The unofficial Roomware Manifesto, september 2009

Posted on September 27, 2009


[Edit May 2010] – added “unofficial” as it is not an official Roomware Manifesto.

The unofficial Roomware vision, march 2009

Beginning this year Alexander Zeh and I started writing down many issues regarding “RoomWare 2.0”. This is a long postponded blog post about that. All services mentioned are there for illustration. I am aware that the landscape of services and possibilities is much broader.

The Manifesto describes the ground on which I believe Roomware and Roomware projects has the highest probability to thrive.

A few words about the terms I use

The use of screens / displays will either be more intensified or reduced depending on pricing, social value and the further development of personal displays. When high-resolution portable display techniques (like contact lenses with built in displays, portable projectors, whatever)  become common ground, fixed displays might become close to obsolete. My use of the term “portable computers” might seem archaic, but indicates anything from laptops to new generation phones and netbooks.

Related posts

The long tail of Roomware: giving my take on how to shape the future of Roomware

Android – more than phones: moving into alternative uses of the Android phone

Using the Android phone as a Roomware server: musings about using low cost hardware to run Roomare applications

Trends: the Roomware related landscape for the next 5 to 10 years, moving into emerging trends of the past years, including hardware as a commodity

Two fields of use:Agricultural / industrialand empowering handicapped people

A personal vision document regarding Roomware: predecessing the Trends-post and going deeper into business possibilities, “Web 4.0”, privacy issues and my take on open and closed development

The “Scrablet” – A research document to document different options to build a Do It Yourself Tablet Computer using either scrap material and / or stuf from eBay and other sources

The Roomware stream: containing a set of articles touching different aspects of Roomware, from vision documents, concepts and paper prototypes to experiments and hardware / software hacks and solutions


Roomware Basis / Roomware 2.0, what it is all about:

  1. To connect anything to anything: tables to phones to devices to websites, devices to devices, and so on
  2. To make spaces and locations aware of the people inside: using passive stuff like RFID and QR-codes and active devices like BlueTooth, WiFi and GSM signals
  3. To make spaces and locations interactive: by offering different types of interfacing from phones to interactive tables to objects.

About The Roomware Project:

  1. We are not a company selling products: so we have no helpdesk or hotline. To get answers and solutions you will have to search the blog posts and discussion groups.
  2. We initiate and offer a basic framework: you can build on it, give us feedback, inject improvements and create the applications
  3. Everything we release is open source: including samples to create tables, applications and connect devices to each other
  4. We invite you to use our stuff: and develop incredible things we coul never have thought of
  5. We invite you to build your own: if you think you can do it better.
  6. We invite you to share your results: as open source or via videos and blogposts so that other people can be inspired and/or expand your vision to even newer grounds
  7. We believe that the value of the framework is in being used by as many people as possible: so no license fees or constraints regarding use or deployment.
  8. We believe that we and you can make our business with it: so feel free to do so.
  9. We want you to use it without constraints: build you business with it if you want. Create your own derivate of the Server. Go wild.
  10. We earn our money by implementing it: and hopefully many more will do so as well.

About the Roomware design goals:

  1. To make building Roomware installations easy for anyone: by offering ready-to-go solutions, open and simple protocols with clear structures, online Roomware Servers and Services you can connect to. And by blogging as much as possible.
  2. To make the platform scalable in any shape and form: any design direction will create limitations and possibilities. We search for the solutions which are simple, not limited to one type of solutions and offer maximum flexibility.
  3. It is not a geek-fest platform / we keep it simple: Yes we can choose to make things perfect right now or lose ourselves in a frenzy of design patterns and complex standards; but with that we will kill the project.

About the software:

  1. 99% of what we produce is open source: for you to download, change and expand, for you to use in compiled form. In the cases it is not open source, development is done under Non Disclosure Agreements.
  2. We strive to make our solutions integratable with other projects: as we are served by that ourselves.
  3. We welcome additions and versions in other programming languages we do not master: If we do not support your programming environment, feel free to create it yourself and share it to the community via any online repository of your own choice.

About your contributions:

  1. Host them on any repository you like: document what you have done and what the differences / additions are.
  2. Blog about it: the more information you share about what you made, the bigger chance you have it will be re-used by others.
  3. Share them with us: we will link to your repository / blog / website and give you a prominent place on the site when it regards core Roomware elements like our or your Roomware Server and things you build on top of that.
  4. Feel free to make money: Open source is sometimes confused with “for free”. If you can sell your software: sell it. But:
  5. Respect copyright, the history of development and the contributions made by others: you were not alone in this and without the contributions of your peers it would have been much harder to get that far.


