Ubiquitous Computing: Design, Implementation and Usability

Ubiquitous Computing: Design, Implementation and Usability

Yin-Leng Theng (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) and Henry B. L. Duh (National University of Singapore, Singapore)
Indexed In: SCOPUS View 1 More Indices
Release Date: May, 2008|Copyright: © 2008 |Pages: 396
ISBN13: 9781599046938|ISBN10: 1599046938|EISBN13: 9781599046952|DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-693-8


Interactive systems in the mobile, ubiquitous, and virtual environments are at a stage of development where designers and developers are keen to find out more about design, use and usability of these systems.

Ubiquitous Computing: Design, Implementation and Usability highlights the emergent usability theories, techniques, tools and best practices in these environments. This book shows that usable and useful systems are able to be achieved in ways that will improve usability to enhance user experiences. Research on the usability issues for young children, teenagers, adults, and the elderly is presented, with different techniques for the mobile, ubiquitous, and virtual environments.

Topics Covered

The many academic areas covered in this publication include, but are not limited to:

  • Broadcast and telecommunications services
  • Challenges for design and evaluation of ubiquitous computing
  • Context-sensitive mobile services
  • Design and implementation of interactive tables
  • Future trends in ubiquitous computing
  • Historical development of ubiquitous computing
  • Low-power mobile ad hoc networks
  • Mobile Computing
  • Personal digital assistants for geography fieldwork
  • Pervasive interactive multimedia systems
  • Security integration in architecture design
  • Software engineering for ubiquitous computing systems
  • Ubiquitous computing at home
  • Wireless Technologies

Reviews and Testimonials

"The book is written for academics, practitioners and undergraduate/postgraduate students and organized around six sections into chapters with the major themes."

– Yin-Leng Theng, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

IGI, the publisher of Ubiquitous Computing: Design, Implementation, and Usability has done us the invaluable service of collecting excellent examples of the multifaced aspects of successful design in these pioneering technologies, and has given us the benefit of practical experience as well as heuristic in adapting the possible technologies of ubiquitous computing to the human needs of visual design, human factors, technological issues, and usability concerns in meeting human needs in the cities designed environments of the twenty-first century.

– Ira Laefsky, Independent consultant and HCI Researcher, USA

Table of Contents and List of Contributors

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Institutions are investing millions of dollars implementing ubiquitous services and technologies to ride on the next wave of computing power to enhance computing use by making computers available but effectively invisible to the users throughout the physical environment. Ubiquitous computing is challenging and inter-disciplinary, and it is important that various research communities co-ordinate and communicate to explore the frontiers of computing as it moves beyond the desktop and becomes increasingly interwoven into the fabrics of our lives. Ubiquitous computing has significant advantages, in that computational devices are distributed in the physical world, giving us boundless access to communication and information channels, with users’ knowledge built based on collaboration, communication, experimentation.

History has taught us that inadequate understanding of users, scenarios of use and technologies have led to failures of many research and development computing projects. As we have problems producing good conventional interactive systems, it is reasonable to anticipate that we may have problems creating good ubiquitous computing systems. Mark Weiser, father of ubiquitous computing, points out that getting the computer out of the way is not easy. The challenge in ubiquitous computing is to “create a new kind of relationship of people to computers, one in which the computer would have to take the lead in becoming vastly better at getting out of the way so people could just go about their lives” (retrieved 26 Oct 2005, http://ubiq.com/htpertext/weiser/UbiCACM.html).

The editors would like to thank the authors and reviewers for their excellent contributions and insights, without which this book would not have been possible. We are also grateful to Idea Publishing for the opportunity to publish this book focusing on design, implementation and usability issues in ubiquitous computing.


The book is written for academics, practitioners and undergraduate/postgraduate students and organized around six sections into chapters with the following major themes:

  • Introduction to Ubiquitous Computing and Related Works
  • New User Issues
  • New Supporting Technological Issues
  • New Usability Engineering Approaches
  • Selected Readings – New Applications and Future Trends

    References in each chapter as well as an appendix of further resources on human-computer interaction research and related disciplines at the end of the book provide additional information to readers to pursue a more detailed study of any particular aspect.


