Sharing with people: a system for user-centric content sharing


In this paper, we present the existing content sharing paradigms along with some advanced sharing use cases that are not feasible with the existing technologies. For satisfying these use cases, we propose a new system that allows content sharing in a totally user-centric manner, meaning that users can select the people they want to share their content with and just let the system handle all the lower level device, network bearer and content transfer technologies, which best fit each sharing occasion. The system feasibility is proved in two dimensions, firstly by a technical prototype implementation in a laboratory environment, and secondly via usability studies with non-expert users, for gathering their input and feedback on the interface and preferred interaction with such a system.

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The authors would like to thank Seamus Moloney, from Nokia Research Center (NRC), and Prof. Jarmo Harju, from Tampere University of Technology (TUT), for reviewing this paper and providing feedback on the presented work. Also, Aino Ahtinen and Juha-Pekka Luoma, from NRC, and Sari Kinnari, from TUT, for providing support and feedback to our user study.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Petros Belimpasakis.

Additional information

Communicated by Jim Gemmell.

Appendix: Detailed device and content documents

Appendix: Detailed device and content documents

In this section we present, in a very basic form, the data exchanged between the SWP Server and the end user devices. As mentioned in Sect. 5.2, we have two cases of communication between the SWP Server and the devices:

  • Reporting device capabilities and album information to SWP Server

  • Retrieving device capabilities and album information from SWP Server

The message syntax is described below.

Reporting device capabilities and album information to SWP Server

Device document

As described in 2, the device document has the following structure:

<name> Friendly name of the device <name>
   Description of an interface of the device
   Description of another interface
   Description of a service provided by the device
   Description of another service

Each interface of each device is described in the following way:

<rank> Ranking of interface </rank>
   (Integer number, 1=preferred interface)
<type> The type of the interface </type>
   (E.g. 802.11g)
<mode> The mode of working </mode>
   (E.g. WLAN Ad-hoc or Infrastrucure mode)
<name> The name of the network </name>
   (The SSID, in WLAN)
<security_type> Security type </security_type>
    (E.g. WEP or WPA in WLAN)
<security_key> Security key </security_key>
   (The actual security key)
<security_size> Secuirty key size </security_ size>
   (The security key length, in bits)
<address_type> Address type </address_type>
   (E.g. autoIP/DHCP/static)
<address> Interface address </ address>
   (IP address or DNS name)

Each service of each device is described in the following way:

<name> Service name </name>
   (Friendly name of the service)
<type> Service type </type>
   (E.g. UPnP, Atom, WebDAV, etc.)
<id> Service unique ID </id>
    (If discovery required)
<port> Server port number </port>
   (The TCP/UDP port number)
<path> Default path </path>
   (The default folder to access)

A complete example of a device document is shown below:

<name> MyPhone </name>
    <rank> 1 </rank>
    <type> ieee802.11g </type>
    <mode> adhoc </mode>
    <name> sharing </name>
    <security_type> WEP </security_type>
    <security_size> 58 </security_size>
    <security_key> 12345678 </security_key>
    <address_type> autoIP </address_type>
    <address> </address>
    <type> cellular </type>
    <rank> 2 </rank>
    <address_type> dhcp </address_type>
    <address> address>
    <name> UPnPShare </name>
    <type> upnp </type>
    <id> uShare </id>
    <path> /rootshare/ </path>
    <name> myWebServ </name>
    <type> webdav </type>
<port> 8080 </port>
    <path> /mydirectory/ </path>

Content document

Apart from the device document, every device needs to upload to the SWP Server a content document. Again, in the form of an XML document, the content document has the following structure:

    Description of a content repository
    Description of an album
    Description of another album

A repository entry has the following structure:

<access> Access method </access>
    (Explained below)
<access users=“userA, B”> Other access </access>
    (Another access method, with access rights)
<max_size> maximum object size </max_size>
    (Maximum object size in KBs)

