Sunday, December 13, 2009

My "pervasive" experience at the PC meeting

It was the first time for me to visit the Pervasive PC meeting. It was great to participate in the discussions, see the procedures of decision, and experience the emerging group dynamics. I also admired Antonio Krueger about steeping back, consequently keeping his own opinion out of discussion, but moderating the flow of arguments effectively instead.

I was really fascinated about the entire procedure: based on the expertise of the PC members and additionally reviewers they have invited, arguments in favor and against papers had been collected. The grades provided by the reviewers provided the line of sequence in which the papers had been discussed: high-ranked papers did not create long discussions and where clearly in, the same on the bottom clearly out. However, each member could intervene, so in fact it was more about valid arguments since the numeric grades which can be kind of arbitrary.
Most of the time obviously was dedicated to these "borderline" papers. For those papers it is really that they inspire at least one PC member that defends this paper with passion throughout the discussion. This is most likely to happen if the PC member is in this very specific field and believes its importance, so picking the conference with potential champions is an important strategy when submitting papers.

My lessons are:
  1. Papers have to reach the right reviewers. Reviewers that are in the very same field and can enthusiastic about the topic. Reviewers are reached by addressing the topic of the paper well in the title and abstract.
  2. Papers have to be written in a way that the story and conclusions can be conveyed to the primary and secondary reviewer in a way such that they can present the papers in the PC meeting in 1-2 minutes. As such abstract and conclusions are the most important part of a paper.
  3. Additionally, research has to be solidly conducted such that obvious objections ("to little users in the study", "advancement from related work is unclear", "statistics cannot be comprehended") do not apply.
  4. Eventhough blind submission is required the majority of the PC members considers comprehensiveness of the paper is more important - "anynomity is a means to an end". As such authors should certainly remove obvious references to their institutions but shouldn't spend to much time on anonymizing pictures and other data relevant to the story of their paper as in the end it does not matter.
  5. Authors should not submit notes (short contributions) as reviewers do not really understand the concept of notes. Also US people don't consider this as valuable contributions as they do not count for their metrics.

I really enjoyed to experience the passion and dedication all PC members brought to the table (from my perception laptops were only used to dig up reviews and papers, no emails or other unrelated stuff) in order to really identify the best papers that move the field and the conference forward. Eventhough this might be sometimes hard to believe when receiving reject reviews about a paper oneself was really convinced during submission.

Before the meeting we had a research "speed-dating". Various people presented their work. What I found interesting was this Sesame-kid book that could sense which page. As young children don't like to answer to the phone this book could be used with two maemo devices (yes, it was presented by Nokia;) to faciliate another way of telecommunication for children: having this book at each location grandparents and children could jointely read the book, see each other in the screen, and if the communication gets stuck the toy character on the left hand-site (I found it really disturbing) brings up some laugh and smile to trigger the communication. Future probably won't happen that way, but this remote communcation is definitely an interesting problem.

Family Story Play: Reading with Young Children (and Elmo) Over a Distance from hayes Raffle on Vimeo.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Digital kills real

Today I received a quite remarkable auto-reply:
Dear email sender,
I receive on a normal day around 100 emails which takes about 4 hours to read and answer. After a trip or vacation some 1000+ emails are waiting for me. I thus decided not to read all email any longer. I apologize for any inconvenience it will cause.
If you need to contact me, please do not use the phone as this is also given me similar problems and I had to switch it off.

You can always call the secretaries to leave your tel number or email address (+xxx xxxxx xxxxx) between 6:30 and 7:30am in the morning it is awfully quite and I would like to chat with you then. Later I will be too busy.

Alternatively you may want to write me a conventional letter. I would be delighted to receive one once in a while and probably even read it.

best regards


Poor guy, wasn't IT meant to make life more efficient and more effective? Now it's starting to absorb us. This is not really what I mean when aiming at "integrating the real world with the virtual world". But it's probably get worse. How can we cope with all that emails, tweets, blogs, facebook status updates? Technology can help to interweave places, things, people and information but there always only one timeline pressing ahead quickly.
However, I'm not convinced that this radical opt-out as described above should prevail - connections and relationships might break rather soon.

We probably should find ways to collapse and delete notifications that have become obsolete which is usually the most tedious part to find out after a longer absence...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Doktorandenseminar ETH Zurich/Univ. St. Gallen

I just spent two full days at our group's (Elgar Fleisch) Doktorandenseminar. Each Ph.D. student had to present his current state of research. After three talks per session we did feedback walk-arounds such that each participant had the chance to comment - quite thrilling. I presented (slides) my understanding of research and tried to provide some lessons about publishing.
The event was very inspiring - despite spending time in the same office space we're still not of aware of all the projects going on...

