Disambiguating the Terminology around Ubiquitous Computing

Posted: January 29th, 2006 | No Comments »

Mike Kuniavsky tried to structure the terms related to the fragmentation of information processing into everyday objects. He says that pervasive computing, ubiquitous computing, ambient intelligence and physical computing describe the same idea but describe them as follow:
Disambiguating Ubicomp1

In Kalle Lyytinen and Youngjin Yoo. Issues and challenges in ubiquitous computing: Introduction. Communications of the ACM, 45(12):62–65, 2002., the authors introduce introduce ubiquitous computing as the integration of large-scale mobile computing with the pervasive computing functionality. These terms are thefor conceptually different and employ different ideas of organizing and managing computing services.

Disambiguating Ubicomp2

I especially like the pragramtic views of the 2 authors, mentioning the technological challenges (they use the term “service” without touching the social challenges) that ubicomp must and will face:

Mobile computing and its limitations (context-awareness)

Mobile computing is fundamentally about increasing our capability to physically move computing services with us. However, an important limitation is that the computing model does not considerably change while we move. This is because the computing device cannot seamlessly and flexibly obtain information about the context in which the computing takes place and adjust it accordingly.

Pervasive Computing and its challenges (environment-awareness and scale-up)

The idea of pervasive computing is an area populated with sensors, pads, badges, and virtual or physical models of the physical and social/cognitive environment. Pervasive computing services can be built either by embedding models of specific environments into dedicated. Currently, the main challenge of pervasive computing is the limited scope to teach a computer about its environment. This makes the availability and usefulness of such services limited and highly localized because of the large effort required to design and maintain such services.

Ubiquitous computing and its challenges (all of the above)

The main challenges in ubiquitous computing originate from integrating large-scale mobility with the pervasive computing functionality. In its ultimate form, ubiquitous computing means any computing device, while moving with us, can build incrementally dynamic models of its various environments and configure its services accordingly. [...] It is simultaneously very personal and extremely global.

Research in ubiquitous computing requires transcending the traditional barriers between social and technical as well as levels of analysis – individual, team, and organizational [1].

1. Kalle Lyytinen , Youngjin Yoo, Research Commentary: The Next Wave of Nomadic Computing, Information Systems Research, v.13 n.4, p.377-388, December 2002

Simplicity-Led Design

Posted: January 25th, 2006 | No Comments »

Philips’ Next Simplicity was intended to be a tangible and inspirational way of communicating the brand promise for the coming three to five years. There were five themes: care, glow, play, share and trust.

Philips calls their approach simplicity-led design. They present artifacts characterized by straightforward operation, with an almost total absence of buttons and switches. Gestural interaction is a recurring theme in their environments.

The aim is honorable, but I am questioning if we really need for over-simplification and smoothen interfaces. Simplicity should not necessary mean hiding or not experiencing complexity? My claim is that it that seamless is utopic in uncontrolled environments (too many constraints) and in the same time the user want grips to keep control of technology. Humans adapt and twist. Learn and do the gestures or grab the switch?

Bruce Sterling at LIFT06

Posted: January 25th, 2006 | No Comments »

LIFT06 organizers waited the conference to be sold out to announce a last minute guest speaker in the name of Bruce Sterling. Nice job in tracking the beast down in Belgrade (in the tradition of Carla Del Ponte) and bring it to Geneva. Let’s get ready to rumble…

Pedestrian Modelling and Movement Analysis

Posted: January 25th, 2006 | 3 Comments »

Related to my current interest in modeling users of mobile and ubiquitous environments, Intelligent Space Partnership is working in urban areas on pedestrian movement analysis and modelling. Their developments lead to better understanding of pedestrian movement, shopping patterns and advise on the optimisation of public space design.

Pedestrian Use Leeds Washington Dc Street Accessiblity
Pedestrian-oriented land uses in central Leeds (left), street network accessibility analysis in Washington D.C.

Why Agents? On the Varied Motivations for Agent Computing in the Social Sciences

Posted: January 25th, 2006 | No Comments »

Robert Axtell. 2000. Why Agents? On the varied motivations for agent computing in the social sciences.

This paper (mainly focused in social sciences and political economy in particular) argues the existence of three distinct uses of agent-based computational models:

  • When numerical realizations are relevant, agents can perform a variant of classical simulation
  • When a model is incompletely solved mathematically, then agent-based model can be a useful tool of analysis, a complement to mathematics. It is generally possible to build agent-based computational models in order to gain insight into the functioning of the model.
  • There are cases in which mathematical models are either apparently intracable or provably insoluble. Agent-based computing is perhaps the only technique available for systematic analysis, a substitute for formal mathematical analysis.

Strengths and Weaknesses
A very common motivation for ABM is dissatisfaction with rational agents. In most social processes either physical space or social network matter. These are difficult to account for mathematically except in hightly stylize ways. However, in ABM, it is usually quite easy to have the agent interactions mediated by space or network or both. Spatial networks are quite naturally represented in agent-based computatinal models. A physical location can be part of an agen’ts internal states. Likewise, its position in a social network can be easily represented internally. In ABM the only way to prove a sufficiency theorem is to go through multiple runs, systematically varying initial conditions or parameters in order to assess the robustness of results.

Advancing the Art of Simulation in the Social Sciences

Posted: January 23rd, 2006 | No Comments »

Robert Axelrod. 2003. Advancing the Art of Simulation in the Social Sciences. Japanese Journal for Management Information System 12 (2):16-22.

This paper provides a theoretical background on agent-based modeling (with a focus on social sciences). It describes simulation as a third way of doing science, in contrast to both induction and deduction. It finally offers advices for doing simulation research, focusing on programming, analyzing and sharing the results.

Simulation means driving a model of a system with suitable inputs and observing the corresponding outputs. One purpose of simulation is to be used as a scientific methodology (prediction, proof and discovery). Using simulation for prediction can help validate or improve the model upon which the simulation is based. However, even highly complicated simulation models can rarely prove completely accurate (it does not aim to provide an accurate representation of a particular empirical application). While induction can be used to find patterns in data, and deduction can be used to find consequences of assumptions, simulation modeling can be used as an aid intuition. Its goal is to enrich our understanding of funcademtal processes that may appear in a variety of application.

Emergent properties
Large-scale effects of locally interacting agents

Adpative rather than rational strategies
When agents use adaptive rather than optimizing strategies (rational), deducing the consequences is often impossible. Thus, simulation is often the only viable way to study populations of agents who are adaptive rather than fully rational. While people my try to be rational, they can rarely meet the requirements of information, or foresight that rational modle impose (Simon, 1955; March 1978)

The complexity of agent-based modeling should be in the simulated results, not in the assumptions of the model.

Three apsects of the research process need to be taken care of once the conceptual model is developed:

The programming of a simulation model should achive three goals: validity, usability, and extendibility

Analyzing the results
Despite the purity and clarity of simulation data, the analysis poses real challenges. Understanding the results often means understanding the details of the history of a given run (results are path-dependent). In order to determine whetheer the conclusion from a given run are typical, it is necessary to do seveal dozen simutation runs using identical parameters (using different randome number seeds) to determine which results are typical and which are unusual. The statistical method for studying the effects of the changes will be regression if the changes are quantitative, and analysis of variance if the changes are qualitative. As always in statistical analysis, two questions need to be distinguished and addressed separately: are the difference statistically significant (meaning not likely to have been caused by chance), and are the difference substantively significant (meaning large enough in magnitude to be important)

Sharing the results
The basic problem is that it is hard to present a social science simulation briefly. It may be necessary to explain very carefully both the power and the limitations of the methodology each time a simulation report is published

Yahoo! to Open Research Lab in Barcelona

Posted: January 23rd, 2006 | No Comments »

Head of Yahoo! Research, Prabhakar Raghavan, was at the UPF today to officially announce that Yahoo! will expend its research operations into Europe with the opening of a new facility in Barcelona. UPF professor Ricardo Baeza-Yates will lead the center (with another one in Chile). The focus of the center will be on topics related to Web search and information extraction. The center’s new facility will be at the Parc Barcelona Media and will be run in conjunction with the Center for Innovation Barcelona Media which has strong ties to the University of Pompeu Fabra (UPF). [More...]

Emerging Operator-based GSM Positioning 3rd Party Services

Posted: January 23rd, 2006 | No Comments »

Third-party services with operator-based GSM are emerging. World-Tracker.com offers operator-based GSM positioning in the UK (Germany, Spain and US (via Sprint) coming). Let’s hope for their users that their service is not at the level of their poorly designed web site. Last week, I tested Alex Kummerman‘s Are you Here?, lbs mososo based on operator-baded GSM positioning for London, Paris and Geneva.

Blogjects in the World of Interconnected Things

Posted: January 23rd, 2006 | No Comments »

Prior to LIFT06, I participate to the Blogjects in the world of interconnected things workshop organized by Julian Bleecker and Nicolas Nova.

Blogjects – a neologism Julian Bleecker came up with for objects that blog – exemplify the soon-to-come ‘Internet of Things’, i.e. a network of tangible, mobile, chatty things enabled by the miniaturization, the ubiquity of consumer electronics and a pervasive Internet. In its most basic form, a blogject is not dissimilar to people that blog – it is an artifact that can disseminate a record of its experiences to the web. It would report the history of its interactions with other objects and with people. (…) this topic ties into the idea of proximity-based interaction and usage scenarios for mobile contexts.

The aim of the workshop: is to discuss usage scenarios of blogjects, the design issues they raises as well as their significance in various usage and design contexts.

I hope to bring an engineering perspective that takes into account real-world constraints .

Objects become networked components
Technically, interconnecting things is nothing new. The industry has already come up with frameworks like Jini, the Java-pushed framework for spontaneous interaction between devices regardless of their hardware/software implementation, or UPnP an industry initiative designed to enable connectivity among stand-alone devices. These technologies that make devices become network components have mainly be used to design the good old house or workplace of the future (some of them you would definitely like to avoid in the future). The emergence of IPv6 is key for some of the “Internet of Things” scenarios to become reality (for example to associate an RFID tag with an Internet address). The current vision of a blogject is humble. A blogject is meant to have a web presence and not necerraly to be network centric. However, to become context-aware, a blogject will need to really on its network-centric

Blogjects record their experience and interactions with other objects and people, therefor need to be context-aware. Valuable context-awareness (i.e. making sense of contextual data like a position, temperature, luminosity, speed, noise, user inputs,…) is hard to achieve in uncontrolled environments. Mismatches between the physical, measured and virtual spaces might become important. People will need to grasp these mismatches and not expect ubiquity. Blogjects might even play with their own limitations instead of shamefully hiding them.

Social features
Blogjects might be the first objects to enter the social virtual spaces only occupied by humans so far on the web. Blogjects might just be the physical replacements of the virtual bots that still inhabit the web and some Internet applications. Since, blogging is also about nurturing the ego, I would expect a blogject to have something similar to an ego. Blogging is also about false information, biased analysis, over-simplification, bad mental models and transactive memory. Should we prevent blogjects from acting like human bloggers or should they embrace these features? In terms of scale up, how do we overcome the “web noise” generated by millions of blogjects?

Michel Serres sur les Nouvelles Technologies

Posted: January 20th, 2006 | 1 Comment »

Conférence de Michel Serres sur les nouvelles technologies: Les nouvelles technologies, que nous apportent-elles ?

La masse d’informations, vitesse d’information ne sont pas nouveaux. Ce qui a de nouveau dans les nouvelles technologies c’est notre rapport avec l’espace, nouvelle notion d’adresses non physique (e-mail, téléphone portable, …) qui n’appartiennent pas à l’espace métrique mais à un nouvel espace. C’est un nouvel espace de non droit dans lequel le droit va se constituer.

Depuis l’arriver de l’imprimerie nous avons perdu la mémoire qui est porté par l’objet (papier, livre, ordinateur, …). Maintenant, les nouvelles technologies externalisent les autres facultés cognitives (la raison et d’imagination). Nouvelles technologies = du vivant externalisé. Nous objectivons des fonctions et systèmes du corps (exo-darwinisme).

L’externalisation et la perte des fonctions permet de nous liberer de leurs contraintes et d’évoluer.