Digital Object Memories

Posted on by Gerd Kortuem

I recently was involved in organising a workshop on Digital Object Memories in the Internet of Things. Unfortunately I was unable to attend myself, but the position statements, technical papers, and design studies are interesting enough (available online). 

At the workshop participants created memories for objects they had brought to the workshop - by linking 'video memories', photos or text documents to these objects using QR codes. Memories created during the workshop are available at the Tales of Things website. 


Digital Object Memory Workshop in Copenhagen (DOME-IoT 2010)

The notion of object memories of course is not new. In his book Shaping Things Bruce Sterling elaborates his SPIME concept: "A SPIME is, by definition, the protagonist of a documented process. It is an historical entity with an accessible, precise trajectory through space and time." Information shadow is another term for essentially the same concept (for example described by Adam Greenfield in his book Everyware and related to Alan Westin's "data shadows" concept - hat tip to Mike Kuniavsky and his book Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design.)

Digital Object Memories comprise hardware and software components that physically and/or conceptually associate digital information with real-world objects in an application-independent manner. Such information can take many different forms (structured data and documents, pictures, audio/video streams, etc.) and originate from a variety of sources (automated processes, sensors in the environment, users, etc.). If constantly updated, Digital Object Memories over time provide a meaningful record of an object's history and use.

QR CodeFrom a technical point of view, Digital Object Memories provide an open-loop infrastructure for the exchange of object-related information across application and environment boundaries. Besides fostering information reuse and reducing the risk of information inconsistencies, they allow for novel classes of applications in which rich object histories are created and exploited.

From the user's point of view, Digital Object Memories create a new design space for everyday interactions. Physical objects could become sites for their owners' personal stories, but also afford people the opportunity to explore an object's provenance and connections to other elements of physical and digital life. In this sense there is the potential for designers to augment or even transform our relationship with objects and the services that they mediate.

Tales of Things, an experimental website for people to upload object memories, is an attempt to realise the object memory notion and make it available to everyone. It will be interesting to see if sites like Tales of Things will one day become as popular as photo albums were years ago. 

My slides from the Internetome 2010 conference in London are now online

Posted on by Gerd Kortuem

My talk from Internetome 2010 in London is now available online, at slideshare and as pdf. I discussed design issues of smart connected objects in the context of the Internet of Things. In particular I discussed three case studies, one from interaction design, one from contextual design and one from information design. 

Internetome 2010 was a great conference. I'll post more about it in a few days. 

Papers accepted at IOT 2010 conference

Posted on by Gerd Kortuem

My group has two papers accepted at the Internet of Things 2010 conference.
  • Fahim Kawsar, Gerd Kortuem and Bashar Altakrouri. Supporting Interaction with the Internet of Things across Objects, Time and Space. Internet of Things 2010 Conference (IoT-2010), Nov 29 - Dec 1, Tokyo, Japan [To Appear]
  • Gerd Kortuem and Fahim Kawsar. Market-based User Innovation for the Internet of Things. Internet of Things 2010 Conference (IoT-2010) Nov 29 - Dec 1, Tokyo, Japan [To Appear]
The first paper describes how situated flows, i.e. workflows attached to physical objects and locations, can be used to support long-lasting interactive sessions that span time and space. This is the abstract:
Effectively assisting people in complex and highly dynamic work environment requires advances in high-level declarative activity models that can describe the flow of human work activities and their intended outcomes, as well as novel interaction approach for distributing and coordinating information across physical objects, time and space. This paper describes a novel modeling technique for pervasive systems based on high-level models of human activities, so-called situated flows and presents a corresponding flow driven distributed software framework. This framework provides the foundation for discovery, adaptation and execution of flows in real time matching the dynamics of real world activity and consequently drives the pervasive interaction using push interfaces to facilitate a synergic coordinated interaction experience in dynamic work environments.
The second paper describes our ideas how of how to use user innovation in the IOT, as described by the paper abstract:
The importance of user innovation is widely accepted, but the development of the Internet of Things is primarily driven by large commercial players. Using an innovation perspective, this paper identifies how user innovation and market-based innovation can be combined in the Internet of Things (IoT). A survey of tools for user/developers in the IoT space uncovers a rich set of tools for creation of hardware, software and data but reveals poor support for distribution and sharing of such artifacts. To address this shortcoming we propose connected marketplaces as a way to provide users/developers with rich opportunities for sharing and trading of artifacts, and to enable effective user innovation in the IoT.

Symposium on New User Experiences and Interfaces for the Web of Things

Posted on by Gerd Kortuem

User experience design for the web of things is gaining a lot of attention recently. For example there will be a symposium on New User Experiences and Interfaces for the Web of Things at the 13th International Conference and Exhibitiopn on Virtual Reality, April 6-10, 2011, Laval, France (
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Can market-based mechanisms encourage user innovation in the IOT?

Posted on by Gerd Kortuem

How can we create or encourage innovation mechanisms for the Internet of Things similar to the market-based mechanisms employed in the mobile space? 

This is a question I have been pondering in recent weeks. The iPhone and the iPhone App Store have unleashed a wave of innovation in the mobile space comparable to the breakthrough of the Web in late 1990s. Not only has the iPhone given consumers seamless access to a vast number of mobile phone applications, it has also enabled individuals with a minimum of programming skills to reach a mass audience for their applications. As a result, the iPhone (and increasingly other mobile platforms such as Android, …)  has created a long-tail of mobile applications, that has brought about applications for social activism, citizen science, and citizen journalism, areas that tended to be underserved before the iPhone made is possible for small groups to reach large mobile audiences.

Are app stores a model for encouraging innovation in the Internet of Things? Perhaps, but the Internet of Things space is much more complicated than the mobile space. Unlike the iPhone ecosystem, the Internet of Things cannot be confined to a single device platform and a unified distribution channel. The IoT ecosystem will necessarily consist of a heterogeneous collection of hardware, software and data components. This greatly complicates user innovation as it introduces dependencies and compatibility issues, which make it harder to develop, share and reuse artifacts. I am currently writing a paper on this topic for the Internet of Things 2010 conference in Tokyo. So far, however, my ideas of how to tackle this issue are pretty vague. 

User driven Innovation for the Internet of things (follow-up)

Posted on by Gerd Kortuem

Our paper for the What can the Internet of Things do for citizens? workshop has been accepted and the paper is now available. It introduces the notion of user-centered ecosystems for the Internet of Things and discusses a smart building ecosystem as concrete example. I am not entirely happy with using smart buildings as example as it feel it is too specific, perhaps in the future I come up with a better example. 

User-driven Innovation for the Internet of Things

Posted on by Gerd Kortuem

It appears to me that the development of the Internet of Things has for the most part been driven by large industrial players - RFID-based supply-chain solutions related to tracking of goods are an example. However, what about the concerns of ordinary citizens and small independent players? A recent report on Vision and Challenges for Realising the Internet of Things by the Cluster of European Research Projects on the Internet of Things (CERP-IoT) is heavily industry focused and fails to mention the role of end-users and small independent developers in shaping the future Internet of Things. I believe there is a danger that this exclusive focus on industry concerns and commercial applications seriously limits the innovation potential in the IoT space and that, as a result, the Internet of Things may fall short of its potentials. I have just finished a paper on this subject (together with my colleague Fahim Kawsar) which we are submitting to the What can the Internet of Things do for citizens? workshop.