 Research
 Open Access
Internet data budget allocation policies for diverse smartphone applications
 Saidur Rahman†^{1},
 Anika Anzum Prima†^{1},
 Md. Abdur Razzaque†^{1}Email authorView ORCID ID profile,
 Mohammad Mehedi Hassan^{2},
 Abdulhameed Alelaiwi^{2},
 Majed Alrubaian^{2} and
 KimKwang Raymond Choo^{3, 4}
https://doi.org/10.1186/s1363801607279
© The Author(s) 2016
 Received: 24 June 2016
 Accepted: 15 September 2016
 Published: 22 September 2016
Abstract
In recent times, there has been a significant growth in the number of smartphone users and number and types of mobile applications (apps). Such a trend has resulted in increased Internet data consumption, particularly for users of “data hungry” apps. Thus, smartphone apps should be allocated to their required budget to minimize resource wastage without compromising on user’s quality of experience. In this paper, we develop a prioritized and dynamic budget allocation policy framework for ensuring an optimal budget allocation to each app as well as improving system performance. We formulate the optimal Internet data budget management (OIDM) problem as a mixedinteger nonlinear programming (MINLP) problem, which maximizes the resource utilization and minimizes user penalties. We also employ runtime monitoring technique to estimate future bandwidth utilization so as to ensure budget reservation as close as to the required amount. A heuristic Internet data budget management algorithm (HIDM) is also presented, which is designed to reduce time complexity and computational overhead of the OIDM system. The experimental results from testbed implementation demonstrate the effectiveness of the proposed IDM systems, in comparison to stateoftheart approaches.
Keywords
 Internet data budget
 Smartphone applications
 Dynamic budget allocation
 Mixedinteger nonlinear programming optimization
 Resource utilization
1 Introduction
In modernday society, smartphones and mobile applications are two popular consumer technologies. This is also evidenced by the diversity of the devices (e.g., wide ranging models and makes) and applications (e.g., social, productivity, and lifestyle) [1–5]. A typical smartphone is capable of running several applications concurrently (e.g., navigation, email, browser, dating, and communication) [6–8], in addition to other builtin functionalities such as music player, camera, and sensors [9–14]. Mobile devices including smartphones could be the predominant digital device for future daily use, as it allows users to access the Internet and their data anywhere anytime [15–17]. Thus, it is important to ensure that nextgeneration mobile communications are cost efficient and secure and provide high quality of service and experience.
Most stateoftheart research such as [18–21] do not consider dynamic budget allocation for mobile applications. The solution in [19], for example, seeks to satisfy the bandwidth requirement for constant and variable bit rate connections, while minimizing blocking probability. In [18], a heuristic solution for allocating budget to sensitive and nonsensitive applications was developed. However, it did not handle over and underprovisioning issues while allocating portion of data budgets. In other words, the research did not allow the allocation of different resources to different applications. In our earlier work [22], an optimization framework for Internet data budget management was developed. However, the framework was designed for small systems, but it is not suited for larger system deployment due to the high computational complexity associated with an increased number of user applications. This is the gap we seek to contribute to in this paper.

we formulate the problem of optimal allocation of mobile Internet data budget (OIDM) to different mobile applications as a mixedinteger nonlinear programming (MINLP) problem;

we propose OIDM which allows us to maximize budget utilization for all applications while minimizing budget allocation errors due to under and overprovisioning problems;

we present a heuristic IDM algorithm (HIDM) designed to reduce computation complexity of OIDM;

we present a runtime monitoring and measurement scheme to estimate budget utilization using weighted average usage prediction (WAUP) method; and

we study the effectiveness of autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) model to more accurately predict the amount of budget in future Internet data budget plan.
We then evaluate the performance of the proposed model with a number of existing models.
The rest of the paper is organized as follows. Section 2 reviews related work. Section 3 presents our system model. In Section 4, we formulate the optimization problem and present the proposed dynamic budget allocation scheme. Section 5 describes the effectiveness of HIDM scheme. Section 6 presents findings from the performance evaluation, and conclusions are drawn in Section 7.
2 Related works
Allocating bandwidth among competing users or devices is a challenging problem, and this topic has been studied in the literature. In [19], the authors presented a utilitybased bandwidth allocation algorithm for multiple services in heterogeneous wireless access networks consisting of WMAN, 3G cellular network, and WLAN. Bandwidth is allocated to a new arrival connection in heterogeneous wireless environment depending on utility fairness. Chen et al. [23] proposed a smart bandwidth allocation algorithm based on mobile users’ personality traits and channel condition. Based on one user’s data usage, the service provider could estimate this user’s probability of each personality trait using diagnostic inference and then based on predictive inference to calculate this user’s usage of bandwidth in the future. In [24], the authors studied the bandwidth disposition problem for heterogeneous networks. Their proposed method determines the amount of disposed bandwidth, and the decision to upgrade or downgrade the sequence of bandwidth is based on the upgrade rank or downgrade rank function.
