Sharing of Context-Aware, Public Interest Information or Knowledge
through Always-on Services
Monica Vlădoiu
Departament of Informatics, PG University of Ploieşti Romania, Bd. Bucureşti, Nr. 39, Ploieşti, Romania
Zoran Constantinescu
ZealSoft Ltd., Str. Tg. Neamţ, Nr. 60, Bucureşti, Romania
Keywords: User communities, social networks, social web, always-on services, context-aware information and
knowledge, location-based information and knowledge, information and knowledge sharing.
Abstract: ePH aims to be a framework around a user-centred digital library core that stores regional information and
knowledge and that boosts a self-developing community of transnational users around it. The digital
library's content will be accessible through always-on context-aware services (location-based included). The
users can get it or enhance it, according to their location: at home or office by using a computer, on road
with a specific GPS-based device in the car, or off-line, off-road via mobile phone. The digital library will
contain: public interest information (drugstores, hospitals, general stores, gas stations, entertainment places,
restaurants, travel/accommodation, weather, routes etc.), historical/touristic/cultural information and
knowledge, users' personal "war stories" (tracks, touristic tours, impressions, photos, short videos and so
on), and users’ additions, comments or updates to the content. This content will come alive to ePH users
based on their contextual interest (e.g. geo-location). Our plan is to develop (as open source) the ePH
system for our county of origin and to provide an easy-to-use how-to recipe to clone it for other regions.
Our world is continually becoming more and more
complex. New information is added every day to the
overall body of existing knowledge. We may say
that knowledge is the new global asset – so people
have to be continually learning, crafting innovative
solutions to changing circumstances, staying
informed and responsive. Not only communications
change in this new millennium, but also our
perceptual response to the world in which we live,
our construct of reality, and the nature of
knowledge. Through the integration of satellite
navigation receivers in mobile phones and in other
means of communications, location-based services
and personal mobility can be supported.
User location is an important dimension in this new
data-service world – it has the potential to make
mobile services more relevant to users as
information is adjusted to the context (for example,
weather information is adjusted to the region
one is in) (Schiller and Voisard, 2004). Moreover,
the information presented to users should be tailored
to their context, being it personal or environmental.
In case of a context-aware tourist guide, personal
context can include the visitor's interests (e.g.
history, architecture), the visitor's current location,
attractions already visited and any refreshment
preferences one might have. Environmental context
could include: the time of day, or the opening times
of attractions (Cheverst et al, 2000).
Furthermore, wireless has the potential to
transform the e-services in three directions:
accessibility, alerting and averting, and updating
(Lemon et al, 2002). The increasing use of mobile
terminals and infrastructure is making possible to
communicate and access information from any
location at any time (Hirsch, 2006). The
convergence of mobile and web service technologies
adoiu M. and Constantinescu Z. (2008).
FRAMEWORK FOR BUILDING OF A DYNAMIC USER COMMUNITY (EPH) - Sharing of Context-Aware, Public Interest Information or Knowledge
through Always-on Services.
In Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems - SAIC, pages 73-78
DOI: 10.5220/0001678600730078
enables and accelerates the development of new
conceptual models for services (e.g. tracking
applications) (Schiller and Voisard, 2004).
In many circumstances, information and
knowledge are socially constructed. The IT mediated
communication has permitted complex social
networks to become a dominant form of social
organization (Wellman, 1999). That is why
emerging communities of users will play an
important role in construction of our evolving
Information and Knowledge Society.
We present here ePH, a framework for building
of a dynamic user community that share public
interest information and knowledge, which is
accessible through always-on context-aware services
(location-based included). The main objectives of
this project are to build a user-centred Digital
Library (DL) that stores regional information or
knowledge and to boost a self-developing
community of transnational users around it. The
DL's content will be accessible through contextual
services that are always available. In the first stage,
the digital library will contain public interest
information (drugstores, hospitals, general stores,
gas stations, entertainment places, restaurants, travel
and accommodation, weather, routes etc.), historical
or cultural knowledge, and touristic information
about a particular county. The ePH services will be
personalized and context-aware (geo-location,
around a situation, an idea or an entity etc.).
The core digital libray will be user-centred. The
users will be allowed to manipulate freely the
content for their personal interest. They can get
(access) it or enhance (contribute to) it, according to
their location: at home or office by using a
computer, on road by using a specific GPS-based
(Global Positioning System) device in the car, or
off-line/off-road via mobile phone.
