Project Ideas
(CMU only)



HCI-899: Research Topics in Ubiquitous Computing


Instructor: Jason Hong (Office NSH3613, send email to jasonh at cs cmu edu)
Times: MW 9-10:30
Place: NSH 3002
Course#: 05899
Pre-requisites:   This class is a combination of topics covering a wide variety of disciplines that impact ubiquitous computing. These include human-computer interaction, distributed systems, databases, machine learning, security, sensors, with a touch of public policy. While there is no explicit set of pre-requisite courses for this course, the more of a basic introduction you have to these various disciplines, the more you will get out of the class (in other words, you are not expected to be experts in all of these areas, and there are several overview readings to help bring you up to speed). If you are unsure about your background feel free to come and talk to me.

This course is open to students from across campus, although it is expected to consist primarily of SCS students.


  • Wed Sep 29 2004 - Project proposals due this Friday
  • Wed Sep 29 2004 - Here is a link to the economic models of ubicomp paper I mentioned in class last week, entitled Payment Support in Ubiquitous Computing Environments
  • Thu Sep 23 2004 - Project schedule is up
  • Wed Sep 01 2004 - Still need some people to sign up to do the early presentations coming up later next week
  • Tue Aug 24 2004 - First meeting is on Wed Sep 01
  • Mon Aug 23 2004 - Course web page created

Course Overview

Over the past decade, there has been an increasing trend towards integrating sensing, communication, and computation into the physical world. No longer restricted to the office desktop, computers are becoming embedded in all aspects of our everyday lives, varying from electronic toys to smart cars, from augmented classrooms to intelligent homes. These computers are also becoming increasingly aware of the environments and situations in which they are used, from factors as simple as the current humidity and light level, to as complex as who is using the computer, where it is being used, and what the user's goal is. This push towards ubiquitous computing offers tremendous gains in coordination, safety, and efficiency in domains as diverse as real-time monitoring of soil conditions, helping patients with Alzheimer's disease, and support for emergency responders.

In this course, we will take an interdisciplinary look at current research topics in ubiquitous computing by reading and discussing the recent literature drawn primarily from conferences (such as SOSP, OSDI, Ubicomp, Mobicom, Mobisys, WMCSA, CHI, and UIST), as well as from magazines such as IEEE Pervasive and IEEE Spectrum. Students will also gain hands-on experience by implementing research projects of publishable quality.

Course Topics

Roughly speaking, this course is broken up into five topics:
  • Vision and Challenges in Ubiquitous Computing
  • Context-Aware Computing, analyzing issues in acquiring and modeling context, systems for location-awareness, as well machine learning and UI techniques for handling ambiguity
  • Privacy, investigating various risks, design approaches, and design failures
  • System Architectures, examining various forms of ubicomp, such as broadcast, RFIDs, and sensor nets
  • Applications, including smart homes, interactive workspaces, and protoyping tools
There will also be a strong emphasis on some key problems facing the research community, including:
  • Deployment, getting robust ubicomp systems out there to help real people with real problems
  • Methods and tools that greatly simplify the task of creating and maintaining ubicomp applications
  • Evaluation of ubicomp systems

Project Schedule

  • Fri Oct 01 - Form teams (2-3 ppl) and submit 2 page proposals
    Proposal should describe motivation for project, basic ideas (what you want to build and/or evaluate), a rough timetable, and any special equipment needed

  • MTW Oct 04-06 - Project checkpoint meetings
    I'll have a signup sheet outside my door the previous week

  • Wed Oct 20 - Prototyping Mini-Project due
    Do a lo-fi prototype of an interesting ubicomp app
    Do a writeup of what you did and what you learned
    This can be part of your final project

  • ThFri Nov 04-05 - Project checkpoint meetings
    I'll have a signup sheet outside my door the previous week

  • Wed Dec 08 - Final project presentations

Evaluation Criteria

  • Reading Summaries (15%)
  • Class participation (15%)
  • Class Project (70%)