A Proposed Taxonomy of Mobile Public Utility Applications
Gavina Baralla
, Katiuscia Mannaro
and Michele Marchesi
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, University of Cagliari, Piazza D’Armi, Cagliari, Italy
Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Cagliari, Via Ospedale 72, Cagliari, Italy
Taxonomy, Mobile Applications, Knowledge Sharing, e-Government, Public Administration.
During the last years, the number of applications for mobile devices have greatly increased, as well as the
number of developed services. Taxonomies provide an important tool to classify and help to understand this
complex domain, describing it in a simpler way. This paper presents a taxonomy of services for a new class
type of mobile applications that we called Mobile Public Utility, MPU. We contribute to research by providing
a first classification scheme to the scenario of MPU App usage by depicting his special nature because not
only this mobile application enables citizen to have a dialog with local authorities about environment safety or
security, but also it improves trust through better interaction with Public Administrations and it enhances the
decision-making process by local governments.
Mobile devices like smartphone or tablet are getting
more powerful and they are gaining fundamental im-
portantance in everyday life. According to a recent
report, the worldwide sales of smartphones
has grown by 9% in the first quarter of 2017 reach-
ing 380 million units. Mobile phone buyers are will-
ing to spend more money for better devices in or-
der to install great mobile applications (Apps). The
smartphone usage is linked to the number of services
involved typically concern social media networking,
financial transaction, email, information warehouse,
entertainment like movies and music apps. This ex-
traordinary new world represents an exceptional chal-
lenge for developers willing to create new mobile ap-
plications (Cocco et al., 2014).
In order to ensure better services the use of wire-
less digital technology has grown rapidly in the last
decades. This gives a substantial increase of installed
high frequency base stations attracting citizens’ atten-
tion about problem caused by electromagnetic radia-
tion poisoning. In particular, the increased daily expo-
sure to these sources fields has generated in the public
opinion a growing concern about health risks (Cousin
and Siegrist, 2010), (SCENIHR, 2015).
This growing demand for information about the
Gartner, Inc. is an American research and ad-
visory firm providing information technology. See:
risks arising from exposure to electromagnetic fields,
and the increased sensitivity to this issue both by citi-
zens and local authorities, has resulted in requests for
information and controls to guarantee public health
(Organization et al., 2002). We developed Onde
Chiare App, (Mannaro and Ortu, 2016), a mobile ap-
plication enables to directly provide information to
the people in an effective and transparent way, show-
ing a complete and timely dashboard of electromag-
netic field levels in the urbanized areas.
To the best of our knowledge, there is no work in
literature that addresses these kind of application both
from the design point of view and in terms of taxon-
omy. Mobile applications can be categorised in sev-
eral ways, and to our knowledge there is insufficient
information on exactly what types of classification are
more appropriate for each use. Until now, there have
been some attempts to develop taxonomies for mo-
bile applications (See: (Dombroviak and Ramnath,
2007), (Nickerson et al., 2009), (Nickerson et al.,
2013), (Kennedy-Eden and Gretzel, 2012), (Shroff
et al., 2015)), but there is no taxonomy which has
been generated for a specific mobile app such as Onde
Chiare App.
In particular, Nickerson et al. (Nickerson et al.,
2009) created a taxonomy of mobile apps based on
the meta-characteristic of the interactions between the
user and the app. Starting from the work of Nickerson
(Nickerson et al., 2009), we propose here a taxonomy
that classifies the specific services offered by Onde
Baralla G., Mannaro K. and Marchesi M.
A Proposed Taxonomy of Mobile Public Utility Applications.
DOI: 10.5220/0006583902410246
In Proceedings of the 9th International Joint Conference on Knowledge Discovery, Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (KMIS 2017), pages 241-246
ISBN: 978-989-758-273-8
2017 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
Chiare App.
