DESIGNING FOR MOBILE AND DISTRIBUTED WORK:
TECHNOLOGY USE IN REMOTE SETTINGS.
Dr MJ Perry and Dr SJ Taylor,
Department of Information Systems and Computing, Brunel University
PART A: PREVIOUS RESEARCH TRACK RECORD
The Department of Information Systems and Computing (DISC) is the institution that the research will be conducted
in. The department is strongly research-led, with over £2.5 million of awards from a variety of funding bodies since
the last RAE. DISC is involved in a broad range of information systems and computer science research activities,
from the heavily technically based to sociologically oriented research. We currently have 34 lecturing staff, of whom
8 have a primary research interest in the areas of human computer interaction or computer-supported co-operative
work. These staff members will provide a strong supporting resource for this project and several have expressed an
interest in future research projects that may arise out of this work. The department also has a great deal of experience
in research student supervision, graduating 33 since the last RAE, and with 58 current PhD students.
The investigators share expertise in two key research areas for this project: user studies and interface design, and
distributed and networked systems.
The principal investigator, Dr Mark Perry has research interests in interaction design, workplace studies, and the use
of mobile technologies. This submission follows recent research work into the use of mobile telecommunications and
documents by mobile professionals undertaken with Hewlett-Packard and The Appliance Studio (O’Hara, et al.,
forthcoming; Perry and Brown, forthcoming; Perry, et al. unpublished). He holds a £10,000 research grant (BRIEF
award) to develop technology for distributed knowledge management. This involves basic research into what is
commonly referred to as an ‘organisational memory, or ‘organisational knowledge’ and how it can be integrated into a
more theoretically sound framework. From a practical, software development perspective, it will use this theoretical
understanding to motivate the development of design prototypes.
Mark Perry has been a lecturer at the Department of Information Systems and Computing since 1998, leading a
module in interactive systems and supervising three PhD students. His research interests lie in the areas of
human-computer interaction (HCI) and computer-supported co-operative work (CSCW). He is group leader of the
Centre for Research into the Information Environment, a multidisciplinary research centre at Brunel University
investigating “information in the context of people, organisations and technology”. Mark has also been involved in a
number of research projects, the most recent of which was a research fellow (1997-98) on the EU funded CICC
project (ACTS AC 017). During this time he also held a position at Stanford University as a visiting scholar. The
focus of the CICC project was to improve collaboration in the construction industry through the context-appropriate
use of communications technology. The benefits of this work lay in providing more effective intra- and
inter-organisational collaboration and in supporting improved user interaction with the software that was developed in
concert with the industrial partners. This was conducted at the same time as his PhD, which built on the theoretical
aspect of collaboration and communication by engineering designers. The contribution of the PhD was in developing
a deeper understanding of the nature of design in terms of problem solving through the use of artefacts, and the social,
environmental and organisational resources and constraints. The thesis also provided a strong contribution to the
development of a theoretical basis to distributed cognition where it operates in ‘open’ organisational settings, where
additional resources can be co-opted into problem solving activity.
The project co-investigator, Dr Simon Taylor (Senior Lecturer), joined the Department of Information Systems and
Computing at Brunel University in 1995, researching and publishing on technical aspects of distributed systems.
During this time, he has developed a Masters Degree in Distributed Information Systems, an undergraduate module in
Networked Organisations and Distributed Systems, postgraduate modules in Distributed Systems and Distributed and
Mobile Computing, and a course guide for the University of London External Programme. He has supervised the
development of the Java-based GRIDS distributed simulation environment (Generic Runtime Infrastructure for
Distributed Simulation) and the DIFA agent environment (Distributed Infrastructure for Agents). He has successfully
graduated one PhD student and is currently supervising four PhD students in distributed and mobile systems. He is
also the W3C Representative for the University and has the responsibility for disseminating developments in web
standards across the University.
The investigators have published extensively in the research areas noted above and seek an avenue for bringing their
research interests more closely together in this project, linking the workplace studies to the development of distributed
and mobile communications technologies.
Designing for Mobile and Distributed Work Section 1, Page 1
SELECTED PAPERS RELEVANT TO THE PROPOSAL BY AUTHORS
2000 Brown, B. and Perry, M. (forthcoming) Why don’t telephones have off-switches? Understanding the use of
everyday technologies. Accepted for publication in Interacting with Computers.
