Research Topics in Ubiquitous Computing
Spring 2007


Instructor: Jason Hong (Office NSH2504D, send email to jasonh at cs cmu edu)
Times: TTh 9-10:20AM
Place: Wean Hall 5304
Course#: 05899
Web page:


Course Description

Over the past decade, there has been an increasing trend towards integrating sensing, communication, and computation into the physical world, from electronic toys to cars, from augmented classrooms to smart homes. In this course, we will take an interdisciplinary look at current research topics in ubiquitous computing by reading and discussing recent literature. Students will also gain hands-on experience by taking on research projects of publishable quality. Topics to discuss include:
  • Visions and Challenges in Ubiquitous Computing
  • Privacy, investigating various risks, design approaches, and design failures
  • Context-Aware Computing, analyzing issues in acquiring and modeling context, systems for location-awareness, as well machine learning and UI techniques for handling ambiguity
  • Applications, including smart homes, interactive workspaces, and protoyping tools
  • Emerging Technologies, such as RFIDs and sensor nets

This course is open to students from across campus. There is no explicit set of pre-requisites.

Course Requirements and Grading

Cheating and plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students caught cheating or plagiarizing will receive no credit for the assignment on which the cheating occurred. Additional actions -- including assigning the student a failing grade in the class or referring the case for disciplinary action -- may be taken at the discretion of the instructors.

Your final grade in this course will be based on:

Reading Summaries

Students are expected to do reading assignments prior to class so that they can participate fully in class discussions. Students must submit a short summary (3-8 sentences) and a "highlight" for each chapter or article in the reading assignment.

The highlight may be something you found particularly interesting or noteworthy, a question you would like to discuss in class, a point you disagree with, etc. Summaries and highlights are due at the beginning of each class and will not be accepted late. If you do not attend class, you will not be permitted to submit your summaries and highlights.

Your two lowest grades here will be dropped from your homework average.

Lecture and Class Notes

Each student will be assigned a class lecture to prepare and present. Each student will also be assigned a class and take notes of the discussion.

The lecture should be based on the topics covered in that day's reading assignment, but should go beyond the materials in the required reading. For example, you might:

Feel free to be creative here.

As part of your lecture, you should prepare several discussion questions and lead a class discussion. You should also introduce your fellow students to terminology and concepts they might not be familiar with that are necessary to understand the material you are presenting.

After class, you should email to the instructors a set of PowerPoint slides including lecture notes and discussion questions. These slides will be posted on the class web site. In addition, the instructors may include all or part of your presentation slides and notes in an instructor's guide for ubiquitous computing courses.


Students will work on semester projects in small groups of 2-4 people. Each group will propose a project. Roughly speaking, projects will be one of three types: Here are key dates:


This is a rough outline of the course and is subject to change.

Date Topic Readings Speaker Notes Slides and Notes
Tue Jan 16 Course Intro None Jason Slides
Thu Jan 18 Visions
  • The Computer for the Twenty-First Century, by Mark Weiser
  • Synthetic Serendipity, by Vernor Vinge
  • Mike Villa's World, by Harry Goldstein

    Only two summaries required, one for the first reading by Weiser, another for the second and third readings.

  • Jason Ben Slides Notes
    Tue Jan 23 Challenges in Ubicomp #1
  • The Origins of Ubiquitous Computing Research at PARC in the Late 1980s, by Mark Weiser, Rich Gold, John Seely Brown (no summary required)
  • Charting Past, Present, and Future Research in Ubiquitous Computing (PDF), by Gregory Abowd and Elizabeth Mynatt

    Optional Readings:
  • Some Computer Science Issues in Ubiquitous Computing (PDF), by Mark Weiser
  • Pat Chris Slides Notes
    Thu Jan 25 Challenges in Ubicomp #2
  • Beyond Prototypes: Challenges in Deploying Ubiquitous Systems (PDF), by Nigel Davies and Hans-Werner Gellersen
  • Disappearing Hardware (PDF), by Roy Want, Trevor Pering, Gaetano Borriello, Keith Farkas
  • Mega-Utilities Drive Invisible Technologies (PDF), by Bill Schilit