The researchers of [25] have designed a new framework to model mobile applications and proposed efficient algorithm (MuSIC) which achieves more than 75 % of optimal solution when the number of mobile users is high. In [26–28], the authors presented traffic congestion management strategies using crowd sensing technology. Fang et al. [29] proposed an online control algorithm for throughputenergy tradeoff in mobile device. An online incentivecompatible VM allocation mechanism is developed in [30], and resource allocation algorithms are proposed in [31, 32] to enhance network capacity. A control framework for participatory sensing system using smartphones is developed in [33].
Chaisiri et al. [34] proposed a resource provisioning mechanism in cloud computing to offer cloud users two resource provisioning plans, namely, ondemand plan and reservation plan. Their proposed optimal cloud resource provisioning algorithm minimizes under and overprovisioning problems due to the uncertainty of user’s future demand and provider’s resource prices. In [35], Dong et al. proposed a randomized task assignment framework for computing tasks on participatory smartphones in a reliable fashion while minimizing workload at individual participatory devices. Martignon et al. [36] examined the potential of wireless mesh networks (WMN) in providing broadband Internet access to mobile users. A WMN operator may be reluctant to develop a bandwidth market place as some dishonest customers can put in false bids in order to pay a lower price. To overcome this problem, they proposed a mechanism to allocate the bandwidth of WMN operators to customers who are interested to pay the higher price as per their bandwidth demand. This strategy ensures that all customers reveal their real valuation of the required bandwidth. In [37], the authors studied the problem of network utilization decline due to significant traffic variability in datacenters. They then designed a virtual machine bandwidth allocation algorithm to handle highly dynamic traffic in datacenters. In other words, the proposed solution seeks to minimize performance degradation caused by frequent decreases in network throughputs.
The authors of [18] introduced an online 3G budget algorithm that decides which sensory data should be uploaded via 3G communication while others will be uploaded or downloaded later when WiFi access point is available. Their optimization scheme ensures efficient 3G budget utilization but the algorithm has significant computational overheads. Therefore, the approach is both computational resource and energy hungry. Also, they proposed a heuristic algorithm which splits the 3G budget in each time cycle into two pieces, namely, reserved budget and flexible budget. Sensitive applications use reserved budget and nonsensitive applications use flexible budget. If the reserved budget runs out, then sensitive applications use the allocation from the flexible budget. But this twostate application classification (sensitive and nonsensitive) decreases the dynamicity and flexibility of bandwidth allocation. In addition, budget allocation strategies for heterogenous applications based on urgency/priority are not been explicitly discussed or analyzed.
In [22], the authors proposed an optimal budget allocation policy for each mobile application. However, their optimization scheme does not provide effective and fair utilization of 3G budget because utilization is set to zero if underprovisioning penalty occurs. Again, their budget usage ratio measurement is erroneous as a result of inaccurate budget reservation in upcoming time cycles. Another limitation of their work is that time complexity increases exponentially if the number of applications and time cycles are sufficiently large.
3 System model
In this section, we present the system model for Internet data budget utilization. We consider that a smartphone is connected with the Internet either using WiFi access point or by 3/4/5G mobile Internet connection. The smartphone uses Internet data budget for urgent application usage whenever no WiFi access point is available at nearby. We assume that some lowpriority applications are allowed to buffer the data packets at local device until it is connected with any AP. In that case, the buffer space of the mobile phone is exhausted; either it stops data collection process for very lowpriority applications or turns on mobile network Internet connection to offload collected data. When a user is in the range of a WiFi access point, all the backlogged data packets in the buffer are uploaded to the destination server through WiFi communication regardless of its priority. However, if WiFi signal is absent or too low to upload the important data packets, then the system switches to mobile Internet communication.
We assume that a user purchases a fixed limited Internet data budget B for 3/4/5G Internet connection (e.g., 3GB monthly, 1GB weekly package). Let \(\mathcal {N}\) represent the set of all applications running on a smartphone and their priorities are denoted by the set, \(\mathcal {P}= \{ p_{1}, p_{2}, p_{3}, \dots, p_{\left  \mathcal {N} \right }\}\). In this case, we use higher values for high priority applications. The amount of the Internet data budget plan for each of the applications is proportional to how much important the application is. That is, realtime and interactive applications need more bandwidths and they may not tolerate significant delay; on the other hand, some lowpriority applications may be delayed and reduced amount of data budget can be allocated. In this work, we dynamically prioritize all the applications running in the mobile device by estimating bandwidth usage behavior of the applications. The more bandwidth an application uses, the higher its priority is. We exploit the ARIMA formulae for estimating the runtime usage of resources by different applications and recommend a user the most appropriate amount of monthly Internet data budget plan (to be discussed in detail in Section 4.4).