O’Hara, K., Perry, M., Sellen, A. & Brown, B.A.T. (forthcoming) Exploring the relationship between mobile
phone and document use during business travel. To be presented at Wireless World: social, cultural and
interactional issues in mobile communication and computing (workshop).
Pouloudi, N., Perry, M. and Saini, R. (forthcoming) Organisational appropriation of technology: a case study.
Accepted for publication inCognition Technology and Work.
Rajani, R. and Perry, M. (forthcoming) The reality of medical work - the case for a new perspective on
telemedicine. Accepted for publication in Virtual Reality.
Perry, M., O’Hara, K., Sellen, A. Harper, R. & Brown, B.A.T. (unpublished) Dealing with mobility:
understanding access anytime, anywhere. To be submitted to journal - TOCHI.
Perry, M. and Macredie, R. Distributed cognition: investigating collaboration in open organisational systems.
Submitted to Journal - Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction.
1999 Perry, M. Fruchter, R. and Rosenberg, D. (1999) Co-ordinating distributed knowledge: an investigation into
the use of an organisational memory. Cognition Technology and Work, 1, p. 142-152.
Perry, M. (1999) The application of individually and socially distributed cognition in workplace studies: Two
peas in a pod? In Proceedings of the European Conference on Cognitive Science, 27-30 October, Sienna, Italy,
Ed. Bagnara, S. p. 89-92.
Taylor S.J.E., Sudra, R. and Saville, J. (1999) Developing interest management techniques in distributed
interactive simulation using java. In Proceedings of the 1999 Winter Simulation Conference. Ed. Farrington,
P.A., Nembhard, H.B., Sturrock, D.T., and Evans, G.W. Association for Computing Machinery Press, New
York, Ny. pp. 518-523.
1998 Perry, M. & Sanderson, D. (1998) Co-ordinating joint design work: the role of communication and artefacts.
Design Studies, 19, 3, p. 273-288.
Perry, M. (1998) Process, representation and taskworld: distributed cognition and the organisation of
information. Exploring the Contexts of Information Behaviour (Proceedings of ISIC’98 - Information Seeking
in Context: an International Conference on Information Needs, Seeking and Use in Different Contexts), Eds.
Wilson and Allen. London: Taylor Graham. p. 552-567.
Perry, M. J. (1998) Distributed cognition and computer supported collaborative design: the organisation of
work in construction engineering. PhD Thesis, Brunel University.
Saville J. and Taylor S.J.E. (1998). Developing Interest Management Techniques in Distributed Interactive
Simulation Using Java. In Proceedings of the 12th European Simulation Multiconference 1998, ed. Zobel R.
and Moeller D. Society for Computer Simulation International, Delft. pp. 272-278.
1997 Perry, M.J. (1997) A personal examination of the issues faced in conducting workplace studies. Presented at
the ECSCW’97 Workshop on “Workplace Studies: Theoretical and Practical Issues”.
Rosenberg, D. & Perry, M. (1997) Editorial on ECSCW Workshop submissions. Presented at the ECSCW’97
Workshop on “Workplace Studies: Theoretical and Practical Issues”.
Macredie R.M., Taylor S.J.E., Yu X. and Keeble R. (1997). Virtual Reality and Simulation: An Overview.
Informatica, 21(4), pp. 611-620.
Saville J. and Taylor S.J.E. (1997). Interest Management: Dynamic Group Multicasting Using Mobile Java
Policies. In 1997 Fall Simulation Interoperability Workshop, Volume 1. Simulation Interoperability
Standards Organisation, Institute for Simulation and Training. Florida. pp. 125-134.
Deshpande Y.L., Jenkins R. and Taylor S.J.E. (1996). Use of Simulation to Test Client-Server Models. In
Proceedings of the 1996 Winter Simulation Conference. ed. Charnes J.M., Morrice D.M., Brunner D.T. and
Swain J.J. Association for Computing Machinery, New York. pp. 1210-1217.
