Section: New Results

Design of a framework for distributed pervasive environments

Participants : Adrien Capaine, Yoann Maurel [contact] , Frédéric Weis.

Pervasive environment brings into play complex interactions between a large number of heterogeneous entities: computing units executing third-party applications delivering multiple services to users, with various (sometimes conflicting) requirements, based on the information provided by dynamically (un)available smart object or sensors. The development of pervasive application is consequently hard and must be supported by architectures and frameworks that propose solution to manage the heterogeneity, to organize the interaction of distributed entities, to support the dynamic discovery of the entities, to ensure the privacy of collected data and inferred context, to organize and structure information sharing, and to enforce access control over data and entities.

To alleviate the development of such application (see section 3.4 ), we worked on a distributed pervasive environment made of several processing nodes (or gateway) managing interacting Smart Spaces (i.e a room, a corridor etc.). A Smart Space contains one or more nodes that coordinate to provide services to users. A node is a low cost computing unit with constrained performances. Each node is responsible for the management of entities and services available in their close proximity: they dynamically discover available devices and source of information, computes contextual information and offer services to nearby users. Nodes are organized hierarchically: in each space one supervisor node is responsible for coordination between nodes (e.g. managing conflicting requirements and enforcing global policies) and communication with neighboring Smart Spaces. The whole environment (a Smart Building or a Smart Home) is controlled by a master node that distributes policy between Smart Spaces to provide global services (e.g. global energy management). Data are stored and processed by nodes as close as possible to the users in order to enforce data privacy (see section 2.1 ).

Each node supports the execution of several services and application. To help the development of these services, applications are built on top of a framework (Matriona) running on each gateways.

Matriona proposes a unified representation of the concepts manipulated by applications in order to hide the heterogeneity of technologies to the application. We rely on the concept of resource. A Matriona's resource is quite similar to a REST resource but is not identical: HTTP protocol is only used for remote call; the structure of a resource is constrained; a resource can be dynamically discovered; it can provide notification (PUSH operation); it is uniquely identified in the environment; it is any object used or shared by applications, by bridges, or by the system itself: a device, a room, a platform, a user or a contextual information; it is implemented as a standard object and has a type specified by its interfaces (annotated Java interface). Types describe the data and the operations on resources. CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) and PUSH operations are used to represent the semantic of operations. Specifying the semantic of operations allows to operate some generic processing (e.g. gathering all the information provided by a resource) on resources without knowing their types.


Matriona enables dynamic discovery between nodes and inter-platform communication between the applications and resources. The platforms automatically discovers other platforms using a discovery mechanism. Each platform enables the discovery and the use of its resources to other platforms' applications. Remote resources are using exactly the same API as their internal counterparts: using remote resources is completely transparent to the application. The data is serialized / deserialized automatically by the platform during the call. Calling remote resources induces a performance cost equivalent to the use of a traditional REST resource.


Matriona allows to dynamically add new properties and new behaviors to a resource using decorators. Resources are built using multiple layers in the same way as "Russian dolls". Each layer is responsible for implementing a specific behavior such as retrieving, conversion operation or adding new properties (e.g. localization). For instance, the implementation of a thermometer resource will consist of 1) a core layer providing standard information (id, date of creation, the groups to which it belongs); 2) a protocol layer able to communicate with the real devices; 3) a conversion layer (Kelvin to Celsius). The application interacts with the top layer that exposes all or part of information and treatments offered by lower layers. While some layers are static (part of the resource declaration) and cannot be removed, most can be added afterward by the applications. It creates a virtual resource composed of the original resource and the new layers. This virtual resource can be used and discovered as any other resources.


Matriona allows to organize the information. Resource may reference other resources, for example the localization of a "thermometer resource" refers to the resource representing the room in which it is located. The value of the property is the id of the referenced resource. This allows applications to easily find resources and their interactions. It is also possible to create composite resources using aggregation mechanisms provided by the framework. The virtual resource can be used directly by applications as any other resources.


Matriona provides a basic language queries. Applications use resources directly or send queries to the platform registry. The query language allows to apply filters and to aggregate data on available resources. A request is represented by a specific URL. For instance, the mean temperature of thermometers in the whole meeting rooms of a building can be obtained using the URL /*/*/$ location/meeting_room/temperature!mean . The query language can be extended by providing new decorators and new filters.


Matriona provides access management: each resources belongs to one or many groups. The groups are defined when the resource is created or during its lifecycle by the owner of the resource. Groups gather applications that share the same permissions on access resources. Groups are managed by a "group owner" that can limit members permissions. Permissions describe the ability of an application to read, write, update, delete, manage or lock a resource. Resource locking avoids conflicting requests to be performed by different applications. Locks are given to applications for a fixed period of time. A resource can always be unlocked by the platform itself or by "critical" applications (e.g. emergency fire alarm, see section 7.2 ).


Matriona allows applications to extend resource properties and to share these meta-information with others. Each application can add new information to a given resource. Tagged information are available only for the application and its group. Meta-information are stored by the platform and associated to the resource until the latter is destroyed. This mechanism allows application to easily share information on the resource they used. For instance, this can be used to retrieve previously used resources or to rate the quality of service provided by a given resource. For the application, meta-information are part of the resource. It is then possible for an application to only use resources that have been approved by other applications of their group. This mechanism can also be used by application to add some task-relevant information (e.g. a medical application can tag resources that have been used by a patient).