Basic actions

Alexander Zeh and I came down to the following basic actions:

  1. Record the moment: by bookmarking locations and paces, making photo’s, video’s and audio recordings.
  2. Enrich the present: by accessing data related to locations, objects and events, by placing virtual objects and markers on physical locations.
  3. Connect to others: state where you are, finding other people, finding people within a specific group of interest.
  4. Connect to your environment: by accessing services and devices.
  5. Re-live the past: by accessing the time line of your past recordings, by finding related data in the shape of photo’s and blog posts and other data related stuff to where you were at that point and time.
  6. Discover the future: by accessing data reflecting future plans and events related to the location you are now.

Boiled down to:

  1. Bookmarking objects and locations.
  2. Interacting with objects and locations.
  3. Getting feedback from objects and locations.

Feedback, interaction and user input:

  1. Tables: like the reactable,  the DIY touchtables, Windows Surface using Java, #NET, Flash and other technologies to read fiducials and markers
  2. Touch screens, eventually embedded in tables: like the MSI and Asus WinTop machines and more sophisticated large screen solutions
  3. Camera based input: using libraries like FLAR toolkit, AR toolkit, Touchlib and standard webcams, reading gestures, 3D markers and QR-codes
  4. Mobile browsers and mobile applications: running on mobile phones, integrated with existing technologies and providers or new stand alone applications offering remote controls directly connected to the room and the possibilities these rooms offer
  5. Projector screens and normal screens: functioning as output, controlled from mobile phones and other devices in the space, operating solo or linked in chains and operating together as tiles of one bigger projection area
  6. Surfaces / pressure or sound based input: using any regular object as an input device, keyboard or switch using sound-input, pressure based input.
  7. Markers: like QR-codes, offering a direct way to connect to a room or an object using your phone and the camera in your phone
  8. Sensors: measuring heat, the opening and closing of doors and windows, pressure, energy use of devices
  9. Mediators: software that understands the device and understands how to connect to the RoomWare Server, receive messages, requests and events and how to send events to other devices.
  10. Devices: can be any type of hardware you can control via electronics and a connection to RoomWare.

Useful technologies:

  1. ZigBee and ZigBee related wireless protocols: to create wireless devices, make installations and clusters of devices easy to setup

Possible fields of use:

  1. Homes for the old people: measuring activity, giving feedback, allowing care takers to act immediately when something goes wrong or activities are not according to / below the normal use patterns of the house.
  2. Homes for disabled people: offering one universal remote control via a laptop, mobile phone, press-buttons, button bars, sound input or any other means of interaction to any device in the house, from heating to the television to the stereo to the door opener
  3. Offices: registering who is in and out, granting access via general purpose RFID cards – replacing keys, granting visitors and temporary workers temporary access to specific area’s of the building (using patterns based on routes to reach a specific location) measuring CO2 production (fire, quality of the air) and the functioning of sensitive equipment (server rooms), logging movement and activity throughout the building.
  4. Homes: registering activity, accessing only your pets access through the catflap, switching the thermostat on only when people are inside the house, measuring the health of plants through sensors in the soil (when you are gone for a while and someone else tends the house) offering the possibility to create simple alarm systems.
  5. Shops: offering direct access to information about products (luxary goods, reviews) allowing people to bookmark products for later review,  projecting information about products on screens close to the place people are standing, creating networked logging of visitors and tracking of clients (statistics: regular customers, how many visit more than once, how many once a week?) offering the framework for loyalty programs based on common (RFID based) identifiers like the Oyster card and the OV chip cards
  6. Locations: granting access to meta data related to the location, like activities, due times of public transportation, due time of taxies, available taxies, finding specific items like the lobby, meeting rooms and offices of specific people.
  7. Vehicles and transportation: tracking latitude and longtitude, sending data to central servers using common GSM technologies, predicting arrival times (public transportation) giving you feedback on arrivals based on your location and their position
  8. Interpersonal networking: finding people with similar interest, finding people with additional skills,

The Personal Data Cloud:

  1. All information you produce online is part of your Personal Data Cloud.
  2. Some data is Private, some is Public.
  3. It can consist of generic data like your public profiles, your photo’s, blog posts, tweet-feeds and video’s
  4. It can consist of specific data, like search profiles for people you like to meet, selections of things you want to see on events and so on
  5. Via social profiles you define who will see what when.

Identity Brokers:

  1. Link your different identifiers (RFID, QR-codes, WiFi Mac addresses, etc) to your personal account
  2. Allows you to create several public profiles, each for specific places and groups
  3. Allows you to protect and specify your public profiles via specific trust bonds to those people and places
  4. Releases only those public identities (Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, FaceBook, etcetera) the location you are has been explicitly granted access to by you

Use case:

Imagine you are visting a festival, covering several locations and several days. During those days you will visit seminars, do workshops, meet people and make new contacts.

