Ambient, context-aware and mobile applications – AmbieSense
Submitting InstitutionRobert Gordon University
Unit of AssessmentComputer Science and Informatics
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Information and Computing Sciences: Artificial Intelligence and Image Processing, Data Format, Information Systems
Summary of the impact
The primary impact is AmbieSense Ltd., a start-up that has had up to 8
employees/consultants. The Company pioneered ambient, context-aware mobile
applications and has been able to maintain its technological edge
throughout. Secondary impact is through products developed and used by
companies including Lonely Planet, Oslo Airport. AmbieSense Ltd. products
and services have wide reach and social impact: Tourist trails; outdoor
museums; educational historic trails. Customers include public sector:
Aberdeen City Council. Benefits are a quality content experience delivered
in a context-sensitive manner (social/economic). The significance is:
information-rich touristic physical space; an enriching educational
experience, connecting pupils with environments. Other technologies have
also been built on the AmbieSense platform and patents have cited the
underpinning work, demonstrating impact on professional services.
Our track-record in search, context of information need, and query
patterns research has been established over 15 years. Rather uniquely, we
augmented theoretical research of algorithms with an end-user perspective,
and evaluated our methods also within real contexts of use.
Our research insights stemmed from analysing user queries in search
systems, detecting patterns of information need and behaviour within web
search, and providing context-aware search for more effective
results. This extended to mobile search and ambient
information environments where other contextual factors affect user
information needs within changing physical spaces.
Context-Aware search: Our approach automatically grouped a user's
consecutive search activities on the same topic into one search session
(1998-2002). We highlighted the significance of log analysis in
identifying the context of information need and importance of the temporal
dimension. We combined evidence extracted from statistical data from Web
search logs with observations of real use of the system in situ. Outcomes
were: a significant improvement over previous methods of session
identification [R1]; an information retrieval (search) system that
included context learning with improved ranking of search results; user
evaluation insights, and Microsoft patent citation. (EPSRC Grant No:
Mobile contexts: We extended our research to include search and
browsing in mobile contexts (2001-2004) where the contexts of information
needs are more dynamic. We developed mobile search and enabled information
pop-ups sensitive to location and patterns of needs of tourists and
travellers [R2, R3]. This research was through
EU-AmbieSense project. Lonely Planet, Reuters, Oslo Airport and Sevilla
Global (city council) were partners providing content. Outcomes were a
mobile information system; partner mobile products/apps (Lonely Planet,
and Oslo Airport); insights on users' search behaviours in mobile
contexts. Mobile search is now well established, but our early work, at a
time when smart phones were just emerging, was pioneering. (EU FP5 IST
Ambient: The right information at the right time, right place was
a key focus in EU AmbieSense research. Thus, we augmented physical space
and objects with digital information [R4]. The ambient information
environment was provided through: wireless sensors; a software platform to
manage and deliver the information; and mobiles to which the information
is served. Novel wireless hardware (from partner SINTEF, Norway) enabled
digital content distribution and the use of spatial and temporal features
in our context-aware search. The outcome was three tiers [R3, R5]
for information storing, and retrieval: portable (on the mobile); embedded
(in local wireless servers); and remote (on remote servers). This
architecture is also well-suited to support Internet-of-Things. A further
outcome was partner sites (Oslo Airport, Sevilla city).
The strength of the underpinning research in mobile, context, and ambient
computing within EU-AmbieSense is also shown by it having been chosen as
input for the EU FP6 Work Programme and Calls. Ten further projects were a
direct result of this research and innovation.
Users: Through our user-centred observation and evaluation
approach, we identified several contextual factors in bringing relevant
information to specific situations effectively [R2]. We showed that
using the users' context, and including location, interests and
time-of-day, enabled systems to better meet their needs. Our personalised,
and context-sensitive system was tested on a very large scale with real
tourists in real situations [R6]. Evaluation outcomes and insights
led to a start-up, AmbieSense Ltd. The continued research in temporal
context also led to recent successful approach within real-time social
media content and information needs [REF2: Goker, 2013].
||Lecturer/Senior Lecturer/Reader 1998 – 2006; City
University 2006 – 2013;
Professor 2013 ->
||Professor 1993 – 2007; Google 2007 ->
||Senior Lecturer/Reader, 2002 – 2007.
||Research Fellow, 1999 – 2002.
||Research Assistant, 2001 – 2004.
||PhD student, 2001 – 2006.
||Research Assistant, 2002 – 2004.
||Research Assistant, 2002 – 2004.
References to the research
Note: Key references are marked with an asterisk*.
