Thursday, September 27, 2012

RobIoT @PICNIC12 - when robots meet IoT

Organizing RobIoT at Pic-Nic 2012 provided me the opportunity to visit the Pic-Nic Festival for a first time. It took place in the Eye in Amsterdam. I was asking continuously but apparently it is hard to say who the audience of this conference is: it is not really business, not really academia, it is more about hackers and artists presenting work to people from creative media.

Before our workshop started I could attend an opening talk of George Dyson who gave a fantastic talk about the history of IT and the continuous battle of good vs. evil in research, as IT in a way was also part of the development of the nuclear bomb. Byron Reese gave a rather frantic talk about how IT and media has freed our lifes from pre-defined marriages/jobs/hobbies/styles. I liked this introduction but was a bit disappointed about the following yes-we-can gobbledygook, such as technology would keep our society alive and his rather cynical finding of "hunger is just a technological problem".
Rich Pell from the Center for Postnatural History talked about life which was less natural but more cultural. He called intentionally altering of biological life as animal hacking. He emphasized how cooperations as Syngenta etc. would secure their gene-modified seeds: through obscurity, terminator gene preventing an organism from reproduction, and a non-breeding agreement preventing the farmer from breeding seeds through a legal contract becoming effecting after the seeds' bag has been opened...

Additionally, I could also visit some interesting Demos such as Mobile Thrill which provides experience to your mobile phone: you place your phone on a conveyor build with video switched on, the phone disappears and comes back with its "impressions". Additionally, I also liked the mobile bench.

Rob van Kranenburg opened RobIoT by predicting the advent of robots in our daily lifes anytime soon. Thus, instead of building nightmarish scenarios of mean robots taking over the world, he proposed thinking more proactively about how we can turn robots into something useful and joyful as the topic for this one day workshop. How can we fuel thr vision of robots and Internet of things with positive scenarios?
Gerald Santucci was talking about future robots as easily programmable devices that will empower people to write apps for them the way they do with PCs and smart phones.
Alessandro Bassi compared Asimov's Laws of Robots with the “IoT laws” of Adam Greenfield. He also reminded us that Asimov's Laws, e.g. "A robot may not injure a human being", are not obeyed if we look at the drones killing people in Middle East.
Stefan Gessler gave an overview on the variety of robots of today starting from the dumb vacuum cleaner robot to the humanoid robot. How was elaborating on how to link robots and proposed IoT as a technology for reducing costs for letting also robots communicate.
Karmen Franinovic talked about active material as the basis for activating things. I liked her more integrated perspective of making things active themselves instead of only having robots as separated mediators for actions.
Heico Sandee talked about how robots can give hands to the internet and how active actuators could "actify" passive objects. In order to make that happen research would have to focus on representing, exporting, discovering, executing and matching robot capabilities to real-world tasks and needs.
Finally, I talked about how robots could provide the arms and legs for the Internet of Things. I proposed to start with an initial set of basic activities robots could provide, such as moving or searching things. Then, from those basic activities atomic  tasks as press/touch/carry/etc. should be derived. Additionally, infrastructure requirements such as localization, hand-over to robots should be solved. And finally, robots should be integrated with Internet of Things, e.g. deriving object use from barcode master data.

In the very active discussion with our roughly 40 participants I learned that it probably will not be so so much about robots but rather about actuated materials as pointed out by Karmen. Concerning tasks it may more about tasks humans do not want do, e.g. ironing/car-driving. However, this of course highly depends on personally preferences, too. Robots may also used in combination with persuasive technologies to persuade human users to achieve a personally set goal.
There were also critical comments about why we would only think of privileged situations. Are there other cases, too. Or robots the machine staff of the rich? Are disabled not interesting when it comes to business cases?
Also, some participants mentioned that actuation to a large extend might not be really so much different from screens when it comes to present information or notify the user in more subtle ways (e.g. tapping on ones shoulder).
We also had some good discussion about what we do not want robots to do, what about taking care of your kids? Could robots allow you to work more, which counters of Karl Marx' initial idea of robots allowing you actually to work less.
We discussed whether DIY-robots would be necessary to spark innovation. Certaintly, DIY robots prove the state of maturity of a technology. We even had a moving plant-robot in the workshop which was build for less then 5 EUR...
And finally the discussion closed with questions about responsibility of robots, whether it would be the user, owner or manufacturer, what about garage doors killing people?
I see robots as an emerging topic to be considered with in IoT, see also here [1,2].

