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Bluetooth RFID

Bluetooth RFID

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Interaction in Pervasive Computing Settings using Bluetooth-Enabled ActiveTags and Passive RFID Technology together with Mobile Phones
Frank Siegemund and Christian Fl¨orkemeierInstitute for Pervasive ComputingDepartment of Computer ScienceETH Zurich, Switzerland
Passive RFID technology and unobtrusive Bluetooth-enabled active tags are means to augment products and everyday objects with information technology invisible tohuman users. This paper analyzes general interaction pat-terns in such pervasive computing settings where informa-tion about the user’s context is derived by a combination of active and passive tags present in the user’s environment.The concept of invisible preselection of interaction partnersbased on the user’s context is introduced. It enables un-obtrusive interaction with smart objects in that it combinesdifferent forms of association, e.g. implicit and user initi-ated association, by transferring interaction stubs to mo-bile devices based on the user’s current situation. Invisible preselection can also be used for remote interaction. By as-signing phone numbers to smart objects, we propose mak-ing this remote user interaction with everyday items as easyas making a phone call. We evaluate the suitability of the proposed concepts on the basis of three concrete examples:a product monitoring system, a smart medicine cabinet, and a remote interaction application.
1. Introduction
Pervasive computing envisions a world of omnipresentbut invisible information technology embedded into prod-ucts and everyday items [21]. In this paper, we investigateinteractionpatternsinenvironmentswherepassiveRFID la-bels and active Bluetooth-enabledtags are attached to prod-ucts and everyday objects (cf. figure 1 for an overview of the equipmentused in ourexperiments). The tags are so un-
Part of this work was conducted as part of the Smart-Its project,which is funded by the European Commission (contract No. IST-2000-25428) and the Swiss Federal Office for Education and Science (BBW No.00.0281).
obtrusive that they do not change the physical appearanceof objects and are ideally invisible to users. Furthermore,interaction with them does not require explicit human ac-tions to be initiated – as opposedto barcodes, which requireusers to explicitly scan codes, or infrareddevices, which of-ten need manual alignment to ensure line-of-sight for com-munication. Interaction can be initiated by smart objects aswell as by users, and communicationwith users’ mobile de-vices can take place either with the user being aware of it oralternatively unnoticed by the users.By using the information stored on RFID tags and theabilityofactivetagstosense theirenvironmentthroughsen-sors, to carry out computations and to communicate withpeers, the context of users and the state of smart objects canbedeterminedcollaboratively. Thiscontextinformationcanbe usedto associate interactionpartners. We investigatedif-ferent forms of association that take place through explicithuman actions as well as through side effects of users’ nor-mal behavior,i.e. invisibly for them. Furthermore,we com-bine these different approaches by introducing the conceptof invisible preselection of interaction partners based on theuser’s context.The applications described in this paper make use of Bluetooth-enabled active tags – also referred to as BTn-odes [4]. The BTnodes were partially developed within theSmart-Its project [17]. The main reason for using Bluetoothas communication standard for the active tags is that Blue-tooth modules are being integrated in an increasing numberofconsumerdevicessuchas mobilephones,PDAs, anddig-ital cameras. In this paper, mobile phones serve as the ma- jor platform for users to communicate with smart objectsbecause they are a technologythat has becomealmost ubiq-uitous. As mobile phones are carried around by their users,theyarealso presentwhenaninteractionwitha smartobjectis to take place.Passive RFID tags become increasingly important inbusiness processes and are likely to become as ubiquitous
Proceedings of the
First IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications (PerCom’03)
0-7695-1893-1/03 $17.00 © 2003
as barcodes [1]. By attaching RFID scanners to BTnodes,we can bridge the gap between active and passive tags anduse both techniques for implementing interaction patternsin smart environments. Data stored on an RFID tag (e.g. anelectronic product code) often cannot be semantically inter-preted by a small peer-to-peer network that exists betweenactive tags but requires access to a background infrastruc-ture. In our approach,Bluetooth-enabledmobile phonesareused as mobile access points for smart tags, allowing themto access backgroundinfrastructure services.
