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IoT 2014 1569947283

Configuration of Smart Environments Made Simple
Combining Visual Modeling with Semantic Metadata and Reasoning Simon Mayer∗ , Nadine Inhelder∗ , Ruben Verborgh† , Rik Van de Walle† , and Friedemann Mattern∗ ∗ Institute

for Pervasive Computing, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
Lab, Ghent University - iMinds, Ghent, Belgium

† Multimedia

static links between individual services: once created, they cannot adapt to a dynamic context where devices might become unavailable or new services might appear at runtime.

Abstract—We present an approach that combines semantic
metadata and reasoning with a visual modeling tool to enable the goal-driven configuration of smart environments for end users. In contrast to process-driven systems where service mashups
are statically defined, this approach makes use of embedded
semantic API descriptions to dynamically create mashups that fulfill the user’s goal. The main advantage of the presented system is its high degree of flexibility, as service mashups can adapt to dynamic environments and are fault-tolerant with respect to individual services becoming unavailable. To support end users in expressing their goals, we integrated a visual programming tool with our system. This tool enables users to model the

desired state of their smart environment graphically and thus hides the technicalities of the underlying semantics and the reasoning. Possible applications of the presented system include the configuration of smart homes to increase individual well-being, and reconfigurations of smart environments, for instance in the industrial automation or healthcare domains.

I.

In this paper, we explore a novel method to facilitate
the composition of heterogeneous services for end users. We
propose a goal-driven approach, meaning that we ask users
to state which properties their smart environment should have (e.g., regarding their personal comfort, such as setting the ambient temperature). Given this statement of a user’s goal, our system determines whether the goal can be reached given

the set of available services, and also infers which user actions (i.e., HTTP requests in this case) are necessary to reach it. The user can then execute these requests and thereby modify
his environment to reach the desired goal. Because service
mashups are created at runtime from user goals, this approach can handle highly dynamic service environments.
To find out whether the system can provide a mashup that
achieves the user’s goal, it requires a way of determining what functionality the individual services provide and how to use them. Proposals of tackling this challenge include middleware platforms that are tightly integrated with a user’s smart home (e.g., [3]) and API directories such as ProgrammableWeb1 .

Because these, however, do not support the functionality-based discovery of services, we instead suggest to combine semantic information about what functionality a service provides with a description of its REST program interface (i.e. of how it can be invoked by clients) and expose this data using metadata

documents that are linked to the service URLs (see sections II-A and II-B for details about what these descriptions look like). However, since we cannot assume that users are familiar with semantic languages such as RDF, we integrated our system with a visual programming language that allows users to graphically specify the desired state of their smart environment (see Section II-C).

M OTIVATION

For a long time, researchers in academia and industry alike
have been focusing on bringing to life the vision of smart
environments, and in particular the smart home by integrating ideas from pervasive computing and the Internet of Things
(IoT) with “classical” home automation systems. Despite this grand effort to put residents in control of a growing number of smart devices in their home and workplace environments
and despite the necessary technologies being readily available, smart homes have not yet been widely adopted, which seems
to be caused to a large extent by the poor manageability and inflexibility of current home automation solutions [1]–[3]. Indeed, in environments populated by many heterogeneous
smart things that can modify the users’ environment (e.g., smart thermostats) or provide relevant contextual information (e.g., motion sensors), it is difficult for users to find and utilize services that provide the functionality they require [4]. This is especially true when considering more complex user

requirements that involve multiple co-operating devices within so-called “physical mashups,” i.e. composite applications that involve sensing or actuation of the physical world [5]. Enabling owners of smart homes to create such mashups has been

identified as an important domain in the field of ubiquitous computing research [1], and the easy configuration of smart
environments is also gaining importance in the context of
industrial automation in “smart factories” [6].

A. Use Case: The Smart Environments Configurator
The concrete use case that we will use as an example to
illustrate the components of our system throughout the rest of this paper is an application that automatically modifies smart environments to match end-user preferences. Using a handheld or wearable device such as a tablet computer, smartphone,

or smartwatch, users specify the song or radio station to be played in their environment and their comfort temperature,
set ambient alarms in the environment, or adjust the lighting to match their preferred levels. This device then negotiates with the environment to adjust the specified parameters to the user’s comfort settings and can also provide feedback (see Figure 1). Our goal is to enable such applications to operate successfully in arbitrary environments, i.e. not only in the user’s

To facilitate the configuration of smart environments for end users, others have applied graphical programming abstractions for home automation (e.g., [7], [8]) that allow users to create mashups that are able to perform complex tasks by integrating functionality across multiple devices or services – an excellent overview of such systems that also considers semantically

assisted mashup creation is presented in [9]. These approaches, however, take a process-driven approach where users create

1 http://programmableweb.com/

1

a Web application that allows the user to configure his smart environment. This interface is also responsible for executing the requests that are proposed by the reasoner.
II.

U SABLE S EMANTICS FOR S MART E NVIRONMENTS

In the following, we describe the integration of our service discovery and look-up component with services that embed
functional semantic metadata in the form of RESTdesc descriptions [11]. We also show how a semantic reasoner can use such metadata to infer which mashups can be created in a smart
environment and the actions that these can perform for a user (Section II-A). Furthermore, we discuss an important extension to the RESTdesc format that guarantees its usability in the
context of smart environments while preserving the logical
integrity of the reasoning (Section II-B). Finally, we present how we integrated our approach with ClickScript3 , a visual
programming tool that enables end users to easily describe the desired state of their smart environment (Section II-C).

Fig. 1. Feedback of the Smart Environments Configurator application after attempting to modify a smart environment to match the user’s preferences with respect to lighting, audio playback, and the ambient temperature (mock-up).

private home but also in an office environment, in hotel rooms, cars, and potentially also in public places. In an industrial context, machines or assembly lines could automatically adjust to support their current...

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