Keywords: GIS, JaMaPS, paper, svg, interoperability, LBS, layering, hyperlayering, goSVG
My research theme is web applications and spatial information systems. Our controlling company KDDI is a communication career which offers an international phone call, a long-distance call, a cellular phone, etc. I developed the mapping system for the underwater robot for submarine commnunication cable construction. From 1995, I applied web technology to this system. From such circumstances, the development of spatial information service platform based on web technology is one of the main research themes of mine. I developed SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) browsers for embedded computers. One of the concrete target is a cellular phone. I have standardization activities about the spatial information systems in Japan. Moreover, KDDI R&D Laboratories Inc. is the member of W3C, and we are cooperating in the standardization of SVG.
My research theme is Mobile Computing field. Especially, I am researching and developing graphics information sharing platform by using XML based graphics format SVG. Until now, I developed SVG browsers for PC,PocketPC, and Palm device. And now, My target device is cellular phone. I am researching and designing extended SVG specification for cellular phone, and I am developing SVG browser for cellular phone. Moreover, KDDI R&D Laboratories Inc. is the member of W3C, and I am the member of SVG Working Group.
At present, Location Based Service (LBS) - Web Mapping is the application domain of the most active SVG-related community in Japan. This community is called goSVG working group.
Notice that the activity is carried out not independently by a specific company but by a community formed among various companies. This fact has a considerable significance with respect to an open standard platform like SVG. We have been participating in the activity as a member of this community.
This paper will explain firstly the reason for our belief that LBS-Web Mapping is the most important application domain of SVG, and secondly, the functions that are essential for LBS - Web Mapping. Lastly, the nature of the activity will be introduced.
1. Significance of SVG
1.1 Multifunctionality of SVG
1.2 SVG is XML-based
1.3 SVG is an Open Format
1.4 SVG is Royalty-Free
1.5 SVG is Developed by W3C
2. Ubiquitous Computing and LBS
3. SVG and LBS
4. The Most Significant SVG Application Domain
4.2 Open Format
5. The Basic Architecture of WWW
5.1 LBS and Hyper-Layering Architecture
5.1.1 Loyalty and SVG
5.1.2 Geographic Coordinate Systems
6.1 Standardization Activity
6.2 goSVG Working Group
It is needless to say at the SVGOPEN conference that SVG is an excellent vector graphics format, yet it is only a newly developed format. Moreover, there exists a number of competing vector graphics formats in the world, and these already have their respective markets and therefore, making a foray into these markets is not an easy task for SVG to do. In other words, SVG must expand the market by emphasizing the features that are unique to SVG.
First, the features of SVG are described and whether these features are unique to SVG is investigated.
Technologies like Flash, for instance, are enhanced rapidly. Functions are more easily enhanced with proprietary formats that can directly reflect technological innovations and that do not require consultations on standardization. It could hardly be said for this reason that SVG is multifunctional in comparison with other proprietary formats. That is to say, efforts to make SVG multifunctional may be needed, yet this feature would never be unique to SVG.
The benefits of being XML-based surely exist and this is unique to SVG. As SVG is XML-based, though, the contents size tends to be enormous. There are many application domains including services to generate contents dynamically that take advantage of XML, yet this does not apply for all application domains. It is vital to promote the application domain selectively that serves as a catalyst of the spread of SVG in order to put SVG into practical use through the full use of this feature.
There exist open formats other than SVG. Therefore, SVG being an open format can no longer be said to be the feature that is unique to SVG. We believe that the feature unique to SVG is credited to the following feature, assuming that SVG is an open format.
The fact that SVG is royalty-free can be considered as a feature unique to SVG at this moment. An effort to sustain this feature would be a significant merit for SVG. Needless to say, users will be able to reduce the risks on the intellectual property right and the costs involved. In addition, patented technologies provided by various companies, who made a courageous decision to accept the terms of RF (Royalty-Free), are considered as extremely irreplaceable assets for SVG. This fact must never be forgotten.
W3C is very active and it is an indisputable fact that SVG is a vector graphics format, the standardization of which has been ongoing most actively in W3C at present. However, defact standards tend to control the market of computer and WWW. Having said that, it is the world where defact standards dominate computers and WWW. In other words, proprietary systems can gain control over the market and become a defact standard. There exist such proprietary systems such as PDF and Flash among the competitors of SVG. This implies that an open standardization activity is not necessary for something to become a defact standard.
