Context is King

IYOUITOne of the area’s of research from Telematica Instituut is using technology to determine the context of people. For example where you are, who you are with, what is your mood, what are you doing. This context is very usefull input for a lot of other things like recommendation (when you search for a restaurant to dine with you new girlfriend and value my opinion you do not want to use my recommendation of a restaurant I liked because it is so nice for the kids). So context is king for lots of new “social” applications.
For this we have created a new application called IYOUIT (meaning I, You and It). This is an application for mobile phones (Symbian S60) and constantly monitors your context and shares this with your friends. Recently this tool is made available to all. Have a look at it. It uses only the standard phone sensors (GSM signal, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS if available) to determine things like location, who is close and such.
One of the things this also shows is the power of “mashup programming”. The application uses all kinds of readily available applications. Google Maps of course but also weathersites. Why measure local temperature (and be dependent on extra hardware sensors) if you can find the local temperature based on your location data on a existing weather site?

Some things never change

Some times it surprises me in a way how little things have changed. This week we had our network event where many of our customers join us for dinner and some interesting conversations. This time we organized it in the museum of communication. Before the meeting they gave a short tour and showed us an old telephone switchboard. You know, where they had to connect phone calls by wiring connections by hand.
Funny thing is , there were two features that already existed for a long time: voicemail and teleconference. When somebody was not reachable you could leave a message at the operator who would call the person at a later time. Also creating a teleconference call was easy but just wiring the different connections together. Pretty impressive 😎 .
Other functions that caught my attention: they checked if a line was busy by touching the connection in the switchboard with a plug: when they saw a small spark the connection was busy. Connecting somebody from Groningen to Maastricht worked a bit like a router through gateways: they connected to the next switchboard, they connected to the next switch board etc. Pretty failsafe since switches could easily fall while other routes could still be used. Though it did take half an hour to setup this connection, more than 8 hours for a foreign connection…