Foothill Project: Ubiquitous Computing and the Urban Environment
In urban areas we have the greatest opportunities and the strongest demands to design and build ubiquitous systems, yet we have no fundamental theory, knowledge base, principled methods or tools for designing and building ubiquitous computing systems as integral elements of the urban landscape. We are interested in designing not just the architectural space in which people move and behave and interact but also the interaction spaces for information and services that they discover and use and which support their movements, behaviour and interactions within architectural space. To design these integrated systems, we need to extend and adapt our understanding and practice of both urban design and ubiquitous computing. We need to understand and design for people's behaviour and their relationships with urban space and ubiquitous technologies. In addition, we need to solve the technical and engineering challenges of implementing city-scale ubiquitous systems.
A systematic approach to designing the urban environment as an integrated system of physical architecture and ubiquitous technologies demands a coming together of the disciplines of Architecture and Computer Science. In a system of heterogeneous devices, diverse users and varying network provision, the design and implementation of such systems require significant advances in research and practice across a range of themes that have both human-computer interaction (HCI) and distributed systems (DS) aspects. These include context awareness; service discovery; trust, security and privacy; and the physical, psychological and social impacts of ubiquitous systems. Solving these problems is made even more complex by the challenges of scaling up from laboratory-based examples to a city-scale operational system. From the HCI perspective, developing successful city-scale systems requires significant advances in areas such as interface design, context awareness and service discovery, to help people manage the demands on their attention and make the best use of their limited ability to descry what they want or need from this new combination of physical cityscape and digital services. From the DS perspective, city-scale ubiquitous systems require a fresh approach to many of the classical DS issues such as communication, fault-tolerance and security. Classical solutions such as caching, multicasting and peer-to-peer sharing will require adaptation to take into account ubiquitous technologies, while newer approaches, such as those in autonomic computing, may offer some solutions.
A few recent and current projects have begun to explore at least some of these challenges. See for examples:
- Communities of collocation
- Mobile Bristol
- Shared Worlds
- Urban Atmospheres
- Urban Tapestries
A longer discussion of these issues is also available.