From the Internet of Things to the Web of Things

The central role of ICT becomes very visible when it does not work. Sometimes for the good as I was late arriving at Düsseldorf airport but the Airberlin check-in system was down for a few minutes – just enough that I was still in time 🙂

In the evening I met Prof. Lorenz Hilty, who gave a talk in the afternoon at ETH Zurich. I missed the talk but after the interesting and though provoking dinner conversation I decided I should finally really read his book [1] – perhaps over Christmas. Meeting with Friedemann Mattern and Hans Gellersen was very inspiring and I hope we get a change to have future joint projects.

Looking out over Zürich we talked about the transformation from the internet of things to the world wide web of things. The use of prototcol seems a little technical detail, but in my eye it may have a major impact. The WWW of things is creating a world of networked artefacts (much like the internet of things) but is completely based on Web protocols (e.g. http, RESTful web services). By working with web protocols the objects can easily become part of the web and interact with web-platforms and applications on the www (e.g. facebook, twitter, etc.). I expect by having a WWW of things we enable many more developers to create new and exciting applications on top of the internet of things. There are many challenging research questions. I am particularly interested in how will a good platform look like that empowers web programmers to create and distribute applications on the Web of things. I think we should run a workshop on this in the near future!

[1] Information Technology and Sustainability: Essays on the Relationship between Information Technology and Sustainable Development. Lorenz M. Hilty. 2008.

More surface interaction using audio: Scratch input

After my talk at the Minerva School Roy Weinberg pointed me to a paper by Chris Harrison and Scott Hudson [1] – it also uses audio for creating an interactive surface. The novelty on the technical side is limited but nevertheless the approach is interesting and appealing because of its simplicity and its potential (e.g. just think beyond a fingernail on a table to any contact movement on surfaces – pushing toy cars, walking, pushing a shopping trolley…). Perhaps having a closer look at this approach a generic location system could be created (e.g. using special shoe soles that make a certain noise).

There is a youtube movie:

Besides his studies Roy develops software for the Symbian platform and he sells a set of interesting applications.

[1] Harrison, C. and Hudson, S. E. 2008. Scratch input: creating large, inexpensive, unpowered and mobile finger input surfaces. In Proceedings of the 21st Annual ACM Symposium on User interface Software and Technology (Monterey, CA, USA, October 19 – 22, 2008). UIST ’08. ACM, New York, NY, 205-208. DOI=

Meeting Prof. Brian Randell, book recommendations

Yesterday after my talk I met briefly Prof. Brian Randell from the School of Computing Science at Newcastle University. Today we had a chat over a coffee and it is really interesting to think more about dependability implications of ubicomp technologies.

Besides many other points I got a set of interesting pointers to books:

Aaron Quigley will become director of HITLab Australia

Aaron announced that he is going to be the founding director of the Human Interface Technology Laboratory Australia and Professor at the University of Tasmania. After HITLab in Washington and New Zealand this is the third one. It is quite a challenge- but he is the person for it!

What can one say? Congratulations and a quote from Mark Twan: Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

PS: Found myself checking two things: (1) where Tasmania is and (2) when I have my next sabbatical …

Happy Birthday – Prof. Thomas Christaller 60

It was a great honor to be invited to Prof Thomas Christaller’s 60th Birthday. During my time at Fraunhofer IAIS I had the pleasure of working with him and learning from him! He has many interests and skills! See his web page at Fraunhofer IAIS and at Lebenskunst.

The symposium at Schloß Birlinghoven featured an impressive list of people and I learned more about the history of German computer science. It is impressive to see that many people that shaped AI in Germany worked at some point together in one project (HAM-RPM, HAM-ANS, see [1]). This highlighted to me again the importance of education people in research and not just getting research done – as nicely described by Patterson in “Your students are your legacy” [2] – an article worthwhile to read for anyone advising students.

The afternoon and evening was much too short to catch up with everyone. It was great to meet Christian Bauckhage, who took over my office in Bonn, in person. He is now professor at B-IT and at Fraunhofer IAIS and I hope we have a chance to work together in the future. At WWW2009 he published a paper on a new approach to social network analysis [3] applied to Slashdot. This approach which discriminates negative and positive connections could also be an interesting approach in social networks that are grounded in the real world… seems there is already an idea for a joined project.

After telling Karl-Heinz Sylla that I am currently teaching a software engineering class he recommended me the following book: Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship by Robert C. Martin [4]. The books looks good and one interesting argument is that programming well in the small (clean code) is a pre-requisite for large systems – or the other way round you break big software systems by bad programming in the small. Perhaps there is some time over the summer to read the book.

PS: Thomas chose an interesting option for birthday presents: bicycles for Africa – a quite remarkable project. I will see if I find the URL and post it in a comment…

[1] Wolfgang Hoeppner, Thomas Christaller, Heinz Marburger, Katharina Morik, Bernhard Nebel, Mike O’Leary, Wolfgang Wahlster: Beyond Domain-Independence: Experience With the Development of a German Language Access System to Highly Diverse Background Systems. IJCAI 1983: 588-594

[2] Patterson, D. A. 2009. Viewpoint
Your students are your legacy. Commun. ACM 52, 3 (Mar. 2009), 30-33. DOI=

[3] Kunegis, J., Lommatzsch, A., and Bauckhage, C. 2009. The slashdot zoo: mining a social network with negative edges. In Proceedings of the 18th international Conference on World Wide Web (Madrid, Spain, April 20 – 24, 2009). WWW ’09. ACM, New York, NY, 741-750. DOI=

[4] Robert C. Martin. Clean Code: A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship. Prentice Hall International. 2008 (Amazon-Link)

Bastian Pfleging joined the team (some weeks ago :-)

Bastian Pfleging joined us some weeks ago – his first day at work was at TEI’09 in Cambridge. We he came back he was so well integrted in the team that I forgot to write a blog entry. In fact he was already at a workshop with us some weeks ago – remember the photo?

