Friday, March 19, 2010

A few BHP's on the Horizon

Fridays have been fun recently, last week wherecamp eu and this week the Horizon theme day in Nottingham. A few of last week's wherecamp crowd were there in cluding Gary Gale, Ed Parsons and Muki Haklay

Horizon is one of the hubs of the Digital Economy Research program
"Horizon will focus on the role of ‘always on, always with you’ ubiquitous computing technology in the Digital Economy.

Building on the Digital Britain plan, Horizon will investigate the technical developments needed if electronic information is to be controlled, managed and harnessed — for example, to develop new products and services — for societal benefit."

There is lot of interdisciplinary research going on here and some exciting ideas bubbling away in the program. I had a lot of fun talking to linguistics and ethics doctorate students on the Horizon program a few months ago and learnt a lot from them (apparently some of them even got a few ideas from me)

Some disjointed observations from my scribblings today:

There are three sectors that they are focussed on - Creative Industries, Transport and Service Industries and three challenges that they want to address - Innovation, Human Factors/Interfaces and Infrastructure. I like the idea that human factors and infrastructure overlap.

With RTK it is now possible to get down to 1mm accuracy with professional GPS, research is now underway to make this level of accuracy available on mobile devices. I don't know why we need that level of accuracy. A few tiresome comments about mobile services being find your nearest Starbucks prompted Gary to have a little rant (he seems to hate 'bucks) but we'll forgive the academics for their quirky sense of humour (I know I am humorously challenged at times). Some interesting thoughts on internal positioning (within buildings) and the need for positioning without infrastructure (need to revisit this and my old article on vector one)

After a lot of slides up comes the guy in jeans with the mac to do a demo of a car sharing application that they knocked together in 6 weeks - "contextual computing and socially mediated real time car sharing" which in English meant hooking up with people at a meeting or in your office to share journeys. Once you understand the challenges in social, human factors and technology plus the combnination of routing and preference/choice algorithms you realise that this is one of those BHP's (the best acronym of the day, read to the end for explanation). And ignoring all advice about doing live demos, particularly of a proof of concept we get a group of people using web browsers, iphones and SMS all joining a car sharing scheme as passengers or drivers and getting routes and pairings suggested. Neat.

The sessions on privacy were some of the best discussions of the subject that I have heard in the last year. I know the cat is out f the bag theory has many adherents but it doesn't cut it for me and this was some sensible thought about trust, and reasons for sharing your personal data and issues about who controls it and ..... I hope that Jeremy Morley gets the slides up on slideshare soon because they really are worth reading through. The tech solution proposed "Personal Data Stores" in the cloud sounded like a very duff idea to me but what do I know?

After lunch we pondered whether Crowds can be authoritative? Muki Haklay updated his research on the coverage and accuracy of Open Street Map with some good motivational research based on a survey. I still have doubts about whether a map that has gaps really is good enough but then if you aren't interested in Newcastle (where apparently coverage is limited) who cares? I wonder whether people will still be contributing in 5 or 10 years or whether we will have found less human intensive ways to gather and maintain the data. Glen Hart of OS finished the session with a somewhat tongue in cheek view of crowd sourcing and its relevance to OS - bottom line is yes but you need to understand what you are getting (I agree with that).

A good agenda, lots of interesting conversations. I hope there are more Horizon events soon.

Oh in case you wanted to know a BHP is a

Bloody Hard Problem - I might be using that one a few times now I know it.

Goes well with a SLAGIATT (answers to @stevenfeldman or via comments here)

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