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Context Fusion in Location-Aware Pervasive Applications

Context Fusion in Location-Aware Pervasive Applications

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Published by Muhammad Akhlaq
Location-awareness is an important aspect of context-aware applications. These applications enhance the functionality of ubiquitous computing services and applications by using numerous location sensing systems with variant precision and confidence levels. There is a need of seamless integration for these systems using a middleware infrastructure. In addition to interoperability of different systems, the proposed middleware manages the spatial location information in spatial database, infers using spatial relationship functions, and predicts the location of an object based on its history. The system facilitates the separation between applications and location technologies to enable dynamic add-on of new technologies without changing the existing applications.
Location-awareness is an important aspect of context-aware applications. These applications enhance the functionality of ubiquitous computing services and applications by using numerous location sensing systems with variant precision and confidence levels. There is a need of seamless integration for these systems using a middleware infrastructure. In addition to interoperability of different systems, the proposed middleware manages the spatial location information in spatial database, infers using spatial relationship functions, and predicts the location of an object based on its history. The system facilitates the separation between applications and location technologies to enable dynamic add-on of new technologies without changing the existing applications.

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Published by: Muhammad Akhlaq on Aug 23, 2010
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12/07/2011

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Context Fusion in Location-Aware Pervasive Applications
Muhammad Akhlaq
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Ronneby, Swedenmuak05@student.bth.se
Abstract
 Location-awareness is an important aspect of context-aware applications. These applicationsenhance the functionality of ubiquitous computingservices and applications by using numerouslocation sensing systems with variant precisionand confidence levels. There is a need of seamlessintegration for these systems using a middlewareinfrastructure. In addition to interoperability of different systems, the proposed middlewaremanages the spatial location information in spatialdatabase, infers using spatial relationshipfunctions, and predicts the location of an objectbased on its history. The system facilitates theseparation between applications and locationtechnologies to enable dynamic add-on of newtechnologies without changing the existingapplications.
 Keywords
 
 Middleware, context-fusion, ubiquitous/pervasiveapplications, context-awareness, location-awareness,
1. Introduction
Mark Weiser’s vision of Ubiquitous Computingemphasized the need of unifying computers andhumans seamlessly in an environment rich withcomputing [15]. A pervasive system has to becontext aware in order to be minimally intrusive [11].Location-based applications are an importantcomponent of context-aware pervasive systems [9].Weiser’s vision cannot be realized without thecontribution made by location-aware applicationswhich include seamless interaction of environmentwith user, application adaptation according to userpreferences & expectations, and efficient utilizationof available resources. In other words, location-awareness enables pervasive applications to serve auser based on location, thus minimizing the need of user intrusion to demand appropriate service. Theimportance of location-awareness can be realized byresearchers’ claim that this would be the first real-world example of ubiquitous computing [17].
2. Challenges Faced by Location Systems inUbiquitous Computing
Many applications have been developed in the lastdecade based on location-awareness, particularlyunder the flag of Mobile Computing [4]. Mostly,these applications use Global Positioning System(GPS) as location sensing system. In spite of thesedevelopments, location systems for ubiquitouscomputing face many challenges:
2.1 Need for Location-Sensing Techniques
It is important to realize that all the objects (devices,users, sensors) need not be location aware in apervasive environment. Objects, not capable of sensing their location directly, can use location-sensing techniques based on ‘Triangulation’,‘Proximity’ or ‘Scene Analysis’, to sense theirlocation with respect to nearby location awareobjects [8].
Triangulation
uses the geometricproperties of objects to compute object’s location,using the process of Lateration if based on distancesfrom reference points, or Angulation if based onintermediate angles.
Proximity
determines positionof an object from a known location. The object’spresence is sensed by physical phenomena withlimited range.
Scene Analysis
uses features of sceneobserved from a point to draw conclusions about thelocation of the observer or of the objects in the scene.
2.2 Need for Estimation of Location
Irrespective of location sensing techniques employed,usually, it is not possible to sense all possiblelocation-time coordinates due to technological orcost constraints. Therefore, a location-aware systemmust deal with the techniques of predicting thelocation of an object in between the location-timepairs reported, which may be minutes or hours apart.It is mandatory to predict the location of an object onfiner temporal points, if needed by the application.Prediction leads to uncertainty. Hence managinguncertainty within the tolerable bounds is critical forany decent location-aware pervasive application.Traditional techniques utilize history of movingobjects to estimate the current location, usingobject’s direction, last reported location and speed[6]. But these techniques are heavily criticized andare considered too simplistic to encounter the real-time dynamic requirements. Therefore, it isemphasized to incorporate the object’s goals,personalities and tasks into active considerationalong with its history [5]. In other words there is aneed to build User Models to get more preciseestimation of object’s location.
This paper can be referred as:M. Akhlaq
, “Context Fusion in Location-Aware Pervasive Applications”, 4th International Workshop on Frontiers of InformationTechnology (FIT06), Islamabad, Pakistan, December 20-21, 2006.
 
