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Research Specs

Submitted by admin on Wed, 01/20/2010 - 13:39.
Research Area: Mobile Computing

Mobile devices have emerged as the most tangible expression of the coming "ubiquitous" environment that has been advertised for at least the last twenty years. Cell phones, blackberrys, PDA, GPS, etc. all have their place in this environment. Unfortunately, they have not yet realized their potential because the applications that run on the devices are not yet "rightsized" for the device so the user gets the information they need, when they need it, where they need it. There is a lot of excellent research aimed at extending battery-life, developing technology to "scale-down" the web so it fits on these devices, and to ensure all information is available just like you are at the office.

However, to become truly ubiquitous and useful, techniques need to be developed that place the right data in front of the user when they need it. Thus, applications such as those that provide driving directions for the person trying to navigate through an unfamiliar city are likely to be widely accepted once the user interface is sufficiently clean that it does not distract from the primary function of safely navigating the vehicle. From this example, two key features of mobility should be considered:

  1. Mobile devices are supplemental to the main tasks currently being undertaken. After all, if you really wanted to be at your office, you'd be there!
  2. Mobile users only need the information critical to their current situation. Thus, technology that delivers everything in a cryptic format that is difficult to read are guaranteed to fail after the novelty wears off.
  3. Thus, the primary motivation behind our current work is discover techniques that will place the smallest, complete unit of data in front of the user when they need it - even if they are currently off-line. This clearly requires the application of distributed design technology that has a much smaller error tolerance than previous work on fixed network distributed database design. We are investigating ways to facilitate that exploit semantics but we are considering user-modelling paradigms that may help go guide the design methodologies.