In an ‘ambient intelligent’ environment, a multitude of scenarios are possible, but the key is invisible computing for both nomadic and domestic personal IT use. On the road, users want critical information delivered easily and in real-time. At home, an ambient environment delivers seamless, on-demand content in any room with far less of the technical clutter that we live with today. The environment also inter-connects homes.
To enable such consumer oriented ambient intelligence applications the IST programme-funded project OZONE investigated, defined and implemented a generic framework trialled in three case-driven demonstrators.
“The project team’s work resulted in several innovative results that can be carried forward to work on current and future consumer-oriented ambient intelligence applications,” says Harmke de Groot, at Philips, The Netherlands and technical coordinator of the OZONE project.
Demonstrators deliver rich results
The seamless content access demonstrator focused on direct delivery from an external content provider (server), giving users access to personalised video content through a network with dynamic varying conditions. The server provided content via a wireless access point to a laptop and living room audio terminal, as well as to TV sets in the bedroom, kitchen and living room.
In-home content distribution was demonstrated through usage scenarios that worked on a consumer electronics platform, sensitive to location and activity awareness of people, and the different configurations for wired and wireless transmission. For example, an electronic TV guide was implemented on an advanced remote control with a touch screen. Features included reminders and suggestions about selected programmes based on the context of use.
The extended home environment demonstrator focused on an exploratory and empirical study of usability. The challenge was to provide information through invisible computing sources for nomadic personal use, for example in the car, by means of a simple and intuitive technology that guaranteed users privacy.
In the ideal extended home environment, users can access home data, such as their music collection, private photos and video, but can also control the home thermostat and burglar alarm from outside. It also enables users to extend their homes with information and communication from other homes, for example, to continuously interact with loved ones. This involves access to databases in other homes so you can share photo collections with family or friends, indicate where family members are located, or share baby’s first steps with grandparents.
Advancing ambient intelligence
The framework developed consists of three architectural layers. The top layer takes care of the service enabling with an emphasis on context awareness or sensitivity. The middle layer is responsible for the software environment where seamless task migration is a critical issue. The bottom layer delivers a powerful computing platform where high performance computing at a low power level is the differentiating factor.
“In addition to these results, the project contributed to the MPEG standardisation process with a focus on MPEG 21,” she adds. MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) is the family of standards for coding audiovisual information in a digital, compressed format. The MPEG 21 initiative is working towards an open framework of multimedia delivery and consumption for use by all players in the chain.
Innovative results from the demonstrators include:
- Advances in content adaptation and interface technology: content is adapted to user preferences. The user can control all content and devices without specific technical knowledge.
- Interfaces are multimodal, intelligent (they learn from user behaviour) and interactive.
- Improved access of services: all information is accessible from new portable, light friendly devices that are everywhere. Personal content, professional work, entertainment data and news are all accessible while on the move.
- New user experience: content can be presented differently depending on the device, where the user is and the time.
- New distributed framework proposal: the system can manage networks, contents, services and devices. Different heterogeneous networks and devices can be interconnected. OZONE technology makes it transparent to the user.
- New device architecture: OZONE extends the ‘one content to one device’ paradigm to ‘one content many devices’.
Minding the gaps and taking results further
Project partners aimed at improving the acceptability and usability for consumers. Their technology gap evaluation resulted in recommendations for research issues in the domain of efficient pervasive computing.
“Our evaluation showed there is still considerable concern regarding privacy and security in networked homes,” says de Groot. “Consumers want the power to override system settings at all times. But the trials showed that users very much like the ‘follow me’ concept, which is having data available when they want it.”
She notes that some of the technology developed by OZONE, especially in the area of security, has been patented. Technologies developed in the area of Quality of Service are being transferred to products being developed by project partners Thomson Multimedia (France) and Philips.
Users also want the networked home to be even further integrated, for example to take home entertainment needs investigated under OZONE further to extend to home care applications. The IST AMIGO project is taking this work ahead.
Another follow-up IST project, BETSY, is aiming to have multimedia streams on wireless handheld devices seamlessly adapted to fluctuating network conditions and available terminal resources, while reducing the energy consumption of stream processing.
Harmke de Groot
Philips Research -Systems & Software
IPA dept. Office: WDC-3.051
Prof. Holstlaan 4
5656 AA Eindhoven
Source: Based on information from OZONE