Bastian studied computer science at TU Dortmund and his final project was on computer vision based interaction in smart environments in the Group of Gernot A. Fink.

What happens if Design meets Pervasive Computing?

This morning I met with Claudius Lazzeroni, a colleague from Folkwang Hochschule (they were part of our University till two years ago).
They have different study programs in design and art related subjects. He showed me some projects ( – in German but lots of pictures that give you the idea). Many of the ideas and prototypes related to our work and I hope we get some joint projects going. I think it could be really exciting to have projects with design and computer science students – looking forward to this!
When I was in the UK we collaborated in the equator project with designers – mainly Bill Gaver and his group – and the results were really exciting [1]. We build a table that reacted to load changes on the surfaces and allowed you to fly virtually over the UK. The paper is worthwhile to read – if you are in a hurry have a look at the movie about it on youtube:
There was a further project with a table –  a key table – and for this one there more funny (and less serious?) video on youtube:
[1] Gaver, W. W., Bowers, J., Boucher, A., Gellerson, H., Pennington, S., Schmidt, A., Steed, A., Villars, N., and Walker, B. 2004. The drift table: designing for ludic engagement. In CHI ’04 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (Vienna, Austria, April 24 – 29, 2004). CHI ’04. ACM, New York, NY, 885-900. DOI=

Male (88%), writing like Oscar Wilde (35%)

Looking into Paul Rayson’s blog and discovered an interesting link: It is a web form where you can put in an URL and you get an estimate whether the author of this text is male or female. For me it worked great 😉 It says that the text I wrote in my blog is with 88% written by a male. I tried it with a few more of my pages and it worked. Then I looked at some pages of some of my female colleagues and to my surprise it seems they do not write their web pages by themselves (as the program indicated 95% male writer) – they probably all have a hidden male assistant 😉

While I was in Lancaster I shared for most of the time an office with Paul. During this time I learned a lot of interesting things about corpus linguistics and phenomena in language in general – just by sharing the office. One fact at that at the time was surprising to me is that if you take 6 words from an arbitrary text in the exact order as they appear in the text and you search on the web for the exact phrase it is likely that you will only find this text. How many hits do you get for phrase “I was at Trinity College reading” in google? Try it out 😉 [to students: that is why not getting caught when you plagiarize is really hard]

From I came to and to my great surprise I write like Oscar Wilde (35%) and Friedrich Nietzsche (30%). Thinking of social networks (and in particular the use of languages within closed groups) such technologies could become an interesting enabling technology for novel applications. Perhaps I should visit Paul again in Lancaster…
PS: and I nearly forgot I am a thinker / INTJ – The Scientists (according to
PPS (2008-11-17): a further URL contrinuted from my collegues on the gender topic:

Talk by Florian Michahelles, RFID showcase at Kaufhof Essen

Florian Michahelles, associate director of the AutoID-Labs in Zürich visited our group and gave a presentation in my course on Pervaisve Computing. He introduced the vision of using RFID in businesses, gave a brief technology overview and discussed the potential impact – in a very interactive session.

Florian and I worked together in the Smart-its project and during his PhD studies he and Stavros were well know as the experts on Ikea PAX [1], [2]. In 2006 and 2007 we ran workshops on RFID technologies and published the results and a discussion on emerging trends in RFID together [3], [4].

At Kaufhof in Essen you can see a showcase of using RFID tags in garment retail. The installation includes augmented shelves, an augmented mirror, and contextual information displays in the changing rooms. The showcase is related to the European Bridge project. …was fun playing with the system – seems to be well engineered for a prototype.

PS: Florian told me that Vlad Coroama finished his PhD. In a different context we talked earlier about his paper discussing the use of sensors to access cost for insurance [5] – he did it with cars but there are other domain where this makes sense, too.

[1] S. Antifakos, F. Michahelles, and B. Schiele. Proactive Instructions for Furniture Assembly. In UbiComp, Gothenburg, Sweden, 2002.

[2] Florian Michahelles, Stavors Antifakos, Jani Boutellier, Albrecht Schmidt, and Bernt Schiele. Instructions immersed into the real world How your Furniture can teach you. Poster at the Fifth International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, Seattle, USA, October 2003.

[3]Florian Michahelles, Frédéric Thiesse, Albrecht Schmidt, John R. Williams: Pervasive RFID and Near Field Communication Technology. IEEE Pervasive Computing 6(3): 94-96 (2007)

[4] Schmidt, A., Spiekermann, S., Gershman, A., and Michahelles, F. 2006. Real-World Challenges of Pervasive Computing. IEEE Pervasive Computing 5, 3 (Jul. 2006), 91-93

[5] Vlad Coroama: The Smart Tachograph – Individual Accounting of Traffic Costs and Its Implications. Pervasive 2006: 135-152.

Ali joined our group

Last month Aliresa Sahami finished his master thesis on multi-tactile interaction at BIT Bonn and joined our group in Essen. Ali worked for me a student resesearch assistant at Fraunhofer IAIS. During his studies in Bonn we published an interesting workshop paper on mobile health [1] and gave a related demo at Ubicomp [2].

[1] Alt, F., Sahami Shirazi, A., Schmidt, A. Monitoring Heartbeat per Day to Motivate Increasing Physical Activity. Ubiwell workshop at Ubicomp 2007.

[2] Sahami Shirazi, A.; Cheng, D.; Kroell, O.; Kern, D.; Schmidt, A.: CardioViz: Contextual Capture and Visualization for Long-term ECG Data. In: Adjunct Proceedings of Ubicomp 2007.