The increasing number of mobile portable devices in use creates a great opportunity for
development of a wide spectrum of mobile e-commerce services. The main advantage of these
services is their high availability. Customers with a mobile device can enjoy these e-commerce
services regardless of time or location. However, mobile devices, such as cellular phones and
PDAs, are constrained by severe restrictions that might complicate practical use of e-commerce
services. These restrictions are related to the limitations of wireless data networks when
compared to wired networks (less bandwidth, more latency, lower connection stability, less
predictability, and less standardized protocols) and to the limitations of mobile handsets when
compared to personal computers (small screen size, complicated text input, little memory, slow
CPU, and more constrained energy supply).
Additional problems with wide application of mobile e-commerce services are related to higher
cost of wireless communications (compared with wired communications), and to the assumption
that most users of mobile devices do not have sufficient experience of Internet or PC usage. This
puts forward requirements of simplicity and expressiveness to the services.
It is possible that some of the limitations will be relaxed in the future through improved hardware
or telecommunication networks technology (Tarasewich & Warkentin, 2000), but at the moment
all of them should be taken into consideration when implementing mobile services.
As a basic way of relaxing the above-mentioned problems and limitations we see the following
· the connection time to the network service should be minimized,
· the precision of delivered information should be high in order to avoid exposing a large
amount of useless information to be read on a small screen.
These solutions assume that as much work as possible should be done off-line without the mobile
device being directly connected to the network.
Our approach towards reaching this goal is to provide a user of mobile devices with a personal
software assistant that represents the customer's profile and interests in e-commerce services. In
order to implement such an assistant, we use an agent-based approach and agent technology. The
personal assistant operates in the Internet environment, and the users employ WAP-enabled
mobile devices to communicate with their assistants to take advantage of e-commerce services.
The rest of the paper is organized as follows. First we describe some details of e-commerce
services we would like to implement, as well as basic problems associated with their
implementation. Then we briefly consider basic concepts of agent technology and WAP as