1995 Frohlich, D. & Perry, M.J. (1995) The paperful office paradox. Hewlett Packard Technical Report
Perry, M.J. & Thomas, P.J. (1995) Externalising the internal: collaborative design through dynamic problem
visualisation. Adjunct proceedings of BCS HCI’95 Conference: People and Computers, August 29 - September
1st, Huddersfield, UK. Eds. Allen, Wilkinson & Wright, p. 149-154.
Designing for Mobile and Distributed Work Section 1, Page 2
PART B: PROPOSED RESEARCH AND CONTEXT
Despite the increasing uptake of mobile information and communications (MIC) technology, developments and
research into the area have been largely technologically driven. Human factors research has largely focused on the
design of small screens and interface navigation with the devices. Little research has been conducted on the ‘use’ of
devices in collaboration and other work activities, and on how their design should draw from such findings.
This project will investigate user requirements, the design and the deployment of MIC devices from a user-centred
perspective. It will investigate how information is used in organisations, where people are no longer fixed to
permanent or semi-permanent locations. Recent changes in both work and communications technologies have led
to a shift in working patterns, so that across a range of organisations, a model of work where the employee has a
desk and a rich, fixed set of informational and technological resources is no longer appropriate. However, with a
few honourable exceptions (e.g. at the Viktoria Institute in Sweden), few studies exist that tell us much about how
mobile workers operate, the sort of work they perform and the problems that they encounter. If we are to develop
appropriate technologies to support mobile work, we need to understand the tasks that users are engaged in, the
access to information that they have, and how they collaborate with their colleagues (who may be mobile or static).
The research will examine how people use technological and non-technological tools when away from their home
office bases and where they are not co-located with colleagues. It will draw implications from this to support the
next generation of mobile technologies that offer complex data services as well as voice connectivity.
Preliminary studies will investigate the underlying patterns of mobile activity using a fieldwork-based approach.
These findings will then be transformed into implications for design to augment the kind of working practices
observed in distributed and mobile environments. These implications will then be transformed into prototype
technologies that will be iteratively evaluated to see how they support or change patterns of mobile work, and to
see how acceptable the designs are to their mobile users. The evaluative studies will therefore be used both to
motivate future designs and to offer an insight into the potential effects that this technology might have on work
itself. This evaluation is intended to include work that is currently conducted from a static location, because MIC
technologies allow a greater degree of flexibility in where work can take place, and may transform the work into
something very different from that currently being conducted.
1.2 Aims and Objectives
The aim of the research is to better understand the collaborative and informational requirements of mobile workers
and to understand how mobile technology can be effectively designed to support their needs.
The objective of the work is to develop technologies that will support mobile work and which are appropriate for
the requirements of its users. It will achieve this by developing research methods and analytical tools to investigate
mobile work, and through conducting a field study of mobile workers and their use of mobile technology. Broken
down into its component parts, the objectives of the research are therefore to:
Develop appropriate research methods and analysis tools to investigate mobile work,
Conduct a field study of mobile technology in use,
Identify mobile workers’ communicative, informational and technological requirements,
Investigate how technology can be effectively designed to support the needs of mobile users (integrating and
developing existing HCI and CSCW techniques),
Develop and evaluate prototype applications and devices that are appropriate for the requirements of their
Training a PhD student in research and development techniques in mobile communications technology.
These objectives are linked to the individual work packages in Appendix I.
1.3 Relevance, Innovation and Timeliness
The rapid proliferation of mobile technologies and decreasing cost of mobile telecommunications service provision
has revolutionised the take-up of mobile communications technology. We have recently seen the beginning of a
convergence of mobile communications and data technologies alongside a variety of newly designed standards,
protocols and technologies that allow the more flexible interconnection of handheld information appliances. As
evidenced by proposed standards and technology developments, there is now an increasing interest by the
telecommunications industry into supporting mobile data connectivity in addition to voice-based communications.
This goes far beyond supporting simple voice and modem based communications. Whilst data transfers are
currently possible, these proposed technologies will support increased levels of flexibility, speed and processing
power for data communications. Little is known about how these will change work patterns or will be integrated
together into task-centred suites of technology (either designed, or ad hoc). The innovative aspect of the proposed
research therefore lies in its investigation and application of these emerging technologies and standards, and in its
consideration of matching mobile technology to user activities.