  1. Orientate, find places and find people can be done for both for moving objects (people, vehicles, packages) and static objects (places, objects) by:
    1. Using geo-location
    2. Using local connections / local opt-in.
  2. Local connections can be made via
    1. QR-codes connected to objects and places and a QR-code reader on your phone or portable computer.
    2. RFID-chip cards you carry (like the Oyster card and OV chip card) and RFID scanners in the places themselves.
    3. Active components broadcasting an identity(embedded in your phone’s WiFi, BlueTooth and Gsm signals)
    4. An Identity Broker linking your device ID to you and your personal settings and choices.
  3. Feedback can be given via:
    1. Your phone – via a web based application in your browser or a specific application.
    2. A screen or projector on that location or in front of you
  4. Feedback can consist of:
    1. Directions to people or places
    2. Things happening nearby and on other locations (“Where is what taking place?”)
    3. Things you can find nearby and on other locations (“Where can I find..?” “What else is here?”)
    4. People nearby
  5. Your personal data is offered to the venue via connections to your Personal Data Cloud

As budget is no issue for the venue, you will find screens on every corner and in every place, displaying data. Based on either your phone’s BlueTooth ID, WiFi Mac address or GSM IMEI ID or by you swiping an RFID card past a scanner, the screen will connect to your Personal Data Cloud using the Identity Broker. The screen  will show you the items you stated interest in, nearby and elsewhere:

  1. Things happening now
  2. Things happening soon
  3. Things you might be interested in
  4. People you know
  5. People you are interested in
  6. People you want to meet
  7. People you would like to meet

The same information is available on your phone.


When you enter a conversation, you choose to bookmark the location and time using your mobile phone. Anyone else who is visible for the system and present at that location and time will automatically be linked to you. So when you create a blog post later on, and release your photo’s and video’s online, these people will be notified. The same happens when other people bookmark you.

The bookmarking also creates an overview of overlapping fields of interest. When a person shows up due to multiple bookmarks he or she might be interesting to investigate.

Connecting to the environment

Using your phone, your RFID card or another way to identify you can directly log into your personal data cloud anywhere in the venue. Any public screen becomes your personal public desktop, with your mobile phone as a possible remote control. Any data you granted the venue access to will be ready and waiting for you.

Also, it will show you any data the venue itself has collected and which is relevant for you, like:

  1. Where other people are
  2. How many people are in a specific location
  3. What the status of different rooms are (current talk or workshop almost finished or ready to begin, food is served, transportation is ready)

Via the local connection you can also:

  1. State that you want to join the dinner later on
  2. Subscribe for a lecture with limited number of seats
  3. Call for a taxi via the lobby

User interaction can take place via:

  1. The mobile phone
  2. Touch tables and touch screens
  3. Camera input and markers (reactable-like interfaces where people can use physical objects to manipulate data and virtual objects)
  4. Position in the room
  5. Using physical remote controls or objects like the Wii mote

Connecting to others

As any event has many different people, of which only a small number might share something in common or are covering the profile of people you like to meet, you can use the system to filter out all the ones which do not fit the profile. Based on the locations people stated you can move to those locations where the concentration within your scope / profile is the highest, or where this one specific person is right now.

As your Personal Data Cloud travels with you, conversations you have can be easily enriched by the data you have to share. For instance: presentations on SlideShare, blogposts on WordPress, photo’s on Flickr, videos on YouTube. The other people you meet can quickly access your public data and your public profile to see what you have done in the past, for whom or with whom you are working and what ideas you have to share.

This data can be presented to others:

  1. On public screens and tables with built-in screens and projectors shared in a social environment
  2. On personal machines like phones and portable computers

Nerd stuff:

  1. Using geo-location and/or local opt-in you can state your own location in a specific place. The opt-in can either be explicit by swiping a card past a scanner, or implicit by the identities your phone or another devices is broadcasting (WiFi Mac address, Gsm-IMEI, BlueTooth Mac address.


  1. Geo location: By using GPS + Compass + Geo tagged information you can “browse” the world around you and find these people, services and data.
    1. See what is around you (venues, services, virtual objects)
    2. Access data related to specific locations (venues, places, feedback on energy use)
    3. Access local “controls” based on your location (manipulating physical objects like lighting, heating; getting feedback regarding the status of objects: temperature, energy use, etcetera)
    4. Get guided to specific locations or to find people
    5. Bookmarking objects and locations for later reference with a time / location stamp
  2. Local connectors: By connecting to local services using RFID, BlueTooth-Mac address, WiFi-Mac address or GSM-IMEI number.
  3. Identity brokers: to find and connect to others
Will review and get back to you.
Posted in: Manifesto, Roomware