    (Note: since these are survey papers, only one summary needed for all three readings)

    Optional Readings:
  • Pervasive Computing: Vision and Challenges (PDF), by Satya
  • Sushmita Dave Slides Notes
    Tue Jan 30 Guest Speaker, Karen Tang Slides
    Thu Feb 1 Intro to Privacy
  • Privacy: The Achilles Heel of Pervasive Computing?, by Satya (no summary needed)
  • Privacy by Design - Principles of Privacy-Aware Ubiquitous Systems (PDF), by Marc Langheinrich
  • Design for Privacy in Ubiquitous Computing Environments (PDF), by Victoria Bellotti and Abigail Sellen (please note it prints backwards)

  • Proactive Data Sharing to Enhance Privacy in Ubicomp Environments (PDF), by Dirk Balfanz, Philippe Golle, Jessica Staddon
  • We Like to Watch, by Harry Goldstein
  • Sensors & Sensibility, by Jean Kumagai and Steven Cherry
  • Jason Madhu Slides Notes
    Tue Feb 6 Thinking About and Analyzing Privacy
  • Unpacking "Privacy" for a Networked World, by Leysia Palen and Paul Dourish
  • Prototyping and sampling experience to evaluate ubiquitous computing privacy in the real world, by Giovanni Iachello et al

  • Desituating Action: Digital Representation of Context, by Jonathan Grudin (skip to section 5, the part about privacy)
  • Ben Sushmita Slides Notes
    Thu Feb 8 Location Privacy
  • Location Disclosure to Social Relations: Why, When, and What People Want to Share
  • Presenting Choices in Context: Approaches to Information Sharing (PDF), by Jonathan Grudin and Eric Horvitz
  • Wireless Location Privacy Protection (PDF), by Bill Schilit, Jason Hong, and Marco Gruteser (no summary required)

  • Privacy Risk Models for Designing Privacy-Sensitive Ubiquitous Computing (PDF), by Jason Hong, Jennifer Ng, Scott Lederer, and James Landay
  • Chris Sushmita Slides
    Tue Feb 13 Ubicomp: What's it good for?
  • Finding meaningful uses for context-aware technologies: The humanistic research strategy, by Antti Oulasvirta
  • Moving on from Weiser’s Vision of Calm Computing: Engaging UbiComp Experiences, by Yvonne Rogers

    Optional Readings:
  • All watched over by machines of loving grace: Some ethical guidelines for user experience in ubiquitous-computing settings, by Adam Greenfield
  • The Design Challenge of Pervasive Computing, by John Thackara
  • Dave Jeff Slides Notes
    Thu Feb 15 Calm Computing
  • The Coming Age of Calm Technology, by Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown
  • Unremarkable Computing (PDF), by Peter Tolmie, James Pycock, Tim Diggins, Allan Maclean, and Alain Karsenty

  • Seeing the Invisible (PDF), by Jeffrey Heer and Peter Khooshabeh
  • Jeff Pat Slides Notes
    Tue Feb 20 Project Group Formation Project groups will be formed in class on February 20. If you have an idea for a project, come to class prepared to pitch it to your classmates.
    Thu Feb 22 Sensor-Based Interaction
  • Coping with Uncertainty, by Satya (no summary needed)
  • Making Sense of Sensing Systems: Five Questions for Designers and Researchers (PDF), by Victoria Bellotti, Maribeth Back, Keith Edwards, Rebecca Grinter, Austin Henderson, and Cristina Lopes
  • Distributed Mediation of Ambiguous Context in Aware Environments, by Anind Dey, Jenniffer Mankoff, Gregory Abowd, and Scott Carter