Definitely a highlight were the lessons learned from Mikko Lehtonen (he just defended recently), he recommended to seek for a practical problem (motivation), start with an overview paper, circulate between own concepts and related work, design EU project reports as papers, define your stake in projects, write down your conclusions, copy from overview paper, copy from your papers - and the thesis is done! He obviously enjoyed Jakob Badram's Fish model presented at Ubicomp 2007's doctoral consortium.

There is no better way of getting a condensed view about what's going on in the brains of our twenty-something Ph.D.s and getting their views about my research in return!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ph.D. defense of Mikko Lehtonen

Yesterday Mikko Lehtonen successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis about applying low-cost RFID against anti-counterfeiting. He derived from related research of security systems that a security budget should rather be invested in the continuity of checks than achieving a close to 100% detection rate - a way of good-enough security. Additionally, he presented three technical measures, namely TID [1]. synchronized secretes [2], and probability-based trace reasoning [3], that provided also milestones on a roadmap describing a migration path for introducing technical measures against anti-counterfeiting.
The consecutive discussion with Elgar Fleisch and Friedemann Mattern focussed much on the validity of the assumption of detection may supercede protection and was questioned by the example of credit-cards coming with security chips lately.

Despite his nervousness Mikko was brave enough to embedded a "surprise" slide explaining the two prevention strategies of protection and deterence - some may call it embarrassing, others just finnish humor...

[1] Lehtonen, M., Ruhanen, A., Michahelles, F., Fleisch, E.: Serialized TID Numbers – A Headache or a Blessing for RFID Crackers? In 2009 IEEE International Conference on RFID, Orlando, Florida, April 27-28, 2009, pp. 233 - 240.
[2] Lehtonen, M., Ostojic, D., Ilic, A., Michahelles, F., : Securing RFID Systems by Detecting Tag Cloning. In proceedings of H. Tokuda et al. (Eds.): 7th International Conference, Pervasive 2009, Nara, Japan, May 11-14, 2009. LNCS 5538, pp. 291–308.
[3] Lehtonen, M., Michahelles, F., Fleisch, E.: How to Detect Cloned Tags in a Reliable Way from Incomplete RFID Traces. In 2009 IEEE International Conference on RFID, Orlando, Florida, April 27-28, 2009, pp. 257 - 264.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Visiting the Tutorial @MuM2009

Today, I had the great chance of visiting the tutorial "Introduction to Programming Applications for Mobile Devices" at MuM 2009. Jamie Costello and Andrew Rice gave a great introduction to programming on the different mobile phone platforms and taught us in 3h how to build an Android app that takes a picture, reads GPS location, and uploads the annoted photo. The tutorial was very well prepared: the code was step-wise extended by Andrew and displayed on the projector, additionally, a step-by-step list allowed to keep track, and, if completely lost, from a website the entire code could be downloaded in the course. Inbetween Andrew walked by and really managed to solve all 'unexpected' problems - so in the end the app worked at all the 20 participants laptops. Just incredible! However, being on myself from now with Android will be yet another adventure, I'm sure!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Visiting AmI in Salzburg

After a rather short night ride on the train I arrived in Salzburg to visit Ami-09.
The session started with keynote prepared by Emile Aarts but hold by Frits Gotefris. He looked back into the history of ambient intelligence and reported about the electronic poem, a combination of architecture music and light dating back to the 40ies. The mentioned requirements of AmI, such as miniaturization, provision of connectivity, displays, textile
. The definition of AmI as environments that are sensitive and responsive to presence of people appeared to me as a rather outdated vision where users are centrally positioned but the entire system is guessing magically the users desires and serving him accordingly. The examples given such as virtual presence and the virtual tapestry, for me, did not add much to credibility of that vision. Interestingly, the year 2015 was mentioned as a milestone where not just environments but also things could be networked, forming an internet of things. I was almost jumping out of my seat – why wait, we will have the 2nd Internet of Things Conference next year in Tokyo…

Besides the common challenges of coming up with new user interfaces and real world trials, two ‘dark scenarios’ have been mentioned to take care about: people building well engineered technology with bad intentions and people building bad technology with good intentions. The keynote outlined the goal of designing ambient intelligence in eco-affluent manner that allows people to flourish. The examples given where, firstly, light in your hand, a planar flashlight the allows reading books anywhere and anytime at zero cost – well, at least at zero energy costs due to solar power (after 10 years ambient intelligent research the result is electric light!?). Secondly, ambient care was mentioned, where an MRI gets turned into a into multi-dimensional theater that can be designed by children patients and their relatives in order to remove the fear of treatment. Sense-making applications would be key to let ambient intelligence evolve. This indeed would be a healthy turn for the community, trying to get away from designing for luxurious experience only but looking more into ‘real’ problems. The final messag was to put the human into center, nobody in the audience would have ever questioned that...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Slipping an iphone into a children`s book: PhoneBook

