The Smart-Its Vision

We envision small-scale smart devices - "Smart-Its" - that can be attached to mundane everyday artefacts to augment these with a "digital self". These devices will be as cheap, as unobtrusive and as generic as state-of-the-art smart labels (i.e., RFID tags). In addition these devices will be enabled with perception of their environment, with peer-to-peer communication, and with customizable behaviour. Collections of such devices will be used to augment and interconnect entire families of artefacts, such as scattered personal belongings, toys in the playroom, and objects in collaboartive interactive experiences. To approach this vision, the project will develop device prototypes, integrating diverse sets of embedded sensors, microcontroller units, perceptual computing methods, and wireless radio.

Project Objectives

The objectives of the project are to develop a range of Smart-Its prototypes, to investigate systems of interconnected Smart-Its, and to study emerging functionality and collective awareness in a variety of scenarios and settings. The Smart-Its prototypes that we will build will vary in processing power, in sensory capabilities, and in energy consumption. This will enable us to study novel architectures for interconnected embedded systems, for example architectures that support dynamic delegation of computation from low-energy devices to more powerful devices in the vicinity. The Smart-Its prototypes and supporting service infrastructure will be developed in two generations to facilitate incremental improvement as we further our understanding of the research issues.

The project is specifically interested in exploration of collective perception and context-awareness. The model for collective perception is to give sensor-based awareness devices access to sensor-based context of other devices in a distributed system. In this model perception methods will operate on features exported locally through a generic context API, and remotely through a communication API. The model assumes a dynamic system in which collections of awareness devices change over time. This requires investigation of perception methods that scale with number of devices involved and that still function when a device becomes temporarily isolated from others.