Conceptually Advancing “Application Mobility” Towards Design: Applying a Concept-Driven Approach to the Design of Mobile IT for Home Care Service Groups

Conceptually Advancing “Application Mobility” Towards Design: Applying a Concept-Driven Approach to the Design of Mobile IT for Home Care Service Groups

Dan Johansson (Luleå University of Technology, Sweden) and Mikael Wiberg (Uppsala University, Sweden)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/jaci.2012070102


Mobility has become an omnipresent part of our modern IT society. Alongside the general mobility taxonomy of mobile users, terminals, sessions and services, there are also more specialized forms of mobility. Context Awareness Supported Application Mobility (CASAM) or “Application Mobility” is one such form that is explored in this paper. CASAM builds on the idea of using context to move an application between different devices during its execution, in order to provide relevant information and/or services. In this article we use a concept-driven approach to advance mobile systems research, integrating it with a more traditional user-centric method and a case study, further exploring the concept of CASAM. To empirically situate our design work we conducted an empirical study of a home care service group serving the Swedish municipality of Skellefteå, followed by an exercise in matching the properties of the CASAM concept in relation to problems within current workflow (e.g. scheduling, travel, care situation, communication and debriefing). The result is a proposal for an IT artifact manifesting the CASAM concept, attending to all the identified problems while at the same time validating the concept.
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1. Introduction

In the mid 90s, Leonard Kleinrock (1996) presented his classic paper entitled “Nomadicity: Anytime, Anywhere in a Disconnected World”. In his paper, Kleinrock argued that though users were now IT nomads (using IT and computer based services at different places, pausing or shutting down in between), systems were not fully nomadically-enabled. The assumption of us being always connected was wrong. Instead, being disconnected was a common mode, and moving from your desk to a conference room in the very same building required a nomadic mode, as the IT environment could be completely different in the two locations.

Indeed, much has happened since Kleinrock wrote his article. Mobile IT usage has become an omnipresent part of our modern society (Beale, 2009; Kaikkonen, 2009; Koblentz, 2009). Recent statistics show that the number of Internet users exceeds two and a half billion, and that there are more than five billion mobile phone subscriptions throughout the world (ITU, 2011). Mobile users act within a space of flows (Castells, 2000), transcending the well-known space of physical places. In the space of flows, both information and technology roam through time and space, more or less unaffected by physical boundaries. Concepts like cloud computing present opportunities to use thin clients to access data and services, execute programs via the Internet and store data in virtual folders. Mobile IT is indeed an important part of the often brought up vision of ubiquitous computing, described as unobtrusive services and applications that are always accessible (Mark Weiser, 1993, 1994).

In the light of this, one could say that IT users have gone from being simply nomadic to being truly mobile, able to access and use the same services constantly, regardless of current place or device. This assumption has many flaws though. Despite the increase in mobile devices used along with new communication technologies (3G, WiMax, new highly improved versions of WiFi etc) and an abundance of web and cloud services, society still lacks the ability to use IT anywhere, anytime. An Internet connection might be missing or broken, trust issues might prevent a user from consuming different services (such as virtual storage) and the metaphor of the cloud might not be intuitive to all users. There are still areas within mobile computing that are not fully explored; areas that might contain concepts that help complement the ambition of systems that fully support mobile IT usage. One such concept could well be Context Awareness Supported Application Mobility. Taking this as a point of departure, the purpose of this paper is to conceptually advance “application mobility” towards design, i.e. to explore the concept in search for solutions that increase mobility.

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