Figure 1: Some of the devices used to evaluate in-teraction patterns with smart objects: Bluetooth-enabled phones tagged with RFID labels (1), PDAs(2), BTnodes [4] (3), RFID antennas and read-ers (4), sensor boards (the one on the right wasdeveloped by TecO, University of Karlsruhe) (5),Bluetooth access points (developed at TIK, ETHZurich) (6) and RFID tags (7).
Theremainderofthispaperis structuredas follows: Sec-tion 2 analyzes common interaction patterns with smart ob- jects and motivates the concept of invisible preselection of interaction partners based on the user’s context. Section 3introduces three different scenarios that show how the dif-ferent forms of interaction emerge in concrete applications,how people can interact with smart devices independentfrom their current location, and how hybrid approaches forthe association of interaction partners can improve interac-tion in the envisioned environments. Section 4 describesthe technical realization of the scenarios. Section 5 gives anoverview on related work. Section 6 concludes the paper.
2. Interaction with Smart Objects
Communication in pervasive computing settings occursbetween smart objects, between smart objects and back-ground infrastructure services, and between smart objectsandtheirusers. Contextinformationderivedcollaborativelyby active tags attached to the objects can improve all thosedifferent kinds of interaction considerably [15, 16]. In thissection we analyze different forms of interaction betweenhuman users and smart objects and argue in favor of hybridapproaches for the association of interaction partners.
2.1. Classification of Interaction Patterns
Active tags and passive RFID labels do not possessscreens or provide additional buttons, keyboards, or anyother means for users to physically interact with smart ob- jects. The tags are ideally invisible to users and unobtrusiveto such a degree that they do not disturb the way in whichpeople do normally use their items. Intelligent tags shouldmerely add additional functionality to objects without dis-turbing the way people usually interact with them. How dopeople communicate with augmented objects although theycannot see the tags and might not even know which objectsare smart?Inthefollowing,wedistinguishbetweeninteractionsini-tiated by users and interactions initiated by smart objects(cf. figure 2). In the former case, users have the intention tointeract with an object. In the latter case, the smart objects,that is, the active tags attached to them, trigger an interac-tion as a result of certain state changes in their environment.
SpontaneousinteractionInitiated by usersInitiated by smartobjectsExplicit association
- pointing devices- voice- buttons
Implicit, invisibleassociation
- same symbolic location- same context- through side effectsof user'sbehaviour
- present in software/hardware
Figure 2: Association of interaction partners inpervasive computing settings
When an interaction is initiated by human users, thereare basically two alternatives to associate the user with acertain smart object: explicit and implicit association. Thefirst optionuses explicitactionsa personwouldnotbe usingunder normal circumstances to address an object, for exam-ple by speaking to an item or by using a laser pointer toselect an object [12]. The main advantage of using explicitactions is that the user is in full control of the associationprocess. On the other side, he/she must be aware of whichobjects are augmented and must be familiar with the newmethod to interact with them.Alternatively, implicit association of interaction partnerscan take place as a side effect of users’ normal behaviorwhile handling an object. Here, existing interaction pat-terns in connection with the object or product in its unaug-mented form are used to establish an association, i.e. the
Proceedings of the
First IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications (PerCom’03)
0-7695-1893-1/03 $17.00 © 2003
association takes place invisibly for the user. This approachrequires that a smart object can sense when it is used orgoing to be used (for example an automatic door senseswhen someone approaches it). This can be done by con-sidering sensory input and context information derived byactive tags. Examples for these kinds of context informa-tion are: a person is approaching an automatic door, a spe-cific kind of medicine was taken out of a medicine cabinet,a movementin the rangeofan automaticlight switch, a spe-cific person shared a symbolic location with an object for adozen of times. This kind of association that is based onsuch context informationis called invisible, implicit associ-ation. Here, a user is not forced to learn additional interac-tion patterns and does not even need to know which objectsare augmented. The main disadvantage of this approach isthat the user is not in full control of the association process.Therefore, it is only useful when simple sensory input andthe very restricted computational capabilities of active tagsare sufficient to anticipate an interaction with high proba-bility, which is seldom the case.When interaction is initiated by smart objects, there alsoexist two possibilities to associate interaction partners: pre-defined and implicit association. In the case of predifinedassociationtheaddressofinteractionpartners,e.g. theGSMnumberof a mobile phone belongingto a specific person, isstored on an active tag. Considering for example a simplenotification service, the smart object would have predefinedrules about whom to contact in what situation, which is in-flexible.As with interaction initiated by users, another possibilityto determine interaction partners is to use sensory input andderived context information of augmented objects. Consid-ering again a notification service, a smart object would tryto find persons that share a certain symbolic location withthe object, e.g. people that are in the same room, and wouldthennotifythesepersons. Again,thisapproachrequiresthata smart object can perceive its environment and collaboratewith other objects in its proximity.
