Posted: February 28th, 2006 | No Comments »

DragonForce, distributed by Drakontas is yet another awareness platform for emergency and security crews (similar to the swiss GeoGeny).The system allows commanders to send voice and text messages; communicate by drawing on clean slate or incident scene maps; and share images to the users carrying typical GPS enabled PDAs.

According to A PDA for police and soldiers lets them track colleagues using a digital map, Drakontas “had planned an aggressive marketing campaign starting next year for college campuses and public-safety agencies”. One of the current test exercise is the simulation of a high school hostage-rescue situation. My understanding it that they target campuses first because the wireless connectivity is controlled. Scaling this up to an uncontrolled environment such as a battlefield is another issues.

DragonForce will use VoIP instead of good old walkie-talkie systems. I am not sure where the improvements are. Moreover it is a very centralized systems that does not seem to support message propagation from one peer to the others.

 Univrel Drexelink Images Bank 010901(1)
A DragonForce client… hmmm or prototype.

Relation to my thesis: DragonForce is a real-world pervasive system that must rely on location and performant/reliable connectivity to communicate both voice and data. It would interesting to know how defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp manages uncertainty in its similar systems supporting “battlefield intelligence”.


Posted: February 28th, 2006 | 1 Comment »

Mark Newman, of the University of Michigan’s Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems, has put together around 40 cartograms of the world covering such topics as population, tourist destinations, gross domestric product, energy consumption and child mortality. Data has been gathered from several different sources but mainly from UN organizations. Each map, comes up a small description which makes it more enjoyable. This is part of the Worldmapper Project.

 ~Mejn Cartograms Gdp1024X512
World map of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product)

The cartograms are based on a variant of the algorithm produced by Newman and Michael Gastner diffusion-based method for producing density-equalizing maps.

Via the resourceful Cartography.

Relation to my thesis: I am interested in the ways to visualize information on maps. Cartograms could support the presentation to users the measured space sensed by ubicomp systems.

De Retour de Suisse

Posted: February 27th, 2006 | No Comments »

Victorinox Tips

Switzerland Bird Flu

Data Communication and Mobility

Posted: February 24th, 2006 | 1 Comment »

A survey conducted at 3GSM by Tatara Systems found once again that the industry does not drink its own Kool Aid and actually use the services it promotes. For example only 24% of people surveyed at the show use their mobile phone to browse the internet. Nearly 93% of respondents use other networks beyond cellular mobile data with 43% citing the need for higher performance, 30% stating coverage issues, and 20% saying cellular mobile data was too expensive as the reasons for selecting other networks for sessions. Source: Stats & Research: 3GSM Visitors Low Users Of Mobile Data

Related: Notebook Owners Barely Show Nomadic Behavior

Relation to my thesis: Data communication while mobile is still marginal among practitioners. Lack of bandwidth, coverage, good prices or/and lack of real need?

Cityware – Urban Design and Pervasive Systems

Posted: February 23rd, 2006 | 1 Comment »

The goal of Cityware is to develop theory, principles, tools and techniques for the design, implementation and evaluation of city-scale pervasive systems as integral facets of the urban landscape. It focuses on 2 major questions around space, infrastructure and its relationships with behaviors:

  1. how do we design the space created by fusing electronically created interaction space with architecturally created physical space?
  2. how do we provide interaction and interoperability that scales up to city-scale pervasive systems, while ensuring that they function appropriately and merge aesthetically with urban spaces, materials, forms and uses?

Three projects are currently defined

Radio City: the human behaviours associated with the presence of those radio signals.
Making space: explore the relationship between the spaces created by urban architecture and the interaction spaces created by artefacts such as digital devices
Where am I? What’s that? I’ll remember this: exploring opportunities that pervasive technologies offer to provide novel and effective support for way-finding, interpretation and recollection.

Relation to my thesis: I am involved in “ambient intelligence in the city” kind of project called ICING. In Cityware, I would be interested to know more about how pervasive systems scale up to city-scale while delivering appropirate experience to the users.

Intermittent and Planned Connectivity

Posted: February 22nd, 2006 | 1 Comment »

The 3GSM Congress was the opportunity to do how mobile practitioners deal with mobility and connectivity. I witness some “Look I cannot talk to you, I am roaming…” and “Why are you calling me with a +41 number? It is going to cost me a fortune!”. Some 3GSM World connectivity blogged stories include Stuart Mudie’s Living la vida loca:

Well, firstly, I now know that typing on a phone is a real pain for anything other than the shortest of messages. [...] By the way, in case you’re wondering, I’m writing this post on my laptop. I have a neighbour with an unsecured wi-fi connection that I can sometimes catch if the atmospheric conditions are right.

and Russel Beattie’s Dial up… Wow, it still works:

[...] my “3 star” hotel in Barcelona is devoid of broadband, so after a few days of being disconnected, I was forced to root around my Y! laptop and find a corporate dialer, called the helpdesk back in Sunnyvale and asked for a password. [...] There is some intermittant WiFi at the 3GSM conference, but it’s not like I’m going to get a lot done in that chaos

