Internet Of Things
Connected objects that adapt to human behaviour
James Crowley - © Inria / Photo J. Wallace
For a few months now, James Crowley, Professor at Grenoble Institute of Technology (Grenoble INP), has been in charge of the new Pervasive Interaction team that develops theories for systems and services made of assembled smart objects. In honour of Inria's 50th anniversary, he is studying the future of connected objects.
You lead the Pervasive Interaction team. What is your field of research?
James Crowley : We study so-called "smart" objects. These are objects that are enhanced with four capabilities: perception, action, communication and interaction. And the objects interact in several ways: with humans, with the physical world (robotics) and with the digital world (Internet of Things). We work in these three fields and our idea is to unify the various types of interactions with a single technique.
How are these connected objects going to change the world in 50 years?
The number of programmable connected objects doubles about every three years. They are found in our homes, our cars and our workplaces. And soon they will be in our furniture, our clothing and more. Over the long term, it is quite likely that each and every one of the items we use on a daily basis will include some digital features. The problem is that today, these objects do not know how to adapt their behaviour to our activities and preferences.
Within Pervasive Interaction, we are working on a new approach, founded on cognitive science research. The goal is for these smart objects to become sensitive to human contexts.
What are the major challenges that will arise in the next fifty years?
The question we have to ask is: How do we make sure these objects do not become a living hell for humans? How do we keep our desktop from inundating us with spam messages or our kitchen from constantly bombarding us with unmanageable amounts of information that requires our attention? Ideally, our objects should be able to give us the right information at the right time, without distracting us. And we're on the right track. With the help of Inria's Institut Carnot, we recently created a startup called Situ8ted. The purpose of Situ8ted is to develop technology that will enable mobile telephones to provide relevant information at opportune moments. For example, you get on the train and your smartphone displays a push notification allowing you to reserve a taxi at your destination. Or, since your phone learned you like to eat Italian food, it will suggest a list of restaurants nearby that align with your tastes. Our challenge is to make it so the user receives the right information at the right time without being interrupted or bothered for no good reason.