Notations used in this paper
Notation  Description 

\(\mathcal {N}\)  Set of all applications in a smartphone 
\(\mathcal {T}\)  Internet data budget plan period 
\(\mathcal {P}\)  Set of priorities of all applications 
B  Internet data budget 
B _{1}  Reserved budget 
B _{2}  Flexible budget 
t _{ m }  m’th time cycle 
α  Control parameter 
U _{ i,t }  Resource utilization of application i at time 
cycle t  
r _{ i,t }  Amount of reserved budget for application i 
at time cycle t  
x _{ i,t }  Used amount of reserved budget for 
application i at time cycle t  
f _{ i,t }  Amount of flexible budget for application i 
at time cycle t  
y _{ i,t }  Used flexible budget for application i 
at time cycle t  
p _{ i }  Priority of i’th application 
Δ  Time interval for algorithm execution 
b _{ i,t }  Bandwidth usage ratio of i’th application 
at time cycle t  
\(\bar {b}_{i,t}\)  Estimated bandwidth usage ratio of i’th 
application at time cycle t  
M  Number of time cycles for WAUP model 
w _{ i }  Weight of i’th time cycle 
e _{ l }  Uncorrelated Gaussian noise 
θ _{ l }  Moving average coefficient 
L  Lag operator 
4 Internet data budget management
In this section, we present optimal Internet data budget management strategy (OIDM) for heterogeneous applications running in a smartphone. The proposed budget allocation policy dynamically expands or shrinks the amount of bandwidth allocated to different applications over time based on the usage behavior of the applications. Our budget allocation mechanism optimizes the bandwidth resource utilization as well as reduces the penalties incurred due to over and underprovisioning. We exploit the WAUP method to infer more accurately the bandwidth usage in future time cycles. We use the ARIMA model for recommending appropriate amount of monthly data budget plan for a user.
4.1 Optimization problem formulation
We observe from the first condition of Eq. 5 that the resource utilization decreases with the increasing usage of flexible budget y _{ i,t }, which occurred due to underprovisioning of resources. Furthermore, the second condition depicts that the utilization is also decreased in the case that resource overprovisioning occurred, i.e., only a small part of reserved resource is utilized. In summary, the more appropriate amount of budget that we can allocate just to meet the actual requirement of an application, the more the resource utilization is increased and viceversa. The constraints (2) and (3) are corresponding to bandwidth usage constraints for reserved and flexible budgets, i.e., usage must be bounded by the proportionately allocated amount for an application i at a given time cycle t. The constraint (4) states that the constraints (2) and (3) follow additive rule. However, increasing the reserve budget for an application does not always increase the utilization. The resource utilization is enhanced when the gap between the reserved amount and the usage amount is decreased. Similarly, excessive allocation of flexible data budget amount for a certain application might cause penalty to some other applications, degrading the overall resource utilization. We use a popular mathematical programming language AMPL [38] for solving the optimization problem. What follows next is that we describe in detail the budget allocation policies to different applications \(i \in \mathcal {N}\) at each time cycle t.
4.2 Budget allocation policy
where p _{ i } and r _{ i,t } are, respectively, the priority and reserved budget of an application \(i \in \mathcal {N}\) in the time cycle t. In Eq. 8, budget reservation to each application is defined as a weighted average of priority and estimated budget usage so that judicious amount of budget is reserved to each application according to its requirement. We assume that in the first time cycle t _{1}, each application i has used x _{ i,t } amount of data from the reserved budget. So, remaining reserved budget is \(B_{1}\sum _{i=1}^{\left  \mathcal {N} \right }x_{i,t}\).
where \(\mathcal {T}\) is the Internet data budget plan period and T ^{′} is current time of a data plan period. Equation 9 refers to the allocated flexible budget for i’th application in t time cycle based on both application priority and current time of data plan period. If flexible budget is allocated based on priority, only then some applications would face significant amount of budget wastage at the end of the data plan period as well as many important applications would be deprived of sufficient amount of flexible budget. If a highpriority application runs out of flexible budget, then it is assigned flexible budget amount repeatedly following its requirement; but, a lowpriority application is allowed to use flexible budget one time only. This policy helps us to restrict uncontrolled usage of available data budget by lowpriority applications and thus reduce penalties for highpriority ones.