    Section I gives a brief overview of ubiquitous computing, related works and underlying concepts, and discusses design and implementation issues, highlighting scenarios in the future ubiquitous landscape. Section I consists of two chapters.

    Chapter 1, “Ubiquitous Computing History, Development and Future Landscape” by Jimmy Chong, Stanley See, Lily Seah Leng-Hiang, Koh Sze-Ling, Yin-Leng Theng and Henry Duh Been-Lim, gives a brief history of ubiquitous computing, highlights key issues and assesses ubiquitous computing research and development under the broad categories of design architecture and systems; implementation challenges; and user issues. Using Singapore as a case example, the chapter then concludes with selected scenarios, presenting exciting possibilities in the future ubiquitous landscape.

    In Chapter 2, “Pervasive Computing: What is it Anyway?”, Emerson Loureiro Glauber Ferreira, Hyggo Almeida and Angelo Perkusich introduce key ideas related to the paradigm of pervasive computing. Concepts, challenges, and current solutions are also discussed. The introductory chapter is helpful to those who are beginning to explore pervasive computing and the underlying concepts.

    Section II focuses on “New User Issues”, that is, user issues relating to new applications in domain-specific areas. Section II consists of five chapters, and they highlight challenges faced by designers and developers in designing user-centred applications.

    Chapter 3, “Convergence Broadcast and Telecommunication Services: What Are Real Users’ Needs?” by Raquel Navarro-Prieto and Nídia Berbegal, presents an example of the user-centred design cycle for the development of innovative convergence services and technology of broadcast and mobile networks. The authors describe three main phases: (i) validation of the scenarios developed as well as requirements gathering for the services portrayed in the scenarios, taking into consideration cultural differences among countries; (i) in-depth requirements for specific services (mobile TV and personalized alerting); and (iii) usability test in three countries to test navigational aspects, users’ understanding of icons and menus, and user acceptance of the mock-up. Using a combination of different methodological approaches (that is, contextual research, experimental studies, and usability tests), this chapter demonstrates the importance of gathering and validating user needs, scenarios and interfaces for these complex services.

    In Chapter 4, Anxo Cereijo Roibás discusses the “Warranting High Perceived Quality of Experience (PQoE) in Pervasive Interactive Multimedia Systems”. The chapter presents an overview of diverse ethnographic praxis intended to know the users and understand how the usage scenarios can influence the quality of their experiences when interacting with pervasive communication systems. This chapter focuses on ethno-methodologies that study users and their context on the field living labs, cultural probes, focus groups and on-the-field enactments, integrated within the participatory design process to create future scenarios and applications for pervasive interactive multimedia systems.

    Chapter 5 by Yoshinari Shirai, Kumiyo Nakakoji and Yasuhiro Yamamoto on “Interacting with Interaction History in a History-Enriched Environment” describes an approach to enrich the space by providing interaction history information through noticeable wear expressed within a physical environment. The authors postulate that a history-enriched environment (HEE) allows people to use interaction histories of people, things, and places on demand, hence obtaining relevant information by tracing links among objects. They also argue that taking into account two aspects of people’s cognitive activities--situated encountering and information-triggered information needs--is key to building an HEE. As an illustration, this chapter describes the design of an HEE through the Optical Stain environment.

    Chapter 6, “A User Acceptance Study on a Plant Mixed Reality System for Primary School Children” by Charissa Lim Mei-Ling, Yin-Leng Theng, Liu Wei and Adrian David Cheok, describes Study II, a follow-up study, employing the well-established Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) to investigate participants’ perceptions of usefulness and usability, identified as key determinants of participants’ intention to use the system, of a Plant Mixed Reality System (PMRS) designed for primary school children (11 – 12 years old). Preliminary results seemed to indicate participants’ intention to use the PMRS for learning, and this intention was influenced directly by perceived usefulness, and indirectly through perceived usability and social influence. System quality, personal innovativeness and compatibility were found to be important external factors. The chapter concludes with a discussion of implications on the design of mixed reality systems for education.