I find this a convincing example of bridging between real world and virtual world:

Thursday, October 29, 2009

IoT2010 - Announcement of 2nd International Conference on Internet of Things, 2010 in Japan

Finally, here is the announcement of IoT 2010 (find the CfP here):

Tokyo — Internet of Things (IoT 2010), a three-day public conference, gathers leading researchers from academia and industry to elaborate on the major themes of the emerging Internet of Things. On November 29, 2010 focused workshops and tutorials feature in a pre-conference program. On the two following days, researchers and industrial practitioners meet and present talks and keynotes in front of an expected audience of 300 visitors.

The 1st International Conference on Internet of Things 2008 in Zurich discussed the fundamental challenges of interconnected objects forming an Internet of Things (IoT); from consumables to assets, from food to high-value items. The Internet of Things Conference 2010 ( will explore the technical requirements and business challenges to address today’s societal challenges with IoT technology: health monitoring systems to support the aging society, distributed awareness to help predict natural disasters and react more appropriately, track & trace to help reduce traffic congestion, product lifetime information to improve recyclability, transparency of transportation to reduce carbon footprint, and more insights into various kinds of processes to improve optimization. This conference will continue the success of the International Internet of Things Conference 2008 in Zurich and will put a dedicated focus on the IoT infrastructure and applications, facilitating environmental responsibility, an "IoT for a Green Planet".

Today, connectivity and increased bandwidth of the Internet have borne a huge number of services such as email, e-commerce, e-banking, VoiP – many of those have become a commodity. However, the World-Wide Web today still only represents a fraction of information about our real-world. To foster the automatic integration of a larger fraction of the 100 trillions of physical items crafted by 6.5 billion people per year into today’s Internet, the infrastructure of the IoT will have to be heterogeneous: besides the 2 billion computers and 4 billion mobile phones additional objects will connect, some of which will have their own Internet Protocol addresses, others may even run web-services (sometimes to referred to as ‘Web of Things’), use sensors to perceive their environment (e.g. food logging its temperature along the supply-chain) and use actuators to interact with it (e.g. chemical explosives warning staff from close collocation).

“In the recent years, we have gained a rough understanding of what the Internet of Things really is and how likely unfolds in nature", says Elgar Fleisch, professor at ETH Zurich and the University of St. Gallen, co-chair of the Auto-ID Labs, and co-chair of IoT 2008 and IoT2010. "However, we still lack some of the essential global standards and infrastructures that would drive adoption on a broader scale". The goal of IoT 2010 is to gather the stakeholders in order to continue work on technical requirements and business needs to build the Internet of Things.

Thanks to the recent advances of miniaturization and the plunge of costs in RFID devices, sensor networks, NFC and wireless communications, the technologies and applications around the concept of the IoT became increasingly relevant for industry and end users. Detection of the status of physical things through sensors, collection and processing of item-level data allow us to respond to real-world changes instantly. This fully interactive and responsive network yields immense potential for consumers and businesses.

"The existing Internet is just an infrastructure for the Internet of Things”, says Jun Murai, professor at Keio University, chairman of the board of directors of the Auto-ID Labs, and conference chair of IoT 2010.“The Internet of Things is the key to solving many real-world problems. That is why we decided the conference theme to be IoT for a Green Planet at this time.”.

Clearly with the close interlinking of physical objects and cyberspace also privacy and security have to be answered properly. “There will be areas where user acceptance is essential: The possibility to locate and trace objects is certainly much welcome if you have lost your keys, but it will not be accepted if the government uses it to snoop on its citizens”, says Friedemann Mattern, professor at ETH Zurich and co-chair of IoT 2008.

Keynote speakers, researchers and industry experts will discuss the immense potential for consumers and industry, how items can be integrated with the internet to sense, check, and act to fulfill known and latent consumer and business needs. Practitioners will report on latest real-world implementations, applications, and experiences.

In addition to the main conference on November 30 and December 1, a pre-conference program on November 29 will feature several workshops focusing on dedicated topics such as standards, prototyping, social and organizational aspects, and specific applications of the IoT for interconnected and interoperable vehicles. Furthermore, there will be tutorials putting across fundamentals on today’s core technologies of the IoTsuch as sensor networks, RFID and corresponding software frameworks.

