MyUnity

Software and sensors for workplace awareness and coordination

MyUnity is a software and sensor platform that enables rich workplace awareness and coordination.

Modern office work practices increasingly breach traditional boundaries of time and place, making it difficult to interact with colleagues. To address these problems, we developed MyUnity, a software and sensor platform that enables rich workplace awareness and coordination. MyUnity is an integrated platform that collects information from a set of independent sensors and external data aggregators to report user location, availability, tasks, and communication channels. MyUnity’s sensing architecture is component-based, allowing channels of awareness information to be added, updated, or removed at any time. Our current system includes a variety of sensor and data input, including camera-based activity classification, wireless location trilateration, and network activity monitoring. These and other input channels are combined and composited into a single, high-level presence state. Early studies of a myUnity deployment have demonstrated that use of the platform allows quick access to core awareness information and show it has become a useful tool supporting communication and collaboration in the modern workplace.

The heart of the MyUnity experiance for users is the client dashboard. The dashboard provide users with quick access to key pieces of awareness information, including a person’s presence information, approximate location, current status message, and links to phone numbers, IM, and email. Users can independently select which information is reported on their behalf. In addition, myUnity provides facilities that assist in coordinating communication with peers. For example, clicking on a link launches the appropriate interface to directly communicate over that channel. Only those channels enabled by the recipient can be selected.

The dashboard features an array of tiles, each representing an individual in the organization. The tile’s border and/or background color reflects the individual’s current presence state:

  • Green, physically in office, alone
  • Purple, in office with at least one other person
  • Yellow in office building, but not in office
  • Blue, using computer from remote location (not office)
  • Orange, not in office building (if person is using mobile client)
  • Grey, system has no current information

Mobile clients provide the same awareness and communication options as the desktop client. This enables our users to stay in touch with co-workers while they are away from the office. At the same time, the mobile clients can provide information about the user’s location and, in the Android client, the call status. The mobile clients use a background service to periodically determine location and then upload it to the server.

Related Publications

2013

Private Aggregation for Presence Streams

Publication Details
  • Future Generation Computer Systems
  • May 28, 2013

Abstract

Close

Collaboration technologies must support information sharing between collaborators, but must also take care not to share too much information or share information too widely. Systems that share information without requiring an explicit action by a user to initiate the sharing must be particularly cautious in this respect. Presence systems are an emerging class of applications that support collaboration. Through the use of pervasive sensors, these systems estimate user location, activities, and available communication channels. Because such presence data are sensitive, to achieve wide-spread adoption, sharing models must reflect the privacy and sharing preferences of their users. This paper looks at the role that privacy-preserving aggregation can play in addressing certain user sharing and privacy concerns with respect to presence data. We define conditions to achieve CollaPSE (Collaboration Presence Sharing Encryption) security, in which (i) an individual has full access to her own data, (ii) a third party performs computation on the data without learning anything about the data values, and (iii) people with special privileges called “analysts” can learn statistical information about groups of individuals, but nothing about the individual values contributing to the statistic other than what can be deduced from the statistic. More specifically, analysts can decrypt aggregates without being able to decrypt the individual values contributing to the aggregate. Based in part on studies we carried out that illustrate the need for the conditions encapsulated by CollaPSE security, we designed and implemented a family of CollaPSE protocols. We analyze their security, discuss efficiency tradeoffs, describe extensions, and review more recent privacy-preserving aggregation work.

2012
Publication Details
  • CHI 2012
  • May 7, 2012

Abstract

Close
Affect influences workplace collaboration and thereby impacts a workplace's productivity. Participants in face-toface interactions have many cues to each other's affect, but work is increasingly carried out via computer-mediated channels that lack many of these cues. Current presence systems enable users to estimate the availability of other users, but not their affect states or communication preferences. This work investigates relationships between affect state and communication preferences and demonstrates the feasibility of estimating affect state and communication preferences from a presence state stream.
Publication Details
  • Fuji Xerox Technical Report No.21 2012
  • Feb 2, 2012

Abstract

Close
Modern office work practices increasingly breach traditional boundaries of time and place, making it difficult to interact with colleagues. To address these problems, we developed myUnity, a software and sensor platform that enables rich workplace awareness and coordination. myUnity is an integrated platform that collects information from a set of independent sensors and external data aggregators to report user location, availability, tasks, and communication channels. myUnity's sensing architecture is component-based, allowing channels of awareness information to be added, updated, or removed at any time. Multiple channels of input are combined and composited into a single, high-level presence state. Early studies of a myUnity deployment have demonstrated that the platform allows quick access to core awareness information and show that it has become a useful tool for supporting communication and collaboration in the modern workplace.
Publication Details
  • Personal and Ubiquitous Computing (PUC)
  • Feb 1, 2012

Abstract

Close
Presence systems are valuable in supporting workplace communication and collaboration. These systems are only effective if widely adopted and used. User perceptions of the utility of the information being shared and their comfort sharing such information strongly impact adoption and use. This paper describes the results of a survey of user preferences regarding comfort with and utility of workplace presence systems; the effects of sampling frequency, fidelity, and aggregation; and design implications of these results. We present new results that extend some past findings while challenging others. We contribute new design insights that inform the design of presence technologies to increase both utility and adoption.
2011
Publication Details
  • ACM Multimedia Industrial Exhibits
  • Nov 28, 2011