Our vision of seamless integration and ubiquitous connectivity poorly supports real-world’s intermittent connectivity. The convergence via vertical and diagonal handovers of the telecom networks and wireless IP networks will only solve some connectivity problems and might create others. Connectivity is the trigger for data and voice communication. However the devices and applications used must deal with other constraints including bandwidth, coverage (autonomy of connection), latency, and last but not least the cost. Future successful mobile applications will need to plan connectivity by integrating these constraints in a subtle way (e.g. warning if gaming in a high latency area, synchronizing data only when entering a “free” wireless area). An excellent example of “planned connectivity” in the mobile industry was implemented by Shozu. Taken from Mobile Jones’ review of Shozu:

Data charges while roaming are brutal. I recently tried to upload some photos through Flickr and received an SMS from Shozu informing me that my transfer had been suspended, because I was roaming off my home network. Instructions for an override were provided or the option to do nothing, and the application would complete the transfer on my behalf when I was no longer roaming. Next, I received an SMS informing me that the transfer had been completed as I was no longer roaming. Now, that’s a pretty considerate thing to do, especially the part about managing this situation for me. True simplicity.

We manage intermittent connectivity on a regular basis. Like this out-of-office replay received this morning:

I will be traveling through March 3rd, however will be checking email during that time. If you have an urgent request, please contact xxx

Or, an idea I wrote down on my hand, because it was more convenient at that moment (while in a tramway):
Writing Hand
Connecting has become implicit while now disconnecting has to be explicit.

Other inspiring planning of intermittent and planned connectivity come from some third world countries, like DakNet that provides mobile access points using motorbikes and buses to give Internet access to remote regions. They collect emails and provide information like a mail man would do. They call it cached WiFi intelligence.

Fms Case Study1 Daknetmoto

This post is part of this week’s carnival of the mobilists XVI (sweet sixteen) hosted by gotomobile.

World's Most Photographed Cities

Posted: February 20th, 2006 | 1 Comment »

Based on Flickr’s All time most popular tags

  • New York
  • London
  • Paris
  • San Francisco
  • Chicago
  • Seattle
  • Tokyo
  • Amsterdam
  • Barcelona
  • Vancouver
  • Sydney
  • Toronto
  • Washington
  • Hong Kong

Flickr Cities Tags

30s Vision of Mobile Computing

Posted: February 19th, 2006 | 2 Comments »

Mobile Computing 30S

Vision of mobile computing from the 30s. Extracted from Paul Dourish’s talk The Culture of Information: Ubiquitous Computing and Representations of Reality given at the Rob Kling Center for Social Informatics at Indiana University on Friday October 14th, 2005.

Towards Improving Trust in Context-Aware Systems Displaying System Confidence

Posted: February 19th, 2006 | No Comments »

Antifakos, S., Kern, N., Schiele, B., & Schwaninger, A. (2005). Towards improving trust in context aware systems by displaying system confidence. ACM International Conference Proceeding Series, 111, 9-14.

The principal contribution of this paper is a study in which we show the effect of displaying system confidence on user trust. The proposal is based on the fact that users are used to and highly successful in dealing with unreliable and uncertain information throughout their daily lives. The authors propose to display system reliability explicitly and leverage from the user’s ability to choose the appropriate action.

Our experiments show that when system confidence is displayed, users more often rely on the system. This suggests an increase of the user’s trust in the system.

Providing a feedback mechanism seems mandatory in the context of ubiquitous computing. Modeling uncertainties and advanced
inference mechanisms might not be enough. According to Bellotti and Edwards, context systems cannot be designed simply to act on our behalf. Rather they propose that those systems will have to defer to users in an efficient and non-obtrusive way.

Similarly, Bubb-Lewis and Scerbo [Getting to know you: Human-computer communication in adaptive automation] argue that the only way of reducing uncertainty is by exchanging information between the automatic system and the human user.

Context-aware and automatic system seem to provide similar feature. There are already some context-aware and automatic systems that propose the use of different feedback mechanisms. However, their effects on user’s trust and system usability have not been evaluated.

Reference to read:
B. Muir. Trust in automation: Part i. theoretical issues in the study of trust and human intervention in automated systems. Ergonomics, 37(11):1905–1922, 1994.

Relation to my thesis: It would be interesting to have a group perform a collaborative task and evaluate if displaying the ubiquitous environment reliability improves that performance. Atifakos et al. fail to mention the tradeoff between the cognitive load for displaying uncertainty and the added value that it provides. Evaluating the Effects of Displaying Uncertainty in Context-Aware Applications:

One issue to be considered in future work is the tradeoff between the cognitive load, which displaying uncertainty information causes, and the added value that it provides.

I follow Bellotti and Edwards (for context-aware) and Bubb-Lewis and Scerbo (for automatic system) who conclude that systems cannot be designed simply to act on our behalf. A challenge is to define what “efficient and non-obtrusive way” to communicate uncertainty, and nurture trust in the system. Trust and handling uncertainty are tightly related. There are many methods of presenting feedback in an effort towards making systems more predictable. Atifakos et al. show one way to evaluate them.

Person-World Distinction in Ubicomp

Posted: February 19th, 2006 | No Comments »

A drawing by Mark Weiser, dropped without explanation on a bottom left of his ubiquitous computing web page.

One of Weiser’s research interests was… garbage collection. Yet another field I share with him.

Relation to my thesis: I guess the intention is to show that the world is no more a desktop, and that ubiquitous technologies free us from physical anchors.