Archive for the ‘pervasive computing’ Category

Location based services for mobiles

Friday, January 8th, 2010

Location based services have been around for a number of years in the research community. They were always fun to build and excellent research vehicles but needed something to change before hitting the streets. Well, now we’re beginning to carry GPS enabled devices these services have hit the mainstream. I regularly use Yelp and Around Me on the iPhone to find local restaurants, gas stations, and coffee shops. The integration with the maps application is a fantastic coupling. Now Google have released their search services with the “Near me now” service (iPhone and Andriod in US only).

Location data for these applications is usually derived from GPS readings but it is not limited to that. You can use wifi spotting, video capture, parse user calendars or discover location by inference (I am near Alice and Alice knows where she is so I can find where I am). But in practice are these other inputs really required? Or are they all part of a larger model of the real world?

Location based services are a manifestation of pervasive computing in the real world. Next will come more complex context aware services with social aspects and recommendations. I’ve oft heard the question “who will pay for the infrastructure for pervasive computing?”. I think the answer is still “we will” but now you can add “and already are”.

Construct at University of Colorado at Boulder

Monday, December 7th, 2009

I’ve been talking with faculty staff at CU CSCI about the kind of work they’re doing and to see if there is any projects that we might collaborate on. After a chat with Katie Siek we decided that the most efficient way to introduce my research from UCD and Glasgow was to drop by and give a presentation.

For the opening I talked a little about the data binding technologies we developed at Strathclyde. These “type projection” systems provide a safe and extremely efficient mechanism for computing over semistructured data sources (if you’ve ever used JAXB from Sun they’re kind of similar). I skipped pretty quickly over that, hopefully didn’t loose too many listeners, and jumped into Construct.

Construct is our open-source community platform for Pervasive Computing. It is a middleware that provides the plumbing for developers of Pervasive or Ubiquitous systems. Rather than spend time writing code for management of services and data flow across the network developers can concentrate on the problem domain for their specific project.

I was invited back to talk with Ric Han‘s group early January.


Augmented reality steps closer

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

BBC tech News is reporting on mobile phone handsets with augmented reality. The article says that this is the first time AR has been available on handsets which is not strictly true. In CIS at Strathclyde University we had MSc students developing prototype map assistants on handsets with AR back in 2003, and I’m sure we were not the first. Maybe the BBC mean this is the first time AR handsets have hit the mainstream.

If you read the article bear in mind that the cyborg theme is erroneous and misleading. Yet another UK media attempt to glamorize a story and attract attention. Regardless, the technology is very cool. Sign me up.

So long desktops

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Reflecting on people and places I’ve visited the home desktop PC seems to be a thing of the past. Now you can buy tricked out consoles for gaming, e-readers, lightweight netbooks and smart phones for connectivity on the move. Why would we want desktops in our homes?

This morning I was listening to a discussion with Leo Laport on the TWiT podcast [from 3 May] in which they were discussing Apple’s aquisition of chip designer P.A. Semi and what this meant. On the Apple jobs site a quick search for hardware turns up a bunch of new posts for hardware engineering positions so there is movement in that space. I subscribe to the theory that Apple will start designing their own chips for mobile devices with the longer term view of dropping desktops and eventually laptops (they just started with Intel chips in desktops/laptops so I don’t think they’ll design for those).

What the TWiT podcasters didn’t pursue was where the long view of this takes us. Underlying the chat of so long to the desktops are the first trickles of pervasive and ubiquitous computing. To paraphrase Mark Weiser, it is certain that computational machinery is disappearing into the fabric of everyday life. That is now never a question. Yet we’re still a long way from the ubiquitous support system envisaged as omnipresent smart dust that unobtrusively manipulates our world in our benefit.

It will take a whole new set of standards and technologies in spaces such as location, context, communications, and human understanding before we can start to see this next generation of technology in everyday life. The reason that Apple may have a big advantatge here is that they like to live in a closed world of machines, networking, peripherals and storage. This means that their systems can work together right out the box. All-Apple environments can safely rely on homogeneous hardware and software in which to operate.

So what about Windows? After the Vista debacle it is likely that Windows 7 will be the penultimate desktop OS from Microsoft. Their research labs already host world-class minds who are working towards the Weiser-world.