For more information on the Internet of Things Conference 2010 visit or contact

Friday, October 23, 2009

Towards a Do-it-yourself-Internet of Things

I'm quite happy about my recent purchase of Sonos, an always on network stereo, that streams music from any source (NAS, internet radio, etc.) to my home without requiring a computer. For me it's the first embedding of streams into my physical home.
Simultaneously, I'm quite proud about the doll's kitchen I build for my daugther from standard components you can get in a hardware store.

I also have a couple of ideas concerning improvements of the Sonos interace, coupling of my Sonos with location information and alike. I'm wondering how long it still takes until laymen can build and extend Internet services embedded in physical environments using standard components and tools - similarly, as I could for building the doll's kitchen. Probably still along way to go - that's why we're submitting a project proposal about that to the EU today...

Who am I?

In the old days of the web I used altavista and all that other crawlers and was excited to find out what the web knows about me. Today, there are more sophisticated solutions, such as people search engines (123people, pipl). Just recently, I tried Personas:
It does not matter so much about whether this is right or wrong, it matters that others can find this information. I probably should stop publishing papers about Anti-Counterfeiting in order to lower my hits in the categories of legal/illegal...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Korea Visit: Auto-ID Labs meeting and conferences

I was invited to give two talks one on the status of European research in RFID and sensor networks and another one on our current research in St. Gallen and ETH Zurich. When I was talking about our new iphone app Peaks (which I was proud to test successfully in Korea!) I received an interesting comment“…there is no iphone in Korea.”.

In conjunction with the conference there was also a fascinating exhibition about RFID. I must admit I ‘ve never visited interesting RFID exhibition so far mostly showing reader gates and tags, but this one was really exciting. Obviously, “green” is an important topic also in Korea which was reflected by at least four high-tech bicycle renting systems providing access to public bikes through RFID cards in combination with sophisticated locks. Slightly over-engineered but exciting indeed. I noticed green-ouse monitoring, sensor-augmented Taek-Wondo gear and the usual stuff, such as smart shelfe and military apps. Finally, the electronic colorful price tags gave a good impression about the opportunities of display information in our supermarkets of tomorrow.

As part of the conference we got access to the running Incheon Expo displaying technology and future vision of living of tomorrow, again with a dedicated focus on “green technology”. Due to the fear of the H1N1 virus we first had to pass a disinfection gate before entering the site – pretty strange experience. Among others, I enjoyed the art pieces showing how to sweep the ground off virtually leaves (once all trees have died but to maintain the tradition;) and the auto-transformation of textual news into graphical icons. In the exhibition I noticed the quite different notion of responsibility: instead of the rather individual share as we practice in Europe meaning everybody tries to contribute his share by his individual behavior, I understood that in Korea this is rather centralized and delegated to institutions, government and companies taking care of you.

Finally, I got the chance to travel South to the another event, the Koala 2009 RFID USN conference where I gave another talk on my favorite topic of building an Internet of Things for everyone. I took the chance of a train ride in order to enjoy the country-side from a window seat. Korea consists of countless hills – in order to gain culture land land is often reclaimed at the sea side.

After several conservations I was amazed about the huge funds of Korea provided for research and education, the huge percentage of academics of the population ( was told over 80% would study – though I haven’t verified), and tremendous attitude of almost living at the work place. I guess we’ll hear more from Korean rather soon…

Friday, September 25, 2009

We've released our first Layar: Peaks

We've finally released our first layar (see here) "Peaks" - a layer giving names to the mountain you are looking at using the Layar application on Android. Enjoy the nature with knowing more about it!

Finally, a programmable camera

Researchers at Standford are currently building an open-source camera, Camera 2.0, where the firmware can be completely designed by the user. Instead of being stuck with features and effects coming from manufacturers end-user development can create much richer services. Examples given are image recognition and hints about the appearance of a setting in popular online galleries indicating the importance of shot before the shutter is released.

I also could imagine to add meta-information or to even implement a photoguide taking to photographers to the most scenic spots in a city and teaching them how to really do nice shots. Would be great to have access to that platform soon.
Finally, I really like the lovely shot of Zurich they use in the video above;).

Ambient features beat GPS indoors

Surroundsense [1] implements the simple idea of integrating various ambient features of an indoor location, such as sound, light, and acceleration pattern of the user. The authors present architecture which they test successfully to distinguish between 51 different business locations. In order to deploy that one should check whether assumption that the ambience of places remains stationary really holds. It also remains unclear to me how to actually train such a system...

