Section: New Results

Building an extensible information sharing mechanism

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

Context aware applications adapt their behavior based on information they can collect on their surrounding environment. Most of these data are provided by third-party software, sensors or computed by the application itself. A striking challenge facing the building of comprehensive pervasive system is the lack of integration between the different services provided by third parties. In this project, we intend to study and to provide mechanisms to enhance information sharing between applications and more specifically to augment information on the surrounding environment. The idea is to endow applications with the capability to increase or augment information on the physical world they are interacting with and to retrieve and share these data seamlessly depending on their location. Such mechanism aims at providing a complementary source of information in order to improve the process of choosing the best service/information provider and to help them keeping additional information on physical resources such as environment specific configuration (e.g., calibration data).

The idea of augmenting information on the physical world is not new. It has been done for centuries in the real world. For instance, the Little Thumb sowed pebbles to find his way just as hikers use cairns so as not to get lost. In daily life, people use sticky notes on pieces of hardware or objects to keep relevant information on their use or capabilities. Applied to IT, such ideas have been pushed by the augmented reality domain where users can access a personalized view of the real world that helps them to carry out their activities. Although this idea has already been implemented in some ad hoc solutions (to exchange ratings for instance), we aim to provide a more generic solution. Our solution must be applicable to nowadays devices and applications with little adjustment to the underlying architectures. It should then be flexible enough to deal with the lack of standards in the domain without imposing architectural choices. Such lack of standard is very common in IT and mainly due to well known factors : (1) for technical reasons, developers tends to think that their “standard” are better suited for their current use-case, or/and (2) for commercial reasons companies want to keep a closed siloed system to capture their users, or/and (3) because the domain is still new and evolving and no standard as emerged yet, or/and finally (4) because the problem is too complex to be standardized and most proposed standards tend to be bloated and hard to use.

We are currently implementing these ideas by designing and experimenting two architectures/prototypes:

  • Matriona is a global distributed framework developed on top of OSGi. This project has been described in more details in the previous activity report. It is meant to be a comprehensive framework for exposing devices as REST-like resources. Resources functionalities can be extended through the mean of decorators. The system also provides access control mechanisms. The main interest of matriona concerning the information enrichment is its ability to support dynamic extension of resource meta-information by application and to provide means to share these meta-information with others. It implements the concept of group of interest with access control on meta-information. The concepts described in Matriona are in the process to be published.

  • Little Thumb Registry (LTReg) is an independent resource registry that provides the same enrichment capabilities than Matriona but impose less constraints on the architecture of application. Although the prototype is operational, Matriona does not comply with the principle advocated herebefore: it supposes the use of a pivot technology (REST) and assumes that application developers will develop their application on top of on OSGi based platform. The idea behind LTReg is to decouple the registry from the framework and to provide a registry in the manner of Consul (https://www.consul.io/) with meta-information enrichment and sharing mechanisms. By focussing only on the discovery mechanism and information sharing, LTReg imposes fewer constraints on application and comply more with the goal of being ready to use in actual application. This is still a work in progress.