This paper makes the following contributions: i)
we discuss a novel kind of mobile application named
Onde Chiare , as a tool to reduce risk perception on
electromagnetic field (EMF) and to fill the knowledge
gap between the public and the experts about the ef-
fects of mobile phone radiations on human health; ii)
we propose a taxonomy that classifies the services of-
fered by this type of application; iii) we contribute to
both the academic discussion and the practical world
by providing a framework for other researchers and
managers. The organization of the paper is as fol-
lows. Section 1 provides an introduction, and the mo-
tivations for the paper. Section 2 discusses the back-
ground on a specific class of mobile applications, with
special emphasis on recent mobile application fea-
tures, and related works about taxonomy of mobile
applications. In Section 3 we classify a novel kind
of mobile app we called Mobile Public Utility (MPU)
app within the taxonomy developed by Nickerson et
al. (Nickerson et al., 2013). In Section 4 we develop
a taxonomy of MPU services and then we present a
classification of services based on different users. Fi-
nally in Section 5 we present conclusions and some
future directions for further research in this domain
of study.
This section highlights and discusses some tax-
onomies for the classification of mobile application
and then briefly discusses the state-of-the-art of mo-
bile application developed in terms of environment
safety or security.
A Taxonomy is a powerful tool for classifying a
domain content. It helps to understand better the hier-
archies and relationships between elements. A Taxon-
omy is a map of a knowledge domain, in recent years,
different types of taxonomies in the mobile area have
been proposed.
Tarute et al. (Tarute et al., 2017) investigated how
to design mobile applications based on user prefer-
ences to better understand which features stimulate
consumer engagement. Riggs and Gordon (Riggs
and Gordon, 2017) provided a taxonomy, about mo-
bile technology, as a tool for increasing transactive
exchanges between local government and citizens in
the future. Kennedy-Eden and Gretzel (Kennedy-
Eden and Gretzel, 2012) proposed a taxonomy of
mobile apps in tourism domain from two point per-
spectives to provide insights into app development
trends from a marketing perspective. Ernsting et al.
(Ernsting et al., 2017) explored the extent of smart-
phone and health app use, as potentially promising
tools to change health-related behaviors and manage
chronic conditions. Heinonen and Pura (Heinonen
and Pura, 2006) developed a conceptual classification
for mobile services giving indications how to catego-
rize them from a customer centric perspective. Their
taxonomy evaluated important aspects that influence
mobile services, such as context, social settings and
type of consumption. In (Dombroviak and Ramnath,
2007) authors presented a taxonomy of mobile and
pervasive application based on abstracting application
In (Nickerson et al., 2013) Nickerson et al. sug-
gested an iterative method for taxonomy development
and they applied this method to mobile applications
domain. Starting from that work (Nickerson et al.,
2013), we propose here a taxonomy that classify the
specific services offered by a novel type of mobile ap-
plication: a mobile app that aims to promote a proper
form of active involvement of citizens, and real-time
information sharing of electromagnetic field levels in
a given geographical area. Currently this application
is a prototype for Android designed and tested in-
ternally at the University (Mannaro and Ortu, 2016).
This novel kind of mobile applications, named ”Onde
Chiare” can be classified as Mobile Mobile Public
Utility (MPU App) and to our knowledge there is
no taxonomy in literature that has been generated for
this particular type of mobile app. In recent years,
several mobile applications in terms of environment
safety or security have been developed. Disaster Re-
is a mobile app which allows users to report
disaster event such as blaze, building damage, land-
slide, with some related information. In the United
States and Canada different types of mobile applica-
tions classified as 311 services
are available. This
number supplies access to non-emergency municipal
services and information. Some examples are: ”Your-
GOV”, ”City Sourced”, ”Connected Bits”, ”EPA”,
”Orange County California Public Works”, ”Ping4”,
”SeeClickFix Inc”. This kind of mobile applications
can be classified as Mobile Environment Monitor-
ing app, users can report incidents, pollution, abusive
dumping, potential health risks and so on, but there
is not an interactive comunication with local govern-
ment. Public Administrations do not share their in-
formation in this type of applications and there is not
a Community aspect such as in MPU app. The main
contribution of this paper is to provide a taxonomy
Available at http://www.icimod.org/?q=18659
that classifies the services offered by a novel kind of
mobile application that we called Mobile Public Util-
ity and to contribute to both the academic discussion
and the practical world by providing a framework for
other researchers and managers.