[1] SurroundSense: Mobile Phone Localization Via Ambience Fingerprinting
Martin Azizyan, Ionut Constandache, Romit Roy Choudhury
ACM MobiCom, September 2009.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Nice talks at MobileHCI09

Again I had the chance to visit MobilHCI09, despite the rather odd organization of the program in rather fragmented dual-tracks I enjoyed some nice talks. Overall, my impression was that especially the time slots of full papers were rather long which the presenters pretty often filled with sometimes tyring overviews of related work or other explanations of commonplaces.

In his talk about Glance Phone [1] Richard Harper embeded quite provocative message asking why mobilehci research would focus so much on human-device instead of the more interesting communication human-human supported by technology. He underlined that the very same message if conveyed through either shouting, whispering, bellowing or murmuring - normal mechanics of communicatons - get a completely different meaning and cannot be established today. The basic idea of glance phone is to allow to glance through someone's phone's front camera. This should enable the caller to have a better guess on the recipient's current situation whether it's approriate to call him or not. The implementation is running a webservice on the phone only allowing people in adress book can glance. The outcome of the study was quite unexpected. Instead of initial of purpose for the caller to detect appropriate moments to call their recipients, users rather used glance phone in unstressed, arty, funy and amusing moments to show off their status as done on facebook. Quite a nice lesson how a study can go wrong but still makes it as a paper.

Friendlee [2] showed how the rich activity with the intimate network (friends, family, relatives) could be derived from mobile phone interaction and represented by a weighted graph. This allows to re-arrange the phone book and to also search other friends via hops of close friends. I was wondering whether the interaction with others via phones is really a good indicator for intimacy if I think of re-curring conversation when trouble-shooting with public authorities or corporations. Would be nice if those would push out my friends and relatives down to the bottom of my phone book...

Johannes Schoening presented PhotoMap [3], a nice approach of how to capture you-are-here maps and turn them into gps-navigationable-maps on mobile phones. He proposed 2 point referencing and overlaying over google maps. A user study showed that slightly uncorrectly referenced were god enough. This was a really nice idea he also received the best-paper award for. What stroke me was when he mentioned that Apple denied their iphone app for their Appstore as they would replicate functionality of the iphone - does that mean their will be no further location and mappings apps!?

uWave[4] presented an evaluation of authentication through gestures. The authors found out that with visual disclosure of a gesture to others to mimic a gesture is rather simple. In order to increase security the authors proposed to additionally pressa button while a performing gesture in order to define start and end in a hidden way. Well...why not just pressing buttons - here comparision gesture vs. several buttons would be nice. Novelty is cool, but usability should be also key in order to show the superior properties of novelty to the established...
Finally, Stephan von Watzdorf, a Ph.D. of ours gave his first presentation at a conference. He discussed the ability of phones to be used as risk alert [5] devices. The results were that people see value that phones are suited due its always on and always with-us character. The results were based on the analysis of a survey.

[1] Richard Harper and Stuart Taylor, Glancephone – an exploration of human expression, In Proceedings of the 11th international Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Bonn, Germany, September 15 - 18, 2009). MobileHCI '09. [pdf]
[2] Ankolekar, A., Szabo, G., Luon, Y., Huberman, B. A., Wilkinson, D., and Wu, F. 2009. Friendlee: a mobile application for your social life. In Proceedings of the 11th international Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Bonn, Germany, September 15 - 18, 2009). MobileHCI '09. [pdf]
[3] Johannes Schöning; Keith Cheverst; Markus Löchtefeld; Antonio Krüger; Michael Rohs; Faisal Taher: Photomap: Using Spontaneously taken Images of Public Maps for Pedestrian Navigation Tasks on Mobile Devices, In: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Service. In Proceedings of the 11th international Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Bonn, Germany, September 15 - 18, 2009). MobileHCI '09.[pdf]
[4] Liu, Jiayang; Zhong, lin; Wickramasuriya, Jehan; Vasudevan, Venu: User Evaluation of Lightweight User Authentication with a Single Tri-Axis Accelerometer. In Proceedings of the 11th international Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Bonn, Germany, September 15 - 18, 2009). MobileHCI '09. [pdf]
[5] Watzdorf von, Stephan; Michahelles, Florian: Evaluating Mobile Phones as Risk Information Providers. In Proceedings of the 11th international Conference on Human-Computer interaction with Mobile Devices and Services (Bonn, Germany, September 15 - 18, 2009). MobileHCI '09. [pdf]

Jun Rekimoto's Keynote at MobileHCI09

Jun Rekimoto was giving examples of mixing reality with virtual world. As a quite illustrative example he showed how a fighting characters of card game could revive by virtually augmenting fighting capabilities - though this was nothing really new, Albrecht notes even more critically. Then he introduced sensonomy as concept to combine intentional and unintenional tagging of users, known from web (pagerank, social tagging), for the real world in order to increase the quality of location tracking using wifi. He showed from a simulation how location accuracy could be increased by user participation. He did not really talk about the motivation of users to do that which should be the pivotal requisite for that system.

The other topics of lifelogging, capturing environmental data from crowds were not new either, but in the end his example of pet lifelogging put some nice perspective. I'm quite convinced that people might enjoyunconventional pics taken by their cat, information about which other cats she meets derived from face recognition of others und to compute facebook-like relationships if combined with need-solving applications such as pet-tracking.

Augmented reality vs. tagging

Just recently I stumbled over some exciting videos showing how augmented reality on mobile phones can be used to overlay the real-world with additional information when seeing it through the mobile:


This looks fascinating on the one hand as it finally runs on mobile phones today, but the idea itself is also kind of old on the other hand:


I can imagine that applying AR may make sense in specific situations but how do indicate to you users that there is virtual information "behind" the current real-world view? How frustrating would it be running through a city watching it entirely through your mobile phone without finding any augmented information?
In that sense I still find the approach of tagging places with barcodes or NFC more convincing, e.g. as ServTag or several NFC projects show.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Whitepaper: Mobile Advertising - 2020 Vision

Ogilvy and Acision have published a White Paper called "Mobile Advertising – 2020 Vision" exploring how mobile advertising will look in 2020 (download here). They lean back about the quality of predictions in general but envision some nice scenarios: a car advertisement (see to the right) can trigger different meanings for different users ranging from buying, renting, or tuning a car. Later they mention serendipity through ads of trusted advertisers, interaction between devices (e.g. buy a shirt an actor on TV is wearing through your mobile).
However, as an essential prerequisite the true adoption of mobile phone is required, not just doing geeking things but using it for continuously for boring routines in daily life. I still wonder how get there looking at the recent 'flat-rate' Swisscom has overed a few weeks ago: 169 CHF/month (!!!) for unlimited data and voice NOT including roaming...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Announcement: CfP - What can the Internet of Things do for the Citizen?

The workshop "What can the Internet of Things do for the Citizen?" (CIOT), Workshop @ Pervasive 2010, Helsinki, May 17, 2010, is accepting submissions.
I have the great pleasure to announce that our Pervasive workshop proposal "What can the Internet of Things do for the Citizen?" (CIOT) has been accepted at The Eighth International Conference on Pervasive Computing (Pervasive 2010).

We (Stephan Karpischek (ETH Zurich), Albrecht Schmidt (Univ. of Duisburg-Essen), and myself) are soliciting submissions describing applications, tackling infrastructure issues, introducing meaningful forms of interaction as well as articles discussing business scenarios that show the commercialization of Internet-of-Things applications for citizens. What if we had technology that gathered data from things of our daily lives, tracked and counted everything in order to solve citizens’ needs (e.g. reduce waste, prevent loss, and improve search)?

The reception of the call in the community was quite overwhelming such that we managed to organize a quite remarkable PC for this workshop.

Please find the detailed call here:

You may also express your interest on facebook.

We are looking forward to your submissions!

Interact 2009, Uppsala - Overall

As said in my first post, I found six sessions in parallel quite overwhelming. Thus, I - as all other visitors - only could attend a little fraction of the talks.

I enjoyed the contribution of Florian Alt who proposed a proxy-based implementation [1] to alter the content of website with or without the owners consent. This could increase usability of badly designed sites or, probably more important, to implement dynamic applications on static content, e.g. integrating infos from your social network with content of a website you're just looking at.

Next I fascinated by the simpled idea Paul Holleis [2] presented to attach a sequence of NFC tags behind a laptop screen in order to fascilitate touch-based interaction similar to a touch screen but at much lower cost. Obviously, one technically problem to be solved is to find screens that still allow the radio waves to permeate the screen.

Finally, I was glad to see the talk of Felix von Reischach [3], our Ph.D. student, presenting our work about the different ways of interacting with mobile devices and products: barcode vs. epc vs. nfc.

