Thursday, 13 September 2007

MWeb'07 Event in Zaragoza

On 12 and 13 of this month of September my colleague José Montes and myself have been attending MWeb'07, a conference on the Mobile Web. As it might not get all the coverage it deserves beyond the Pyrenees, I'll post this summary in English. It's one of a week-long IT-fest in Zaragoza, Spain, the second CEDI Congress, a series of twenty-seven conferences on diverse areas of ICT. I thought it was a sign of the maturity of the Spanish ICT sector: a conference for Spanish computer people in their own language. The MWeb'07 sessions were attended by about 30 to 40 people, all, with the exception of invited guest Rotan Hanrahan, apparently from Spain. The city of Zaragoza is presently engaged in lots of building works for next year's Water and Sustainable Development Expo and the developments surrounding the AVE high speed train terminal.

MyMobileWeb is an open-source Java-based application for dynamically generating content tailored to different mobile devices, as a seperate mobile channel (not the One Web approach). MyMobileWeb was the subject of a paper by José Manuel Cantera of Telefónica R&D the second day. The first paper was about another project based on MyMobileWeb that uses RDF to allow the provision of information for form auto-completion, by authors from CTIC Foundation, Telefónica R&D, and Politécnica University, Madrid, given by Diego Berrueta. Filling out form fields is especially onerous for users of mobile devices with their limited keyboards. The data can be provided both server-side by site owners using what they have learned about the user, and client-side by users themselves.

Our friend Samuel Martín gave a talk on work he has been involved in at the Politécnica University, Madrid on developing methodologies for evaluating the accessibility of mobile Web applications.

Server-side monitoring of Web traffic can be used to select from among alternative strategies for adapting content for diverse mobile devices and to analyse the quality of service provided to them. Alberto Mijares of Fundación CTIC gave the talk about it. He also discussed the evolution CTIC's TAW automated tool and the extension from accessibility to MobileOK Basic.

Zaragoza City Council has been a pioneer in Spain in providing a single Web experience for users of its Web site. María Jesús Fernández and Ignacio (“Nacho”) Marín described the Zaragoza authority's long-term collaboration with CTIC Foundation. Nacho continued the second day, describing the way the work in Zaragoza is based on the proposed W3C Mobile Web Best Practices recommendation.

At the University of Salamanca a team has been developing a server-side adaptation application using open-source software and a Java-based mobile client to access the ClayNet e-Learning system, adapting content to suit the m-Learning environment for students on the move. The talk was by Miguel Ángel Conde.

On the subject of “Desktop Web or device independent design: starting points for the mobile Web” we finished off the afternoon, with an open discussion with an invited panel including former Technosite chief Enrique Varela, now independent consultant and head of R&D at ONCE Foundation.

A series of mobile applications used by government to reach out to citizens and to employees was the subject of a talk by Joan Borrás. My impression was that many of the applications for the public are push systems based on SMS messaging (pollen count alerts, bus wait times), while those that used Web technologies were stand-alone systems for employees rather than the real Web.

Telefónica is a member of the mTLD (.mobi) consortium, and Fernando Soriano gave a talk on the benefits of the .mobi top level domain.

Rotan Hanrahan of the Mobile Web Initiative gave an invited talk on Standardisation Efforts for the Ubiquitous Web which I thought was laudably clear and easy to understand.

The event ended on Thursday with a panel discussion on "Is One Web Possible?". María Jesús Fernández of Zaragoza City Council led the debate, with myself among the the panel members. The discussion drifted rather from the original subject, towards why the Mobile Web isn't being as successful as it might, and when one of the panel asked for a show of hands for "Who browses the Web on their mobile phones?" there was an embarrassing lack of movement.

Generally the two days gave us a good overview of what is happening in Spain at the moment. Although the large operators, with the exception of Telefónica, were conspicuous by their absence, as sponsors and participants, there are evidently a number of small and medium-sized companies and universities working on innovative applications, with many already successfully in production. Congratulations to Encarna Quesada Ruíz (W3C Spanish Office), Ignacio Marín (CTIC Foundation) and María Jesús Fernández (Zaragoza City Council) for organizing the event which was (I think) the first of it's kind in this country.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Green Light for Inredis R&D Project

The INREDIS Project (INterfaces for Relations between Environment and people with Disabilities), led by Technosite, has been approved for funding by Spain's Ministry of Industry (August 2007). The Project will develop basic technologies for communication and interaction channels between people with special needs and their technological environment.

The third call of the CENIT Programme approved funding for 16 projects, of which INREDIS was the only one in the ITC field. The CENIT Programme provides “subsidies for projects that develop stable public-private cooperation in research, development and innovation, in areas of strategic importance for the [Spanish] economy through the creation of strategic national consortia for technical research”.

The Project will be managed by a business partnership led by Technosite, and which also includes a number of other companies (all of them Spanish), La Caixa, Bankinter, Vodafone, Sabia, Alma Technologies, Ibermática, Inabemsa, Fundosa Accesibilidad, Moviquity, Mediavoice, Code Factory, TMT Factory, Iriscom, Smart Business and Ihman. The partners together are a diverse mix of large corporations, banks, technology companies, and public sector R&D bodies. The project has a budget of €24.1 million, funded half-and-half by the Spanish government and the partners themselves, and will be carried out 2007 to 2010.

The Project will carry out research on devices, security, interaction channels, communication protocols and systems interoperability and applications in several fields related to disability and inclusion of users with disability in the information society, including home and building automation, mobile communications, urban and local mobility, shopping, banking, and digital TV. The Project will develop protocols for interaction between assistive devices and technologies and the environment (interfaces based on psychology and physiology, emotional agents, haptic interfaces and smart textiles); a reference architecture for development of accessible software; integration of new television-based technologies; development of an adaptive universal interface for the digital home and the incorporation of new haptic technologies for cash dispensers.

The different technologies the project intends to produce should be an important advance in accessibility and improve the quality of life of people with disabilities.