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2.3 Need for Integration of DifferentLocation Systems
The most important challenge is the fusion of different location-sensing technologies [18]. Manycommercial and experimental location-sensingtechnologies are in use, having their own precision,confidence levels, and underlying technologies.Their variant features make one system moreappropriate for one kind of environment whencompared to others. So, existence of various locationsystems in a pervasive environment is inevitable, sois their seamless integration.
3. Classification of Location Systems
Location systems can be classified based oncharacteristics such as cost, location informationprovided (physical or symbolic), frame of reference(absolute or relative), degree of precision andaccuracy, scale, recognition (can system recognizethe object as well, in addition to locating them?),limitations (GPS can only be used outdoorseffectively), and computation entity (object orsystem) [4]. Below is the discussion on someprominent location systems, evaluating eachsystem’s working principle and classification.
3.1 Active Badge
The Active Badge location system, which wasdeveloped at Olivetti Research Laboratory (nowAT&T Cambridge) [8], is the first and typical indoorbadge sensing system. It consists of a cellularproximity system that uses diffuse infraredtechnology. The system can locate any person whowears a small infrared badge. This badge emits aglobally unique identifier every 10 seconds or ondemand. It provides absolute symbolic locationinformation, representing the room or other place inwhich the badge is located, for example. A centralserver collects this data from fixed infrared sensorsaround the building, aggregates it, and provides anapplication programming interface for using the data.Diffuse infrared has an effective range of quite a fewmeters. In large rooms, the system can use multipleinfrared beacons. Active Badges have difficulty inlocations with fluorescent lighting or direct sunlightbecause of the spurious infrared emissions theselight sources generate.
3.2 Active Bat
AT&T researchers have developed the Active Batlocation system which provides more accuratephysical positioning than Active Badges [2]. It usesan ultrasound time-of-flight lateration technique.Users and objects carry Active Bat tags. Thecontroller sends a request via short-range radio. Atthe same time, it also sends a synchronized resetsignal to the ceiling sensors using a wired serialnetwork. A Bat, in response, emits an ultrasonicpulse to a grid of receivers mounted in the ceiling.Each ceiling sensor measures the time interval fromreset to ultrasonic pulse arrival and computes itsdistance from the Bat. The local controller thenforwards the distance measurements to a centralcontroller which performs the lateration computation.Ceiling sensors consider only ultrasound pulses thattraveled along the direct path from the Bat to thesensor and ignore the reflected ones. This systemhad an accuracy of 9 cm for 95 percent of themeasurements as in 1999. The work to improve theaccuracy even further is in progress. This systemrequires a large fixed-sensor infrastructure preciselyplaced throughout the ceiling. This system isdifficult to scale, deploy, and costs high.
3.3 Cricket
Cricket Location Support System [1] infrastructureuses ultrasound emitters while embeds receivers inthe object being located. This system complementsthe Active Bat system and forces the objects toperform all their own triangulation computations.This system does not require a grid of ceilingsensors with fixed locations because its mobilereceivers perform the timing and computationfunctions. Cricket uses the radio frequency signalnot only for synchronization, but also to define thetime region during which the receiver shouldconsider the sounds it receives. The system canidentify any ultrasound it hears after the end of theradio frequency packet as a reflection and ignore it.Cricket implements both the lateration andproximity techniques. Cricket, in its currentlyimplemented form, is much less precise than ActiveBat while future implementations may compete witheach other on accuracy. Active Bat is accurate to 9cm while Cricket can accurately delineate 4 × 4square-foot regions within a room. Cricket’sadvantages include privacy and decentralizedscalability, while its disadvantages include a lack of centralized monitoring and the computational burdenon the mobile receivers.
3.4 Smart Floor
Smart Floor is a proximity location system designedby Georgia Tech [12]. In this system, a grid of pressure sensors is embedded into floor which cancapture footfalls. This does not require people tocarry a device or wear a tag. However, the systemhas the disadvantages of poor scalability and highincremental cost because the floor of each buildingin which Smart Floor is to be deployed must bephysically altered.
3.5 E911
Many companies have started work on developing avariety of location systems to determine a cellularphone’s location that makes a 911 emergency call.E911 location systems [16] will also support newconsumer services such as finding the nearest gas
 