[1] Kevin Ashton: Humanizing Robots, RFID Journal, September, 2012.
[2] F. Michahelles, Rob van Kranenburg and Markus Waibel : Enlisting Robots - Once robots are integrated into the Internet of Things, they can perform tasks automatically., Inside the labs column in RFID Journal, August, 2012.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

3rd Research in the large workshop, this time at MobileHCI2012

Having visited already the previous serious of Research in the Large (2010, 2011) I was very much looking forward to meeting the large researchers again investing approaches, tools, research questions for conducting research by deploying apps.
This year I was talking about three topics. In the first paper [1] we investigated the compliance of users of updating their mobile apps. We analyzed the lifecycle of various versions of a released app and found that after one week still half of the users run an old version. Thus, we recommend that developers actively notify their users inside the app to conduct an update.
Throughout the workshop we received interesting comments regarding whether could differentiate within the non-updaters between active and no-longer active users. Furthermore, it could be interesting to cluster the users by age, categories of apps etc. in order to find out whether updaters and non-updaters share certain characteristics. Finally, it would be interesting to track whether the newly introduced 'update all' feature in Android increases the compliance. We might also collect updates histories of apps from and compare our results with other apps.
Then I talked about our analysis of apps [2]  (based on stats) available in the Android market. We analyzed the volumes of apps being downloaded corresponding to the overall sales. In contrast to amazon which largely live on the longtail of products, the Android market clearly is a hit market, where the most popular products contribute the largest parts of the sales. Our conclusion was that niche apps are still hard to find on the Android market (in contrast to the recommender systems revealing niches in amazon), thus research should focus on developing recommender systems. Furthermore, we found there is a significant amount apps generating large revenues with rather low download numbers by premium prices. Thus, developers should consider to increase the price of their apps significantly.
Finally, I presented NFC Heroes [3] we motivates users by a card trading fight game to upload information about deployed NFC tags.
The feedback we received from the workshop to give more hints to users where NFC tags are, e.g. information about local deployment activities as NFC tags at bus stops in San Francisco. Later, we might also building a service listing places and services of NFC tags in order to educate and inform users where they could use the NFC feature. Finally, we should consider to also listen to NFC intends  from other apps on the phone in order to capture any NFC interaction of the user's phone.

 In the workshop we had 7 talks in total which all latest for only 7min followed by 7min of discussion. This gave us enough time in the afternoon for some more in depth discussion about how to recruit users and what to learn form app stores.
To start off the discussion Frank Bentley first motivated why to do field studies at all (compared to lab studies): investigate real usage, impact of new systems, usability, inspiration, qualitative understanding, or quantitative confirmation of a previous small study.
Then Frank listed various option for recruiting users: in addition to the practice of small studies via mechanical turk, craigslist, posters in stores, snowball sampling, classmates and lab-mates, in the large we can populate the what's new section app stores, app store ads, targeted Facebook ads, re-tweets, personal tweets, presentation, and advertising. Another idea mentioned was to treat user's privacy as the user currency, the user owns and can decide to release for receiving specific services/benefits in return. Finally, our discussions revealed that either way user are recruited it is essential that papers clearly document how this was done. This is the only way that readers and reviewers can judge on the validity of the results.
The second part of the discussion focused on what kind of data and which research questions could be specifically tackled by doing research using app stores. On the one hand we get stats about downloads and locations of apps, logs of button presses, and partly demographics. However, what we don't get is the context of use and insights into why people did or didn't an activity. Overall, we are limited to tasks users in the wild want to do which may limit to tasks which are fun or particularly useful. Finally, a remaining question is as the number of apps in the markets develops and matures, whether the effort of releasing a decent app would be still feasible in near future.
David Aymann Shamma reported about his experience collecting and analyzing data from a chatting app for watching videos remotely together. David focused a lot on responsibility and ethics of treating the data being gathered throughout the project. Handling this massive amounts of data and also highly sensitive data would be a new dimension of what we as researchers would be usually used to. David also recommended to be generous and consider deleting all the session which appear to be odd or incomplete.

Overall, I really enjoyed meeting all these people sharing an interest for doing research in the large. I'm looking forward to help running this next year again. It's probably also time to come with a manifesto or guidelines describing how to do research in the large. Collective experience of researchers in the domain (e.g. [4]) should motivate the community to consider this new research method going far beyond the established modes of user studies.

