS enabled smart phones, web services, and cloud computing as a way to track, store, analyze, and notify based on geospatial data and user-specific settings. A mobile application built in the Android operating system will be used in conjunction with a website with a RESTful API architecture that can handle communication from the web server to the mobile device. Data sent from the mobile device to the server will trigger notifications to the user’s contacts to notify them when they have entered or left a geofence the user has voluntarily decided to opt-in based on their broadcast level. The level of broadcasts categories of friends, friends of friends, and friend in same-location only will be explored.

How much data, how often, and in what manner the data will needed to be stored will be explored. Use of notifications and the lifespan of its usefulness to the broadcaster and to their readers will have to be explored.

Use of current and historical movements of user can be used for personal use of the data owner and to analyze demographics of a certain area anonymously. There are also certain ethical and technical issues relating trust, privacy, and security that will need to be considered.

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