Saturday, 8 November 2008

My first hotel fire alarm, debugging smart environments

We arrived in the evening in Köln and went to our hotel and around 10:30 pm the fire alarm sounded (really loud - you want to leave) and a voice over the speaker system asked us to leave the hotel immediately. When we checked in an hour earlier we overheard that they called for the elevator repair man…

Better safe than sorry I packed up my laptop and rucksack and we went downstairs. At the reception they were pretty busy - but it seemed everyone clear that this a false alarm but it seemed they had no way of really understanding why the system behaved in this way [gap of evaluation ;-) teaching user interface engineering this term]. The error search reminded me on one error search strategy in C (if you do not have a debugger). Comment out part of the code (here: disable fire sensing for certain areas in the hotel) till you can tell which parts cases the error. If you have found this part and it is not essential just leave it as a comment (you can do the same with fire sensor - hope they did not…)

A fire alarm system has compared to smart environments we envision a very low complexity. I think providing appropriate means for debugging smart environments by end-users could be a topic worthwhile to look at.

PS: the elivator had the best display for showing the level you are in I have seen so far. From a UI perspective it is really a boring recreation of the non-digital version... 

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