[Geowanking] is this a repeat? IETF IM geo protocols
anthony at nycwireless.net
Tue Feb 3 13:52:21 PST 2004
sorry if this is a repeat. dont remember seeing it
ETF Closes in on Linking Geographic Info, Presence
January 28, 2004
By Christopher Saunders
Instant messaging brought "presence" -- the ability to tell when others
are available for chat -- to the desktop. Now, the concept could be on
the cusp of another, quiet evolution: incorporating location
Presence as a source of users' status information has been maturing
over the past few years. It has grown increasingly granular -- moving
from the terse "Away" to more informative descriptions like "On the
Phone" or "Off-site with client; back at 2." Groupware, Web
conferencing and telephony applications have also begun incorporating
presence information, broadening its impact.
Now, figures in the Internet communications community are working to
take presence to the next level by creating a framework for merging
users' location data into their presence information. That's long been
viewed as a logical add-on to the basic availability data now available
in most implementations of presence.
But there are important considerations to take into account before
simply merging the data. Access to users' geographic information needs
to be subject to user control, much like presence is handled in most
consumer instant messaging clients -- which generally enable users to
hide their availability status from certain classes of fellow users,
such as unknown contacts. Otherwise, everyone on a network could have
unrestricted knowledge of others' whereabouts without any form of
Within the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Geographic
Location/Privacy Working Group (also known as GEOPRIV) has taken up the
task of walking the line between establishing a means of disseminating
geographic data that is subject to the same sorts of privacy controls
as presence is today.
GEOPRIV is close to finalizing on a recommendation -- a Request for
Comments, in IETF parlance -- for just such a system. That draft
recommendation, authored by Neustar's Jon Peterson and known officially
as "A Presence-based GEOPRIV Location Object Format," is actually based
on earlier work done in formulating the basic requirements for presence
data -- the Presence Information Data Format (PIDF).
"Historically, in the IETF, there was this big IM and presence war -- I
guess it isn't officially over, yet," said Peterson, who also serves on
the Internet Engineering Steering Group, the IETF's standards
leadership body. "One of the fallouts of that was the IMPP Working
Group ... One of the things it produced was a common core set of tools
to be used by IM protocols in the ITEF to ensure interoperability ...
that was PIDF. And this other effort was started on geographic data."
Eventually, however, individuals involved with both IM and with
geographic data realized that much of the same privacy and
authorization controls had to be applied to each.
"More and more, we realized that the GEOPRIV problem was really the
presence problem -- the mechanisms of subscriptions, tracking,
receiving periodic updates over time, and authentication, who you lie
to and who you tell the truth to ... All these arguments look the
same," Peterson said. "Consequently, we just revised the presence work
... The draft is an extension to the PIDF document that essentially
adds a new element that permits one to carry geographical information
Initially, a few early drafts and informational documents were created
by the group. But little work progressed until this month saw the first
concerted effort to gain RFC status for GEOPRIV recommendations --
which would effectively preserve Peterson's draft as a standard.
The latest effort doesn't aim to hammer out a standard for geographic
information itself. Rather, it's based on current geographic data
standards, and focuses instead on encapsulating location information
within presence data, and applying the same sorts of user preferences.
Geography Markup Language (GML) is the expected location format over
which the GEOPRIV draft's specifications will be applied.
"There is related work out there, tons of it in the GEOPRIV working
group for providing more specific policy tools and language ...
andOpenGIS (Geographic Information Systems) and the GML 3.0 spec seem
adequate for expressing simple and extremely complex coordinate space,"
Peterson said. "Tons of people work on OpenGIS. We're not experts on
that. We're experts on things like security and privacy ... At its
core, [the new draft] is pretty format-agnostic."
According to the language of the draft and earlier reference documents
on which it was built, the specification document creates only the
minimum markup necessary for a user to detail preferences concerning
that external privacy rules be followed, any limitation on length of
data retention, and any limitation on any retransmission or further
Peterson said the group aims to bring the document to Last Call -- one
of the final approval steps before RFC status -- in late February or
Assuming the document is approved, goes to RFC, and is widely adopted
as a de facto specification -- which is fairly likely, considering the
wide array of industry support within the GEOPRIV Working Group and its
other affiliated groups in the IETF -- the stage could be set for a
number of compelling applications.
In addition to, say, relatively mundane uses like being able to
pinpoint a roving colleague in advance of a big meeting, enterprise
systems could support rules-based messaging using geographic data. In
an event of a server failure, for instance, a system could swing into
action, alerting only IT administrators who were nearby and available.
Peterson, an early figure in Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and SIP
for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE) has
his own anticipated scenarios. For one thing, VOIP applications based
on SIP could see a major boost with the introduction of location-based
data, which would provide necessary infrastructure for 911 emergency
"The ability to convey within a SIP 'Invite' message for VOIP the
location of a caller is critical, and it's been a really substantial
gap in SIP's story for some time," he said. He also cited gaming
applications as a personal favorite.
"But what we're trying to do is provide the foundational building
blocks that people can apply as they want," he added. "The challenge is
to balance the need to share this information with users' personal
privacy -- hence this whole concept of GEOPRIV."
Christopher Saunders is managing editor of InstantMessagingPlanet.com.
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