Determining Quality- and Energy-Aware Multiple Contexts in Pervasive Computing Environments


In pervasive computing environments, understanding the context of an entity is essential for adapting the application behavior to changing situations. In our view, context is a high-level representation of a user or entity's state and can capture location, activities, social relationships, capabilities, etc. Inherently, however, these high-level context metrics are difficult to capture using uni-modal sensors only and must therefore be inferred using multi-modal sensors. A key challenge in supporting context-aware pervasive computing is how to determine multiple high-level context metrics simultaneously and energy-efficiently using low-level sensor data streams collected from the environment and the entities present therein. A key challenge is addressing the fact that the algorithms that determine different high-level context metrics may compete for access to low-level sensors. In this paper, we first highlight the complexities of determining multiple context metrics as compared to a single context and then develop a novel framework and practical implementation for this problem. The proposed framework captures the tradeoff between the accuracy of estimating multiple context metrics and the overhead incurred in acquiring the necessary sensor data streams. In particular, we develop two variants of a heuristic algorithm for multi-context search that compute the optimal set of sensors contributing to the multi-context determination as well as the associated parameters of the sensing tasks (e.g., the frequency of data acquisition). Our goal is to satisfy the application requirements for a specified accuracy at a minimum cost. We compare the performance of our heuristics with a brute-force based approach for multi-context determination. Experimental results with SunSPOT, Shimmer and Smartphone sensors in smart home environments demonstrate the potential impact of the proposed framework.


Computer Science

Research Center/Lab(s)

Intelligent Systems Center


The work of N. Roy was supported in part by the NSF under Grants CNS-1344990, CNS-1544687, and IIP-1559752; the ONR under Grant N00014-15-1-2229; Constellation : Energy to Educate; and the UMB-UMBC Research and Innovation Partnership Grant. The work of A. Misra was supported in part by the Singapore Ministry of Education Academic Research Fund Tier 2 under Research Grant MOE2011-T21001 and the National Research Foundation Prime Minister's Office, Singapore, under the International Research Centre at Singapore Funding Initiative, administered by the Interactive & Digital Media Program Office. The work of S. K. Das was supported in part by the NSF under Grants IIS-1404673, IIP-1540119, CNS-1355505, and CNS-1404677. The work of C. Julien was supported in part by the NSF under Grant CNS-1219232.

Keywords and Phrases

Automation; Data acquisition; Data communication systems; Energy efficiency; Heuristic algorithms; Intelligent buildings; Ubiquitous computing; Application behaviors; Application requirements; Context recognition; Context-awareness; Context-aware pervasive computing; Multimodal sensor; Pervasive computing environment; Social relationships; Power management; Energy-efficiency; Multi-context recognition; Streaming multi-modal sensors

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

1063-6692; 1558-2566

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2016 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Oct 2016