3 A CASE OF MPU: Onde Chiare
Onde Chiare is a prototype for Android we designed
and tested internally at the University. Onde Chiare
is a valuable tool to enable community members to
report specific information to the community, and to
improve the communication efforts by local author-
ities. Detailed description of Onde Chiare App can
be found in a previously published paper (Mannaro
and Ortu, 2016). In this section, only a brief descrip-
tion of the app will be presented before explaining the
classification of this app in a new class that we called
MPU app. Onde Chiare aims to promote a proper
form of active involvement of citizens, and real-time
information sharing of electromagnetic field levels in
a given geographical area. The typical scenario is rep-
resented by users carrying a smartphone loaded with
the Onde Chiare application and moving in a geo-
graphical area. Some services that the application can
manage are: i) Measurement of environmental data;
ii) Geolocation of the measurements; iii) Sending ge-
olocalized reports (i.e. broken antennas); iv) View ge-
olocalized information on the map. A remote server is
the part of the system demanded for the communica-
tion with the mobile application. It is responsible for
processing the geolocalized point received from the
application client. The remote servers response con-
tains information about the field measure (either real
or estimated) in that area and the position of possible
electromagnetic pollution sources in the surrounding
area. In addition to the involvement of experts using
tracking technologies to read data and information re-
lated to the environmental status, active participation
of individual citizen has a fundamental role. Users
in this context are an active stakeholder of the sys-
tem, they can send report that can be shared. Users
report may be a real measure of environmental data,
i.e., an EMF measure, or more general report i.e., a
broken antenna or apparatus. These report are val-
idated by experts before being shared. Our mobile
application offers the possibility to every smartphone
owner of becoming part of a network of distributed
information made up of citizens interested in environ-
mental issues and quality of life related to the urban
area. The participation will take place through an ac-
tive use of the app. To the best of our knowledge, in
the app store there are no similar mobile applications
and they are not intended as tools of this type. Onde
Chiare will make it easier for citizens to report public-
facing issues, taking a picture, locate it, categorize it,
and quickly and conveniently notify to the appropri-
ate parties for a better response related to exposure to
electromagnetic fields, but also for more general is-
We indicated with term MPU apps all those applica-
tions that provide to users public utility services, and
allow also a dialog with local authorities. In our case,
we considered a particular MPU app that promotes
a proper form of active involvement of citizens and
the real-time information sharing of electromagnetic
field levels in a given geographical area (Mannaro and
Ortu, 2016). Through the app, citizens can report a
problem directly to government officials by snapping
a photo and sending a report, authorities receive the
report and can send a response. This mobile applica-
tion aims to make information accessible to the local
stakeholders (for example local residents) and public
stakeholders (for example, local officials, leaders or
politicians, decision makers), via a click.
In this section we show the taxonomy that we cre-
ated on basis of the services offered by MPU apps
from users perspective. We adopted the taxonomy
development method of Nickerson et al. (Nickerson
et al., 2013). This method is iterative and consists in 7
steps. In the first step, a meta-characteristic needs to
be determined. Meta-characteristic represent the per-
spective of classification which guides choosing the
application characteristics in the taxonomy. We deter-
mine as meta-characteristic ”Services offered by Mo-
bile Public Utility applications from users perspec-
tives”. We assumed that users of the taxonomy are
citizens, public administrations, certified authority.
In the second step one has to determine ending con-
ditions. We assume that to reach ending condition
our taxonomy must be concise, robust, comprehen-
sive, extendible and explanatory. From the third step
to seventh step the process is iterative. The seventh
step checks if the ending conditions are reached. In
Figure 1 we show the created taxonomy as results of
the method we have just mentioned, totally we did
four iterations. According to the method, each step
can start chosing between two different approach:
Empirical-to-conceptual or Conceptual-to-empirical.
Usually, one chooses ”Empirical-to-conceptual” ap-
proach if there are enough available data. Instead,
”Conceptual-to-empirical” approach would be more
appropriate if one has a few data available and have a
good knowledge of the domain of interest.
