Monday 31 May 2010

PhD Defense of Ulrich Steinhoff

I had the pleasure to be external examiner for the PhD thesis of Ulrich Steinhoff at the Technical University of Darmstadt. Ulrich did his PhD with Bernt Schiele and looked at different location techniques. From my perspective his work on dead reckoning for mobile devices that are NOT fixed to a specific position on the body [1].

There are always suprises at PhD defenses ;-) and the positive one at this one was a cake in the shape of a doctoral hat.

[1] U. Steinhoff and B. Schiele. Dead Reckoning from the Pocket - An Experimental Study. Eighth Annual IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications (PerCom 2010).

Monday 17 May 2010

Keynote at UBI Summit: Ubicomp - Are we there yet? And where is the business?

I was invited to give a keynote at the 2010 UBI Summit in Helsinki. I looked into the recent developments of Ubicomp and in particular when things that have been around in research are surfacing on the markets. Looking back at HUC99 and HUC2k (the first two Ubicomp conferences) things like pocket bargain finder [1], context call [2,3], or sensors in phones [4] have by now become common - however it is not clear how research relates to products. There are very few cases where early Ubicomp research has been exploited in products by the people who did the research…

It was fun to think a little more about the business prespective of Ubicomp. If you are curious about the talk, have a look at my slides on "Ubicomp - Are we there yet? And where is the business?". The title of the talk relates to a recent paper I wrote for IEEE Computer [5].

The investment made in Finland in Ubicomp technology research is impressive and looking at the presentations at UBI Summit it seems it is worthwhile. One example is a really simple technology - but with great potential: Their motivation is based on a statement apparently made by Jack Welch (former CEO of GE):
"Too often we measure everything and understand nothing. The three most important things you need to measure in a business are customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and cash flow. If you’re growing customer satisfaction, your global market share is sure to grow, too. Employee satisfaction gets you productivity, quality, pride, and creativity. And cash flow is the pulse—the key vital sign of a company."(source)
It says that to assess the success of a company you have to look at customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and cash flow. Their product focuses on the first two. Technically it is simple as setting up some buttons is trivial - but creating a complete system to fit companies and their requirements is not straightforward. It is not hard to see the value...

[1] Adam B. Brody and Edward J. Gottsman. Pocket BargainFinder: A Handheld Device for Augmented Commerce. First International Symposium on Handheld and Ubiquitous Computing (HUC '99), 27-29 September 1999, Karlsruhe, Germany

[2] A. Schmidt, A. Takaluoma and J. Mäntyjärvi, Context-Aware Telephony over WAP, Personal Technologies 4(4), December 2000. pp. 225-229.

[3] A. Schmidt, T. Stuhr, H.-W. Gellersen. Context-Phonebook - Extending Mobile Phone Applications with Context. Third Mobile HCI Workshop, Lille, Sept. 2001

[4] Schmidt, A., et al. 1999. Advanced Interaction in Context. In Proceedings of the 1st int. Symposium on Handheld and Ubiquitous Computing (September, 1999). LNCS, vol. 1707. Springer, 89-101

[5] Schmidt, A. 2010. Ubiquitous Computing: Are We There Yet? Computer 43, 2 (Feb. 2010), 95-97. DOI=

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Felix von Reischach - PhD defence

Over the last years Felix looked at how mobile phones can enhance the shopping experience in the real world. In particular Felix compared different identification techniques (e.g. text input, bar code, nfc) [1] and at mapping the design space for product recommendation systems on mobile devices [2]. We had an interesting discussion at the PhD defense and I think we will see many products and services popping up in the future.

Being in Zürich I took the opportunity to see more of Florian's group. There are a lot of exciting projects going on, see their Wiki for details. I looked especially at the work on mobile platforms and public displays. The AppAware application ( on Android has an amazing potential. Users share events (what applications they are installing, removing and updating) together with their location. It is just amazing to see what people around you install - and being close to ETH you see events every second.

[1] Reischach, F., Michahelles, F., Guinard, D., Adelmann, R., Fleisch, E., and Schmidt, A. 2009. An Evaluation of Product Identification Techniques for Mobile Phones. In Proceedings of INTERACT 2009, the 12th IFIP TC 13 international Conference on Human-Computer interaction: Part I (Uppsala, Sweden, August 24 - 28, 2009). LNCS, vol. 5726. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Heidelberg, 804-816. DOI=

[2] von Reischach, F., Michahelles, F., and Schmidt, A. 2009. The design space of ubiquitous product recommendation systems. In Proceedings of the 8th international Conference on Mobile and Ubiquitous Multimedia (Cambridge, United Kingdom, November 22 - 25, 2009). MUM '09. ACM, New York, NY, 1-10. DOI=

Wednesday 5 May 2010

pdnet kick-off in Lancaster - starting a new communication era?

We are excitet to start a new European FET Open project on pervasive display networks. With pdnet we hope to create an entirely new communication media in public spaces. At the University of Lancaster we had two intensive days to get the project started and it we developed a lot of exciting ideas!

pdnet project abstract: "The project aims to lay the scientific foundations for a new form of communications medium with the same potential impact on society as radio, television and the Internet. The goal is to explore the scientific challenges and new technologies required to enable the emergence of large scale networks of pervasive public displays and associated sensors that are open to applications and content from many sources.
In effect, the project will look to provide the foundations for work on a brand new global communications medium for information access and interaction and to ensure that Europe is in the best possible position to benefit from this new medium.
The project is highly innovative - no such pervasive display networks exist today and their emergence would represent a radical transformation in the way we think about information dissemination in public spaces; it is high risk - numerous technical and societal challenges need to be addressed before pervasive display networks are possible; and potentially high pay-off - if successful, the project will pioneer a new research area and provide the foundations for a new communications medium that offers entirely new opportunities for economic activity and a means to radically change public spaces - from today's environments in which information is pushed to passers-by in the form of adverts to spaces that can utilize public displays and ambient intelligence to reflect the hopes, aspirations and interests of its occupants using content and applications created anywhere in a global network."

PS: I learned about a new toy/educational kit from Ben: Lego WeDo Robotics kit connected to Scratch.