Designing for Mobile and Distributed Work Section 2, Page 1
The research will be of benefit to a number of communities. It will benefit the research community in the domains
of human-computer interaction and computer-supported co-operative work by extending their understanding of the
use and development of MIC technologies. It will also be of benefit to developers, in providing them with an
understanding of who their users are, their informational requirements, and potential directions for the development
of next generation devices. In the longer term, the research will be of benefit to mobile workers in providing
appropriate support for their work, and to the employers of mobile workers who will be able to make more
effective use of their workers’ time when they are working away from a central location.
2. BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH CONTEXT
Human computer interaction (HCI) and computer-supported co-operative work (CSCW) have long examined how
to support interaction with devices and communication with other people through the use of appropriate
technologies. A large body of research now exists in journals and conference proceedings that systems designers
can make use of when designing technology. However, this research has been done in very specific environments
and where users have a particular set of resources with which to work. Because of the physical constraints of
mobile systems (e.g. weight, screen size, battery consumption, connectivity failures) and the nature of mobile work
(distributed and highly dynamic), interaction designers need to review their development techniques and
methodologies for this new generation of computing devices.
Recent research into the design of mobile technology has extensively examined low level performance criteria,
such as text-entry speed and error rates (e.g. Goldstein et al., 1998; Pascoe et al., 1998; Dunlop and Crossan, 1999;
MacKenzie and Zhang, 1999). However, we need to go deeper than this to understand how to investigate the
overall performance of mobile technology to support the work itself, rather than conducting simple measures of
performance on tightly constrained interaction tasks. This requires us, as researchers and designers, to draw from a
deeper understanding of ‘use’ than through the simple performance-based criteria used until now.
In terms of activity, mobile work has been described as heterogeneous (Kristofferson and Ljungberg, 1999) in that
its context is constantly changing as people interact and reorient themselves to their environments. Little existing
research and few of the MIC systems developed have directly applied themselves to such work settings. This is
perhaps strange when workplace studies have shown that workers spend a large proportion of their time working
away from desks and offices (e.g. Whittacker et al., 1994; Bellotti and Bly, 1996).
Users of mobile devices are confronted with a situation in which technologies and services are being designed
without a detailed understanding of what contexts these systems are being used in and what their users’
informational requirements are. This is similar to the situation that desktop computer systems were in 20 years ago,
yet it appears that little is being done to address the situation. Neglecting this in the design and implementation of
MIC technology can lead to an increased workload or even a contrary requirement for non-mobility. For example,
Luff and Heath (1998) showed how a mobile data recorder used for record keeping did not support the kinds of
collaboration that was possible using paper records. As a consequence, workers chose to record their data twice -
once onto paper and again into the ‘mobile’ computer system at a later time when they were back at their office
desk. Had the designers of the device understood or accounted for the collaborative nature of the work, they could
have presented a design more appropriate to the requirements of these workers.
Research findings from a previous study (Perry et al., unpublished) have demonstrated strategies through which
mobile workers make use of the resources that they have available to them. To effectively make use of the time that
they have when travelling, mobile workers can co-opt the resources that they find available to them, but they can
also plan ahead to take things with them that they may require. This preplanning for contingency is often an
essential feature of the work. Mobile workers also needed to keep up with their ongoing background work
activities, rather than only working when they had a complete office infrastructure. The flexibility of the mobile
telephone allowed them to distribute their workload and to work in otherwise ‘dead time’. The other resources that
allowed them to do this were pen and paper - a technology with a low interactional overhead that could be used in a
wide variety of environments. The mobile telephone also allowed its users to operate other technologies by proxy.
When they were in resource-poor surroundings, the mobile workers used the mobile telephone to access external
devices (e.g. fax machines, email) and documents. They could also use the mobile telephone when they were away
from their home base to monitor activity back in their main office, something that they tended to do in dead time.
Technologies could be built to support these strategies more effectively, linking the different technologies and
integrating them more closely with their work practices.
