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Mobile Systems Research


Mobile + Cloud

  • Impression: Social mobile mashups
    This project addresses new social application requirements on mobile phones with Internet connections.

Multi-Phone Collaborations

  • Point&Connect: Intention-based device pairing for mobile phone users
    This is an intuitive and resilient device pairing solution on standard mobile phones. Its operation follows the simple sequence of point-and-connect: when a user plans to pair her mobile phone with another device nearby, she makes a simple hand gesture that points her phone towards the intended target. The system will capture the user's gesture, understand the target selection intention, and complete the device pairing. P&C is intention-based, intuitive, and reduces user efforts in device pairing. The main technical challenge is to come up with a simple system technique to effectively capture and understand the intention of the user, and pick the right device among many others nearby. It should further work on any mobile phones or small devices without relying on infrastructure or special hardware. P&C meets this challenge with a novel collaborative scheme to measure maximum distance change based on acoustic signals. Using only a speaker and a microphone, P&C can be implemented solely in user-level software and work on COTS phones. P&C adds additional mechanisms to improve resiliency against imperfect user actions, acoustic disturbance, and even certain malicious attacks. We have implemented P&C in Windows Mobile phones and conducted extensive experimental evaluation, and showed that it is a cool and effective way to perform device pairing..
  • Draw-in-the-Air: Physical environment interactions with phone
    This project seeks to build applications that enable people to interact with networked devices in a surrounding physical environment. Key technologies include indoor localization and tracking, and fusion of multiple modality sensors.
  • MobiUS: WE, on the Go! (a.k.a Lover's Phone)
    This project propose the "better-together" mobile application paradigm that exploits, addresses and promotes social aspects of mobile devices/phones. Under the concept, we have prototyped the "Lover's Phone'' and developed a novel joint-viewing video application in which a higher (doubled) resolution video is played back on two mobile devices placed side by side.
  • BeepBeep: High accuracy ranging
    This project addresses the high accuracy ranging requirement between mobile devices. Using only a minimum set of sensor and actuator (i.e., speaker and microphone), up to 1 cm accuracy is achieved. Real system is built on COTS mobile phones and software is available to download. Please visit the BeepBeep page for more details.

Phone-based Computing

  • Impromptu Sharing of Mobile Phones (xShare)

    Loaded with personal data, e.g. photos, contacts, and call history, mobile phones are truly personal devices. Yet it is often necessary or desirable to share our phones with others. This is especially true as mobile phones are integrating features conventionally provided by other dedicated devices, from MP3 players to games consoles. Unfortunately, when we lend our phones to others, we give away complete access because existing phones assume a single user and provide little protection for private data and applications. To address this problem, we developed xShare, a protection solution that allows phone owners to rapidly specify what they want to share and place the phone into a restricted mode where only the data and applications intended for sharing can be accessed. To justify this work, we first conducted two user studies from which we extracted the design requirements of xShare. We then came up with a design based on file-level access control, implemented it on Windows Mobile, and conducted a comprehensive usability evaluation, including measurements and user studies. The evaluation demonstrated that our xShare implementation has negligible overhead for interactive phone usage, is extremely favored by mobile users, and provides robust protection against attacks by experienced Windows Mobile users and developers.

