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A new semantic model improves mobile telephone user experience

OEG's members have developed the mIO! ontology network. The aim of this network is to improve the mobile phone user experience, enabling the terminal to be used as a more reliable source of contextual information related to user tastes and preferences, social relations, services and environment.

The ontology network includes local information on the user (position, date), environment (temperature, luminosity), entertainment (theatre, sport), and social information (list of friends, agenda). It also includes information about the services that users can produce and/or consume (availability, price), as well as on the devices they use (battery, cover).

The mIO! ontology network was presented at the CIAO Workshop, part of the EKAW 2010 conference, recently held in Portugal. The research described in the presentation is part of the mIO! national research project.

The ontology network was developed by the researchers María Poveda-Villalón, Mari Carmen Suárez-Figueroa and Raúl García-Castro under the supervision of Asunción Gómez-Pérez.

What are ontologies?

An ontology is a semantic model representing the knowledge about a particular domain. As such, an ontology only represents the terms of the domain in question and their relations. Ontologies provide for communication and information exchange among different systems and agents. To take advantage of the potential of ontologies in terms of concept classification, reasoning about new knowledge, etc., ontologies should be exploited by one or more systems or agents.

Systems can apply ontologies for basically two purposes:

  1. use the ontology as a semantic data repository to deduce new knowledge or make classifications;
  2. use ontologies as a common vocabulary to improve communication among several systems and agents.

A knowledge of the user context is required to be able to configure, discover, run and improve different services of potential interest to mobile phone users. Ontologies are very useful for representing and storing this information and are the tool used in the mIO! project.

The mIO! scenario conceives users as being part of their environment: it assumes that the everyday decisions that they make depend on their surrounding context. How they interact with services that they access by mobile phone depends on a host of parameters that make up this context. There are three major sources for these parameters: the actual user, the services and the mobile devices.

One of the main innovations proposed by mIO! is the use of the mobile phone as the most reliable source of contextual information about the user. In effect, mobile phones are with their owners all the time, and they know their agenda, the last people they contacted, their approximate location, their consumer profiles, etc. On the other hand, mobile phones are also an ideal vehicle for gathering contextual information from other objects in the environment, as well as interpreting and processing this information according each user context with the aim of facilitating and improving the service use experience.

Central and subsidiary ontology

The mIO! ontology network consists of a central ontology (stored in the mIO.owl file) that interrelates a set of ontologies describing the different subdomains required to model the context: device, environment, source, interface, location, service provider, network, role, service, time, units of measurement and user. Existing ontologies, ontological design patterns and non-ontological resources have all been reused during the development of this project.

Key mIO! activities

The mIO! project activities are founded on five major pillars, all having the same objective: get users to interact, through their mobile devices, with ubiquitous services or services that they create and provide. These five major pillars match five technological lines:

  • Technologies for services created and provided by individuals using their mobile telephone
  • Access interface technologies enabling easy mobile phone use directly or as an extension
  • Environmental intelligence and user context information management technologies
  • Technologies for mobility services created and provided by businesses: from the viewpoint of the actual service and interaction with intelligent environmental devices
  • Inter-device communication and connectivity technologies.

These five technological lines have led to the definition of six workpackages: environmental intelligence and context management, access interface technologies, technological environment for mobile users, technological service environments, new technologies in intelligent devices and connectivity technologies.

mIO! consortium

The mIO! project led to the creation of a stable long-term research framework among the project partners and among the collaborating stakeholders and research centres with the aim of developing technology to produce to a steady line of services and products in the mobility field.

It is planned that this cooperation should go beyond the development of the actual project, continuing the relationship among businesses, and especially between each business and their partner research centres in the mIO! activities.

The consortium is composed of 10 businesses and a total of 19 public research centres. The businesses and research centres are geographically distributed across 12 different regions of Spain. Because of the need to analyse and research different technologies to achieve the project objectives, multidisciplinarity is a key feature of the project.

This article has been published in ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) TechNews. Link.



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