  • The Context Toolkit: Aiding the Development of Context-Enabled Applications, by Daniel Salber, Anind Dey, and Gregory Abowd
  • Kami Matt Slides Notes
    Tue Feb 27 Intro to Context-Aware Computing
  • Context-Aware Computing Applications (PDF), by Bill Schilit, Norman Adams, and Roy Want
  • WhereWare (PDF), by Eric Pfeiffer
  • Ask not for whom the cell phone tolls: Some problems with the notion of context-aware computing, by Tom Erickson
  • Challenges in Implementing a Context-Aware System, by Satya (no summary needed)
  • Matt Adam Slides Notes
    Thu Mar 1 Location, Location, Location
  • Expanding the Horizons of Location-Aware Computing (PDF), by Roy Want and Bill Schilit (no summary needed)
  • Location Systems for Ubiquitous Computing (PDF), by Jeffrey Hightower and Gaetano Borriello (one summary for this reading)
  • The Geospatial Web: A Call to Action, by Mike Liebhold and A Design Approach for the Geospatial Web, by Julian Bleecker (and one more summary for these two)

  • Challenge: Ubiquitous Location-Aware Computing and the Place Lab Initiative, by Bill Schilit et al
  • The Location Stack: A Layered Model for Location in Ubiquitous Computing (PDF), by Jeffrey Hightower, Barry Brummitt, and Gaetano Borriello
  • Pat Dave Slides Notes
    Tue Mar 6 Context-Aware Communication
  • Context-Aware Communication, by Bill Schilit, David Hilbert, and Jonathan Trevor
  • Social Disclosure of Place: From Location Technology to Communication Practices, by Ian Smith et al
  • Pat Madhu Slides Notes
    Thu Mar 8 Evaluation
  • Issues for Personalizing Shared Pervasive Devices, by Jonathan Trevor et al
  • Everyday Encounters with Context-Aware Computing in a Campus Environment, by Louise Barkhuus and Paul Dourish
  • Adam JJ Slides Notes
    Tue Mar 13 Spring Break No class
    Thu Mar 15 Spring Break No class
    Tue Mar 20 Smart Homes #1
  • At Home with Ubiquitous Computing: Seven Challenges, by Keith Edwards and Rebecca Grinter
  • Casablanca: Designing Social Communication Devices for the Home, by Debby Hindus et al

  • A survey of research on context-aware homes , by Meyer and Rakotonirainy
  • Madhu Chris Slides Notes
    Thu Mar 22 Smart Homes #2
  • Principles of Smart Home Control, by Scott Davidoff et al
  • The evolution of buildings and implications for the design of ubiquitous domestic environments, by Tom Rodden et al
  • Broken Expectations in the Smart Home, by Sara Bly et al
  • ?? Kami
    Tue Mar 27 Group Presentations
    Thu Mar 29 Group Presentations
    Tue Apr 3 Capture and Access
  • Remembrance Agent, by Bradley Rhodes
  • Designing Capture Applications to Support the Education of Children with Autism, by Gillian Hayes et al al
  • Matt Ben Slides
    Thu Apr 5 Messaging and Reminders
  • DeDe: Design and Evaluation of a Context-Enhanced Mobile Messaging System, by Younghee Jung et al
  • Because I Carry My Cell Phone Anyway: Functional Location-Based Reminder Applications, by Pamela Ludford et al
  • Jeff JJ
    Tue Apr 10 Ensembles
  • User Interfaces When and Where They are Needed: An Infrastructure for Recombinant Computing, by Mark Newman et al
  • Device Ensembles, by Bill Schilit and Uttam Sengupta
  • Sushmita Adam
    Thu Apr 12 RFIDs
  • Bridging Physical and Virtual Worlds with Electronic Tags, by Roy Want, Kenneth Fishkin, Anuj Gujar, and Beverly Harrison
  • RFID: A Key to Automating Everything, by Roy Want (a good intro to RFIDs)
  • Madhu Kami
    Tue Apr 17 Sensor Networks
  • Connecting the Physical World with Pervasive Networks, by Estrin et al
  • Query Processing in Sensor Networks, by Johannes Gehrke and Samuel Madden
  • Jeff Ben
    Thu Apr 19 Spring Carnival, No class
    Tue Apr 24 Wenhui Chen, on Smart Homes
    Thu Apr 26 Johnny Lee, on Neat Electronics
    Tue May 1 CHI 2007, no class
    Thu May 3 CHI 2007, no class