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< Contents ERCIM News No. 54, July 2003
SPECIAL THEME: Applications and Service Platforms for the Mobile User

Uluru: Mobile Interactive Multimedia Experimental Service Environment

by Johan de Heer, Andrew Tokmakoff, Henk Eertink and John Anijs

The ULURU project, initiated in 2001 by the Dutch Telematica Instituut and Mobiview, has its focus on aspects that play a primary role in the value chain between content providers, mobile network operators and end-users. Research has been performed in personalization, payments, digital rights management, content management and content distribution.

From a mobile network operator’s perspective, the success of broadband mobile services is highly dependent on the ready availability and acceptance of attractive applications and content, which the end-user is willing to pay for. We have produced an intermediary facilitating platform that is positioned for use in a business-to-business (B2B) setting, between mobile operators on the one hand, and content providers on the other (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Uluru: Roles and Services.
Figure 1: Uluru: Roles and Services.

Uluru is a platform that hosts 3rd party application logic and makes common services available to these applications. These services can potentially be quite complex and may also require a certain 'trust relationship' between the specific service and the application using it (eg payment through a mobile operator’s billing system). Such trust generally requires contracts/agreements (SLAs) between the mobile operator and parties that wish to charge using the operator’s billing infrastructure, which can be difficult and expensive to arrange.

Figure 2: Uluru’s functions.
Figure 2: Uluru’s functions.

Uluru provides a set of coarse-grained functions to the applications that may use these through well-defined APIs (see Figure 2). These functions fall into the following broad categories:

  • content management: handling content and its meta-data
  • financial exploitation: accounting, charging, payment and billing
  • personalisation (content recommendation): an engine that can be used to optimise application usability
  • authentication: used for controlling access of users and applications
  • logging: system monitoring
  • event messaging: allowing asynchronous messaging between applications and system components
  • subscription: managing user details
  • MMS and SMS office: services that can send and receive text-messages from mobile phones.

The Content Management Service Provisioning caters for the intake of the content feeds and performs encoding and storage of these feeds. After transcoding (eg into MPEG-4) and enrichment of the content (eg making it fit for dedicated applications), the content is again stored and ready to deliver to the mobile network.

End-users of Uluru’s hosted applications can be charged for the services they consume using existing mobile operator billing services through a Parlay ( interface. This leverages the pre-existing customer billing relationship between the end-user and the mobile operator.

For personalisation we have developed the Duine Toolkit, which is an SDK that allows developers to integrate prediction engines into their own applications. In contrast to most current available personalized information systems that focus on the use of a single prediction technique or a fixed combination of two or three techniques, Duine combines multiple techniques in a dynamic and intelligent way, thereby providing more accurate and stable predictions.

Each of the above-mentioned platform functions are exposed to the hosted applications through the Uluru platform API, and are implemented by 'backend' components using an adapter approach. This adapter approach for decoupling the COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) components from the platform avoids vendor lock-in and insulates the platform from the underlying technologies. Furthermore, Uluru is communication technology independent; its only assumption is that IP network connectivity is available. This means that the platform can operate using network technologies including 802.11x, GPRS, and UMTS. The implementation of the Uluru platform is heavily based upon distributed Java technologies such as J2EE and the platform itself is distributed over multiple locations. In one example, a NewsFlash application was located at the Telematica Instituut, whilst the Uluru platform itself was located at Hilversum, the MediaPark. In this situation, the NewsFlash application utilized CORBA to access the Platform services.

Figure 3: Visualization of System Functions.
Figure 3: Visualization of System Functions.

In order to provide good insight into the underlying workings of the Platform, we have developed a visualization toolkit, which allows system events to be depicted on a graphical representation of the system. The visualiser (shown in Figure 3), depicts the interaction between platform components (such as profiling, content recommendation, content delivery and financial exploitation), based on input of real-time triggers (events) that occur during the process of delivering interactive multi-media services.

All that is needed of the developer is to include some “metering points” within the application and to make use of the package’s event reporting functionality. The implementation of the EventServer interface is based on the Pushlets framework, in which a servlet or JSP streams lines of JavaScript code into a hidden browser frame. The browser executes the lines and performs visualization actions accordingly. In effect, this mechanism provides a callback from Java in the server to JavaScript in the client browser. The client-side graphics have been implemented using Scalable Vector Graphics.

Figure 4: Personalised Teletext news for i-mode (left), and Sony/Ericsson P800 (right), and NewsFlash with ANP content for IPAQ (middle).
Figure 4: Personalised Teletext news for i-mode (left), and Sony/Ericsson P800 (right), and NewsFlash with ANP content for IPAQ (middle).

The Uluru platform provides the infrastructure to deliver a wide range of multimedia content and interactive services to mobile end-users (subscribers). The NewsFlash application demonstrates the capabilities of the ULURU platform, including the possibility to offer personalized content and to apply flexible charging for various kinds of content, which are regarded essential for successful business (see Figure 4). NewsFlash offers the latest news in text, image and streaming video format. The ULURU platform dynamically adapts the news content offered to the user based on preset preferences, previously requested news articles and a calculated user interest rating for news articles.

Another major programme goal, the implementation of an experimental platform for mobile multi-media services, has now been achieved. The ULURU platform is now available for user trials, which offers external parties, (such as content providers and mobile network operators) the ability to perform tests on applications providing next generation mobile communication services. The ULURU platform will be available for academic and pre-competitive user trials at the Telematica Instituut site before the end of summer 2003. If you would like to obtain access to Uluru’s platform features, please contact us.

Telematica Instituut:
Uluru project:
Toolikit by Telematica Instituut:
Event Visualiser by Telematica Instituut:

Please contact:
Johan de Heer, Andrew Tokmakoff, Henk Eertink, John Anijs, Telematica Instituut,
The Netherlands
E-mail: {Johan.deHeer;Andrew.Tokmakoff;