The project is funded by the Funded by the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation.
UrbanWeb is a research project that looks into an infrastructure approach to Urban Computing and mobile context-awareness. Urban Computing systems let people interact with layers of information that is relevant to their lives and work in urban areas. Interaction can be supported trough the user's sensor enhanced mobile devices, through local installations (e.g. info screens in the city) or through globally available Web services from the users' Web browser at home or in the office. UrbanWeb seeks to create a lightweight framework that combines these different ways of interaction and makes it easy to both develop and deploy services and applications that create links between the users' digital and physical context.
In order to support access to the right information at the right place and right time, the UrbanWeb framework supports a number of aspects. Firstly, we use various sensors that are available in modern mobile devices (e.g. GPS, cameras or accelerometers) in order to create links between the physical environment and the digital information. As mobile device are different and not all include the same sensor types, and new sensors are introduced over time, we do not focus on a specific type of sensor data, such as GPS, but support a more general structuring mechanism that can use different types of sensor data to anchor digital information in the physical world. By focusing on general support for sensor data, we also aim at creating a framework, which makes it easy to add new kinds of sensor hardware and prototype new pervasive and Urban Computing application.
Secondly, we look into dedicate support for matching the users' context to information so this easily can be used by application developers. All of these aspects can outline as below:
- Structuring mechanisms: the architecture must uniformly handle a number of structuring paradigms from specific user created links, to categories derived from collaborative tagging, to physical anchors based on sensor information.
- Context matching: services in UrbanWeb must be able to deliver relevant information to users. The use of a uniform structuring model for specific links, collaborative tags, and context data gathered from sensors will allow us to combine different search techniques and adopt social search mechanisms from community Web services in order to find information that is relevant for the users.
- Infrastructure: The UrbanWeb infrastructure must be able to support a diverse set of both stationary and mobile devices and sensors that connects and disconnect from different entry points in the architecture. It must also support aggregated service (Web Mashups) in order to integrate user created information with existing and future Web services.
- Interaction techniques: Urban applications may need both explicit and implicit interaction techniques. Explicit interaction techniques include using I/O devices, reading visual tags with cameras in mobile phones, scanning RFID tags etc. Implicit (sensor based) interaction techniques include logging movement in accelerometer based phones, trigger on sensed radio connection, temperature, time etc.
The expected results include an implementation of the UrbanWeb framework and a number of projects and applications that have been developed and prototyped with the framework. We have created demonstrators for various urban computing applications in areas such as tourism, education, location based debate, location based story telling for conservation of cultural heritage. For a list of completed projects see "Prototypes" and "Related Projects".
More Background and Motivation
In the UrbanWeb project we hypothesize that pervasive computing and recent trends in Web technologies (e.g. Web Mashups (service aggregation), collaborative tagging, social filtering, etc., often described as Web 2.0 techniques) can be combined to create an open, highly saleable, context-aware architecture that supports true pervasive information applications and services which not only adapt to the users' physical and social context, but also let users actively contribute to the information available in both private and public places. Current state-of-the-art mobile Web applications are only oriented towards browsing, but we believe that by combing pervasive computing and Web 2.0 technologies, we can create context-aware systems with full hypermedia capabilities that support new social service such as Wiki, Blog, and YouTube inspired Web applications, where information is produced and shared by users and─unlike their web-only counterparts─are anchored in the physical contexts they are concerned with.
The UrbanWeb infrastructure is based on a decentralized Web infrastructure, in order to support and integrate many different, heterogeneous devices (from personal mobile devices to shared smart boards and public billboards) and will incorporate a general uniform structuring model in order to support flexible structuring mechanisms for users and powerful context-aware information delivery and filtering. To motivate the use of UrbanWeb, consider the urban computing scenarios below. In this sense, the UrbanWeb framework extends upon earlier work on the HyCon framework and applications for contextual hypermedia.
Urban Computing is an emerging research field within pervasive computing and focuses on both architecture, social interaction and design of computer systems for use in urban areas where users may be living, working, or visiting and thus have very different needs for information. People living in an urban area may have many different interests, but they have one thing in common: the place they live. Even though traditional social networking systems such as digital news and discussion boards may support these users' information needs, research indicates that to be truly useful, urban computing systems should not only support "global", topic based services, but must encompass place-based and "local" services such as neighbourhood notice boards, where users can access and actively publish local information. Similar, people working in a city may need detailed and updated information about public transportation (bus schedules, delays, etc.), and may be very interested in having access to this information both at bus stops, on their mobile phone while walking to a bus stop, and from Web based services such as Google maps (maps.google.com) at the office. This information may also be relevant for people visiting a city, but these users are probably also interested in tourist guides on their mobile devices and in creating information (e.g. photos, videos, and the like) to documenting their visit. These scenarios stress that pervasive information systems should not only let users access information in a context-aware manner, but also should let the users produce, structure and manage information in-situ. UrbanWeb is a general architecture that can easily support these and other mobile applications.