W3C, on the contrary, inherits the principles of WWW formed by HTML and engaged in the activity based on them. This is an advantage of W3C. The basic principles of WWW are original and have an advantage. For this reason, WWW has been holding the premier position among information systems. This is the reason that W3C is maintaining an important position.
SVG is the most appropriate format as an architecture that inherits the basic principles of WWW to full strength and enhances them. SVG is expected to further expand the market of WWW when the standardization of SVG is realized and is accepted by the market. Then SVG can surge ahead of other competing formats. Given this perspective, it seems that the standardization activity of SVG should aim to realize a new architecture that leads to the enhancement of the basic principles of WWW, but to realize a multifunctional system that only satisfies the near term needs in the similar way done by other proprietary systems.
A ubiquitous computing system is regarded as an ideal information system of the future and it has drawn great attention in Japan. Computers have already changed their forms from desktop to mobile devices. What comes next will be the wide and in-depth penetration of the benefits of IT through the network where all objects load computers and the objects are linked together. In other words, an age, when an information system that is accessible at "anytime and anywhere" penetrates into our society, is expected to come. This is the vision of ubiquitous computing. Such a generation is expected within a decade at the latest. Mobile phones in Japan at least are already equipped with broadband networks, positioning systems, high-resolution display devices, large memory and high processing capacities, and it is believed that they already fulfill the required processing and communication capacity as terminal devices of such an age. This means that, though limited, a ubiquitous computing system is a reality.
In the world of such ubiquitous computing, computers that have been mainly processing cyberspace information must now process real world information. It is clear from the keyword of ubiquitous, "anytime and anywhere", "where", namely location information is necessary for real world information. For this reason, location information processed by a ubiquitous computing system will be basic information of information systems such as ID and URL. In this way, most information systems and services that process location information have aspects as LBS. Figure 1
Under the ubiquitous computing environment with a strong aspect of LBS, WWW is naturally expected to change its form. As for the content processed by the transformed WWW, information is closely tied to the real world would be of the main focus, and expressing locations as contents would become important. Maps are used more than textual information as a tool to represent location information. In other words, the importance of maps as graphics contents would be of greater significance than what is expected now.
Maps are a type of illustration used as a tool by humans to express information and communicate by means of graphics. Components of illustrations like characters and graphics, which are available as digital contents, can be encoded by vector graphics. In this way, it is clear that vector graphics are more appropriate than raster graphics as a format for maps.
SVG as a vector graphics format, for this reason, is one of the formats appropriate for LBS. In the age of ubiquitous computing, the SVG will gain a growing importance as a map format.
At the SVGOPEN2003 Conference, for example, WebMapping accounted for the largest ratio of the contents of presentations, and it is estimated that 25% of all the presentations were presentations related to LBS including WebMapping. From this fact, it is easily presumed that LBS-related efforts are being advanced as the most important application for SVG.
Needless to mention, this is not to say that applications other than LBS are not important. For all the more reason that SVG is the vector graphics that can support a wide range of application domains unlike other LBS specific format, there is a high possibility for SVG to be installed into various terminal devices.
And yet, at the same time, LBS is considered to be the most important application for SVG. Although, the fact that maps become more important in the age of coming ubiquitous computing as mentioned earlier is a key factor, yet that is not all. As the succeeding chapters indicate, LBS is the one that can make full use of the values of SVG raised at the beginning of this article.
Ability to generate vector graphics contents dynamically from information systems such as databases can be cited as one of the features of SVG. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Facility Management Systems (FMS) are in many cases constituted as such systems and considered as one of the typical examples of such applications. These systems process the actual location and, in many cases, render the result of process as a map or a diagram showing a certain part of the results. This namely is a type of LBS.
With respect to the contents for LBS, there is a higher possibility that both central and local governments and local communities would play a role as a source of information more than ever. And, it is easily anticipated that information systems to serve as a social infrastructure by providing information closer to the real world. It is clear that a number of risks, problems concerning royalty-free for instance, are involved with the development of a social infrastructure by a proprietary system of any specific company. LBS, specifically, is an application domain that requires systems with a high degree of openness, hence SVG is appropriate.
As mentioned above, however, basic principles of WWW that SVG should have must be effectively utilized to regard LBS as the most important application domain of SVG. The following chapter describes its principles, a new architecture that realizes the principles for SVG, and the relationship with LBS.