The users can make additions, comments, or
updates to the DL’s content. The user-generated
content will be personalized, as users can upload
their personal "war stories" (tracks, touristic tours,
impressions, geo-tagged photos, short videos/audios,
impressions etc.). More, the whole ePH system will
subscribe to the users’ needs, goals and abilities.
Our challenging goal is to ensure the continuity
of the service after the project work will be finished.
This is feasible by creating a vivant community that
will “survive” to project development ending time.
Moreover, the developers aim to start their own
community, as they will provide both a quick how-to
recipe for building similar “alive” frameworks and
all related software as open source.
The existent wireless devices (mobile phone, GPS,
PDA etc.) give their users access to some public
interest information, but that information is static
and sparse, and the updates to it are rare, if any.
The commercial off-the-shelf navigation systems
(GARMIN GPS Navigator or similar) allow the
browsing of some public interest information that is
uploaded prior to the selling. Therefore the user is
by no means always connected to a comprehensive,
evolving repository of such information. On the
contrast, the ePH digital library will be continuously
growing with content from both developers and
users. Therefore the content will be far richer and
dynamic than in commercial wireless devices.
Moreover, those systems keep their user isolated
from other users that utilize the same kind of device,
and there is no communication thread between them
whatsoever. With ePH, the users will be always able
to communicate with others connected to the system,
and to exchange general or private information with
each other, so they will have a sense of being part of
something alive. Further, the information and
knowledge that ePH offer to its users can also be
gathered and seamlessly provided from other
publicly available sources. With ePH, the user can
be continuously on- (in car, office, home, mobile
phone), so the service will be always available.
As for other folksonomic undertakings, like
Flickr or YouTube, they have as their main goal the
users’ entertainment, ePH aims to more than that, as
the content of the core DL intends to be useful to its
users in various directions: access to general or
particular information and knowledge, instruction,
education, traffic safety, entertainment, selection of
the best service in several domains (e.g. in tourism,
hospitals and clinics, schools, restaurants, flights and
so on), etc. Compared to other websites that use
folksonomic tagging, such as, which is a
social bookmarking web service for storing, sharing,
and discovering web bookmarks, ePH has the
advantage of being supported by a digital library.
This is a focused collection of digital objects, along
with methods for manipulation of the collection. The
ePH’s digital library accords equal weight to user,
for access, retrieval and modification, and to
developer, playing a librarian role, for organization,
selection, and maintenance of the collection.
Metadata management will play an important role on
increasing the searching and browsing facilities
offered by the ePH’s core digital library.
As it has been shown in The Strategic Agenda
for Research in the Area of ICT for Mobility within
ICEIS 2008 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
the FP7 programme, “there is a strong need to
develop harmonized, interoperable, pan-European
mobility services, context-aware, with wide
availability to users and their interfaces”. Moreover,
“seamless integration of Nomadic Devices into
vehicle’s Human Machine Interface provide for high
customer value, if data can be exchanged between
home, car and portable use”. Our work tries to
subscribe to these objectives and challenges.
The ePH framework consists mainly from the core
digital library, called ePHLib, and the communities
that gravitate around it, i.e. the developers and the
users, as it can be seen from Figure 1. The
communications server provides the support for the
always-on kind of service, regardless of the place
where the user is when s/he needs that service (at
home or office, on road, or elsewhere). The location
server makes available the right service according to
the location. The project benefits significantly from
using, a geo-spatial search
engine we have developed (using Google Maps).
According to the brief description of the ePH
framework, the operational objectives we pursue are:
development of a working model for always-on
services in the context of digital content use and
user communities. This model will take into
account the challenges and opportunities that all
actors involved in services have to face
nowadays. The model will subscribe to novel
models of social and blended networking that
support the formation of sustainable cooperative
communities. What is of major importance here
is to understand the psychology of users in such
systems, what influences them to join and
support a particular community or to behave
altruistically or cooperatively;
setting up a methodology for implementation of
this model so that it can become viable in
real-world experiences, as the ePH system will
have to respond to day-to-day problems.
