Application Mobility: Concept and Design

Application Mobility: Concept and Design

Dan Johansson (Luleå University of Technology, Sweden) and Mikael Wiberg (Umeå University, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7284-0.ch011
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Mobility has become an omnipresent part of our modern IT society. Alongside the general 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 chapter. 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. The authors 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 they 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.
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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 although 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 two billion active mobile-broadband subscriptions throughout the world (ITU, 2014). 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, 4G, 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 can 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” – the ability for an application to migrate between different applications during its execution – towards design, i.e. to explore the concept in search for solutions that increase mobility.

Purpose and Disposition

The purpose of our research is to conceptually advance application mobility towards design. In more specific terms that means to elaborate and examine the concept of CASAM, testing the viability of the concept by defining it, manifesting it within a prototype, exposing it to real users, and relating it to state of the art research within the field of mobile systems, according to the method of concept-driven design research (see section 3).

In outlining the paper we first present a literature study of related technologies and projects (section 2), followed by a description of the concept-oriented method guiding our research (section 3). In section 4 we apply the phases of the concept-driven research method to explore, critique and express the notion of CASAM. Following the method of concept-driven design research we then examine CASAM through an external design critique (section 5), followed by a discussion of CASAM as mobile IT support for home care groups (section 6) before concluding the paper in section 7.


The basic notion of “mobility” has been applied on different aspects of the IT usage context, e.g. terminal mobility, session mobility (mobility of information and media streams), service mobility or personal mobility (ITU, 2002). Applications can also be mobile. In 1995, Bharat and Cardelli presented migratory applications as:

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