Abstract

Close
Modern office work practices increasingly breach traditional boundaries of time and place, making it difficult to interact with colleagues. To address these problems, we developed myUnity, a software and sensor platform that enables rich workplace awareness and coordination. myUnity is an integrated platform that collects information from a set of independent sensors and external data aggregators to report user location, availability, tasks, and communication channels. myUnity's sensing architecture is component-based, allowing channels of awareness information to be added, updated, or removed at any time. Our current system includes a variety of sensor and data input, including camera-based activity classification, wireless location trilateration, and network activity monitoring. These and other input channels are combined and composited into a single, high-level presence state. Early studies of a myUnity deployment have demonstrated that use of the platform allows quick access to core awareness information and show it has become a useful tool supporting communication and collaboration in the modern workplace.
Publication Details
  • MobileHCI
  • Aug 30, 2011

Abstract

Close
Modern office work practices increasingly breach traditional boundaries of time and place, increasing breakdowns workers encounter when coordinating interaction with colleagues. We conducted interviews with 12 workers and identified key problems introduced by these practices. To address these problems we developed myUnity, a fully functional platform enabling rich workplace awareness and coordination. myUnity is one of the first integrated platforms to span mobile and desktop environments, both in terms of access and sensing. It uses multiple sources to report user location, availability, tasks, and communication channels. A pilot field study of myUnity demonstrated the significant value of pervasive access to workplace awareness and communication facilities, as well as positive behavioral change in day-to-day communication practices for most users. We present resulting insights about the utility of awareness technology in flexible work environments.

Secured histories for presence systems

Publication Details
  • SECOTS 2011
  • May 23, 2011

Abstract

Close
As sensors become ever more prevalent, more and more information will be collected about each of us. A longterm research question is how best to support beneficial uses while preserving individual privacy. Presence systems are an emerging class of applications that support collaboration. These systems leverage pervasive sensors to estimate end-user location, activities, and available communication channels. Because such presence data are sensitive, to achieve wide-spread adoption, sharing models must reflect the privacy and sharing preferences of the users. To reflect users' collaborative relationships and sharing desires, we introduce CollaPSE security in which an individual has full access to her own data, a third party processes the data without learning anything about the data values, and users higher up in the hierarchy learn only statistical information about the employees under them. We describe simple schemes that efficiently realize CollaPSE security for time series data. We implemented these protocols using readily available cryptographic functions, and integrated the protocols with FXPAL's MyUnity presence system.
2010
Publication Details
  • NPUC2010
  • Oct 22, 2010

Abstract

Close
The massive amounts of information that are being collected about each of us will only increase as sensors become ever cheaper and more powerful. Analysis of this wealth of data supports advances in medicine and public health, improved software and services through user pattern analysis, and more efficient economic mechanisms. At the same time, the potential for misuse of such data is significant. A long-term research question is how best to support beneficial uses while inhibiting misuse. One approach is to enable individuals to maintain tighter control of their own data while still supporting the computation of group statistics. Currently, analysts are usually given access to all data in order to compute statistics, and often use a third party service provider to store, or even process, such data. Either the third party has access to all data or the data are encrypted, in which case the third party does no processing. An interesting research question is how to provide mechanisms to support "need to know" security in which an individual has full access to her own data, the third party learns nothing about the data but can nevertheless contribute to the processing, and the analyst learns only the desired statistics. We have explored "need to know" security in connection with MyUnity, a prototype awareness system. MyUnity collects data from a variety of sources and displays summary presence states, such as ``in office'' or ``with visitor,'' computed from the received data. MyUnity was deployed in a small research lab and has been in use by over 30 people for more than a year. To avoid concerns about misuse, the system did not store any data initially. The researchers developing the system were interested, however, in analyzing usage patterns, and users expressed interest in seeing personal trends, activity patterns of coworkers, and long-term data pooled across groups of users, all requiring data to be stored. At the same time, users continued to be concerned about misuse of stored data. We looked at ``need to know'' security for cases in which, at each time step, each member of a group of users has a value (i.e., a presence state) to contribute, and the group would like to provide only an aggregate view of those values to people outside their group. We designed and implemented an efficient protocol that enables each user to encrypt under her own key in such a way that a third party can compute an encryption of a sum across values encrypted under different keys without the need for further interactions with the individuals. The protocol provides means for an analyst to decrypt the encrypted sum. We designed key structures and extensions to provide a family of efficient non-interactive ``need to know'' protocols for time series data in which the analyst learns only the statistics, not the individual data values, and the third party learns nothing about the values.

Exploring the Workplace Communication Ecology

Publication Details
  • In Proc. CHI 2010
  • Apr 10, 2010

Abstract

Close
The modern workplace is inherently collaborative, and this collaboration relies on effective communication among coworkers. Many communication tools – email, blogs, wikis, Twitter, etc. – have become increasingly available and accepted in workplace communications. In this paper, we report on a study of communications technologies used over a one year period in a small US corporation. We found that participants used a large number of communication tools for different purposes, and that the introduction of new tools did not impact significantly the use of previously-adopted technologies. Further, we identified distinct classes of users based on patterns of tool use. This work has implications for the design of technology in the evolving ecology of communication tools.