  • Phone-Augmented User-Centric Computing (PAUCC)
    Today, people are using a larger and larger number of devices in their daily lives. Each of these devices has various functions and capabilities. The PAUCC project looks at ways to synergize these devices by, for example, positioning the mobile phone at the center of a personal computing environment and building rich innovative applications that leverage the collective power of the various devices through collaboration. The group is exploring ways to increase the functionality of mobile phones to go beyond traditional voice communication to be used as a personal controller, personal ID, secondary display, and unified storage.
    User-centric computing is the future of computing. In user-centric computing, users are surrounded by multiple devices and they need to access their data and services on any device, anytime, anywhere. In PAUCC project, we investigate how a mobile phone can augment the user-centric computing experience, especially when user data and states are distributed across different devices. With their proliferation and increasing capabilities, mobile phones are playing an increasingly significant role in our daily life. We envision a new class of mobile computing applications where a mobile phone is the center enabling piece. It will utilize the computing devices surrounding us and access their data and services. It will connect, control, and coordinate all these devices and the applications running on them, regardless of their locations, distance, or means of communications. To realize this vision, we conduct a research to investigate the architecture and middleware issue. We design the system architecture and software framework for these applications, and develop a middleware layer to facilitate application development.
    A typical user scenario is as follows. John can check his e-mail any time any where with his mobile phone. When he receives a message from his boss requesting a document, using his mobile phone he can search his desktop PC at work and construct a reply with the document attached. When he does a presentation, he can use his mobile phone to control the projector and to retrieve the PowerPoint file from the server. When he visits his friend’s house after work, he can use his mobile phone to connect to his home PC and have a photo album display on his friend’s TV. But when he leaves the house, the TV set-top box can no longer show the photos because it would require DRM licensing from John’s mobile phone which is no longer in the proximity.
  • Phone-to-Phone Networking
    With the proliferation of IEEE 802.11 enabled mobile phones and other devices, there is increasing demand for spontaneous collaborative services over temporarily formed ad hoc networks, especially when there is a lack of the network infrastructure support. Two examples are to share files and to play multi-player games among two or more mobile phones. However, current IEEE 802.11 devices are mostly used in a "network centric" way that requires a device to be connected to a network before it can discover services or send out requests. This approach is not suitable for spontaneous collaborative services because network setup should take place after a certain service is requested.
    In this project, we present a new mechanism that solves this problem. Our approach, named EZSetup, utilizes the IEEE 802.11 ad-hoc mode and fully complies with the current standard. It encodes the device and service information in the periodical beacons and leverages them as signaling mechanisms. Devices can now discover each other and acquire service requests and invitations prior to forming a network.
    Our approach can be used not only by mobile phones but also by other 802.11 enabled devices such as laptops. Actually we have implemented EZSetup prototypes on both Windows Mobile 5.0 and Windows XP platform. In our prototype, a mobile phone user can find nearby neighbors and their available services without setting up a network. If there is a gaming service available, the user can invited other users to play a game and once the invitation is accepted, a network will be formed to play the game. Our experience and preliminary evaluation have demonstrated that EZSetup is an effective mechanism and convenient tool for spontaneous collaborations among 802.11 enabled devices.
  • V-Phone: Virtual Machine Monitor (VMM) for Mobile Phones
    More and more mobile phones run a general purpose operating system such as Windows Mobile, Symbian, or Linux, and increasing functionalities are built into mobile phones. Besides making voice calls, they are capable of playing music, taking photos, checking e-mail, accessing the Internet, watching movies, play games, and even editing documentations. As a result, mobile phones, especially smartphones, are becoming very complex systems and increasing system failures occur. However, people expect their mobile phones very reliable because traditionally mobile phones are treated as consumer electronics and very reliable. Users can’t tolerate broken voice calls due to errors in the mp3 player in their mobile phone.
    At the same time, with their rich network connectivity, mobile phones are exposed to various viruses and attacks. Many viruses and malwares targeted on mobile phones have been reported and the number is creasing very fast. However, today many mobile phones run critical applications such as digital payment application which requests very high security. Therefore, it is very critical for mobile phones to provide strong protection to such applications.
    In V-Phone project, we study how to leverage virtualization technology to improve the robustness and security of mobile phones. With a virtual machine monitor (VMM), multiple guest operating systems can simultaneously run on a single machine. The VMM provides clear separation between software and hardware, and strong isolation among the guest OSes. By running the basic functionalities of mobile phones such as making voice calls and sending short messages in a dedicated virtual machine and running the other add-on functionalities in another virtual machine, we can improve the reliability of mobile phones. By putting the critical applications into a separate virtual machine and only running it in needed, we can reduce the attack surface and enhance the security of mobile phones.
    We design and implement a VMM for mobile phones to investigate the feasibility of running multiple full edged commercial OSes on a single mobile phone, and to study how mobile phones can benefit from the VMM. Besides robustness and security, VMM also provides other opportunities to benefit mobile phones. For example, we can run highly customized thin OSes which lead to reduced software footprint and improved power efficiency. Mobile phones must be a phone at the first and most time they mainly act as a phone although rich functionalities available. By separating the “phone function” from the other functions, we can make mobile phones as reliable as before and as power efficient as before, while still as powerful as a super portable computer at the same time.
  • Energy Efficiency by Collaboration
    Energy consumption is important for battery-powered mobile devices. Nowadays, many advanced mobile devices are increasingly being equipped with multiple wireless interfaces for various data applications, such as Cellular, WiFi and Bluetooth. These wireless technologies greatly empower the communication of mobile users while increases the energy consumption substantially. We are undertaking a project targeting at reducing the communication energy consumption of mobile devices without losing the convenience and efficiency. We base our work under a collaborated framework, where neighboring mobile devices form power-management clusters spontaneously and collaboratively. We have demonstrated by forming such power-management clusters via Bluetooth, a collection of neighboring devices can significantly reduce the energy-consumption on WiFi networks without introducing significant delay on WiFi communications.


Other News

  • BeepBeep demo won a Best Demo Award at SenSys 2007!
  • Jacky SHEN received the Engineering Excellence Regional Innovation Award of Microsoft, the highest award for engineering group employees in China, for his original contribution to the lover's phone concept.
  • The article on Lover's Phone at MSRA's official blog at Sina generated more than 30,000 pageviews in three days.
  • Jacky SHEN was invited to show the MobiUS demo on WinHEC 2007 and MEDC 2007. Here's one snapshot.
  • MobiUS demo won the Best Demo Award at MobiSys 2007!
  • MobiUS demo (a.k.a Lover's Phone) was selected to shown to public at Microsoft TechFest 2007 and received wide media coverage from major Chinese web portals including Sina, NetEase, Sohu, Xinhuanet, Science and Technology Daily, etc.