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Mobile Access to
Cultural Information
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Mobile access technologies are one of the key factors for the growing popularity of
handheld devices.The idea of wireless networks is not new. Earlier technologies were
centred on the use of radio-based devices. Infra-red technologies have been used to link
two computer devices over short distances. In recent years, the implementation of larger
and more affordable wireless networks has become possible using cellular telephony as a
communication link between the end-user device and the local area network (LAN), thus
making access to the Internet a reality.
PDAs have hidden potential.The first PDA (the Newton) was launched in 1993 by
Apple
,
134
and since then much effort has been invested in creating tools to support data
transfer (or `synchronisation') between handhelds and desktop computers.The installation
in public places of `beam stations' has given roaming users of handheld devices access to
information resources.
With the implementation of wireless and mobile
networking technologies it has become standard
practice for a user to set up her own personal area
network (PAN), interlinking different devices such as
notebooks, laptops, PDAs, and mobile phones.
Bluetooth
is currently the leading protocol for
such a task, and the Institute of Electronics and
Electrical Engineers
' 802.15 Working Group is
leading an effort to establish a standard.
135
The symbiosis between cellular phones and
handheld devices, as well as the appearance of
hybrid devices that share the functionalities of two
or more discrete types, provides mobile access to
the Internet. Instead of speaking about `wireless',
which is a narrow technical term, it is more
appropriate and fruitful to speak of `mobile'
computing. Despite changes in location, while
roaming the user does not lose their connection to the Internet, and so long as the use
remains within the area covered by a mobile service provider the location does not
necessarily matter.
Although not shaping how mobile access technologies develop, cultural and scientific
heritage organisations are already becoming devoted users of them. User satisfaction
with mobile technology can be influenced by interface characteristics, bandwidth, the
potential for personalisation, device durability, functionality, battery storage and
recharge capabilities. Some of these factors will influence the ways in which the cultural
heritage sector can deploy solutions built on this technology. For instance, display limita-
tions in terms of size, resolution and clarity may discourage potential users of image-heavy
content, or limitations of bandwidth will restrict its usefulness for video. Solutions to the
shortcomings of the current generation of technology will be addressed gradually as the
technology continues to mature. In the interim, the use of mobile devices may for some
applications require a multi-technology approach, based on the combination of mobile
devices and fixed services.
MOBIlear
n
Using a handheld and stylus
134 http://www.apple.com
135 http://grouper.ieee.org/groups/802/15/.This group is developing Personal Area Network consensus
standards for short distance wireless networks, or WPANs.
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