The Elusive Ubiquitous Information System and m-Links

Abstract

A basic objective of Weiser’s Ubiquitous Computing vision is ubiquitous information access: being able to utilize any content or service (e.g., all the rich media content and services on the WWW), using devices that are always “at hand” (embedded in environments or portable), over a network with universal coverage and adequate bandwidth. Although much progress has been made, the ideal remains elusive. This paper examines the inter-relations among three dimensions of ubiquitous information systems: (1) ubiquitous content; (2) ubiquitous devices; and (3) ubiquitous networking. We use the space defined by these dimensions to reflect on the tradeoffs designers make and to chart some past and current information systems. Given this background, we present m-Links (mobile links), a new system that takes aim at the elusive ideal of ubiquitous information. Our approach builds on wireless web phone technologies because of their trend towards ubiquitous devices and networking (the second and third dimensions). Yet such very small devices sacrifice usability as rich media Internet terminals (the first dimension). To offset this limitation, we propose a new information access model for very small devices that supports a much wider range of content and services than previously possible. We have built this system with an emphasis on open systems extensibility and describe its design and implementation.