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station, post office, movie-theater, bus, or automatedteller machine. To comply with E911, vendors areexploring several RF techniques, including antennaproximity, angulation using phased antenna arrays,lateration via signal attenuation and time of flight, aswell as GPS-enabled handsets that transmit theircomputed location to the cellular system. Thepositioning is less accurate and ranges from 150meters to 300 meters depending on the techniqueused.
3.6 Global Positioning System
Global Positioning System [10] is the most commonlocation finding system that covers the entire earthsurface. GPS uses a collection of low-orbit satellites.These satellites send radio signals to the earth. AnyGPS enabled device can receive these signals andfind its location using these signals. There are somelimitations of GPS systems. The radio signals sentby GPS satellites are too weak to penetrate buildingsetc. GPS functionality is lost in cities becausebuildings absorb GPS signals or scatter them inmulti-path reflections. Consequently, GPS workswell outdoors but poorly indoors where peoplespend most of their time. GPS has been theprevailing location system in way findingapplications and navigations, but has little use inother application domains.
3.7 Other Systems
RADAR [13] is a building-wide tracking systembased on the IEEE 802.11 WaveLAN wirelessnetworking technology developed by MicrosoftResearch group. MotionStar [7] is a tracking systemwhich can sense precise physical positions relativeto the magnetic transmitting antenna. MicrosoftResearch’s “Easy Living” uses computer visiontechnology to find the location of objects [14].
4. The Middleware
As discussed in the previous section, there arenumerous location sensing systems with variantprecision and confidence levels. There is a need of integrating these systems using a middlewareinfrastructure. The middleware can also provide anabstraction layer to location-aware applications,separating them from location detection and sensingtechnologies. The main issues addressed by amiddleware are [3]:
 
Integrating various location technologies togive a unified view of the location of mobileobjects.
 
Handling conflicting information fromvarious sensors in the system.
 
Maintaining an updated model of thephysical arrangement of the environment.
 
Deducing spatial relationships betweenmobile objects and their physicalenvironment.
 
Associating a probability value of accuracywith location information & spatialrelationships.To address these issues, middleware must possesthe following features:
Interoperability:
Middleware should fuseinformation gathered from variety of systems andrepresent it in a way such that conflicting data ishandled appropriately.
Managing Data Confidence:
Managing theconfidence level of location data is very important toensure its freshness. The quality of data degradeswith the passage of time. Therefore, its confidencelevel must be reduced when it becomes older.
Conversion between Location Models:
Themiddleware should support both types of locationmodels i.e. coordinate based, and symbolic. Acoordinate based model shows location data in theform of (x, y, z) coordinates whereas a symbolicmodel assigns names to different locations (such asbuildings, floors or rooms). A middleware shouldalso support conversion between the two types.
Supporting Push & Pull Modes:
Location-awareapplications can interact with the upper most layer of middleware using either push or pull mode. Theycan query about the current location of objects orcan receive notification whenever a particularlocation-based condition turns out to be true.
Handling Location References:
Locationinformation can be of two types: Object-basedinformation is in the form “Where is X located?”,and region-based information is in the form “Whoelse is present where X is present?”
Deducing Spatial Relationships:
Middlewareshould know how to infer spatial relationshipsbetween mobile objects and their physicalenvironment.
Predicting Future Location:
Due to technologicaland cost constraints, the location-time pairs providedby a location system may be minutes or hours apart.It is, therefore, necessary to predict the location of an object based on previous information.Sections 5 to 9 deal with the main components of middleware (see Figure 1) whereas section 10 showshow these components are integrated.

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