    In Chapter 7 “Human-Based Models for Ambient Intelligence Environments”, Giovanni Acampora, Vincenzo Loia, Michele Nappi, and Stefano Ricciardi describe an agent-based ambient intelligence architecture based on technologies in ubiquitous computing, ubiquitous communication, and intelligent user friendly interfaces to deliver services on the basis of physical and emotional user status captured from a set of biometric features.

    Section III examines “New Supporting Technological Issues” focusing on the “how” aspects of ubiquitous systems with regard to algorithms, techniques, and/or methods. Discussions on pertinent technological issues and results for comparisons serve as useful lessons learnt and provide a gauge of the efficiency and effectiveness of the implementation. Section III consists of five chapters.

    Chapter 8, “Wireless Technologies for Mobile Computing” by Biju Issac and Chong Eng Tan, briefly explores some popular wireless technologies that aid in mobile computing, like 802.11 networks, Bluetooth networks and HomeRF networks. Under 802.11 networks, the authors investigate into the details of both infrastructure and ad-hoc networks and its operations. Though there are many challenges to be overcome in terms of improving the bandwidth and security as with a wired network, the developments are quite encouraging, and the authors conclude by highlighting user preferences of these technologies.

    The advancements in mobile technologies make the collection of customers’ context information feasible. Service providers can now incorporate context information of customers when providing personalized services to them. This type of services is called context sensitive mobile services (CSMS). Equipped with advanced mobile technologies, sophisticated context sensitive mobile services could be provided to customers now and in future. In Chapter 9, “Context Sensitive Mobile Services”, by Indranil Bose and Chen Xi, the authors introduce the definition of context and its explanation in context sensitive mobile services (CSMS). The chapter then discusses the business models of CSMS and strategies which services providers of CSMS can follow, the classifications of CSMS and relationships between context and each type of CSMS. Although CSMS is powerful, the authors argue that it cannot replace other types of services and should be integrated into the whole business strategy of a firm so that it can work seamlessly with other types of services.

    Seamless communication between computing devices is an essential part of the new world of ubiquitous computing. To achieve the concept of a ‘disappearing computer’, it is necessary to establish reliable and simple communication principles to enhance the usability and the efficiency of the ubiquitous computing devices. It is also important to use wireless links and to enable devices to quickly create and manage networks ad-hoc, without any need for network infrastructure. Chapter 10, “Wireless Ad Hoc Networks: Design Principles and Low Power Operation” by Veselin Rakocevic presents the design principles for such networks. The main features of these networks are analysed, including the principles of medium access control and routing, along with the current standardisation and development activities. Special attention is paid to the low power design of wireless ad hoc networks. Low power design is important because of the predicted self-organisation, small size and extended scalability of ubiquitous computing networks. In such an environment, it is important to extend the network lifetime by deploying power sensitive network algorithms and protocols.

    Chapter 11, “TeleTables and Window Seat: Bilocative Furniture Interfaces” by Yeonjoo Oh, Mark D Gross, Ellen Yi-Luen Do, Michael Philetus Weller and Ken Camarata, describe two computationally enhanced furniture pieces, a pair of tables and a chair, built to support experiencing remote events with everyday objects. With embedded computation in the furniture, people can interact with distant friends and places without cumbersome menus or widgets. The TeleTables are ambient bi-directional tabletop displays that connect two particular distant places by projecting shadows cast on one table across the Internet to the other. Window Seat is a rocking chair that can be tied to a particular remote place by controlling a remote camera tied to a live video feed through the motion of the rocking chair. Both these projects explore the use of the physical space of a room and its furniture to create bilocative interfaces that allow information navigation without screen-based GUIs and menus.

    Chapter 12, “Using Multimedia and Virtual Reality for Web-Based Collaborative Learning on Multiple Platforms”, by Gavin McArdle, Teresa Monahan, and Michela Bertolotto, describes virtual reality systems, and also discusses the current state of e-learning on mobile devices. The authors also present the virtual reality learning environment developed, incorporating established techniques both desktop and mobile devices.

