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Ambient assistance for travellers


Imagine wireless context tags mounted inside shop windows, furniture or beside statues supplying content to your PDA as you walk through an airport or an old city centre. Such is the vision of ambient intelligence recently tested by IST-project AMBIESENSE.

The 30-month project, which runs until October 2004, has developed a system of context tags linked with digital content. Placed at strategic locations in a given environment, the tags communicate information to users relevant to their surroundings remotely from a content provider via Bluetooth or WLAN.

The main user sites chosen for testing the AMBIESENSE system are the Oslo Airport and the old city centre of Seville.

According to project manager Hans Myrhaug, tests from Oslo indicate that airport travellers find the system useful. "The test persons like the idea of getting context-aware and relevant information into their hands both as they sit down to relax, and as they are wandering around in the airport," says Myrhaug. "They appreciate being notified with information relevant to the location and the local shops, gates, and service desks that they encounter or pass by - especially in places in which they have never been before, and are new to."

Tests also revealed that people desired information about the wide variety of services available at the airport, and even showed interested in receiving advertisement and special offers from the shops and the airline companies. Additionally, many users wanted to switch between just receiving information automatically to actively browsing for information on the screen, wanting to be entertained by the system while waiting for a flight, and wanting the system to help them save time when they are rushing.

In the old city centre of Seville in Spain, meanwhile, context tags have been installed in the local shops, restaurants, historic sites, and hotels for user test purposes. Information focused on the local culture and history, where to shop, eat, stay, sleep, and how to walk around to experience the city pop up on the mobile as the people walk past them.

Myrhaug says users found it exciting to suddenly find new information on the screen (that can be introduced either with sound, vibration, or appear silently) just by walking around. He also notes that users read much of the content and appreciated its quality, and were happy to specify their personal interest and receive information relevant to the interests.

"The user testing and evaluation in the AMBIESENSE project has shown that both the airport and city centre applications are found useful and entertaining for people to use," says Myrhaug. "With the AMBIESENSE context tags and its supporting technological platform it is possible to create new applications and services within the European traveller and tourist sector which can strengthen its competitiveness."

Hans Myrhaug
SINTEF Telecom and Informatics,
N-7465 Trondheim
Tel: +47-73-593000
Source: Based on information from AMBIESENSE.

Tara Morris | IST Results
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