[R1]* He D., Göker A., and Harper D.J. Combining Evidence for
Automatic Web Session Identification. Information Processing &
Management Journal, Special Issue on "Context in Information Retrieval",
Volume 38, Issue 5, pp. 727-742, September 2002.
[156 Google citations; Scopus Citation over 90.]
Impact Factor: 0.817; 5yr Impact Factor: 1.388
[R2]* Göker A., Watt S., Myrhaug H.I., Whitehead N., Yakici M., Bierig
R., Nuti S.K., Cumming H. Ambient, personalised and context-sensitive
information systems for mobile users. ACM International Conference
Proceeding Series. Proceedings of the 2nd European Union Symposium on
Ambient intelligence, Eindhoven, Netherlands. November 2004. pp 19-24.
[Google citations 36]
[R3] Mountain, D., Myrhaug, H., and Göker, A. Mobile Search. In: Göker,
A., and Davies, J. (Eds) Information Retrieval: Searching in the 21st
Century. John Wiley and Sons, 2009, pp.103-130. DOI:
[Google citations 3, 27]
[R4] Myrhaug H.I., and Göker, A. AmbieSense — interactive information
channels in the surroundings of the mobile user. Proc 10th International
Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, Crete, Greece, 2003, Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates, Inc. pp. 1158-1162.
[Google citations 11]
[R5] Myrhaug H., Whitehead N., Göker A., Faegri T.E., and Lech T.C.
AmbieSense — a system and reference architecture for personalised and
context-sensitive information services for mobile users. Proc Second
International Symposium on Ambient Intelligence, LNCS 3295. November 2004,
Eindhoven, Netherlands, Springer Verlag. pp 327-338.
[Google citations 21; Scopus Citation: 6]
[R6]* Göker, A., and Myrhaug, H. (2008) "Evaluation of a mobile
information system in context" Information Processing & Management,
Volume 44, Issue 1, January 2008, Pages 39-65. In Special Issue on
"Evaluating Interactive Information Retrieval Systems" Eds: Borlund P.,
and Ruthven I. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ipm.2007.03.011
[36 Google citations; 21 Scopus citations.] Impact Factor: 0.817; 5yr
Impact Factor: 1.388
EPSRC Grant No: GR/R11742/01. Facilitating Information Retrieval by
User-Adaptive Learning. 2000-2002. Principal Investigator: Göker, A.
Total: £60K. Collaborator: Reuters Ltd.
EU-FP5 IST 2001-34244. AmbieSense: Ambient, personalised, and
context-sensitive information systems for mobile users. 4/1/2002 -
9/30/2004. PI at RGU: Göker, A. Total Project Budget: €5.7 Million. RGU
budget: €534K. Partners: SINTEF Telecom & Informatics (coordinator),
Siemens AG, Lonely Planet Publications, Oslo Airport, Reuters Ltd., NTNU,
Sevilla Global, YellowMap, CognIT.
Details of the impact
There are economic and social impacts. The economic are the ongoing
start-up, patent citation, and others' products. The social are: improved
public services for cities, education, and tourists; input to standards,
and enabling use of outcomes and technology by others.
Background Gartner defines context-aware computing as the
concept of leveraging information about the end user to improve the
quality of the interaction and considers it a growth market [I1].
Pathway to impact
The pathway to impact included a start-up company, external recognition
through awards and publicity in mainstream media with commercial
demonstrators based on underpinning work in ambient, context-aware and
Funding, for the start-up, AmbieSense Ltd., registered in 2005
began through a Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship
for Göker (£65K, 2004-2005) and access to business mentoring. A Technology
Transfer Entrepreneurship (EPSRC) and funding from Scottish Enterprise and
Grampian followed (£20K, 2004-2005; £4K 2004-2006). Mirrored support from
Innovation Norway (£60K, 2005-2006) along with investor funding focused on
SINTEF hardware used. AmbieSense Ltd. has grown organically since, with a
maximum of eight staff and consultants.
External awards showed the relevance of the work to industry and
commerce. Göker was a finalist in the highly-competitive Blackberry
Women in IT Award (2005), and part of a team that was selected for
the Entrepreneurship Development Program (2009) at MIT (Massachusetts
Institute of Technology) Boston, USA.
Commercial demonstrations were presented by AmbieSense Ltd (e.g. [I2]).
This continued to build on EU-AmbieSense media coverage around very large
scale trials in Oslo Airport and Sevilla city centre with 238 users, 438
responses to surveys (see also [R6]). The press coverage included
UK, Spain, Germany, Norway, and Euronews. BBC Radio Scotland and Scotsman
on Sunday were amongst mainstream media.