What is new to WWW when compared to conventional information systems? What is the factor that accelerated the explosive growth of WWW? As far as free server software and browser software are concerned, they existed before the advent of WWW. Besides, the following abilities of WWW are also the factors that contribute to the growth of WWW.
To summarize the above, it is an important feature of WWW that an unspecified number of content delivery servers are able to operate independently, basically without requiring the existence of other servers, while these servers are accessible almost automatically and as if they are all linked once they are connected to the Internet. In other words, the basic architecture of WWW is an autonomous distributed content platform. This feature can be said to be an original and unique feature of WWW, which is achieved by WWW on the Internet for the first time, since the basic architecture of the Internet as a content platform is effectively utilized.
It is a matter of fact that it is impossible to link these platforms if they operate using different formats or protocols. Therefore, standardization of protocol and content format was required and in order to realize the environment where any one can deliver contents freely, protocol and format needed to be open. In addition, to realize the above, actions to open server source codes and make browsers freeware are naturally required.
The explosive growth of WebLog (blog) in the recent years is a noteworthy phenomenon. This factor is nothing less than the further enhancement of the basic architecture of WWW. Although, some advancement activities such as multimedialization and WebServices other than WebLog are implemented in the area of WWW, the author reckons nothing can, unfortunately, be more outstanding than WebLog.
And now, has the basic architecture of WWW been handed down to SVG to the full extent? Has SVG been able to enhance the architecture of WWW? Besides, is there any application domain that fully utilizes SVG? These three requirements must be met for SVG to achieve the success. Unless these requirements are met, the information system is feasible not necessarily with SVG.
With these in mind, we placed our focus on LBS as an application domain, and the reason for it follows. Maps are particularly important as contents of LBS. SVG is appropriate for expressing maps. On the other hand, WWW on the Internet has been playing a crucial role as a contents platform to deliver contents. SVG is one of the contents formats of WWW after all, hence we regard SVG has great potential as a contents platform of LBS.
This consideration is based on the following background concerning Geographic Information System (GIS). The interoperability of GIS has been a critical issue in the GIS industry from the time when the penetration of GIS begun until the present time. The reason comes from the fact that the data is relevant only at a certain location while it costs a great deal to generate GIS data, and therefore, it is considered to be an extremely inefficient information system in terms of cost-effectiveness and this remains to be a serious problem yet to be solved. For this reason, cost-effectiveness had to be improved by linking various GIS and increasing sharable data. That is an improvement of interoperability. Although many activities have been repeatedly carried out to achieve this aim for the last two decades, not much outcome is observed. While GIS is the term for the mission critical system that mainly processes geographic information, LBS is the term for geographic information related information services in general. The problem concerning interoperability of GIS is similarly found in LBS and the problem will become increasingly prominent since LBS has various uses.
For this reason, we came up with an idea to realize it with WWW on the Internet, which is an autonomous distributed content platform, and hence developed an absolutely imperative architecture and standardized it as one of the features in SVG1.1, which we call hyper-layering. [Hyperlayering and JaMaPS] The mechanism of hyper-layering is as straightforward as presented in the Figure 2 . First, deliver contents that represent geographic information graphically (map layer) on WWW. Then the search engine (this could simply be the yellow pages or linked pages) will search for the map contents required by the user. At this point, the contents cannot be provided by one map layer and therefore, it is assumed that the contents are provided by overlaying several map layers. For this reason, search engines provide information used for overlaying multiple map layers as search results. Browsers then access these multiple map layers, overlay them, and display them as contents.
This clearly is an autonomous distributed content delivery model that a conventional WWW lacks. In other words, a function for cooperation between Web contents, which differs from a conventional WWW, was created by hyper-layering. This enhances an autonomous distributed function of WWW. What is possible at the same time is to append LBS as a new promising application domain to WWW.
As explained so far, LBS has the problem of the improvement of interoperability to be solved and this can be solved by the hyper-layering function that SVG provides. In other words, SVG could respond to the previously mentioned requirements with respect to LBS.
We have issued a patent on hyper-layering architecture that provides interoperability, which is significant for LBS (Patent Number: Japan:3,503,397 USA:6,107,961). [Acquisition of Hyper-layering patent] We, however, have declared royalty-free use of the hyper-layering architecture in SVG in conformity to the principles of W3C. As an additional point, we do not declare royalty-free the use of hyper-layering other than in SVG. This implies that hyper-layering is available royalty-free only with SVG at the present time. This fact could be considered as a feature unique to SVG.
