ERCIM News No.47, October 2001 [contents]

Ubiquitous Service Environments

by Carl Gustaf Jansson and Peter Lönnqvist

The FUSE (Future Ubiquitous Service Environments) group focuses on transparently accessible configurations of services made available on assemblies of personal / public / mobile / stationary devices that melt into the periphery. FUSE is affiliated with KTH in Stockholm and funded by both national and EU sources, eg the IST FET Disappearing Computer project FEEL (2001-2003).

Service Environments are dynamic configurations of services available in physical spaces for both collaborative and individual use. An important objective is to achieve service environments that are open, transparent, adaptive and degrade gracefully with respect to capabilities of the interactive devices available in the room. The term ubiquitous refers to the objective that device technology preferably should be designed in such a way that it melts into the periphery when not needed (ambient or calm technology).

Inhibiting factors for the realisation of ubiquitous service environments are device technologies of today characterised by heavy, bulky, focus demanding devices, weak integration between IT- non IT devices, strong division between private and public devices, weak local communication among devices, too many wires for energy and communication and static individual behaviours and configurations of devices.

The situation of today can be remedied in two ways:

  • Establishing a richer set of channels for interaction, by disassembling interactive devices (order of 10 ->100) accommodating non-conventional appearance of interactive devices, mix the use of private and public devices, the use of mobile and stationary devices as well as the use of several modalities (sound, visual and tactile modalities)
  • Enforcing synchronised behaviour of services and devices, by configuring devices in a wireless, dynamic and ad-hoc fashion, creating adequate mechanisms for context sensitivity both for physical and organisational contexts and finally allowing for collaboration and communication between services.

The FUSE group focuses on the following issues:

  • design of software architectures for ubiquitous service environments
  • development and test of prototypes of interactive services that support distributed as well as local work
  • design of ubiquitous hardware environments with the two foci above, to diversify and to synchronise
  • HMI issues such as design of interfaces for small devices, tangible interfaces, multi-modal transparency, adaptability as well as properties of conscious/non conscious interactions
  • AI issues like negotiation mechanisms for intelligent software agents for synchronisation of services and implementation of autonomous and proactive services in a form called ‘active documents’
  • Software Security and privacy issues focussed on client authentication and access control in dynamic and ad-hoc environment
  • systems complexity issues, like problems raised by scaling up in terms of number of devices, modalities and services as well as emergent behaviours in the system.

Current FUSE projects include:

  • FEEL, an EU IST FET Disappearing Computer Program project, aiming at mechanisms that ensures less intrusions on collaborative work from parallel electronic individual and distributed work. The project attacks the problem by employing a number of the above mentioned principles. The work involves both prototype design and simulations.
  • I-space, funded by the Swedish Wallenberg Foundation, aiming at interactive spaces where the ‘technology level’ can be easily adjusted and where specific ‘working modes’ can be easily restored. In a collaborative project with CS dept. at Stanford University, project based courses at both locations will utilise co-designed interactive spaces. A substantial grant has also been received for establishing an interactive space with ambient characteristics in the educational facilities at KTH in Kista.
  • MEETPCC, a project funded by the Swedish Foundation for strategic research (SSF. The project focuses on active documents that supports work processes and which are context sensitive and able to detect specific events as well as these active documents strategies for materialising themselves on the technology available in the space where the event occurs. This project involves both aspects of human machine interaction, computer security and artificial intelligence (see figure).
  • Agent Based Technology, a project funded by the Swedish funding agencies NUTEK/VINNOVA, focussing on negotiation mechanisms for software agents. Negotiation among software agents is used as the primary mechanism for synchroni-sation of services. Both rationalistic, market-based and social paradigms for negotiation have been utilised.

Future extensions of the work as outlined in current project proposals include:

  • handling mobile robots as active participants in the interactive spaces
  • handling seamless and graceful degradation of functionality of services when moving between interactive spaces with different characteristics
  • exploring social paradigms for negotiation among multiple services.

Active Documents Supporting Teamwork

FUSE is a research group at the Dept. for Computer and Systems Sciences at KTH in Stockholm, Sweden. FUSE is also affiliated with the new centre for Wireless Systems at KTH. FUSE co-operates directly with SICS and the University of Southampton within the FEEL project and more loosely with ERCIM members such as GMD and INRIA through related projects within the Disappearing Computer Initiative.


Please contact:
Carl Gustaf Jansson - Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Sweden.
Tel: +46 8 16 1605
E-mail: Calle@dsv.su.se