[1] F. Alt, A. Schmidt, R. Atterer, P. Holleis
Bringing Web 2.0 to the Old Web: A Platform for Parasitic Applications. Interact 2009. Uppsala, Sweden. 24-28 August 2009.
[2] Khoovirajsingh Seewoonauth, Enrico Rukzio, Robert Hardy and Paul Holleis. NFC-based Mobile Interactions with Direct-View Displays. Interact 2009. Uppsala, Sweden. 24-28 August 2009.
[3] F. von Reischach, F. Michahelles, D. Guinard, R. Adelmann, E. Fleisch, A. Schmidt: An Evaluation of Product Identification Techniques for Mobile Phones, Full Paper at the 12th IFIP TC13 Conference in Human-Computer Interaction (Interact2009), Sweden, August 2009, [PDF] [Talk].

Interact 2009, Uppsala - KeyNote 3: Liam Bannon, "Towards human-centred design"

Finally, after a great show on the evening before, the organizers of Interact 2009 had been smart enough to organize a third keynote to motivate people to visit the third day of the conference.
Liam Bannon talked about "Towards human-centred design".He started with the quite known fact of how ubiquitous computing has changed the interaction with technologies and, as such, human desktop no longer persists as the most dominant form of interaction. More interesting was his comment about how also industry has changed, he gave the example of a senior executive who has changed his instructions from "evaluate" (something the company has developed) over "develop" and "explore" to "come up with something interesting". Liam outlined herewith a clear shift from industry-driven to user-driven research.
Liam jumped a little bit cross topics in his talk, he also had a vast number of slides with "too much text" on them, as he admitted quite frequently throughout the talk. Anyway, took strong opposition against replacing humans by technology, as human skills are still relevant in technical systems, such that humans always should be the real actors. Well, who in the audience would have ever questioned that...
When Liam started to talk about ambient intelligence he attacked the vision of the all knowing systems prentending to operate on behalf of the user. He rather proposed to design system that extend human capabilities as also critiqued in Rob van Kranenburg's new online book The Internet of Things.
Then Liam did another jump to the topic of collecting data vs. forgetting information. Using Microsoft's MyLifeBits project he questioned the underlying assumption that collecting data is a good thing per-se. He emphasized that also forgetting is an important part of human life which also should be supported through technology, e.g. digital shelters.
The Liam jumped back to the previous topic of ambient intelligence and gave some good counter-examples of the stupid user always being supported by technology: user-generated content and open-source software just show the opposite, how the skilled users spread their ideas and collaborate through technology.

Human agency and technnologies have to come together. He referred to the Mc Namara-fallacy:
The first step is to measure whatever can be easily measured. This is OK as far as it goes.
The second step is to disregard that which can't be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading.
The third step is to presume that what can't be measured easily really isn't important. This is blindness.
The fourth step is to say that what can't be easily measured really doesn't exist. This is suicide.
I find this a quite remarkable counter-position towards high-resolution management.

Interact 2009, Uppsala - KeyNote 2: Nicklas Lundblad, "Lies, damn lies and privacy"

The second day of Interact2009 started with a keynote from Nicklas Lundblad, former European policy manager at Google and now deputy CEO of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce.
Nicklas started he talk with the insight that security today is an established field in companies, where as privacy is not: usually there no designated role for privacy in companies. The most established answer towards privacy is privacy-enhanced technology (PET) which is mostly cumbersome, implemented as an add-on, and not really perceived useful: the more privacy, the less usability.
As an example, the Icognito mode of web browsers allows to browse the web without leaving traces of what you've visited: mostly used at public computers, but the significant majority is porn.

Accordingly, privacy always incorporates, whether true or not, that the user wants to hide something. Nicklas played a quite exaggerating movie about the 'google' opt-out village:

Google Opt Out Feature Lets Users Protect Privacy By Moving To Remote Village

Then Nicklas gave some background of some quite exciting interpretations of privacy:

1. sphere of gaze
if you always keep in mind that you are under the watchful gaze of god you will be fine.
Nicklas gave an example of Benton's prison: a disciplinary prison - where the prisoner is put in the center of sphere and can be watched from all sides around - which refers to a concept of god being watched, more details can be found here.

2. privacy as a mask:
Nicklas called this the Swedish interpretation of privacy, a personal integrity concept, which allow you to keep your mask in front of others. You can experience these masks when you compare pictures of your friends on linked-in and with their's on facebook.

3. Privacy as a game
Privacy is about learning and playing with it. You learn to handle it and to care about it.

In former times there was no privacy at all: we all lived in villages, privacy only came with urbanization. In the village you are naturally risk-avert, because of if you fail you're entire reputation is lost. In urbanization, you can move somewere else, you become more risk-alert which triggers economic growth.
A growing counter-culture of lie emerges.

Most well explored sector of online lying is online-dating, 20% self-reported to ly on line sites, 90% even think that others lie.

Now, after a long introduction finally the main topic of the talk appeared:
How can you build privacy based on lie.