Equation 11 helps us to dynamically update the reserved budget amount B _{1} following the historical usages of data budget by the applications. It also minimizes the wastage of bandwidth later at the end of the Internet data budget plan period. The control parameter α plays an important role to start with minimum reserved amount from the first day of Internet data budget plan and to increase gradually. Therefore, it helps to minimize both the over and underprovisioning penalties. The value of α depends on execution frequency of the budget allocation algorithm compared to the total Internet data budget plan period. For performance evaluation, we have set \(\alpha = \frac {\Delta }{\mathcal {T}}\), where Δ is the time interval between two consecutive executions of data budget allocation algorithm.
4.3 Estimation of budget usage
For M=8, this gives weights of 1, 1, 1, 1, 0.8, 0.6, 0.4, and 0.2 for w _{1} through w _{8}, respectively, where the most recent four samples are equally weighted.
4.4 Budget recommendation
where ϕ(L)=1−ϕ _{1} L−ϕ _{2} L ^{2}−ϕ _{3} L ^{3}−⋯−ϕ _{ p } L ^{ p } and θ(L)=1−θ _{1} L−θ _{2} L ^{2}−θ _{3} L ^{3}−⋯−θ _{ p } L ^{ q }. \(B^{'}_{l}\) is the correlated normally distributed random variable, e _{ l } is an uncorrelated Gaussian noise, θ _{ l } is moving average coefficient, and L is the lag operator.
For predicting the amount of Internet data budget for the next data plan period, ARIMA model is employed on historical usage behavior. Here, \(B^{'}_{l}\) is the estimated Internet data budget for the lth Internet data budget plan period. If the usage behavior has high degree of fluctuations in the amount of data budget over time, i.e., the historical usage is not stationary, then \(B^{'}_{l}=B_{l}B_{l1}\) is used for forecasting purposes.
5 Heuristic Internet data budget management
For allocating reserved budget in the current time cycle, estimated budget usage needs to be calculated based on historical bandwidth usage patterns of the applications. The estimated bandwidth usage of an application is measured as a weighted average of the last M time cycles. We need to maintain a \(M \times \left  \mathcal {N} \right \) matrix to record the usage statistics of \(\left  \mathcal {N} \right \) applications for previous time cycles. The main drawback of OIDM algorithm is that in the case \(\left  \mathcal {N} \right \) and M are both large enough, then the computational complexity of Eq. 1 increases exponentially. The computational time goes up exponentially with higher number of applications since it requires huge amount of computation and storage to update the matrix.
Considering this problem, we propose a heuristic Internet data budget management (HIDM) algorithm to provide a feasible and realtime solution. The idea is to minimize time complexity by decreasing the value of M when \(\left  \mathcal {N} \right \) is larger. Again, when \(\left  \mathcal {N} \right \) is smaller, larger value of M is taken to increase the accuracy level of bandwidth estimation. This solution allows us to make a tradeoff in between the bandwidth allocation accuracy and the time complexity.
The complexity of Algorithm 1 is quite straightforward to follow. The statements 1∼10 are enclosed in a loop that iterates \(\left  \mathcal {T} \right \) times, 6∼9 has another loop that iterates \(\left  \mathcal {N} \right \) times, and the statement 7 has a prediction methodology that has O(M) complexity. The rest of the statements have constant unit time complexities. Therefore, the overall computational complexity of the algorithm is \(O(\left  \mathcal {T} \right  \times \left  \mathcal {N} \right  \times M)\).
6 Performance evaluation
In this section, we evaluate performance of the proposed optimal Internet data budget management (OIDM) policy, heuristic Internet data budget management (HIDM) policy, dynamic bandwidth allocation (DBA) [22], and an online heuristic algorithm [18]. We implemented both OIDM and HIDM algorithms on an Android device.
6.1 Experimental setup
Now, we present our testbed implementation environment and dataset used in the evaluation. To evaluate our proposed scheme, we conducted a study involving 8 participants, each having a smartphone running a number of applications on a fixed budget mobile Internet connection. We developed Android applications for each of the studied data budget allocation algorithms to be installed on the smartphones. We assume that the user applications are heterogeneous, in terms of timesensitivity, reliability, bandwidth requirements, etc. The number of applications active on a mobile device and user’s monthly data plan vary from a wide range of 10∼60 and 1∼8 GB, respectively. The usage arrival and departure of applications at smartphones are exponentially distributed. As a result, the duration for which an active application varies. We also assumed that the mobile user uses both Internet data plan and WiFi, which is a typical user setup. The total data plan period is assumed to be 720 h (i.e., 30 days) and the budget allocation algorithm execution time interval Δ is chosen 30∼50 min. We stored the user’s application usage statistics in a log file and plotted the graph points based on realtime dataset. Each graph data point represents the average value of the results from 10 or more experiments; thus, the performance graphs depict stable behavior of the studied systems.
