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As for managing knowledge, MUMMY knows best

The mass proliferation of sophisticated mobile devices is prompting corporations to rewrite the rulebook when it comes to doing business. This is where MUMMY comes in. It aims to enable mobile, personalised knowledge management using rich multimedia to improve the efficiency of mobile business processes.

There are still many challenges to overcome before organisations become fully equipped to support a truly mobile culture. One of the key hurdles for many enterprises is the need to regulate knowledge input for remote workers in the same way as it is monitored in the office environment. Furthermore, the reliability of tools and strategies need to be improved before the mobile worker is functioning as effectively on location as he or she would in the office. In effect, the IST-funded MUMMY project aims to take advantage of 'always on', high-speed connections offered by wireless networks as well as new hardware options offered by camera-equipped handheld devices, such as smart phones, PDAs or tablet PCs. "We believe that MUMMY's knowledge management capabilities in mobile processes will result in time savings, cost reductions, and an improvement of overall 'work' quality," says Dirk Balfanz, project manager for MUMMY. MUMMY at work To give an example of how MUMMY could make a difference in real terms, imagine a project manager working in facility management who is doing a site inspection. Working the traditional way, the manager would be obliged to take maps, plans and any other accessories such as camera or dictaphone on site and then take notes manually. Once back in the office, all the relevant data would be gathered together in order to finally input the report in digital form. The MUMMY-equipped manager by contrast has pretty much everything that is needed on the camera-equipped PDA. All the necessary information and plan details are available instantly in digital form. By virtue of an always-on mobile connection, specific tasks predefined by the manager are delivered to the PDA on entering each location. During the visit the manger can record findings electronically in terms of simplified input forms, photos, hand-drawn sketches and oral notes, all via the PDA. The MUMMY system recognises each new recording and automatically correlates them with descriptive information such as user, time, location, task and project. And when the inspection is over, the manager wont have to wrestle with coordinating all the detail into a coherent report. MUMMY takes the pain out of the entire process and ensures that a hyper-report is readily to hand which brings together all the relevant data and information for a final check., ,Taking MUMMY to this level of sophistication in such a short space of time bears ample testimony to the tight teamwork of the consortium members involved in the project, believes Dirk Balfanz. End-user involvement was key One of the main planks in building a successful strategy, says Balfanz, was to define a coherent system vision that had the backing of all the respective partners. In MUMMY's case, this was achieved with close integration of the end-users in the definition and development cycle. "It might not sound like a big deal, but it took a major effort from all partners to achieve the desired consensus. The project started with a technology push from the research partners towards the end-users, yet what we needed was an integrated vision that contained the research innovation on one side but which also matched the end-users needs on the other side. So although we also faced technological problems in terms of devices and platforms and so forth, and made major strides in research, the main obstacle to overcome has been bridging the gap between science and user needs," he says. Summing up the progress to date, Balfanz says that in addition to the development of an integrated system prototype, some of the individual tools that combine to make up the MUMMY package could have potential stand-alone applications in a wide range of domains. These include: - a mobile collaborative Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) tool which enables sharing, annotating and co-working of plan information and context-related information.,- an interactive video tool (hypervideo) which allows the annotation of a video stream (e.g. from a site inspection) with other media as text, images, links, etc. It provides easy mobile authoring and annotation of those interactive video regions, and instant sharing of this knowledge with the back-end.,- and the hidden core component: the context-manager. It tracks the current working context of a logged user (name, task, location, time, etc), and enables the enrichment of all captured information objects with metadata, relating them to their generation or usage context and situation. These various tools are integrated into the system prototype, even though the eventual end users will probably not need to use all of its functional capability, explains Balfanz. "Since users usually require information specifically adapted to their workflow, two dedicated applications have been defined with this in mind. These applications, one for site inspection for hazardous material inventory, the other concerning the focus on technical services, are currently being developed and will be field-tested in 2005," he says. Towards commercialisation Given the innovative nature of MUMMY and the growing awareness of the need to exploit current wireless technology and networks to give real meaning to the term 'mobile workforce', it is no surprise that the project has attracted some commercial interest. Yet as Dirk Balfanz points out, "the current market vogue is for turnkey solutions and MUMMY falls short of that description for the moment." "Most of the promising current negotiations are based on exploitation of individual components such as hypervideo which are at a more mature stage of development than the integrated system," he says. He promises, however, that a more concerted effort to promote and market the applications will be made when the field trials are over and the project is nearing completion. "It's very encouraging to see that the end users within the project such as ARCADIS and INTRACOM are already committed to use MUMMY later on in their business workflows. They are thus striving to deliver a stable 'turnkey-solution' that can later be exploited in the form of external services or customised solutions," he says. Contact:,Dr Dirk Balfanz,Zentrum für Graphische Datenverarbeitung e.V.,Fraunhoferstr. 5,D-64283 Darmstadt,Germany,Tel: +49-6151-155231,Fax: +49-6151-155451,Email: dirk.balfanz@zgdv.de

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