Micro Information Systems: New Fractals in an Evolving IS Landscape

Micro Information Systems: New Fractals in an Evolving IS Landscape

Rasmus Ulslev Pedersen (Copenhagen Business School, Denmark) and Mogens Kühn Pedersen (Copenhagen Business School, Denmark)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2190-9.ch013
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We are increasingly surrounded by and using small systems, which are equipped with sensors. Mobile phones, temperature sensors, GPS tracking, emerging nano/micro-size sensors, and similar technologies are used by individuals, groups, and organizations. There are valuable applications for industries such as medical and manufacturing. These new sensor applications have implications for information systems (IS) and, the authors visualize this new class of information systems as fractals growing from an established class of systems; namely that of information systems (IS). The identified applications and implications are used as an empirical basis for creating a model for these small new information systems. Such sensor systems are called embedded systems in the technical sciences, and the authors want to couple it with general IS. They call the merger of these two important research areas (IS and embedded systems) for micro information systems (micro-IS). It is intended as a new research field within IS research. An initial framework model is established, which seeks to capture both the possibilities and constraints of this new paradigm, while looking simultaneously at the fundamental IS and ICT aspects. The chapter demonstrates the proposed micro-IS framework with a working (open source) application of open demand response systems that address the engineering aspects of this work.
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The title of the chapter includes the word fractals; that is because we see the use of sensors systems as new fractals growing off a main IS “body” as illustrated in Figure 1. By observation and with extensive experience from working with sensor systems, it has become apparent to us, that there exist kinds of system that will provide significant value to IS. These sensor systems will change how business as a whole is conducted into a better informed organization, while it may also have significant impact at the group and the individual levels. If IS recognizes the value of sensor data present in many natural science/social science/computer science etc. scenarios, then we believe that new levels of insight might emerge over time.

Figure 1.

Mandelbrot fractals (Wikipedia:Mandelbrot:Set)

We suggest micro-IS as a prolific new research area for IS research. First, we consider embedded systems are different in many aspects from PC and server-based systems. An embedded system is customized toward a specific task, and furthermore it is subject to a different set of demands and interfaces than its PC and server-based counterparts. Embedded systems are almost always equipped with various sensors that process a sensation for a target IS. It also enables new and rejuvenated IS processes; seamless collaboration over great distances in virtual meeting rooms is one example that would use micro-IS to create a shared (virtual) context.

A second path to introduce micro-IS can be to consider the introductory words of Richard T. Watson in his brief historic overview of information technology (Watson, 2001). Our Table 1 extends Watson’s Table 1 (in which he links fundamental communication technologies to the human senses) by adding an embedded systems row to it.

Table 1.
Extending Watson’s (Watson, 2001) communication technology table with embedded systems
Communication technologyHuman Senses
Embedded systems
with sensors
Microphone:✓Light and color sensors:✓Touch sensors:✓Open researchOpen research

It is another way to show that embedded systems add the hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste senses to IS systems. We note that smell and taste are more complicated inputs than sound and light, and would involve more techniques such as sensor fusion.

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