It followed some philosphical discurs about lying and it turned out it's a social evolution.
Nicklas proposed to support people to ly by technology: e.g. don't reject people on Facebook but rather introduce a mechanism to allows you to express your intend to confirm without disclosing your information - that would be ly on faceook.
Another approach was to apply steganography, turn emails into spam, and by that hiding your information in spam which again could be a mechanism for privacy based on ly (is the spam actually is not spam!).

Obviously, this approach has some problems. First of all ethical, as ly could destroy the internet, as social trust disolves and structure disappears. However, Nicklas added, lying is not a monolithic concept: there are also"white lies" as "you're looking beautiful today" and Nicklas asked "is there even a right to be able to lie?".

The talk concluded with some challenges: how to build prototypes to support ly, how people lie with technology (spam filter), is lying changing society? (ly less in email, than mobile). His talk is even available:

The lessons of this talk are not to be implemented right, but it least this talk triggered some thoughts and discussions. I find it nicely illustrates how still human are in control and design technology towards their needs, even along their defiencies...

Interact 2009, Uppsala - KeyNote 1: Krista Höök "Mobile life - body and interaction"

Last week I could attend Interact2009. I was really thrilled by the huge variety in the program, six tracks in parallel - quite hard to not miss the most interesting talks;)
Anyway, at least the keynotes were in the plenary and not to miss:

First Krista Höök talked about the lasting challenge of coming up with new interfaces for new environments. She set out her talk with the confession that HCI research in the past would have lost it's relevance. As it has left the ground of reality needs.

The challenge - according to her - was to design interfaces in the wild for strange environments, e.g. video dj applications that allows to stream videos from various mobile phones' cameras of the audience to the big display [1]. At that point I was not sure whether Krista was pointing a way out of the crisis or rather wanted to illustrate the status of the HCI crisis.
She emphasized the difficulties of designing something new which might be even hard to describe in words, e.g. body expression. She proposed explanatory design, a playful way of associating technology with habits. She was talking about reptile owners that treat their animals as a living exhibition and she taking that as a motivation for designing a living wallpaper that gave birth to a flower fertilized by images the users had been uploading. Krista strongly voted for the ludic society, as social would be all life is about. Later in the discussion she even clearly outlined that supporting playful entertainment would be more important than solving a murder.
I really enjoyed when she was talking about the malleable experience and introduced Mobile2.0 [2], an environment that allows everybody to become a designer of pervasive games. She used the notion of "digital handicraft for all".
Finally, she mentioned the importance of the eco-systems of drivers, namely mobile network operators vs. google vs. application design. She proposed to start with the consumers' needs when designing applications. Interestingly, she didn't want to call the users 'users' but rather 'actors', as those themselves should apps in short cycles, as they know their problems best.
That was a nice message to follow, however, I didn't really see in the examples she gave herself following that advice.

[1] Engström, A., Esbjörnsson, M. and Juhlin, O. (2008). Mobile Collaborative Live Video Mixing. In Proceedings of MobileHCI 2008. ACM Press, pp. 157-166.
[2] Holmquist, L. E. 2007. Mobile 2.0. interactions 14, 2 (Mar. 2007), 46-47.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

At the right time at the right place: two of our Ph.D. students on google streetview

Today, there was suddenly a big hurray in our office: Stephan and Mikko were very happy that the car with the strange cameras on top they've seen in winter this year actually captured them on their way back from the cafeteria:

If you know them you can easily recognize them...

The street of our office further up, Google forgot to hide a number plate:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Visiting the Smart Factory in Kaiserslautern

I had the chance to visit the SmartFactoryKL in Kaiserslautern. It was nice to see some ideas how the smart technology from the consumers' sector slowly finds its way into production scenarios: a chemical machinery allows to autonomously fabricate soap, based on SAP orders defining colors and numbers of soap units to be produced. Various parts can be remotely monitored, or configured, e.g. via bluetooth and mobile phone. Prof. Zühlke illustrated the various steps being taken from simplifying the control of machines by the control room through mobile communication in order to remove the strong coupling between worker and machine. However, the challenge in the production scenarios clearly is the lifetime of machines spanning up to thirty years - compared to the 2 year life-time of a mobile phone.
The driving vision here is the digital fab where all units can be controlled via web-servers (SEMPROM). The journey towards that vision goes via remote control (factory of bits), remote programming (factory of functions) and the real/virtual integration (factory of things - where parts of the factory could be simulated in 3D).
Afterwards we had some discussion on how these developments would effect the job market and, thus, also cause changes im training and education. There is a German project elaborating this topic.