These can be in a large range from virtual tours
in a selected region with instructional or
educational purposes, as well as with
entertainment or informational goals, to issues
of e-safety in transport (let us imagine a
scenario taking place in a remote mountain
region, in which the fuel is going down rapidly -
the ePH could display on user’s car device
where the nearest gas station is);
construction of the core user-centred digital
library that will contain public interest, regional
information and knowledge, and make it always
available to its possible users (general public,
tourists, business persons, students, etc.) by its
support for always-on services, according to the
proposed working model. Its content must be
reliable, accurate, relevant, comprehensive, and
free to personal use. The most appropriate
architecture and functionality for this digital
library will be pursued. Furthermore, users'
personal "war stories" can be uploaded, so
ePHLib will have a personalized “face”;
creation of an architecture for connecting
various systems together in a multi-service
overlay network - here connectivity and data
exchange issues between car, home/office and
mobile phone have to be solved;
development or adaptation of a specific GPS
car device to provide the ePH’s specific
functionality, which, in a nutshell, is, to support
geo-location information providing and
acquisition. For example, the car device can
simultaneously show the road map and
highlight different points of interest
(information about the closest gas station,
pharmacy, hospital, accommodation etc.,
historical sites or touristic sights), or provide
access to other users' stories about that geo-
location. The user can also record his/her own
impressions, or geo-tagged photos, etc. to be
uploaded at a later time to the ePHLib (when
the bandwidth will allow it). S/he may also get
in touch with other on-line ePH users who are,
at that moment, in the same geographic region
(in a vehicle-to-vehicle way). More, the ePH
system will be able to select and present the
user with various points of interest within a
given area (for instance, the drugstores or the
general stores). The development of this device
will be very challenging, as it will be
innovative. More, the research has to determine
the best ways to transmit information to the
driver, so s/he will not get disturbed, while s/he
is driving. In order to help the spreading of
ePHLib’ use, the research and development
have been tailored so that the device is low cost;
subscribing this work to the evolution of
GALILEO, which will be Europe’s global
navigation satellite system, and will provide a
Interest Information or Knowledge through Always-on Services
Figure 1: The ePH framework.
highly accurate, guaranteed GPS service, under
civilian control. Thus, the project work can be a
significant step to use technology (GPS in this
case) to return value to the society;
project progress will consider at any stage its
potential for future maintenance and
development, and will have the work evolving
under this requirement, so each stage will be
documented properly. More, it is our intention
to provide an easy-to-use recipe to clone it for
other regions (including future work ideas and
implementation hints). Perfective maintenance
and evolution of this work is envisaged to be in
direction of (1) processing the users’ feedback
and improving both the working model for
always-on services and the DL’s content
accordingly, and of (2) consolidation of a
community of enthusiastic users that will
contribute to extend the core DL to a
comprehensive public interest DL and to clone
it for other regions;
making of the significant partial/final project
results available to their potential users - this
will be done by pursuing a consistent
dissemination strategy through specific means:
ePH’s portal, advertisements in active specific
mailing lists, papers, presentations, or
demonstrations to conferences, symposiums, or
workshops, or in journals. Direct presentations
in interested communities are also envisaged.
In addition, a tree-like dissemination structure is
envisaged through the users from the
community, in a “words of mouth” manner (on-
line with ePH or off-line). Moreover, the user
on road
Communication server
Location server
public interest
information and knowledge
users’ content
ICEIS 2008 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems
support will be constant and consistent, both
from the portal developers and other users, in
order to favour the enrolling within the ePH
community and to feel the benefits of it.
Our research and development methodology is
focused on doing a work, which results will be
sound, with respect to viable theories and best
practice in each of the field involved. As the work
from the project is multi- and inter-disciplinary, it is
expected to promote cross-fertilization of models
and specific methods from the fields involved. This
can foster synergies and generate new ideas in all the
concerned areas.
There is a need for always-on services that offer
personalised information and knowledge to users,
which should provide a seamless user experience,
irrespective of the terminal or communication
network. More and more information about our
environment is available with real-time updates.
High added value for user is expected if information
can be exchanged between home, car and portable
use. There is a strong need to develop harmonised,
interoperable, pan-European mobility services,
context aware, with reliable contents and wide
availability to users and their interfaces (European
Commission, 2006).
The combination of various services make up a
service-oriented architecture (Barry, 2003).
Location-dependent services form an important
group of mobile information services to be included
in this architecture. There are two kind of such
services: user requested and triggered. Former are
typically information services, while later include
emergency services, fleet tracking, tracing
containers and so on (Hjelm, 2002). ePH is devised
to offer both kind of such services.
