Auto-Graphics, a library-automation vendor specializing in large-scale resource-sharing systems and one that has implemented several statewide projects, has recently partnered with Quova to incorporate Quova’s solution for authenticating users.
The resource-sharing systems developed by Auto-Graphics involve union catalogs that list the resources within the libraries located in the service area and may also include access to research databases licensed from commercial publishers.
One of the challenges in these large-scale systems involves providing a mechanism for identifying authorized users. In a statewide system, for example, all residents of the state should enjoy access, making it important to be able to grant access to a person—who is requesting access to a given resource—physically located in the service area (such as a resident of the state). The structure of the Internet, however, doesn’t tie users to physical locations, and although every device on the Internet must have a unique address, these addresses are usually assigned without regard to physical location.
Quova specializes in the technologies that solve this “geolocation problem.” Although no hard and fast relationship exists between the address of an Internet user and his or her physical location, there are a lot of clues and patterns that can help with the geolocation problem. Quova offers a variety of services surrounding the problem of identifying the physical location of individual Web users.
Where in the World
The developers at Quova have accumulated extensive data about Internet structure to aid in the process of mapping an IP address to the physical world. It isn’t always possible to pinpoint a user’s location with precision, so Quova assigns a confidence ranking with each geolocation result. Some organizations employ international proxies that make geolocation difficult. Dial-up users, especially from such international providers as American Online (AOL), pose difficulties since their entry points to the telephone system cannot be determined from the IP network. Users that hide their identities through anonymizer services also stymie geolocation services.
Based in Mountain View, California, Quova was founded in 2000 and is backed by a group of venture capital funds, including Mobius Venture Capital, IDG Ventures, Nexus Group, and Schoffstall Ventures.
Geolocation finds a number of applications in the world of e-commerce, for instance:/p>
- It can be used as a factor in isolating fraudulent credit card purchases;
- Federal regulations often require banks and other financial organizations to know the locations of their customers;
- Gambling sites must be able to identify if a customer is in a state or country where the activity is legal; and
- Geolocation allows Web sites to control what ads are served and to localize content based on the user’s location.
Libraries and other organizations that deal with distributing electronic content can use geolocation as a component of digital rights management (DRM). Many license agreements impose restrictions on who may view content based on geographical location.
Connecting in Connecticut
For Auto-Graphics, partnering with Quova gives it the technology for more convenient user authentication in its statewide resource-sharing systems. For example, iCONN (a component of the Connecticut Education Network) is a customer that utilizes an Auto-Graphics provided resource-sharing system. iCONN licenses a number of information resources on behalf of the faculty, students, and residents of the state of Connecticut. In order to satisfy the terms of the license agreements and to make resource access convenient for its users, iCONN can offer this highly desirable functionality—authenticating its users based on geolocation.
Because the content and resources of iCONN are only available to residents of the state of Connecticut, one of the key issues involves devising ways to limit access. One method, which was already in place, involves having users enter their library card numbers. The system can then check to see if the number provided is associated with one of the libraries in the state; however, this method is not viable for residents without library cards. So, the service provided by Auto-Graphics (via Quova’s IP Geolocation service), allows residents to enter the site automatically.
Only those with IP addresses who cannot be geolocated within the state have to enter a library card number to gain access. This approach allows access to a larger portion of the eligible population and makes access much more convenient.