by Massimo Mecella and Roberto Baldoni
SM4All has studied and developed an innovative platform, based on a service-oriented approach and composition techniques, for smart embedded services in immersive environments. This has been applied to the challenging scenario of private homes having inhabitants with diverse abilities and needs (eg young, elderly or disabled people).
The SM4All project has the ambitious goal of boosting and structuring the cyber intelligence surrounding us in order to simplify our lives. The basic idea is to bring together all devices present in a house and coordinate their activities automatically in order to execute complex tasks that involve many appliances (such as preparing a bath, creating a certain mood in a room, following a video, saving energy, closing the house, etc.). Inhabitants can both interact with and programme the intelligent house, in a simple fashion, through user devices such as the iPad and smartphones.
Demos have been built using Brain Computer Interface technology, which allows the user to interact with the SM4all environment using brain waves, without touching any input device. The user simply concentrates on a specific icon shown on a screen in order to initiate an action.
Let us consider the following SM4All scenario. When someone expresses the intention to take a bath, the available services will collaborate to create the desirable environment. The temperature in the bathroom is raised by the heating service, the wardrobe in the bedroom is opened to offer the bathrobe, the bath is filled with water at 37 degrees C, etc. If the person is disabled, an assistant could be notified through a PDA to help the patient at the right moment. The idea is of a set of services, some of which are offered by completely automated systems (such as sensors, appliances or actuators), while others are realized through human collaboration. Clearly, there are tradeoffs to consider: for instance, an assistant might not be available at the desired moment. Such issues have been addressed by SM4All, and some novel solutions are proposed.
Figure 1: The SM4All Architecture.
The architecture abstracts all the devices interacting within SM4All as SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)-based services, both in the UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) technology and in the WSDL (Web Services Definition Language)-based one, employing a rich service model consisting not only of the service interface specification, but also of its conversational description, of the related graphical widgets (ie, icons) to be presented in the user layer (by means of graphical interfaces, Brain Computer Interfaces (BCIs), . . . ), etc. The software components offer these services by "wrapping" and abstracting the real devices providing the functionality. Services are not necessarily offered by hardware devices, but can also be provided through human intervention; in this case, the proxy exposes a SOAP-based service to the platform, whereas it interacts with the service provider (ie the human) by means of a dedicated GUI, when executing the requested operations.
Composition engines are in charge of providing complex services by suitably composing the available ones. In SM4All, three different complementary approaches are tested, each providing different functionalities, in order to provide the users with a rich and innovative environment. Users interact with the home and the platform through different kinds of user interface, eg a home control station accessible through a touchscreen in the living room. In particular, BCIs also allow people with disabilities to interact with the system.
A well-defined approach to embedded services and their composition is a key factor in European industrial competitiveness. The data and service models defined by SM4All could become a de-facto standard, and be adopted by many other projects. Introducing a smart embedded service platform and BCI technologies to assist elderly and disabled citizens can radically change current approaches to prevention and AAL. During our preliminary tests, most users looked forward to the large scale availability of technologies such as those pioneered in SM4All.
The SM4All project ran from September 2008 to August 2011. In late October 2011, a living demonstrator of SM4All will be run in the Fondazione Santa Lucia, Roma, Italy, where a smart home, with four rooms and about 25 services, has been equipped. Able and disabled users will test the system in interactive sessions.
Partners in SM4All were University of Rome – Sapienza (coordinator); Fondazione Santa Lucia, Rome, a hospital and research centre specializing in disabilities in collaboration with Guger Technologies, Austria, for the BCI part; Thuiszorg Het Friese Land, who work with elderly and disabled people, provided requirements, test beds and user validation. Other consortium members included the University of Groningen (The Netherlands); Technical University Vienna, Austria; the Royal Institute of Technology and the Swedish Defense Research Agency (Sweden). These partners worked on the core service-based middleware technologies and automatic service composition approaches. Industrial partners included Telefonica R&D (Spain) and Elsag Datamat (Italy), who worked on bringing the technology to market.
SM4All Technical Manager
University of Rome, Italy