The ANT project addresses issues currently found in office envrionments where users need to work with a mixture of electronic and paper documents. Despite the promise of the paperless office, the use of paper is still very important in many situations, and even mandatory in certain contexts, such as legal offices. Here we are specifically interested in enriching paper documents with some of the facilities that normally only are associated with electronic documents, such as alerts and change events.
In the project we equip paper documents, folders, ring binders, brief cases, file cabinets etc. with sensors and communication abilities in order to allow conditions to be set and situations to be detected that will trigger actions. In the first instance, we are equipping paper documents and folders with identification tags of type RFID, with corresponding readers located in drawers of file cabinets, in brief cases, and under the table-top of users' desks. Furthermore, users are equipped with RFID badges that can be presented when accessing a file cabinet or picking up a brief case, and we also use a small wireless movement sensor device, as a means to interact with the services offered by the environment, without the need for a computer. The association between electronic documents and paper is handled by an experimental printer system, which is being prototyped at XRCE, and which "ear marks" the documents it prints, using RFID tags.
A number of different user applications are developed, including the following ones:
- Find document. Whenever a document equipped with an electronic identification tag is sensed by a tag reader, this information is forwarded to a location database that keeps track of the last known location of every document. When a user searches for a document, its location is simply looked up in this database.
- Alert on delayed dossier. It is often the case that a user needs to be warned that an expected event hasn't occured within a given time frame. For example, in a lawyer's office, it is quite common that a case awaits the arrival of a letter. However, it is important not only to monitor the arrival of the letter, but also the fact that it hasn't arrived. When the user sets up the corresponding dossier, a count-down timer is associated that generates a time-out event when the deadline expires. If the letter arrives the timer is disabled. (and some other action may be taken).
This project is developed in collaboration with the CEA/Leti research organization, who provides the sensing and wireless communication technology. This includes RFID tags with secured communication protocols, movement sensors, and wireless communication technology.
The software infrastructure is based on the XRCE STITCH, and provides plug-ability and discovery of devices, interoperability over distributed software components, and a user-oriented scripting language to define conditions and actions.