    Zhijun Zhang in Chapter 13 “Leveraging Pervasive and Ubiquitous Service Computing” reviews the different wireless networking technologies and mobile devices that have been developed, and discusses how they can help organizations better bridge the gap between their employees or customers and the information they need. The chapter also discusses the promising application areas and human-computer interaction modes in the pervasive computing world, and proposes a service-oriented architecture to better support such applications and interactions.

    In a workshop on “Evaluation Methodologies for Ubiquitous Computing” in the Ubicomp 2001 conference, it was agreed that interactive systems, and in particular, ubiquitous computing posed complex evaluation methodologies. To-date, not much known research is being carried out to determine what constitutes good ubiquitous services and technologies, and positive user interactions and experiences. Designers often design for themselves unless they are trained to realise that people are diverse, and that users are unlikely to be like them. The more errors that can be avoided “up front” by the right method, the less work both test-users and designers will have to put in for refinement to improve design, use and usability. Hence, Section IV examines “New Usability Engineering Approaches”, focusing on usability evaluation techniques employed in the design and development of ubiquitous systems, addressing users, requirements and context of use. Section IV consists of five chapters.

    We are now facing a migration from the traditional computing, based on personal computers, to an era of pervasiveness, on which computing devices will be spread all around us, seamless integrated to our lives. It is this new stage of computing that researchers have named of ubiquitous computing, also known as pervasive computing. There is no doubt that this vision is certainly a promising computing paradigm for the 21st century. However, its completely new characteristics have an impact on the way that software is developed. We should emphasize that, for example, to achieve the seamless integration characteristic of ubiquitous computing environments, applications must implement mechanisms for discovering the needs of users, in order to present them with relevant information at the right place and on the right time. This, and other intrinsic features of ubiquitous computing systems, makes it necessary the use of different software engineering techniques. Within this scope, Emerson Loureiro, Frederico Bublitz, Loreno Oliveira, Angelo Perkusich and Hyggo Almeida in Chapter 14, “A Roadmap of Software Engineering for Ubiquitous Computing Systems”, claim that service-oriented computing, component-based development, plug-in-based architectures, event-based systems, and dynamic software evolution are the main techniques that can be used in the development of ubiquitous systems. The purpose of this chapter is then to review the challenges involved in ubiquitous systems development as well as present a software engineering perspective for tackling such challenges. In addition, it will also be presented the way these techniques have been used, by outlining some of the current ubiquitous computing solutions.

    In Chapter 15, “When Ubiquitous Computing Meets Experience Design: Identifying Challenges for Design and Evaluation”, Ingrid Mulder and Lucia Terrenghi, provide an overview of the main implications of emerging ubiquitous computing scenarios with respect to the design and evaluation of user experience. The authors identify challenges for design and evaluation and consider different classes of methods to cope with these challenges. These challenges are illustrated with examples in which ubiquitous technology is used both for the design and for the study of the users’ everyday life. In this chapter, the authors argue that ubiquitous technology provides new means for the study of human experiences as well as human deliberate engagement with technology; the latter as an alternative to automation and invisible technology.

    An emerging challenge in the design of interfaces for mobile devices is the appropriate use of information about the location of the user. Chapter 16, “Building Applications to Establish Location Awareness: New Approaches to the Design, Implementation and Evaluation of Mobile and Ubiquitous Interfaces” by Scott McCrickard, Miten Sampat and Jason Chong Lee, considers tradeoffs in privacy, computing power, memory capacity, and wireless signal availability that accompany the obtaining and use of location information and other contextual information in the design of interfaces. The increasing ability to integrate location knowledge in our mobile, ubiquitous applications and their accompanying tradeoffs requires that we consider their impact on the development of user interfaces, leading to an Agile Usability approach to design borne from agile software development and usability engineering. The chapter concludes with three development efforts that make use of location knowledge in mobile interfaces.

