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Paper: The Active Badge Location System

The Active Badge Location System
Roy Want, Andy Hopper, Veronica Falcao, and Jonathan Gibbons
Olivetti Research Ltd.

Roy Want: former PARC researcher, now at Intel working on wireless portable storage device.

System: IR-beacon based badges worn by users, transmit beacon every 15 seconds for a tenth of a second (short duration over long period minimizes chance of conflicting broadcasts). Individual sensor stations are connected to workstations that then relay information over the ethernet. Used 4-wire signalling system so that standard telephone twisted pair wiring could be used instead of having to install new wiring infrastructure.

- FIND (name)
- WITH (name)
- LOOK (location)
- NOTIFY (name)
- HISTORY (name)

- easier for the receptionist
- calls to a common lab space were reduced as many of these calls were attempts to track people down
- positive impression on clients calling ORL, as there was less phone tag
- saved time for the admins
- employees weren't tied to their desks while awaiting a phone call
- easier to arrange meetings
- easy to locate visitors
- system successful enough that it was deployed in more locations


The paper glosses over most of the security privacy issues (as there are many and they are difficult), though it does include information about a trial done at ORL. As privacy was not a central goal of this system, the glossing over of this is undertandable. They were able to come up with enough measures that people's initial fears were overcome by the utility of the system (or so they claim).

Privacy measures:

- system tracks badges, not people
- system could be modified to allow people to write rules of access
- authors make the argument that bad employers can make many abuses of employee's privacy without having to resort to badges (e.g. workstation monitoring). In the end, privacy comes down to trust.

Future systems:
- two-way communicators
- built-in authentication
- additional codes for auto-maintenance (low battery) and other system-defined codes (e.g. can add buttons to badge as UI)

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on May 13, 2003 5:44 PM.

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