6.2 Performance metrics

Average resource utilization: Equation 1 defines the resource utilization of each application in all time cycles. Our aim is to upgrade system performance and user experience by maximizing utilization and minimizing penalty. The average resource utilization is measured for individual applications and then the average is taken for all user applications running on the smartphone.

Average penalty: A user application is penalized when the allocated data budget is insufficient compared to its requirement. Thus, we measure penalty as the percentage of applications that could not be run due to shortage of bandwidth during the experiments. The average is taken for all time periods and all applications.
6.3 Simulation results
6.3.1 Impacts of increasing number of applications
Figure 3 b depicts that the percentage of penalty increases with increasing number of applications but the penalties offered by OIDM and HIDM algorithms remain relatively low, in comparison to online heuristic and DBA algorithms. This is because flexible budget is allocated to highpriority or sensitive applications repeatedly so that these applications can complete their tasks. On the other hand, for online heuristic and DBA algorithms, the average penalty percentage is relatively high because the applications face underprovisioning penalty due to the weakness of budget distribution policy.
Figure 3 c depicts that the percentage of penalty increases with increasing number of applications but the penalty offered by HIDM remains relatively low, in comparison to the DBA algorithm. This is due to the DBA algorithm resetting utilization to zero when underprovisioning penalty occurs. Again, highpriority applications are stuck when the flexible budget is depleted, but in the case of HIDM, highpriority applications are allocated flexible budget repeatedly according to their requirements.
Figure 3 d depicts that the percentage of penalty increases with the increasing number of applications because a fixed amount of budget is allocated among all increased number of applications. Consequently, lowpriority applications do not get adequate budget. Lowpriority applications also face more penalty than highpriority applications because they have access to flexible budget only once when they run out of reserved budget.
6.3.2 Impacts of varying amounts of data budget plan
Figure 4 b depicts that underprovisioning penalty decreases with larger amount of allocated budget as the applications are allocated adequate amount of budget. However, the percentage of penalty offered by online heuristic algorithm is higher as it has not defined a budget allocation technique for each application.
Figure 4 c depicts that average penalty decreases with larger amount of allocated budget as the highpriority applications are allocated adequate amount of budget according to their bandwidth requirement. The average penalty decreases due to the decline in underprovisioning penalty.
Figure 4 d depicts that underprovisioning penalty declines with larger amount of allocated budget because adequate amount of budget is allocated to lowpriority applications. However, penalty percentage offered by online heuristic algorithm is relatively higher because bandwidth is not distributed among all applications; rather, all the sensitive applications use reserved budget and nonsensitive applications use flexible budget. When sensitive applications run out of reserved budget, they take help from flexible budget. Consequently, lowpriority applications are deprived of sufficient bandwidth.
6.3.3 Impacts of varying time intervals
Figure 5 b–d depicts that the average penalty increases with the increasing time intervals because applications face underprovisioning penalty for longer time intervals during algorithm execution as the applications get stuck due to insufficient budget. On the contrary, if time interval for algorithm execution is too short, then overprovisioning penalty occurs. Thus, we need a tradeoff between over and underprovisioning penalties; 30−50min interval gives the best result in this case.
6.3.4 Computational time analysis
7 Conclusions
The popularity of mobile devices and applications will necessitate the development of policies for effective Internet data budget allocation in order to avoid incurring excessive charges.
In this paper, we developed policies for Internet data budget allocation to heterogeneous applications running on mobile devices, specifically smartphones. The proposed optimal Internet data budget management (OIDM) maximizes the resource utilization while minimizing over and underprovisioning for all user applications. To prevent significant computational overhead and excessive delay in decision making when allocating data budget to each application in the OIDM system, we developed an alternate heuristic solution to the IDM problem. We relied upon the historical data budget usage behavior of the user applications in our recommendation of future Internet data budget plan following ARIMAbased resource prediction analysis. The testbed experimental results demonstrate that our proposed Internet data management policies benefit mobile device user by increasing the resource utilization and decreasing the average percentage of penalty.
Declarations
Acknowledgements
The authors would like to extend their sincere appreciation to the Deanship of Scientific Research at King Saud University for its funding of this research through the research group project no. RGP281.
Competing interests
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Authors’ Affiliations
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