What we specify here as an “access method” (the element <access>) is the combination of device, interface and service, via which the specific repository can be accessed. The described access method needs to be matched back to the device document, in order for a device to parse the information and understand how the content should be transferred to the target device. The access method value has the structure: Device_name/interface_rank/service_name/path

Note that the path is appended to the default path, which was specified in the service of the device document. An example, of an access method, could be: MyPhone/1/UPnPShare/uploads

That means, that in the UPnP server of the device “MyPhone” there is a folder named “/rootshare/uploads/” (/rootshare/ path comes from the UPnPShare service description, as presented in the previous example). It could be accessed via WLAN ad-hoc network, using the parameters specified in the device document, of the user owning the device “MyPhone”. If a repository requires authentication, before content can be uploaded to it, list of users that have this right can be inserted, as a parameter in the <access> element.

In a similar manner to content repositories, content albums are described in the content document. An album entry has the following structure:

<name> Album friendly name </name>
<access> Access method </access>
    (Explained below)
<access users=“userA, B”> Other access </access>
    (Another access method, with access rights)
<items> number of items in the album </items>

The access method is specified as described earlier, in the case of the content repository.

An example of a complete content document, in relation to the previous example of device document, would be the following:

    <access> MyPhone/1/UPnPShare/uploads </access>
    <access> MyPhone/1/myWebServ/uploads </access>
    <access> MyPhone/2/myWebServ/uploads </access>
    <max_size> 10240 </max_size>
    <name> Summer Vacation 2007 </name>
    <access users=“jb,mia”>       MyPhone/1/UPnPShare/sum07 </access>
    <access users=“jb,mia”>
      MyPhone/2/myWebServ/sum07 </access>
    <items> 32 </items>
    <name> My latest public images </name>
    <access> MyPhone/1/UPnPShare/latest </access>
    <items> 5 </items>

This simple example holds some essential information, which we briefly explain here, for better understanding:

  • The device “MyPhone” can accept new content, sent to it, via WLAN ad-hoc (denoted by the interface ranking number “1”), if UPnP or WebDAV protocols are used. Also, transfer of content, via cellular network (denoted by the interface ranking number “2”), is allowed if the WebDAV protocol is used. In all cases, the maximum allowed item size is 10 Megabytes.

  • The device “MyPhone” also hosts two albums, with content that it offers for consumption to other users. An album called “Summer Vacation 2007” is available to users “jb” and “mia” who can access it either via WLAN ad-hoc (interface “1”) and UPnP, or alternatively via cellular network (interface “2”) and WebDAV protocol. Another album, called “My latest public images”, is available to everyone, but it is accessible only in proximity, using WLAN ad-hoc, and UPnP as a data transfer protocol.

The SWP Server saves all the uploaded information, the device and content documents, to its internal database. User devices are able to update or delete this information at any point, using standard HTTP methods.

Retrieving device capabilities and album information from SWP Server

In this case, the devices/content XML documents are very similar as the ones described earlier, so we will not analyse them. Rather, we will just provide an example of an aggregated content document, which would provide information about multiple albums, located in multiple locations.

    <access> MyPhone/1/UPnPShare/uploads </access>
    <access> MyHomePC/1/MyWebServ/uploads </access>
    <max_size> 10240 </max_size>
    <name> Summer Vacation 2007 </name>
    <access> MyPhone/1/UPnPShare/sum07 </access>
    <items> 32 </items>
    <name> My Winter Vacation 2006 </name>
    <access> MyHomePC/1/MyWebServ/winter06 </access>
    <items> 21 </items>

This example basically shows that the user accepts new content to be sent both to the device “MyPhone” and to “MyHomePC”. The first device also offers an album called “Summer Vacation 2007”, while the second offers an album called “My Winter Vacation 2006”. Note, that this is the content XML document that a requesting user retrieves from the SWP Server. This is why it has been filtered and it shows only the repositories / albums that the specific user has access to.

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Belimpasakis, P., Saaranen, A. Sharing with people: a system for user-centric content sharing. Multimedia Systems 16, 399–421 (2010).

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  • Content sharing
  • User-centric
  • Seamless sharing
  • Content mobility