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Ubiquitous Computing at a Crossroads: Art, Science, Politics and Design

by djdunc. Average Reading Time: about 3 minutes.

At Imperial College for a UK centric workshop on current state of the art in Ubiquitous Computing research in the UK. Most of the UK universities were represented with talks covering the Art and Design of Ubiquitous Computing, the Politics of Ubiquitous Computing (sustainability and environment issues) and the Science and Technology of Ubiquitous Computing.

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Gonzalo had a poster accepted based on some of our previous work. My notes from items of interest follow.


Frank Stajano – Cambridge Uni – smart civil engineering infrastructure.

Security. Interesting description of how they set out to hack a Crossbow mote based network. Their starting point was to query what the risks would be of adding a WSN to monitor a bridge. Since their application did not have any actuation capability they focused on the risks of the network being comprised – a nice example was given of how the routing tables could be hacked to create circular message passing meaning that nodes would never go to sleep and hence kill the batteries 1000 times faster than normal.

Guang-Zhong Yang – Imperial College – Body Sensor networks for health, well being and sports

Continuous monitoring. Current healthcare systems are typically framed around snapshot analysis – you go and see a doctor when you are ill, you have a blood test, you have an examination. The focus of Body sensor networks is to create a continuous stream so that patient care can be extended beyond the centre of care (hospital) and into the home.

e-AR concept photo

The e-AR [http://www.sensixa.com/] was a really interesting example of a sensor being placed behind the ear to monitor gait allowing doctors and physios to analyse patients walking characteristics after surgery or a stroke for example. The idea was inspired by the inner ear canal and consists of a 3 axis accelerometer in the form factor of a bluetooth ear piece. The e-AR has also been used for gait analysis in sport and would have been a great sensor to have captured footfall on the millennium bridge…[case study one in this podcast of a presentation last year]

Sonja Buchegger – Deutsche Telecom – Ubiquitous Social Networks.

Privacy. Nothing is forgotten on the internet. An interesting map of social networks in 2007 (great cartoon of a pseudo world map of social networks – didn’t manage to find source for this…). The doubled edge sword of social networks – how to make yourself as public as possible whilst maintaining a level of privacy. Ubiquitous computing can support both so that it does not have to be one or the other. Ubicomp allows you to distribute your data so that a Facebook or a Google does not own it or control it. It allows you to exchange your information directly via peer to peer. It assumes that storage is becoming ubiquitous, on the router connecting your devices, on the usb stick in your pocket, or the phone in your hand.

Ian White – Cambridge Uni – TINA: the intelligent airport

Single multi-service wired/wireless infrastructure. Tracking of passive and active RFID tags using wifi antenna infrastructure (in 20 meter grids) to triangulate tags. Work has focused on implementing tag reading over wifi infrastructure and the positioning algorithms. Tests done in Heathrow T4.

Stefan Rennick – Uni Nottingham – Can Ubicomp raise environmental awareness.

Hidden processes. A picture of a forest shows an apparently static image of life – in reality the system is invisibly dynamic. Aim is to raise awareness of services in Woodlands and in turn changing social attitudes to their value – UK is most deforested country in Europe.

Paddy Nixon – Intel / TRIL – Technology Research for Independent Living.

Platforms and ethnography. Intel investment in 3 Irish Unis. £30mil over 4 years. 70 researchers focus on developing a common platform (http://www.shimmer-research.com) that is being used on 3 key workstreams (falls, early onset, maintaining community) all focused by a common ethnographic programme with clinicians.

Mirco Musolesi – Cambridge Uni – Realtime Ubiquitous urban sensing and modelling

Phone as platform. Introduced the Cenceme project for iphone and N95 using built in sensors to monitor presence and activity. An interesting take on realtime mapping of the city and the tech to support the widespread implementation.

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