Thursday, September 20, 2012

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pretty sure if someone would look back on smart homes in a few years it will be rather the technical papers becoming outdated than this ethnographic studies revealing stereotypes and roles of people involved with smart homes.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.

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