[1] Update Behavior in App Markets and Security Implications: A Case Study in Google Play, Andreas Möller, Florian Michahelles, Stefan Diewald, Luis Roalter, Matthias Kranz, 3rd workshop on Research in the large (at MobileHCI 2012), San Francisco, September 21, 2012. [pdf]
[2] Examining the Long Tail of Android Market, Nan Zhong, Florian Michahelles, 3rd workshop on Research in the large (at MobileHCI 2012), San Francisco, September 21, 2012. [pdf]
[3] NFC Heroes – Observing NFC Adoption through a Mobile Trading Card Game, Lukas Murmann, Florian Michahelles, Matthias Kranz, 3rd workshop on Research in the large (at MobileHCI 2012), San Francisco, September 21, 2012. [pdf]
[4] My App is My Experiment: Experience Studiesin Mobile App Stores, Henze, N., Pielot, M., Poppinga, B., Schinke, T., & Boll, S. (2011). International Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction , 3 (4), 21.

Talking about the state of RFID at RFID Sec 2012

 I was invited by Jaap-Henk Hoepman to give the keynote at RFIDSec'2012 Nijmegen..
RFIDSec has been established eight years ago as very focused series of workshops standing of their own emphasizing security under the lower-power, low-computing capabilities, low-cost of RFID technology. It has been quite a while ago I attended this workshop back then when we investigated RFID as a tool against anti-counterfeiting [1]. Giving the keynote provided me with the privilege to show the privacy slide first at the conference. Other speaks pulled out the very same slide later again...we should really think to draw a new slide about this topic;)
Thus I reviewed the history and development of RFID in my talk "When will RFID embrace our everyday lifes?" (see my prezi). I should what happened and what not happened: no RFID tags on items in the retail stores. I provided some hope and asked for patience, as reviewing the history of barcode also revealed very long development and deployment cycles. Finally, I proposed to drive adoption by identifying clear business cases, providing out-of-the box tool for easing deployment and, ultimately, to focus on user experience. For more details see also the conference report of Jaap-Henk Hoepman which almost provides a transcript of my talk (see here).

 [1] Lehtonen, M., Staake, T., Michahelles, F., Fleisch, E.: From Identification to Authentication - A Review of RFID Product Authentication Technique, Workshop on RFID Security -- RFIDSec 06, July 2006.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Smart SysTech 2012

 SmartSysTech, the former RFIDSysTech conference, has broadened its scope beyond RFID on sensor tags and smart objects.

Werner Mohr, Head of research alliances at Nokia/Siemens introduced to the emerging 50 billion devices being to te internet connected soon and the resulting challenges.Biggest growth in connectivity already today stems from mobile connections. Challenges will be managing the heterogeneity of networked objects, privacy and security. Main driver is the faster adressing of economic exploitation and societal challenges (logistics, agriculture, energy, health).
Data has to be continuously processed in a distributed manner. Mohr outlined that Japan would mostly focus  broadband, US on new protocols, and EU on combine various protocols. By presenting examples of fleet monitoring and energy distribution, Mohr described Internet of Things (IoT) as the generic enabler for multi-purpose application frameworks instead single applications focus as done by cloud computing.
IoT - based on RFID, cyber physical systems,M2M, NFC - provides the building blocks for various applications (he didn't really tell which in particular;). As a result distributed intelligence would heavily contribute to the overall internet traffic growth such that new challenges emerge from scalability, security and privacy.

Obviously, the acronym RFID in more than half of the titles of the papers being presented clearly documents the roots of this conference. Overall, I had the feeling that this conference could have the potential to establish itself as a major for German/European research on Smart Objects and Internet of Things. I'm looking forward to participating next year again.

10th and last Pervasive Conference: 2012 in Newcastle

Judy Kay announced the tenth and last Pervasive Conference (as it will be merged with Ubicomp and disappear in the name). Then I was surprised to see the Gaia paper [1] receiving the 10yrs impact award. Probably this paper would not have been accepted at any of the recent Pervasive conference as it misses a user study;)

Sanjiv Nanda, vice president of engineering of Qualcomm, open the conference as the first keynote speaker about "Intelligent Devices and Smart Environments". His review of the history of the mobile phone starting as portable devices was quite charming but also a bit boring for conference audience. Pointing out the development of low power as a main challenge was not that surprising either. However, whereas his several examples of inferring day-in-the-life situations as a bottom up approach for achieving always-on intelligent devices were kind of common place, too, only later I understood that the actual mission of Qualcomm was to embed 10 years of activity recognition research on chip. Thus, positioning Qualcomm as the provider of context recognition technology in our future smart appliances did indeed convince me.