    Interactive tables are becoming increasingly popular. Chapter 17, “Interactive Tables: Requirements, Design, Recommendations and Implementation” by Michael Haller, describe a collaborative tabletop environment that is designed for brainstorming meetings. After describing the user requirements, the author demonstrates different possible solutions for both the display and the tracking implementation, and summarizes related work. Finally, the author concludes with a more detailed description of the Shared Design Space. Using a digital pen, participants can annotate not only virtual paper, but also real printouts. By integrating both forms of physical and digital paper, the authors combine virtual and real drawings, three-dimensional models, and digital data in a single information space. The authors then discuss the unique way in which these devices are integrated together and how they can be used efficiently during a design process.

    Chapter 18, “A Case Study of Icon-Scenario Based Animated Menu’s Concept Development” by Chee Koon Lim and Henry Duh Been-Lim, describes the development workflow of graphical user interface (GUI) design and the implementation that is adopted across a 2G platform. The authors describe the implementation process of developing Icon-Scenario Based Animated Menu GUI. The same design process developed is implemented in the other models when the authors develop another set of GUI for different customers using the same workflow. The chapter concludes by describing the concept development process of the phone’s menu enhanced by the use of a captivating Icon-Scenario Based Animated Menu, followed by demonstrating how it takes usability into consideration, bringing delight to users.

    Patterns need to be described and formalized in ways that enable the reader to determine whether a particular solution presented is useful and applicable to his or her problem in a given context. However, many pattern descriptions tend to focus on the solution to a problem, and not so much on how the various (and often conflicting) forces involved are balanced. Chapter 19, “Formalising Patterns for the User Requirements Notation” by Gunter Mussbacher, Daniel Amyot and Michael Weiss, describes the user requirements notation (URN), and demonstrates how it can be used to formalize patterns in a way that enables rigorous trade-off analysis while maintaining the genericity of the solution description. URN combines a graphical goal language, which can be used to capture forces and reason about trade-offs, and a graphical scenario language, which can be used to describe behavioral solutions in an abstract manner. Although each language can be used in isolation in pattern descriptions (and have been in the literature), the focus of this chapter is on their combined use. It includes examples of formalizing Design patterns with URN together with a process for trade-off analysis.

    Author(s)/Editor(s) Biography

    Dr. Yin-Leng Theng is an associate professor in the School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She completed her PhD in 1997 on addressing the “lost in hyperspace” problem in hypertext, and proposed a framework to understand design and usability issues. She then joined Middlesex University (London) as a Lecturer from 1998 to 2001. Presently, she teaches on the Information Studies Masters Programme: Digital Libraries and Human-Computer Interaction. Her research interests in Human-Computer Interaction and Digital Libraries had led to the award of two research grants from the Engineering and Physical Science Research Council in the United Kingdom during her four years of teaching at Middlesex University (London). Recently, she received a three-year university research grant to design and develop a suite of usability engineering tools for digital libraries on mobile environments and the Web.
    Henry B. L. Duh is currently an Assistant Professor in the Division of System and Engineering Management at Nanyang Technological University. He has received degrees in psychology, design and engineering respectively. After completing his PhD from University of Washington, he went to NASA-Johnson Space Center as a Post-Doctoral fellow involving in virtual reality training project. Dr. Duh's interests are in human-computer interaction, virtual interface design, interface usability testing and information navigation behavior. His current research focuses on exploring human factors issues on virtual/augmented reality, usability engineering and interaction design. He has served as the paper reviewer for prestigious conferences in human-computer interaction and design since 2001 such as ACM Computer-Human Interaction conference (ACM CHI), ACM User Interface Software and Technology (ACM UIST), ACM Computer Supported Cooperative Work conference (ACM CSCW), ACM Designing Interactive Systems (ACM DIS). He is the co-author of two books: “Design for User Experience: Methods and Evaluation”, and “Usability engineering: applications and practices”. Dr. Duh teaches “Interaction Design” in the Master of Human Factors Engineering at Nanyang Technological University.