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Davulcu’s research corrals NSF Career Award

February 01, 2007

Efforts at ASU to advance knowledge in Web services science will be aided by a grant of more than $400,000 through a National Science Foundation Career Award recently earned by Hasan Davulcu, an assistant professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering of the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering.


The award recognizes young scientists and engineers who demonstrate leadership in significant research areas. Davulcu will receive a $412,112 grant over five years to create a formal policy specification language and methodology for computer software that helps people schedule and automate consumer tasks.


In the context of Web services, a policy language provides the means for “programming the terms of services” online and aligning the capabilities of service providers to requirements of the consumer.


Davulcu explains: “How can users write or edit policy rules conveniently so that software agents can find and talk to each other to make recommendations for organizing and scheduling ordinary tasks, such as car repairs, grocery shopping, travel plans or household chores?


“Now, we have all this information about service providers online – your grocer, your bank and many others. Why not have them collaborate? The challenge is to have my online calendar and my bank talk to my auto mechanic to figure out a convenient time to repair my car.”


One of the first steps will be the creation and adoption of a standard language and terminology for organizations in specialized service fields. For example, if the consumer is looking for a travel agency, these agencies will need to describe their services using a common terminology and language to be part of a services directory system.


“The organizations should be able to locally edit the description of their services and then the algorithms will do the services composition to satisfy their users' goals,” Davulcu says. “It should be a simple language, very close to natural language. It will contain services coordination rules, such as: ‘If I miss a flight, then find an alternative flight and notify my hotel pick-up service.' ”


Within three years, Davulcu plans to develop a prototype of the system using his policy language and algorithms. He'll use the Brickyard building in downtown Tempe, where the Department of Computer Science and Engineering is headquartered, as the environment for the prototype implementation.


The research will involve radio frequency identification (RFID) devices supplied by the project's hardware partner, Microchip Technology Inc.


RFIDs will be installed throughout the Brickyard building. A student using a programmable handheld device will be able to access location- and profile-aware information and services, such as information about a professor's research or upcoming presentations, and set up an appointment by searching the professor's online calendar.


“Maybe there is a demonstration event going on,” Davulcu says. “The system knows that the student doesn't have any classes during the time of the event, so it will notify the student about the event and guide her to the room within the building.”


The project evolved in part from Davulcu's joint work with the engineering school's Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing (CUbiC) lab.


“This ‘smart environment' idea has been cooking through our CUbiC collaboration,” he says.


As part of that project, students from Davulcu's semantic Web mining class worked with CUbiC researcher Terri Hedgpeth and undergraduate student Laura Bratton to create an “assistive way-finding system” using a wireless handheld device with dialogue interface to explore and familiarize themselves with their learning environments.