Now that the notion of presence is beginning to infuse our electronic communication, an inevitable next question is: presence where? Marc Eisenstadt, chief scientist at the Knowledge Media Institute of the Open University in the UK, wrote to show me a Jabber-based system called BuddySpace that locates presence indicators on maps. In the map shown here, Marc (top row, third photo from right) is present in the office, but idle. Martin Dzbor (bottom row, far right), KMI's "chief presence architect," is present and active. And that little dot on the US map, in New England, is me, present and active.

It's a tantalizing glimpse of things to come. I'm finally reading Howard Rheingold's Smart Mobs, the best current summary of trends in location awareness and mobile/pervasive computing. BuddySpace points in that direction. In its current form, location is static attribute of an XML description that you modify using a supplied editor. To create the map shown here, for example, I added a GIF file of North America to KMI's office map, then located myself on it. Integrating a location-aware device into this scenario is an obvious next step.

Here's some of what Marc says about BuddySpace:

The nice thing with BuddySpace is the 'feelgood' factor: like returning to the office late at night and seeing a few key lights on, knowing that certain people are in... more compelling with an office layout rather than a list...even better is your perceptual ability to spot the ABSENCE (or 'busy state', etc) of someone at a glance on a map you know, rather than having to scan a list...even a well-organised hierarchy is hard to scan rapidly.

Cool! It's going to get even more interesting when location becomes dynamic. We had that for a while, with phones, when caller ID meant not only "who" but also "where." Then, with cellphones, the "where" went away. We'll get that information back soon, and when we project it onto maps, collaboration in virtual teams will seem a little less abstract.

Former URL: http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2003/02/04.html#a594