Reach & Significance
Ongoing start-up: AmbieSense Ltd. is an ongoing business that was
based on our underpinning ambient, mobile, and context-aware
research. It continues to provide innovative products and services for the
distribution and delivery of content in mobile environments. Using
contextual information has enabled AmbieSense to remain competitive and
maintain technological edge as an SME [I3]. In 2008-2013 it had up
to seven employees/ consultants, without VC/Angel funding applications.
Patent citation: The underpinning work on context-aware search,
user logs and sessions was cited by a Microsoft patent US7657519 [I4],
which follows an earlier citation by Lucent-US7194454.
Mobile Apps: The research outputs of EU-AmbieSense on mobile
contexts have been used to produce apps offered by Lonely Planet
(Citysync on PalmOS, later mobile guides with Java support) and Oslo
Airport (19.5 million passengers, Jan-Oct 2013, app for download to
mobiles via website and airport wifi).
The main impact is social through children's history trails and tourists
via Seville-Spain, Bunratty-Ireland. Further social impact is through
contribution to standards and enabling others' work.
History trails: AmbieSense Ltd. designed and developed a
historic Victorian trail for Aberdeen city centre, for public sector
customers Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeen Environment Education. The
route has 20 points of interest and was aimed primarily at school children
8-12 years old. The products and service spanned a five year period
(2004-2009), In the period 2008-2009, it involved around 1000 users, with
6-8 guided trails a month being carried out in term time, each with around
20-40 students. Teachers were able to choose between a paper-based and
mobile version of the trail for use. The mobile system was used for around
30%-50% of the trails. The hardware devices are still fully functional
after almost ten years. The core images and text were originally supplied
by Aberdeen City Council and the trail provided a data-recording and
interaction mechanism, via email, to help the users share their
experiences. The system was reported by end-users to be both engaging and
educational [I3, I5].
Tourist trails, remote sites: In 2007-08, AmbieSense
developed a mobile guide for the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park experience,
in collaboration with Failte Ireland, Shannon Heritage and the University
of Limerick Tourism Department. The mobile guide was designed to encourage
visitors to explore the Folk park and particular areas that had been less
explored and often unmanned. The technology has also enabled other
projects including Historic Scotland's Living History (2011-present) [I6].
This includes AmbieSense's wireless information points and a mobile app
for visitors to Historic Scotland sites that will improve the delivery of
information at remote locations. It exemplifies our holistic approach to
impact where we recognise that different staff can pick up others'
research in new projects (REF3a).
Public service in cities and tourists: Sevilla city council
(Sevilla Global), as part of an ongoing wireless and Smart Cities
initiative, provided (until 2009) the AmbieSense platform as an example of
the application to develop new public services. The services included the
use of wireless information points and mobile city content. Furthermore,
Sevilla through its participation in TURAS project (www.turas-cities.org,
Nov 2011), put forward its AmbieSense infrastructure to help cities
develop resilience and sustainability. Sevilla is one of Europe's top
destinations. (e.g. 2 million tourists /year 2011-2012).
Professional Services Impact
Standards and open source: The AmbieSense context and user
model is now available via Github as an open-source Java project. Also,
there is an impact on standards. The model has been used as part of a
recently-submitted contribution towards MPEG standards on user models [I7].
The standard is used by software developers for multimedia content storage
Sources to corroborate the impact
[I1] Context-Aware Computing Will Provide Significant Competitive
Advantage. Gartner Press Release September 28, 2009. http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/1190313
[I2] EyeForTravel 2009. Report, presentation, and tutorial presented at
EyeForTravel "Travel Distributions Summit Europe". London, May 2009. http://events.eyefortravel.com/school-of-mobile/source-mobile-solutions.asp
[I3] CTO, AmbieSense Ltd. Letter describing AmbieSense Ltd, its products,
and impact at AmbieSense Ltd.
[I4] Patent US7657519. Forming intent-based clusters and employing same
by search. Microsoft Corporation. Filing date 30/9/2004. Publication date
[I5] Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeen Environmental Education Centre.
Letter on behalf of the Council with regard to impact of AmbieSense
technology on schools/education and the Council.
[I6] "Living History", an innovation project funded by Smart Tourism for
Historic Scotland. The mobile app delivers information to users using
AmbieSense's wireless info points. www.smarttourism.org/projects
[I7] SocialSensor report D5.2 (2013) With colleagues at the University of
Klagenfurt, the AmbieSense user & context model has been used to
propose extensions to the MPEG-7 and MPEG-21 standards.