In our taxonomy, we identify the first level
as macro-dimensions, the second level as sub-
dimensions. Each sub-dimension has different char-
acteristics mutually exclusive and collectively ex-
haustive. In this paper, each sub-dimension with its
characteristics is deduced from the features of the
mentioned mobile app (Mannaro and Ortu, 2016). We
think that an application, to be considered as MPU
type, must have at least the first macro-dimension
level in terms of services. For that reasons we decide
to describe only the first level of the proposed taxon-
omy. However, we believe that the sub-dimensions in
Fig.1 could be used as starting point to design mobile
applications providing similar services.
Security & Emergency-System service.
To obtain important information the MPU app
must be supported by a complex management sys-
tem designed to perform massive calculation or
evaluation. The system behavior is designed in
order to prevent a disaster, or monitor a particular
critical situation in progress. In most of the cases,
Public Administrations have already this type of
platform to manage or monitor emergencies. We
assume that MPU app interfaces with this type of
systems, to obtain proper information. The inter-
action between monitoring system and application
is managed by public administrations.
Civic Engagement service.
By using a MPU app, users can send reports (i.e
text message, photos, videos) to signal a problem
or to suggest a danger situation. If the user is a
professional public operators, he can use MPU ap-
plication to send measures taken with a valid in-
strument to Public Administrations.
This service manage several data type from differ-
ent sources. Public sectors choose and filter the
information in order to share and make them pub-
lic. Information can concern for example citizens
report, certified measure and all data coming from
monitoring system platform.
That level represents the application usage ori-
ented to collective interest, with well defined
roles, and where each user actively contributes.
This service allows citizens to communicate each
others to express their opinions, or their discon-
tent, about certain issues. Moreover, public ad-
ministrations can feel citizens mood about partic-
ular situations or demand their opinion with dif-
ferent surveys. Inhabitants voice is important to
make difficult decisions and to avoid unpleasant
It represents the common service of navigation
that works with GPS service. When the user starts
the application, it locates his position and shows
points of interest containing information in the
same area.
MPU application enables different types of users that
should have specific access levels, there are different
permission to interact with the application by using
different access interfaces, it enables different types
of users, who should have specific access levels. We
show in Table 1 a specific example applied to Onde
Chiare app, we considered as mentioned before as an
MPU application. In that case some services are man-
aged only by the public administrations such as re-
ports validation, choice of data sharing or interaction
with the monitoring platform. To simplify, we indi-
cate two different permissions: PA/CA (Public Ad-
ministration/ Certified Authority) and Public. Starting
from the previous taxonomy and considering the dif-
ferent dimensions, each sub-dimension may have sev-
eral type of access. Table 1 shows the type of access
for each sub-dimension. We indicate with ”PA/CA”
the services reserved only to Public Administration
or Certified Authority, and with ”Public” the access
for a generic user (citizen or PA). Some services de-
scribed in the created taxonomy are managed only by
the Public Administrations such as reports validation,
choice of data sharing or interaction with the monitor-
ing platform.
In this paper we proposed a taxonomy that classifies
the services offered by a novel type of mobile ap-
plication. This taxonomy should not be considered
as definitive but a starting point towards a more ex-
haustive categorization of the dimensions of a specific
kind of mobile application for public utility that aims
to reduce risk perception on electromagnetic fields
and to fill the knowledge gap between the public and
the experts about the effects of exposure to electro-
magnetic fields on human health.
Finally, we are contributing to both the academic
discussion and the practical world by providing a
Figure 1: MPU services Taxonomy at the end of fourth iteration.
Table 1: Typology of access.
Services PA/CA Public
Security & Emergency System
Environment Monitoring X
Service Alert X
Civic Engagement
Send a report X
Send a certified measure X
View/Approved report X
Information Retrieval X
Critical Information X
Pool X
Notice X
Forum X
Map View X
Way Finding X
framework for other researchers and managers, be-
cause we show that using the proposed taxonomy may
facilitate designers to identify requirements and to fill
Mobile apps for public utility present many chal-
lenges for developers that must be addressed in order
to produce a successful mobile application, because
at the moment there is insufficient information on ex-
actly what types of appropriate contents are capable
of enhancing the collaboration between citizens and
public governments about such delicate issues as en-
vironmental ones.
This work was supported in part by grants from the
Regione Autonoma Sardegna, Project Onde Chiare,
CUP E68C1400020007.
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