All of the factors noted above had a technological component that the mobile workers made use of. However, the
infrastructures and compatibility issues thrown up in their use of the technology often frustrated users. These are
clearly areas that we could provide support for in this project. There also appear to be a variety of ways in which
people integrate their use of telecommunications and documents (O’Hara, Perry, et al, forthcoming). The data
suggest that there are regularities in the use of the combined document and telephone, particularly their use in
negotiation and discussion (documents triggering phone calls, and document discussion during a phone call), in
providing an audit trail (phone confirmation of document receipt, and conversely, the document as a record of a
phone call), and in elaboration (calls that elaborate on a document, and documents to elaborate on a phone call).
Documents generated from phone calls could be taken as notes (semi-synchronously), or as a larger, more formal
Designing for Mobile and Distributed Work Section 2, Page 2
follow-up document (asynchronously). Here, flexible access to documents and their integration into voice-based
communication would be of enormous benefit to mobile workers, and again, technologies developed in this project
may provide solutions to support these activities.
The mobile communications technologies designed will need to support a range of different types of activity,
between the mobile user and their offices, between several mobile users, and between the range of devices that the
mobile user carries with them. When deconstructed, the notion of mobility or ‘mobile work’ - perhaps
unsurprisingly – is a diverse one (see also Dahlbom and Ljungberg, forthcoming). Whilst mobility can be related to
occupation, it can differ within an individual’s working day. Mobility can be described as being of many kinds -
working at multiple (but stationary) locations, walking around a central location (see Bellotti and Bly, 1996),
travelling between locations, and working in hotel rooms, on moving vehicles, or in remote meeting rooms. Mobile
workers have described their activities involving some or all of these types of work (Perry et al, unpublished), each
having their own particularities, constraints and access to resources. These are important features of mobile work
that should influence the design process: they provide a wide set of different requirements, and the technology
development aspects of the project will need to understand and take account of them.
3. PROGRAMME AND METHODOLOGY
The Theoretical component of the project will examine and critically evaluate existing literature on collaborative
and mobile work, and on handheld and MIC technologies (detailed in appendix I, WP2). We will need to review
material on workplace studies, the technical literature on MIC devices and development resources, and in the
design methodologies (prototyping methods and development techniques) for mobile devices. This component will
contribute to the:
Development of an integrated approach to the study of mobile work,
Investigation and selection of technologies appropriate to support the activities of mobile workers,
Integration and synthesis of existing prototyping techniques for building and evaluating mobile devices,
Determining the selection criteria for examining a sample of mobile workers for the field study.
The Empirical component of the study (depicted in appendix I, WP2) will draw from a range of existing techniques
in the social sciences and human-computer interaction to investigate the use of mobile voice and data connectivity
in real world settings. It will use this to paint a rich picture of how distributed information management takes place
in practice, investigating the nature of mobile work and its integrated into organisational work systems.
The field studies will trace the activities of the selected mobile workers and the tasks they undertake in their
everyday work using an ethnographically informed fieldwork approach (Agar, 1980; Hughes, et al. 1992,94). This
will be complemented through the use of diary studies (e.g. Adler, et al. 1998; Brown, et al. 2000) and contextual
interviews (Holtzblatt and Jones, 1995) in which the participants will be interviewed at their (static) workplace and
questioned about artefacts that they have used, generated or collected. A feature of mobile work that it can also
involve a component of desk-based work and we do not wish to ignore this. Following analysis, prototype systems
will be developed that build on this understanding of mobile and distributed work.
Development - rather than taking a technology-centred perspective, we will work from a user-centred perspective
(detailed in WP3). This is in direct contrast to the current approaches to designing mobile information devices,
which follow a different model of work - attempting to reproduce tools from a desktop environment on a small
hand-held device with limited communications bandwidth. If we understand the nature and context of mobile work
better, devices that are matched to the work, and not existing (and perhaps inappropriate) design paradigms, could
be developed. To achieve this, the integration of mobile devices to one another and to other networked information
sources would be of paramount importance.
In order to develop these devices, we will prototype and evaluate a variety of mobile applications and hybrid
devices to augment the mobile activities uncovered in the data-gathering phase. These communications devices will
build on recent and emerging developments in distributed systems, such as the use of Sun Microsystems’ Java and
Jini, Hewlett-Packard’s JetSend, and XML (eXtensible Markup Language), and in mobile computing, such as
WAP (wireless application protocol) and Bluetooth, time-difference-of-arrival location processing (TLP) or
tracking GPS (allowing location pinpointing to around 125metres), 3G (high bandwidth data channel), and General
Packet Radio Services (GPRS).
