Presence technology is a type of application that makes it possible to locate and identify a computing device or a user wherever it might be, as soon as the user connects to the network.
Instant messaging (IM) is a very common example. Both proprietary products, such as Sametime, and freely available ones, such as AIM, can be used to add presence to any application. That faculty makes collaboration possible wherever and whenever users are online. In another example (among many possibilities), a driver with a GPS-enabled device can be tracked and sent messages warning about traffic delays and suggesting alternate routes.
Presence technology is an integral part of third generation (3G) wireless networks, and is being employed across a wide variety of communication devices, including cellphones, laptop computers, PDAs, television sets, and pagers. Privacy issues are typically addressed by allowing a high degree of user-defined control, allowing people to select conditions in which they are detectable, for example.
The Internet Engineering Task Force’s (IETF) Instant Messaging and Presence Protocol (IMPP) Working Group was formed to establish core standards that could be used to make presence technologies interoperable, a challenge that is currently slowing their development. Many of the current IM systems, for example, don’t make it possible for users to exchange messages with the customers of other systems, a situation which has been compared to a long distance telephone service provider making it impossible for users to communicate with another long distance provider’s customers. Industry leaders have joined forces to form the Parlay Group, a consortium developed to promote collaboration within the industry.