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Winter 2006

Seminar addresses privacy, scalability of location-based systems

Mohamed Mokbel

Mohamed Mokbel

Privacy and scalability are key challenges facing the emerging field of location-based information services, said Mohamed Mokbel at an ITS Institute Advanced Transportation Technologies Seminar October 24, 2006.

Driven by improvements in consumer GPS and wireless communications, location-based information services have the potential to penetrate nearly every aspect of daily life. Mokbel, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota's computer science and engineering department, is currently developing technologies to provide high-quality location-specific information while respecting privacy.

Interest in services that provide information based on a user's location is growing rapidly among consumers and information providers, he said, but the technology cannot reach its full potential unless users' anonymity is protected. Mokbel outlined the development of "location anonymizer" software that protects privacy by obscuring users' precise locations while allowing them to electronically access information about the area around them.

As more location-based services become available, Mokbel said, the ability of database systems to keep up with huge demands for spatial information will become a limiting factor. The second half of the seminar covered advanced server architectures designed to remove the bottlenecks that slow down current spatial information systems.