The development effort will be pushed in two complimentary directions. We will develop software to support the
kind of activities that we uncover in the field studies. We will also develop hardware, in the form of hybrid devices
- linked information and communications appliances - through which the user will be able to operate the devices in
novel ways. An example (although not one we propose developing without supporting field data) of such a hybrid
device might be to use a handheld computer fitted with a modem linked to a mobile telephone and a digital camera.
The handheld computer could be used to send an email enclosing a digital image from the camera over the mobile
telephone, whilst also keeping a record of the communication that could be accessed later. In this case, software
and hardware are tightly integrated and cannot sensibly be seen as independent from one another. We expect the
development effort will focus on integrating technologies that allow users to manage (create, destroy, retrieve and
communicate) distributed information from mobile settings, and in providing context-relevant information
Designing for Mobile and Distributed Work Section 2, Page 3
appropriate to their needs.
There are very few published studies of, or standard approaches to, the development of handheld MIC devices. In
addition to the user studies and development itself, we will document and critically review the prototyping and
development approach used with the objective of providing a resource for future developers. Whilst not a core
aspect of the research, this could provide an important resource for future MIC developments.
Evaluation will play a key part in the design process and because of the iterative prototyping techniques used, it
will be tightly coupled to development. Throughout the prototype development phase, evaluation work will be
performed to examine how technology-enabled mobile workers integrate the technology into their work practices,
and where the technology is not appropriate. This in turn will provide an understanding of mobile work in terms of
the appropriateness of informational representations and technology to the users mobile activities
To summarise, the project will not be an isolated and independent research effort, and is clearly linked to other
research in a number of fields: the application of field studies to systems design and evaluation (e.g. Hughes et al.,
1992, 1994; Anderson, 1994); studies of CSCW in mobile work and technology use (e.g. Bellotti and Bly, 1996;
Bergquist et al. 1999), and systems development and prototyping techniques (e.g. Gould and Lewis, 1985;
Newman and Lamming, 1995; Kiljander, 1999).
4. RELEVANCE TO BENEFICIARIES
Academic research community. The work would support the academic research community generally by extending
understanding of use and development of mobile communications technologies. More specifically, the work would
support the human computer interaction research community in providing a better understanding about the use of
MIC devices and interface designs that facilitate their effective use. It would provide the computer-supported
co-operative work research community with information about the performance of mobile and distributed work and
how mobile devices support communication and co-ordination. The distributed and networking research
communities would also benefit from a study looking at the integration of a variety of standards, protocols and
technologies, and through case studies of distributed and networked devices in real world settings.
Developers of mobile computing and mobile telephony. These include software developers, such as Symbian Ltd.;
mobile computer manufacturers, such as Psion; mobile telephone companies, such as Nokia; mobile network
providers, such as Vodaphone; and information appliance manufacturers, such as Hewlett-Packard. These
organisations would learn about the use of mobile technologies in real world settings, and provoking them to think
about novel design solutions to support their users’ activities.
Potential users by industrial sector. Providing mobile workers with appropriate support for their work in remote
settings and expanding the range of application areas that mobile technology can be effectively used in. Industrial
domains that this would have the potential to offer most support to include a variety of engineering domains (for
example civil engineering), in which people are highly mobile and use a rich set of media and communications
tools to communicate. Medical work is another area that could greatly benefit from this research – doctors, nurses
and other health professionals are highly mobile; they work and collaborate from multiple locations. Medical
workers are notable because they are infrequent users of personal communications and information technology.
Other groups that could benefit from technologies and understanding developed include sales personnel who need
to work and collaborate whilst travelling with their base office and other mobile co-workers, and the
self-employed, who may operate from home but need to work at multiple locations.
Employers of mobile workers. Financial benefits accruing from developments in MIC technology as they are able
to plan and manage their workforce effectively, even when not co-located with them.
PhD student. Training in research and development techniques.
Project investigators. Mark Perry and Simon Taylor – developing as researchers.
