Platys: From Position to Place in Next Generation Networks

August 31, 2009

A UMBC research team led by Anupam Joshi and Tim Finin received an award from NSF for four-year project that will explore how advances in mobile technology and networking can support systems that understand and adapt their behavior to their user's context, activities and preferences.

Platys is a collaborative research project between UMBC and groups at North Carolina State (led by Munindar Singh and Injong Rhee) and Duke (led by Romit Roy Choudhury) Universities. The group will share $1.8M in research funding from NSF's Network Science and Engineering program.

Platys will develop a high-level notion of 'context' that exploits the capabilities of next generation networks to enable applications that deliver better user experiences. In particular, it exploits mobile devices—always with a user -- to capture key elements of context: the user's location and, through localization, characteristics of the user’s environment. Current practice captures location at the level of position -- as geospatial coordinates. But what matters for experience is the user’s place: a location in conceptual terms such as “at home,” “jogging,” or “grocery shopping” -- descriptions that combine positions with activities, environmental properties, and the activities of other nearby people.

Realizing this notion of place requires that information from devices and infrastructure flow in ways unanticipated in current network architectures. It presumes enabling opportunistic interactions while preserving the users’ privacy and designing incentive mechanisms to promote cooperation without exploitation of any. The above architectural concerns lie far beyond traditional network topics such as routing.

Research at UMBC will focus on three areas: using Semantic Web technologies to develop the semantic models needed to represent a person's context and associated preferences, finding and exploiting the knowledge on the Web that can be used to infer context-related characteristics, and developing effective privacy preserving techniques and controls to protect users' privacy.

The overall project goal is to develop, demonstrate, and evaluate a novel network architecture that gives primacy to user experience. It will lead to theoretical advances in semantic context modeling, mobility tracking at multiple levels of abstraction, collaborative localization, and incentive mechanisms. Networked applications offering enhanced user experience will have significant payoffs for industry and the productivity and quality of life of citizens. A prototype system will implement and evaluate context-aware services in university settings with prospects of expansion to K-12 schools and public facilities.

For more information on the Platys project or related research, contact Anupam Joshi or Tim Finin.

For more information, please contact UMBC ebiquity.