While we, as developers, try to provide users
with the best services, we must remember to move
beyond structure and topology and start focusing on
the dynamics that take place along the network links.
To describe society we must dress the links of the
social network with actual dynamical interactions
between people (Barabasi, 2002).
Research in a number of academic fields has
shown that social networks operate on many levels,
from families up to the level of nations, and play a
critical role in determining the way problems are
solved, organizations are run, and the degree to
which individuals succeed in achieving their goals.
Online social networks for communities of people
who share interests and activities, or who are
interested in exploring the interests and activities of
others are primarily web based and provide a
collection of various ways for users to interact, such
as chat, messaging, email, video, voice chat, file
sharing, blogging, discussion groups, and so on.
Users can benefit significantly by interacting
with a like-minded community and finding a channel
for their energy and giving. The main types of social
networking services are those that contain
directories of some categories (such as former
classmates), are meant to connect with friends
(usually with self-description pages), and
recommended systems linked to trust. Popular
methods now combine many of these, with MySpace
and Facebook being the most widely used in the
anglosphere (comScore, 2007). By July of 2006,
over 140 different social networking sites were
available on the web, with an estimated 200 million
user profiles – even considering that many people
register on a multiple sites or register on a single site
with multiple personas, there remain tens of millions
of people who are connecting daily with true or
e-acquaintances and strangers (Anklam, 2005).
The most visible change from entering the
Connected Age is that we suddenly have access to
our peers, our friends, our colleagues and family
members. Our communities now become ever
present, so modern people are able to draw on the
communities for assistance, information and support.
One learns to search, share, and interact in a new
way (Ahonen and Moore, 2005). Therefore, the
social networks work as pools of heterogeneous
information sources that are sometimes useful and
influential for decision making, job changes, and so
on (Haythornthwaite and Wellman, 2002).
More, given that social networks connect people
at low cost, this can be also beneficial for
entrepreneurs and businesses looking to expand their
contact base. These networks often act as a customer
relationship management tool for companies selling
products and services. Companies can also use
social networks for advertising in the form of
banners and text ads. Since businesses operate
globally, social networks can make it easier to keep
in touch with contacts around the world.
Learning to market to the social web requires
that marketers, instead of continuing as broadcasters,
to become aggregators of customer communities.
They should participate in, organize, and encourage
social networks to which people want to belong. The
social web is the online place where people with
common interest can gather to share thoughts,
comments, and opinions (Weber, 2007).
Interest Information or Knowledge through Always-on Services
The research and development of the ePH
framework is multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary
and tightly combines models and methods from
various fields: Social and Blended Networking of
User Communities, Digital Libraries, Context-aware
Services, Intelligent Vehicles Systems, Geographical
Information Systems, User and Human Interfaces,
Virtual Reality, Electronics, Networks, Data
Acquisition, Software Engineering, Instruction and
Education. During this work, new, practical ways,
for boosting a vivant user community have to be
devised in order to improve the dissemination
process and to make real use of the ePH’s content.
The current stage of this project is as follows: the
geospatial engine provides the basic
functionality that is needed for ePH, the GPS car
device, called gipix-102, is in prototype testing
phase, and the vital cores of both the communication
server and location server are functional as well.
In parallel with these technical achievements, the
working model for always-on services, in the
context of digital content use and user communities,
is under development. The dissemination process
has already begun through making the site
known to various kinds of potential users.
This work can prove the potential to achieve
wide deployment of public interest services and to
provide for higher mobility of people and increased
quality of life, through the provision of accessible
and reliable information services. Users can benefit
from utilizing the ePH framework facilities in
various ways:
easy-access to useful information or knowledge
for anyone, at anytime, from anywhere, by
using several at hand means;
easier, safer, quicker, more informed and
increased quality services (medical, schools,
tourism, stores, gas stations, entertainment
places, restaurants, travel and accommodation
and so on);
bringing historical, geographical and cultural
information or knowledge to people in a more
attractive and appealing way, given the interest
and energy that people spend using PCs and
potential to boost a virtual community in which
people who are interested in some particular
topic can share information, impressions, hints,
photos etc;
make people more aware of the advantages of
using IT for everyday life;
The ePH project integrates the advanced Information
Society Technologies in everyday environments,
focuses on both individuals and communities,
aspires to have a high social and educational impact,
and, hopefully, to be a small step forward to the
construction of e-Europe.
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ICEIS 2008 - International Conference on Enterprise Information Systems