Monday, January 1, 2007

iFind from MIT

iFind is an interesting project from MIT that mixes location awareness with social awareness. I found out about it from some folks at Telecommunications at ITS. It looks very similar to some of our 'Context Browser' ideas within TAP. Within our own group, there's a lot of concern about establishing baseline services, such as reliable location determination, reliable connectivity, and secure privacy. These are difficult to achieve! It's interesting to see iFind mixing GPS with the services within PlaceLab. This is something that our group is also leveraging. Specifially, Willi Schulz has been integrating PlaceLab with other methods of reporting location.

The iFind service is focused on the sharing of location with peers, and on the ability to instantly communicate and 'microcoordinate', planning meet-me locations on a campus map. I'm interested in finding out how much such a service would be used in a campus setting? Beyond the typical social networks, how could professional, or research interests be used to form 'groups'?

With so much concentration right now on social computing, and on location aware computing, it's no suprise that they are being combined. I tend to frame applications like this as being examples of context aware computing. I'm using a pretty liberal definition of context awareness, namely applications that understand the who, what, when, where, and why of a situation, and deliver the right services at the right time based on that knowledge. iFind is concentrating on the who and the where, but I'll throw out two ideas I'm working on as 'logical extensions'. First is the 'when' component, which at its simplest could be a basic awareness of schedule. There's some work going on within our group to mash up Google calendar, our own campus calendar service, and FaceBook events. If there was a central calendar for an individual or space on campus that looked at all of these potential elements, how could that be leveraged. One simple idea...if an individual had an agent that was location and schedule aware, it could look at events going on on campus, compare them to an individuals interests, social network, or other factors, and also look at that person's schedule for available time. Let's say a presentation was happening that fit a person's interest, and they had a few hours on campus free...why not add notification? That's just one idea I'm playing with.

Another idea, that fits into my previous post on Mobile2.0, is the realization that spaces are getting smarter. As applications become location aware, it follows that those applications can use search and discovery to find services in a particular location. What if you needed to find a color printer, or a soda machine that wasn't out of root beer?

There's also this idea of using your feet to browse the 'web'. What if locations were associated with links, or if scripts were available that associated with a certain place. When you go to a bus stop, you browse the bus schedule. When you walk in the library, a script checks for any books you've reserved, or for any fines you should pay (that could be annoying). In this sense, the web really does merge with the physical world.

Just a few rambling ideas. iFind is a reminder of how the world is changing, and what campuses might need to consider for the future. Happy New Year.

By the way, if you haven't dug Magic gotta see this! Truly one of the greatest 'unkown' blues guys ever. It's a crying shame he passed so young.

No comments: