"Role Assured Publicly Accessible Information (RAPAI)" - $25,000


M. B. Spring (Dean's Entrepreneurial Initiatives)

The School of Information Sciences has initiated a project to provide an accessible and public information system that has a high level of security based on role-based authentication. While the basic theory behind the idea is not new, the idea of making a plug and play system that could be implemented easily is worth exploring. The project has three goals:

The project builds on Weiser’s work on Ubiquitous computing at Xerox PARC. This work set out an agenda for ubiquitous computing based on a demonstration project at PARC that had communicating Tabs – employee badges, Pads – advanced laptops, and Boards large screen displays. Some web sites provide the electronic equivalent of a bulletin board or newsletter. These kinds of sites have a wide and amorphous set of contributors and users. The implementation of such a system normally faces three key problems: ease of submissions, authorization of submissions and timely presentation of the information. A very simple metric for the effectiveness of such a site in a specialized environment would be whether it obviates the need for paper equivalents. It won’t replace the traditional environment if the information is not available at a convenient time and place, if it is not easy to post information, or if the presentation is too constrained. It can also fail if management of the information is too difficult. At a basic level, one would imagine that a perfect system would dramatically reduce the need for posted paper.

The goal of this project will be to assess the information exchange needs in an organization and build a system that allows the information to be exchanged. The metric of success will be the reduction of paper equivalents. Could a flat panel display be placed where people spend time – in an elevator?, in a restroom stall?. Could access to posting events on given lists be opened up and computer mediated? Could the information be automatically “torn down” when the event is over? Could it be made easy for posters to make them “eye-catching”? Could agents gather data from outside streams and sources and repurpose it for inclusion. Thus, a screen might show current information relevant to information professionals – what happened in our field today in congress, in the labs, in business, etc. The answer is that all of these things are technically feasible, but they are frequently done in less than optimal fashion. We suggest that there are four initial targets of opportunity related to posted items: buy/sell postings, job/internship postings, event postings, and conference postings.

The short-term goal of this project is to capture, display, and manage important information streams for the SIS constituents and visitors. The project will look to extend the surface capability to underlying problems of information management in a distributed environment. That is, we will examine issues of authentication and access in a distributed environment to allow maximum access to all users, but with appropriate controls and audits. We will look at the issues of information management and coordination – e.g. collaborative filtering students who are interested in course schedules are also interested in book costs or archiving and provenance – the information should be kept on file for x months before it is disposed of, or it should be filed in this location for historical research purposes.