2.2. Invisible Preselection of Communication Part-ners Based on the User’s Context
The three forms of association shown in figure 2 – ex-plicit, invisible, and predefined association – in their pureform are often unsuitable in pervasive computing settings.For example, when there are huge numbers of potential in-teractionpartnersinrange,orinenvironmentswherepeopledo not know which objects are augmented,direct manipula-tion of interaction partners becomes difficult and thereforeexplicit association almost impossible. On the other hand,pure implicit association has the drawback that smart ob- jects might initiate interactions unwanted by users, whichis intolerable when users are being continuously disturbedby requests from ”smart” objects. We therefore suggest ahybrid approach for association in pervasive computing en-vironments that reduces the number of potential interactionpartners throughimplicit association but still leaves it to theuser to explicitly establish an interaction with preselectedobjects. Preselection takes place completely unnoticed byusers, whoare thereforenot disturbedby this process. Also,if the set of preselected devices does not contain the one ex-pected, it does not exclude the possibility of additional pureexplicit association. Invisible preselction also supports re-mote interaction with smart objects.Sensory input and derived context data as well as historyinformationcollectedbysmartobjects inthe user’s environ-mentis usedto excludeentitiesforinteraction. Exclusionof interaction partners takes place invisibly for the user, whocan use explicit actions afterwards to initiate an interactionwith preselected devices. By using this approach, the num-ber of potential interaction partners is decreased making anexplicitassociationeasier. Figure3 depictsthe coreconceptof invisible preselection: implicit association is used to re-duce the number of potential communicationpartners. Dur-ing this selective process, objects are selected for later in-teraction that might take place at another location. In orderto make later interaction possible, informationabout how tointeract with the selected objects is stored on a user’s mo-bile device, e.g. a phone book entry for a smart object ona mobile phone. This instance that makes later interactionpossible is called an
interaction stub 
. Interaction stubs arestored on users’ personal devices that are carried around bythe users. Later, possibly at a different location, a personchooses one of the stubs through a conscious, explicit ac-tion and initiates an interaction with the smart object.
- pointing devices- voice- buttons
Implicit association
- same symboliclocation- same context- through side effectsof user'sbehaviour
Mobile deviceInteractionstubs
Figure 3: Invisible preselection of interaction part-ners
Invisible preselection assures that interactions that arevery unlikely to happen are hidden from the user. Be-cause there are many interactions possible (potentially witheach object in the user’s proximity and other objects thatcan be controlled remotely) invisible preselection preventsusers from being overloaded by unwanted interaction re-quests from smart objects. Invisible preselection makes acomfortableand convenientformof interactionin pervasivecomputing settings possible.
Proceedings of the
First IEEE International Conference on Pervasive Computing and Communications (PerCom’03)
0-7695-1893-1/03 $17.00 © 2003

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