My PhD


The Project:

uMove: A wholistic framework to design and implement ubiquitous computing systems supporting user's activity and situation

The project was supported by the Swiss National Found for Scientific Research and realised in the Pervasive and Artificial Intelligence Research Group, Department of informatics, University of Fribourg - Switzerland.


Media & communication University of Fribourg


This project presents a framework that offers tools for the design and the implementation of ubiquitous computing systems supporting user motions, activities and situations. With the rapid development of context-aware mobile computing and sensor-based interaction, many new challenges come up, three of which are particularly are addressed in this thesis. The first is the need for wholistic tools to develop Ubiquitous computing infrastructures. The second concerns smart applications allowing users to benefit from the distributed computing power in their environment, and the third is the integration of enriched human-computer interaction using motions, activity and situation provided by the increasing sensing capability of the user environment or mobile devices. We propose the uMove framework, a comprehensive solution which allows to design and develop Ubicomp systems representing different kinds of physical or virtual environments based on a systemic approach. uMove proposes both theoretical foundations and implementation tools and is divided into three specific facets. The first facet is the conceptual model describing a ubiquitous computing system made of entities and observers within their physical or logical environment. The second facet is a system architecture which offers designers and developers the tools to theoretically define a logical system, including the types of contexts taken into consideration. The third facet is development tools that allow programmers to implement their systems, sensors, applications and services. The uMove framework is evaluated and validated in an interactive manner through four projects.

Conceptual Tool

uMove: development framework for pervasive systems

uMove: the development framework

The main contribution of this project is the creation of a comprehensive development framework for Ubicomp systems and context-aware applications. The specific contributions are:

  • The definition of a semantic model for the modelling of physical or virtual environment (A city, an university campus, computer games, web sites) into a logical representation.
  • The definition of an architecture model for Ubicomp systems and a set of tools to support designers in the validation of their model before the implementation phase.
  • A set of programming tools for the implementation of systems and applications.
    Proof-of-concept applications implemented with the framework.

System modelling
The approach chosen for our model of environment follows the systemic concepts and the semantic model is based on the Von Bertalanffy's General System Theory (GST) (BERTALANFFY 74). Von Bertalanffy was a biologist who developed a theory generalising the definitions of systems used in specific scientific disciplines such as physics, (bio-)chemistry, mathematics, biology, economics or social sciences. A modelled environment becomes a system, in systemic sense.

A system models the physical or virtual world where objects (entities), possibly living things capable of motion, interact naturally with their environment and are observed by agents (observers).

System architecture
Based on the semantic model, we propose an architecture which allows to define different layers of abstraction including a system made of interacting entities, the sensors gathering the different entity contexts, the system observation and the context-aware applications which handle the events received by the sensors.
We also present a methodology to evaluate the design and components architecture of a Ubicomp system and application to ensure that the various algorithms, strategies, inferences (of activities or context) and sensors operate together smoothly, satisfy user requirements, take into account technical and infrastructure limitations and form a coherent and comprehensive system.

Implementation tools
Once modelled and validated, a system can be implemented with a set of Java-based programming tools. We developed APIs that offer the necessary classes and methods to build the middleware on which the system will run. These APIs allow to connect sensors and context-aware applications which interact with the entities, and they offer functionality for the monitoring and integration of mobile devices running on the Android platform. We also propose a graphical user interface which can instantiate and monitor a system and dynamically load services for mobile devices.

Validation scenario and applications
We propose a set of validation projects that use the uMove framework, implement the concepts of systems and test the capability of the proposed concepts to adequately address the research goals. Through these projects, we also experiment the concept of Kinetic User Interface (KUI) with scenarios which implies a mode of interaction where location and motion tracking, including user activity can be used as first order input modalities to a Ubicomp system. The goal of a KUI is to allow users to interact with Ubicomp systems in a more implicit way using their kinetic properties to trigger events at the level of applications.

The first project, called Robin, focuses on the observation of a rescue team helped by a semi-autonomous robot. The robot is sent ahead of the team and gathers contextual information in a building (in case of fire for instance) to send back to the server for situation analysis and activity recommendation or possibly alarms. The second project provides a smart environment for a nursing home. It focuses on the activity tracking of elderly persons who are still independent but monitored by medical staff in case of problems. Finally we describe an activity recognition module which can be plugged into a KUI system in order to track and analyse predefined categories of activities.

 uMove middleware

The uMove middleware allows to define and implement a uMove system on top of which different specific applications will be developed (e.g. user tracking, activity-based smart alert). The framework contains two specific parts: the conceptual framework and the Java API. uMove allows programers to easily create all entities, the relations between them and the connected sensors, and to load the activity and situation recognition modules (algorithms or classes). However, uMove does not provide the activity (task) and situation recognition modules or algorithms. Instead, it allows them to be separately developed and connected to entities (actors and observers) active in the system.

uMove layers

uMove Middleware

Sensor Layer.

The sensor layer contains the sengets6 which are the logical abstractions of the sensors connected to the system. For instance, an application tracking the movement of users within a building may need to connect location sensors, independent of their type. The location senget connects any type of sensors (e.g. RFID, Bluetooth or wifi) and provides the entity location to the
higher level.

Actor Layer.

The entity layer contains the logical representation of the physical entities (i.e. users, places, objects) being observed. Each entity (actor, places or zones) is defined by its identity, its role, its location within the system and its current motion and activity. Entities are organised in an n-ary tree and all have a parent node except the root of the system (e.g. the world or the building).
Entities get their contexts updated from the connected sengets. An entity can be attached to an activity manager object which determines the current activity.

Observation Layer.

The observation layer analyses the current situation of the actor based on their activity and contexts. They listen for any entity changes and forward them to the situation manager in order to have the new situation analysed and if needed, inform the application (e.g. a ”warning” message or a ”critical situation” message).