July 23, 2012, 1:58 PM — Qualcomm is promoting a peer-to-peer cellular technology as a potential new standard called LTE Direct, which it says would make location-based services faster and more efficient.
The proposal grew out of FlashLinq, a system Qualcomm developed in its own labs. FlashLinq lets two cellular devices communicate over the air without relying on a fixed network infrastructure. Qualcomm sees two main applications for the technology: public safety communications in areas where mobile networks are down or unavailable, and a "discovery mode" that provides information about what interesting things and people are nearby. Qualcomm is primarily interested in the discovery mode, which it says has more commercial potential.
LTE Direct eliminates steps in the location process, allowing users to find things more quickly, Qualcomm says. Though the technology can be used for ongoing communication at high speeds, including streaming video, in discovery mode it would only broadcast tiny 128-bit packages of data. Those packages, called "expressions," would contain basic information about the device or user. Each LTE Direct device would look for expressions nearby, choosing among them using filters customized for the user or for specific applications.
"What you do is, every so often, you broadcast this 128 bits of information, which are expressing your desire ... so devices and services around you can listen to (your expressions) and figure out what you're interested in," said Mahesh Makhijani, senior director of technical marketing at Qualcomm.
Mobile consumers as well as businesses could send and receive expressions. If an application detects an expression that's relevant to what it does, that application can then go into action, providing something to the user. For example, if two friends have devices that are sending out expressions, then a social-networking app that both of them use might pop up notifications for each saying the other friend is nearby. A classic example of an application that might take advantage of discovery mode is the location check-in app Foursquare, Makhijani said.
Current location-based services rely on a central database of location data. Every party's location, determined by GPS or other methods, has to be collected in that database and then sent out to other interested parties who request it, Makhijani said. LTE Direct finds nearby devices directly over the air.