We all use social networks on our private or professional lives. But how many people in our networks are really relevant to us? How can we identify the best person to talk to on a given subject? How can we rapidly connect and network with this person? This was an aspect of the EU’s three-and-a-half-year SOCIETIES project: to create so-called Community Smart Spaces (CSS) where members with highly-focused interests can connect, physically meet up, share problems and resources, trying together to find solutions in just about any area of life.
EU LEADS WAY IN ‘INTERNET OF THINGS’ RESEARCH
SOCIETIES researchers have been working on pervasive computing – known as the ‘Internet of Things’ - for over a decade now. An earlier EU ICT research project, PERSIST, looked at personal smart spaces and how individuals could connect to technology in their homes and offices through one device. ‘The obvious problem is, what happens when one or more personal smart spaces get together? That led us down the route of Community Smart Spaces and into the SOCIETIES project,’ explained coordinator Kevin Doolin, of Waterford Institute of Technology’s Telecommunications Software and Systems Group (TSSG) in Ireland.
The partners set about building a platform for matching people, resources and services, and discovered innovative areas where they could help users network in a more focused and private way. They identified eight of these as core innovations: Learning (about users); Preferences (specialized community templates); User Intent (helping users achieve their goals); Community Orchestration (identifying who and what are relevant); Community Context (benefiting from crowd ‘wisdom’); Location (pinpointing who’s nearby); Trust (stricter filtering mechanisms); Privacy (integrating privacy into software development, rather than adding it on later).
Three user groups were chosen to trial services based on the innovations. For example, computer students at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh tested individual Personal Agenda and MyTV apps and the lecturer-questioning AskFree. Then, on a group basis, they participated in Browsing ‘races’, collaborative quiz games and organized meet-ups using a location app based on ‘geo-fencing’. The SOCIETIES platform was found to be robust and reliable in use, with very little downtime, and able to respond to the inventiveness of the students, running multiple services simultaneously with multiple users.
In another trial, researchers took SOCIETIES to the European Commission’s 4000-strong ICT 2013 conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, and tried out “Relevance”, a conference schedule, planner and networking app, customizing it for the event. “Relevance” leveraged the Community Orchestration innovation, using project algorithms and user-defined keywords to enable participants to decide which presentations to attend and find people they wanted to meet in the ”geo-fenced” environment. The feedback from users at the conference was that there was a significant interest in having an application which reduces “social clutter”. Indeed, six other conference organizers present expressed an interest in having such an app at their events, too. This led to a company, Fuseami Ltd. being spun off from the project to exploit the potential. .
A third trial involved rescue workers in a forest fire simulation in Germany. They wore ‘iJackets’ to connect with one another and a remote disaster management center.
SOCIETIES PROJECT SPIN-OFF LAUNCHES IN IRELAND
Fuseami is launching its conference networking app based on ‘Relevance’ in November 2014. The app is based on intelligent professional profile matching. Its core innovation is a Relevance Orchestration Engine, which fuses a number of complex algorithms to provide each user with a similarity score for each potential connection, taking into account education, job title, areas of interest and key words based on who you would like to meet. TSSG says the app will allow users to ‘discover, connect and engage with relevant business contacts.’
‘The whole idea is to cut through all the social media clutter and allow people, if they go to an event or any location, to log into the Fuseami app, via LinkedIn, and find people relevant to them,’ explained Kevin. ‘It’s not going to go out and find your friends; the idea is to find people you don’t already know. It’s about making networking relevant.’
The SOCIETIES platform contains a wealth of architecture descriptions, context management systems, privacy controls, and other specifications which are available for download to any developer, on a whole or module basis.
SOCIETIES, consisting of 15 partners in 10 countries, ran from October 2010 to April 2014 and received 10.6 million euros of funding from FP7.