5. COLLABORATON, COMERCIAL POTENTIAL AND EXPLOITATION
The industrial collaborator, Symbian Ltd. is an offshoot of the mobile computer manufacturers Psion; they develop
the EPOC operating system software. They are currently developing EPOC for integration as a standard operating
system into a variety of mobile, data-enabled ‘smartphones’ and ‘communicators’. Symbian Ltd. is a joint venture
between Psion, Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola and Matsushita that aims to promote standards for ‘Wireless Information
Devices’. It believes that research into user needs and innovative designs for mobile communications devices will
be valuable for mobile workers and for the wireless industry. The involvement of Symbian is a very positive step
by the mobile communications and computing industry into examining how recent technological developments will
be used by mobile workers. Symbian believes that this research can be of benefit to the wireless information device
community and market. Their interest in the project is to learn about the use of their prototype and future
commercial releases of the EPOC based mobile communications devices, and to see what is possible as different
technologies are linked together and used in novel ways to support work practices.
The market for products supporting the mobile worker is potentially enormous. We will be working closely with
Symbian to explore the possibilities of integrating these technologies with their future product range. However, this
research is not intended primarily to support one organisation, and (subject to agreed limits of disclosure) we will
Designing for Mobile and Distributed Work Section 2, Page 4
be making the published findings widely available. This fits in with the remit of Symbian, which is an organisation
that is jointly owned by a number of large organisations, and which is involved in setting industry standards. It is
therefore in their interest to make much of this information publicly available and widely publicised. Ownership of
intellectual property and its exploitation will therefore be managed according to the EPSRC and university
guidelines. The university will retain ownership of software developed at Brunel University. The collaborators
have agreed to draw up a legal agreement between Brunel and Symbian Ltd. regarding project exploitation; Brunel
will offer Symbian first right of refusal to commercially exploit the research.
6. WORKPLAN, DISSEMINATION AND RESOURCE USE
6.1 Research and dissemination
We have broken the project into four workplans to simplify the project management aspect of the work proposed.
This is shown in the attached workplan and Gantt chart in the Appendices. In terms of project management
responsibilities, the work breaks cleanly into three parts: PhD supervision (first supervisor is Mark Perry, second
supervisor is Simon Taylor), field study and design (Mark Perry, with secondary help from Symbian Ltd.), and
technical support (Simon Taylor and Symbian Ltd.). We have identified three key milestones (i.e. specific,
important and identifiable outputs) that will be used to assess the project’s progress:
M1. Report: “Data collection: techniques and an analytic framework for identifying the technology
requirements of mobile workers” (Month 10; Deliverable D3).
M2. Report: “Requirements: Identification of the technology requirements for mobile workers” (Month 18;
M3. Final Report: “Technology, mobile work and collaboration” (Month 36; Deliverable D10).
In addition to the project deliverables, findings from the research will be submitted to journals and conferences,
publicising the results. The sum requested in the proposal includes registration fees and travel for this, which will
also be useful to us in discovering other national or international research groups and projects that we could
collaborate with in the future. We also recognise that the MIC industry is a fast moving one, and in order to make
an impact we will ensure that the findings from the study are publicly available as soon as possible. To this end we
will develop and maintain a web presence detailing our work done so far. We will also make efforts to present the
findings at organisations involved in the development of MIC technologies; Symbian’s partner organisations and
contacts will prove to be useful in this respect. A breakdown of dissemination activities is described in Appendix I.
6.2 Resource deployment
From EPSRC grant. A PhD student (to be appointed) will carry out the basic research and development efforts.
Whilst we envisage them have programming skills, we do not expect them to be experienced in developing on a
mobile platform. We will therefore send them on a training course on developing mobile technologies – this is a
complex area in which even a graduate in computer science is unlikely to be proficient. So that the student will be
able to visit external field sites and to shadow participants, demonstrate and evaluate the mobile technology, we
have requested funds for travel and subsistence. We recognise that these travel-related costs are relatively high, but
it is the nature of mobile work that we will have to study people who are distant and travel frequently.
