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Interconnected Embedded Technology for Smart Artefacts with Collective Awareness

Objective

The project is investigating a vision in which the flexibility of computing technology is brought to everyday objects to create smart networked artefacts. The project is developing a technology platform and applications as a basis for discovering the opportunities, challenges and benefits for embedding processing and context-awareness into everyday objects and situations. At the core of the project are Smart-Its: these are generic smart devices that perceive their environment through a collection of sensors. Attached to physical artefacts, Smart-Its are used for post hoc computational enhancement. Smart-Its allow these artefacts to have digital identity, to perceive their own state and environment, to communicate with peers in ad hoc networks, and to interface with other infrastructures and services.
The project is ultimately interested in architectures and design methods that support dynamic and meaningful combination of artefacts for collective sensing, perception, and awareness, and more generally for new types of application embedded in everyday life. This general aim is approached with bottom-up development of different types of Smart-Its as hardware and software building blocks, and top-down investigation of applications through design and implementation of concrete artefacts and scenarios.
The project is investigating a vision in which the flexibility of computing technology is brought to everyday objects to create smart networked artefacts. The project is developing a technology platform and applications as a basis for discovering the opportunities, challenges and benefits for embedding processing and context-awareness into everyday objects and situations. At the core of the project are Smart-Its: these are generic smart devices that perceive their environment through a collection of sensors. Attached to physical artefacts, Smart-Its are used for post hoc computational enhancement. Smart-Its allow these artefacts to have digital identity, to perceive their own state and environment, to communicate with peers in ad hoc networks, and to interface with other infrastructures and services.
The project is ultimately interested in architectures and design methods that support dynamic and meaningful combination of artefacts for collective sensing, perception, and awareness, and more generally for new types of application embedded in everyday life. This general aim is approached with bottom-up development of different types of Smart-Its as hardware and software building blocks, and top-down investigation of applications through design and implementation of concrete artefacts and scenarios.

OBJECTIVES
The above entail the following scientific and technological objectives:
1. Development of an embedded device platform for augmentation of everyday objects with context-awareness and communication;
2. Design of perceptual computing methods for collective perception of context based on ad hoc networked sensors and devices;
3. Investigation of communication subsystem, service infrastructure, and software platform for interconnected embedded devices;
4. Exploration of applications through development of scenarios and deployment of Smart-Its into everyday artefacts.

DESCRIPTION OF WORK
Investigation of the technology platform involves development and deployment of a family of different types of Smart-Its. These include Smart-Its optimised for small scale and energy-efficiency, devices delivered as a component toolkit for rapid assembly of prototypes, and modules designed to provide Bluetooth and Internet connectivity. The project has achieved significant deployment of Smart-Its for experimental work on smart artefacts and their collective application. Two major generations of device and software platform have been developed and deployed across the partner's sites, with altogether about 300 device units in use as research infrastructure.
The focus in applications research is on design and implementation of context-aware artefacts and applications that explore collective awareness among interacting artefacts. Instead of using a traditional phased approach to fully develop showcase applications, the project conducts scenario-based rapid explorations into very different domains, ranging from alpine rescue to furniture assembly. The project also employs innovative ways of transferring results into the research community, providing "do-it-yourself" technology packaged with developer activities such as "hackfests". This has led to take-up of project results in research labs outside the consortium, with significant impact on other projects and research initiatives.
The scientific and technological results of the project include platform components, application and design experience, and conceptual models and frameworks:
1. Technology Platform Smart-Its developed embedded device and communication platforms for augmentation of physical artefacts with sensing, computation and networking. The platform contributions include a basic device and system architecture, and three strands of platform development that are partly interlinked but deliberately divergent in other aspects: (i) The 'Smart-Its P' platform was developed to meet requirements of small size and low energy consumption for unobtrusive and long-term embedded operation. The platform provides separate sensor and communication boards linked over I2C, and includes a low-power communication subsystem with custom MAC layer. More than 160 'Smart-Its P' have been produced and deployed in the project. (ii) The 'BTNode' devices were developed for integration with the Bluetooth world. They are interoperable with Smart-Its P sensor boards, and provides a more elaborate processing environment with OS support and standard Bluetooth connectivity. Additional services support spontaneous use of handhelds as communication gateway. The project produced more than 200 devices of this type, deployed across the consortium and to over 20 partners outside the project. (iii) 'Lancaster Smart-Its' were developed as hardware/software toolbox for rapid assembly of highly configured devices. The underlying device platform is purposefully simple in composition to encourage users (i.e. other researchers and developers) to build and customize their own devices. The platform has been disseminated on the basis of 'hackfests' and has been taken up as research tool in a number of labs outside the project.

2. Application Research Application research has resulted in development of innovative applications, in application experience with collective sensing and perception, and in insights concerning the design of embedded ubiquitous computing applications: (i) Proactive Instructions for Furniture Assembly demonstrates how physical artefacts with embedded sensing can collectively recognize states of their assembly and user actions. It illustrates embedding of user instructions as a naturally artefact-centred application, and it highlights closure between plans formulated in the virtual world, and activity in the real world. (ii) A-Life illustrates distributed sensing and context-awareness in an alpine rescue scenario. It demonstrates fusion of distributed sensors, perception of vital context information, and use of collective context to support rescue of avalanche victims. (iii) 'Don't forget me' application scenarios have been investigated to demonstrate reasoning across collections of smart artefacts and about relationships between artefacts. Similarly, we have explored settings in which groups of augmented artefacts collectively track changes in their environment as foundation for recognition of human activity. (iv) A range of scenarios have been designed and demonstrated around a Restaurant theme to explore design methods for smart artefacts. Reflection on this work, and on other application developments have led to formulation of design framework based on notions of object context vs. use context, and explicit user interaction vs. implicit interaction.

3. Conceptual Frameworks Based on technology design experience and expl-oration of application and use, the project developed a range of conceptual frameworks: (i) The Augmented Artefact Model describes the principle structure and behaviour of physical artefacts that observe and collectively maintain a model of their environment. Individual artefacts use perception to generate knowledge about the world, and reasoning across their own knowledge and that held by other artefacts. Collections of artefacts effectively constitute a distributed knowledge base. (ii) The Perception Framework provides layered abstractions for perception and recognition functionality. It constitutes a design and implementation framework for application that are based on distributed sensing, perception and context. (iii) An artefact-centric context architecture defines artefacts as context producer, and Smart-Its technology as artefact extension that implements context on a given physical artifact. The architecture addresses issues such as context description and interchange, subscription to context, discovery and advertisement of context producers, context history management, etc. (iv) The Semantic Proximity Hierarchy is concerned with contextual relationships and provides a framework for notions of how close entities are in context space. (v) A Sensing Taxonomy was developed as a first step toward a design framework that helps artefact designers and application developers understand and evaluate sensing opportunities.

Funding Scheme

CSC - Cost-sharing contracts

Coordinator

THE UNIVERSITY OF LANCASTER
Address
Bailrigg
LA1 4YW Lancaster
United Kingdom

Participants (4)

EIDGENOESSISCHE TECHNISCHE HOCHSCHULE ZUERICH
Switzerland
Address
Raemistrasse 101
8092 Zuerich
THE INTERACTIVE INSTITUTE II AKTIEBOLAG
Sweden
Address
Karlavaegen 108
104 50 Stockholm
UNIVERSITAET KARLSRUHE (TH)
Germany
Address
Kaiserstrasse 12
76131 Karlsruhe
VALTION TEKNILLINEN TUTKIMUSKESKUS (VTT)
Finland
Address
Vuorimiehentie 5
02044 Espoo