To complement the point, a function to support geographic coordinate systems is implemented in SVG as it is required when the hyper layering architecture was deployed. (Layering is done on the basis of geographic coordinate systems.) That is to say, maps come with map coordinates. This can realize the function that easily maps data of positioning systems onto maps. This function is essential in LBS.
It has become clear that LBS is an extremely important application domain for SVG due to many reasons mentioned above. We reckon that the level of its importance is higher than other application domains and that LBS is the most important application domain for SVG.
Regarding the participation of the standardization activity of SVG, we first took it as a basic policy. That objective was achieved when SVG1.1 was completed. The importance of CRS and hyper layering function of SVG, however, has not unfortunately gained much recognition worldwide yet. As a matter of fact, none of the SVG browsers with these functions are released other than by KDDI Research Institute. It is a great shame, however, this is attributed to the lack of our public relations activity and the fact that the time when needs arise has not come yet and there are not enough tools prepared.
The next task that we worked on was to form a community to implement demonstration experiments of LBS utilizing those functions. That is the goSVG working group.
Fortunately, car navigation systems and mobile phones with large and high-resolution screens and high performance are widely used in Japan. Therefore, LBS, though proprietary, has become relatively familiar. Also, there is a high attention to ubiquitous computing as mentioned earlier and the importance of LBS is emphasized. Under such circumstances, we could work on the task to realize the interoperability of LBS on the SVG-based autonomous distributed contents platform.
We first realized LBS with this hyper layering architecture as a proprietary system called JaMaPS in 1996. [Hyperlayering and JaMaPS] Needless to say, it should be an open system and be standardized. Therefore, we began the standardization activity in the year 2000. As mentioned earlier, SVG1.1 equipped with this hyper layering architecture was published as a W3C recommendation. This movement initiated us to adopt the outcome of SVG1.1 to the standardization activity for LBS specification that was independently carried out in Japan. It is called G-XML [G-XML] Mobile Mark Format also known as goSVG (G-XML over SVG) format.
A demonstration experiment activity using a test bed has started since autumn 2003. This activity has been carried out as a technical working group of private LBS promoting an organization called g Contents Promotion Association. [g conents exchange promotion association] This working group is called the goSVG working group. The activity is supported by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of the Japanese government. The "g" of "g Contents" represents "g" of "geo-".
The aim of goSVG WG is to demonstrate autonomous distribution of LBS. The architecture of such a system is showed in the Figure 3 below. The architecture does not differ a lot structurally from WWW using html. It includes a browser, search engine (yellow pages), dynamic contents server, static contents and authoring tool. Each component is freely constructed by participating companies specialized in their respective areas. Although, these components are developed independently, these as a whole operate as a massive LBS by autonomous distributed function using hyper layering.
The table contains the present participating companies.
At the goSVG session, eight companies promoting advanced activities will give presentations.
The activity of goSVG is currently at the stage where companies are developing systems, and an experiment in marketing is expected to start from the second half of 2004 using the goSVG-based system developed by companies. A demonstration experiment that is free from the constraints of business models of companies is also planned, making full use of being an open platform.
We have discussed the significance of the existence of SVG as a contents platform of WWW, and described that LBS does enhance the existence value of SVG and that the hyper layering architecture realizes LBS. Based on that we have stated that the most important application domain of SVG is LBS. Also, we described the importance of the activity for demonstration purposes, and explained about our involvement in the demonstration experiment activity called goSVG WG.
SVG-based LBS is important as an information infrastructure, and not only efforts by companies but also efforts by governments and delivery of information by NPO, NGO and individuals would become important. We are planning to collaborate with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and Geographical Survey Institute that publish infrastructure maps to carry out an effort to provide infrastructure map based on SVG1.1.
A session for goSVG WG has been arranged at this SVGOPE2004 with an expectation that the promoting activity of SVG-based autonomous distributed LBS will be spread world wide, even though the activity is currently only implemented regionally in Japan. We are considering to internationalize the activity of goSVG WG and to carry out an effort to disseminate it widely across the world.
This research was supported by NICT (National Institute of Information and Communications Technology) of Japan.
goSVG Working Group is supported by Database Promotion Center,Japan.
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