The organizers of the conference put huge efforts into providing "pervasive experience" with interaction kiosk for browsing the programm, active RFID badges taking pictures of participants in certain places, and a twitter display highlighting comments. Still I was surprised how much more it takes to even motivate the techie

I really enjoyed the talk [2] of Sarah Mennicken which reviewed the different roles of actors when smart homes would become reality. Of course, as always at ubicomp and pervasive, there were mixed opinions about this paper whether this type of ethnographic research is on pal with technical work of building systems. Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure if someone would look back on smart homes in a few years it will be rather the technical papers becoming outdated than this ethnographic studies revealing stereotypes and roles of people involved with smart homes.
Close to the end of the conference I reported about our own work of deploying Facebook comments of Facebook Brand page of a retail store in the store itself [3]. We conducted interviews which were qualitatively and quantitatively analyzed in order to derive perceptions of consumers with regards to brand innovativeness and attractiveness. Finally, we could conclude that FB comments in store have a positive effect on sales, however, not as strong as traditional advertising. Overall, the project was positively received due to it practical implications and real world deployment.
Pervasive crowd to put their comments on social media.

Passing through the exhibition space of the conference I spotted an interesting idea of finding each other in city [4]: localization based on images of each others mobile phone pictures.

My favourite however was [5] which proposed to enable crowdsourcing of microtasks (similar to mechnical turk) but with immediate rewards in the user's situation. The paper described an evaluation of deploying smart phone tasks for passengers of Riskha's in India and giving them a discount for the ride after completion of the task. I saw this a very refreshing and well elaborated new idea.

The RefrigerMeter [6] provided an interesting alternative to RFID for detecting what's in the fridge. The demo showed how to identify items by their foot print in the fridge measured by LED's.

Overall, I enjoyed this very lively and also last series of Pervasive Conferences. I couldn't quite follow the arguments of the steering committee of merging ubicomp and pervasive. I'd have rather proposed to work on making the differences of these two conference more explicit and separate between technical topics, e.g. activity recognition, and ethnographic studies. However, I could understand that in the end it's about prestige of the field where defining only one event per years as the hub of ubicomp research potentially could increase the visibility of the field. I'm looking forward how this works out, I'm pretty sure the merged conference in Zurich will be a success. However, I also expect former 2nd tier conferences, such as MuM, Mobiquitous, MobileHCI catching up and filling the gap of Pervasive Conference quicker than expected. Thus, dynamics and organic growth should be refreshing.

[1] Christopher K. Hess, Manuel Roman, and Roy H. Campbell. 2002. Building Applications for Ubiquitous Computing Environments, Pervasive '02.
[2] Sarah Mennicken, Elaine M. Huang, Hacking the Natural Habitat: An in-the-wild study of smart homes, their development, and the people who live in them, In: Pervasive 2012, Newcastle, UK, 2012-06-19.
[3] Erica Dubach, Christian Hildebrand, Florian Michahelles: Increasing Brand Attractiveness and Sales Through Social Media Comments on Public Displays – Evidence from a Field Experiment in the Retail Industry, Tenth International Conference on Pervasive Computing, Newcastle, UK, June 2012.
[4] Daisuke Kamisaka, Takafumi Watanabe, Shigeki Muramatsu, Arei Kobayashi, Hiroyuki Yokoyama: Estimating Position Relation between Two Pedestrians Using Mobile Phones, Paper/Demo, Tenth International Conference on Pervasive Computing, Newcastle, UK, June 2012.
[5] Navkar Samdaria, Akhil Mathur, Ravin Balakrishnan: Paying in Kind for Crowdsourced Work in Developing Regions, Paper/Demo, Tenth International Conference on Pervasive Computing, Newcastle, UK, June 2012.
[6] Marina Mikubo, Koji Tsukada, Itiro Siio: RefrigeMeter: Automatic Detect/Display System for Items in the Refrigerator, Demo, Tenth International Conference on Pervasive Computing, Newcastle, UK, June 2012.