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The next challenges for situation recognition

As a pervasive systems research community we’re doing quite well at automatically identifying simple things happening in the world. What is the state of the art, and what are the next steps?

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Sensor and sense-ability

I’m talking at the BCS Edinburgh branch tonight about sensing and sensor-driven systems.

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How to publish an unpopular book?

I’ve been thinking about writing a book. It won’t be a popular success — trust me — but that raises the question of how I should publish it.

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Monads: a language designer’s perspective

Monads are one of the hottest topics in functional programming, and arguably simplify the construction of a whole class of systems. Which makes it surprising that they’re so opaque and hard to understand to people who’s main experience is in imperative or object-oriented languages.

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Contextual processes

Context-aware systems are intended to follow and augment user-led, real-world processes. These differ somewhat from traditional workflow processes, but share some characteristics. Might the techniques used to implement business processes via web service orchestration fit into the context-aware landscape too?

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Languages for extensible virtual machines

Many languages have an underlying virtual machine (VM) to provide a more portable and convenient substrate for compilation or interpretation. For language research it’s useful to be able to generate custom VMs and other language tools for different languages. Which raises the question: what’s the appropriate language for writing experimental languages?

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Impressions of Pervasive 2010

I’ve spent this week at the Pervasive 2010 conference on pervasive computing, along with the Programming Methods for Mobile and Pervasive Systems workshop I co-arranged with Dominic Duggan. Both events have been fascinating.

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The only computer science book worth reading twice?

I was talking to one of my students earlier, and lent him a book to read over summer. It was only after he’d left that I realised  that — for me at any rate — the book I’d given him is probably the most seminal work in the whole of computer science, and certainly the book that’s most influenced my career and research interests.

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Forth for sensors?

Most sensor systems are programmed using C: compact and well-known, but low-level and tricky to get right when things get compact and complex. There have been several proposals for alternative languages from across the programming language research spectrum. I haven’t heard anyone mention Forth, though, and it’s worth considering — even if only as a target for other languages.

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Programming with limited certainty

Sensor networks are all about uncertainty: if the sensor says it’s 20°C  out there, then it might be 20°C plus-or-minus half a degree or so (limited precision); or it might be some different temperature, and the sensor’s just reported a duff value for some reason (limited accuracy). By contrast, computers most definitely aren’t about uncertainty, a fact enshrined in the famous maxim “garbage in, garbage out”. What does this mean for our ability to build really large, robust and flexible sensor networks?

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