UK: University develops computerised meeting organiser

Organising meetings in-house can be bad enough but in this global business world the chore can be well-nigh impossible. Help is at hand: computer scientists at Leicester University are collaborating with other higher education institutions, corporate research centres and businesses in six countries as part of a European Union-funded project, inContext, to find cyberspace ways of connecting people.

The team aims to develop technology that goes beyond current internet-based collaboration techniques such as email, calendars and short message services, to provide a single, more targeted way of scheduling international meetings. So far, the project has concentrated on developing a "pervasive collaboration service architecture" (PSCA), that allows users to connect from a PC, a mobile phone or a personal digital assistant to the system and request services.

The system automatically decides which services to offer based on the context of the person requesting them and others involved in the activity: where are they? what are they doing? what have they done in similar situations before?

Dr Stephan Reiff-Marganiec, senior lecturer in computer science, said the process of contacting key people in an international project and setting up a meeting would keep a secretary busy for the best part of several days: "When secretaries tell the system that a meeting is required, it will automatically collect names of people who can represent those that cannot attend, find experts in specific areas, and suggest alternative times for the meeting. It will even send invitations to people on the device that they use: email, instant messages."

The technique is demonstrated here:
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