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A toolbox for managing organisational issues in the early stage of the development of a ubiquitous computing application


In this paper, we present a toolbox for the prospective management of organisational issues in ubiquitous computing. Ubiquitous computing applications are developed to enable new services and new ways of working, to increase management control and to improve safety. However, they may also interfere with established work practices and may have unforeseen consequences for organisations. Despite their importance, such organisational issues are rarely addressed in ubiquitous computing innovation projects. Drawing on socio-technical design approaches and existing research on organisational issues in ubiquitous computing, we have developed a toolbox containing three tools for managing organisational issues of ubiquitous computing applications in the early stage of development. The toolbox supports the realisation of hoped-for benefits of ubiquitous computing in organisations and the management of unwanted organisational issues. The “work process tool” supports the description of envisioned work processes, including flexibility and variability requirements, changing responsibilities and different points of view. The “work system tool” analyses the alignment between a ubiquitous computing application and work systems task completeness, independency and the fit between regulation opportunities and requirements. The “human controllability tool” assesses how the control capabilities of workers are enabled or constrained by the new ubiquitous computing application. We show the applicability of the toolbox using a case study of an early stage ubiquitous computing technology innovation project, where the toolbox contributed to the set-up of the field trial and the development of application guidelines.

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This research was funded by the ETH Research Grant TH -31/06-1 and the EU funded project SToP (Stop Tampering of Products (IST-034144)). We also thank Mikko Lehtonen, Harald Vogt, Ali Dada, Nina Oertel, Jens Müller, Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda and Johann Weichbrodt for their support and comments.

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Correspondence to Daniel Boos.

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Boos, D., Grote, G. & Guenter, H. A toolbox for managing organisational issues in the early stage of the development of a ubiquitous computing application. Pers Ubiquit Comput 17, 1261–1279 (2013).

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  • Organisational issues
  • Ubiquitous computing
  • Early stage
  • Benefits and risks
  • Socio-technical design