News and events - Tampere University of Technology

Moving beyond apps with programmable interactions

The Internet of Things, digitalisation and intelligent home electronics are increasingly becoming a part of our everyday lives. The number of devices keeps increasing, but how will the users be able to manage them all? MSc (Tech) Niko Mäkitalo studied a potential solution: programmable interactions.

Connecting various devices to the Internet and other networks enables the co-operation of the equipment, new kinds of user experiences and, consequently, new types of business. However, the increasing number of devices also gives rise to increased software complexity. There is a demand for new, easier ways of controlling machines and equipment.

“With our current communication protocols and the libraries facilitating their use, it is relatively easy to get a couple of devices to communicate with each other. However, network connections and a having the machines seemingly communicate with each other is not enough to make the equipment more intelligent or to have them co-operate. What else is typically needed is the software for maintaining states and operations,” Niko Mäkitalo explains.

Mobile phone equals a basketful of remote controls

Today’s mobile device manufacturers provide applications for programming their devices. These apps are poorly suited for today’s world as they require continuous attention from the users. Furthermore, users nowadays own and actively use an increasing number of devices.

“In addition to traditional devices, the number of networked and embedded devices is multiplying. There is therefore a risk that the mobile devices and their abundant software are turning into a basketful of remote controls with which the users actively and yet manually control other devices around them.”

Niko Mäkitalo examined and resolved some of these issues from the viewpoint of programmable interactions that are founded on four key principles. According to these principles, these novel interactions must be social, personalised, proactive and predictable.

“The programmable interactions do not require active controlling measures from their users; instead, they aim to serve the user proactively. They must adjust to the users’ needs and interact in ways that seem natural to the users. It is also crucial that the interactions are predictable for the users: The social, proactive and personalised behaviour must not conflict with the users’ interests. The users must be able to trust this new means of interaction,” Mäkitalo summarises.

In his dissertation, Mäkitalo developed an Action-Oriented Programming model and a related runtime environment for executing these programmable interactions. The execution provides ready-made abstractions and tools for programming the co-operation of different devices in cases of co-located devices and people.

Public defence of a doctoral dissertation on Wednesday, 15 June 2016

MSc (Tech) Niko Mäkitalo’s doctoral dissertation ‘On Programmable Interactions - Principles, Concepts and Challenges of Co-Located and Social Interplay’ will be publicly examined at Tampere University of Technology in room TB109 in the Tietotalo building (address: Korkeakoulunkatu 1, Tampere) at 12 noon on Wednesday, 15 June 2016. The opponent will be Professor Jukka Manner from Aalto University. Professor Tommi Mikkonen from the Department of Pervasive Computing at TUT will act as Chairman.

Further information: Niko Mäkitalo tel. +358 (0) 40 577 0014,

News submitted by: Tiina Leivo
Keywords: science and research, programmable interactions