We require several handheld computers to develop the prototypes on. These will be used to build the software on
and to link together as ‘hardware hybrids’. We require two of each device to demonstrate that they are able to
interact with one another - there is little point in demonstrating a stand-alone communications device. We also
require a laptop computer for the same reasons (as a prototyping platform), and because it has greater flexibility
and connectivity than the handheld devices (only one is required, because we can use a desktop computer as a
device to partner it). To support pictorial communication, we will use a digital camera as an information capture
device that can be linked to the other devices as a hybrid. For the communications aspect, two WAP enabled
mobile telephones are required to connect and network the other devices; we will also require a service contract for
them. As WAP devices, they can also be used to access ‘WAP enabled’ web documents. For a systems
development platform, we will need a powerful desktop workstation. Where possible, we will make best use of
open source (i.e. free) software where possible (such as the WABA development platform for the Palm devices).
We will however, need a powerful software development environment (Code Warrior) for building more
sophisticated applications on.
From collaborating organisation. Symbian Ltd. have agreed to a high level of supporting involvement in the
project. This includes access to prototypes and provision of early commercial releases of EPOC mobile
communications devices for development work. They would also give training and support in the use of
development languages and techniques for mobile devices. However, a large proportion of their involvement would
be in supporting and helping maintain a focussed research direction in the field studies and development of the
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Designing for Mobile and Distributed Work Section 2, Page 6
APPENDIX I: DETAILED PROJECT PLAN
WP1: Theoretical investigation of mobile technology
Duration 10 months Start date Oct 2000 End date End July 2001
Objectives Identify organisational, technological, social and other factors influencing the use of
Examine developments in mobile computing and communications technology
Pilot preliminary data collection techniques on mobile workers.
Tasks 1.1 Study the literature on mobile work and the mobile communications enabled mobile
1.2 Study existing technologies and solutions to support mobile work and collaboration.
1.3 Develop a framework of analysis and tools for investigation of the activities and
work practices carried by mobile workers.
Deliverables D.1. Work and collaboration in mobile settings.
D.2. Technologies to support mobile work and collaboration.
D.3. Data collection: techniques and an analytic framework for identifying the
technology requirements of mobile workers (Milestone 1).
WP2: Empirical investigation of mobile work and implications for design
Duration 8 months Start date Aug 2001 End date End March 2002
Objectives Conduct field studies of mobile workers.
Generate design guidelines from synthesis of field data and literature review.
Tasks 2.1 Carry out a field study of work and collaboration in mobile settings.
2.2 Analysis of data on the activities and work practices carried by mobile workers.
Deliverables D.4. Work, collaboration and artefact use in mobile settings: a field study.
D.5. Requirements: Identification of the technology requirements for mobile workers
WP3: Technology development and evaluation
Duration 24 months Start date April 2001 End date End March 2003
Objectives Learn skills in the design and development of handheld devices.
Design and iteratively prototype software and hybrid mobile technology.
Evaluate prototype technologies against organisational, technological, social and
other factors influencing user behaviour.
Tasks 3.1 Self training and taught courses on mobile computing and communications devices.
3.2 Take requirements generated from D.5. and build variety of prototype software and
hybrid mobile technologies to support their activities.
3.3 Continuously evaluate and redesign prototypes. Test designs on mobile workers in
the field (interviews and trials).
Deliverables D.6. Prototype technologies to support mobile work and collaboration (continuous
process of development and refinement).
D.7. Evaluation report: prototype technologies in supporting effective mobile work and
Duration 36 months Start date Oct 2000 End date End Sept 2003
Objectives Promote research findings to academia through publication in relevant literature
and attendance at appropriate conferences.
Promote research findings to industry, communicating them to industrial
collaborators; also publicising and providing materials on the web to support
developers and end-user organisations.
Tasks 4.1 Develop web site and publish research findings on it, as they become available.
4.2 Develop publications through writing and submitting papers to journals and
4.3 Synthesis of findings and preparation of final report.
Deliverables D.8. Project web page (to be updated continuously with new developments).
D.9. Full draft of PhD dissertation.
D.10. Final report: “Technology, mobile work and collaboration” (Milestone 3).
Designing for Mobile and Distributed Work Appendix, Page 1
APPENDIX II: DETAILED PROJECT TIMETABLE
deliverables 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36
Deliverables 1 2
Deliverables 6 7
Deliverables 8 9
Note: deliverables highlighted in ‘outine’ ( , and ) are noted as milestones.
Designing for Mobile and Distributed Work Appendix, Page 3