News and events - Tampere University of Technology

Navigation gets smarter with context awareness

MSc Robert E. Guinness ‘s doctoral dissertation examines how computers and navigations systems, in particular, can be given the ability to recognize and use context.

By making computers aware of the context in which they are operating, they can more fluidly serve their users, understanding and even anticipating their needs.

Context can be understood as “the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs.” Increasingly, by incorporating various sensors and information sources, computers are becoming “context aware”. A prime example of this is the smartphone, which is able to sense its environment and understand various situations that the user encounters. Especially in areas related to navigation, smartphone functionalities can be enhanced by sensing and understanding context and situations, such as “the user is walking,” “the user is riding a bus,” or even “the user is leaving her workplace to go for lunch.”

In particular, Guinness’s research improves the state of the art for three tasks related to navigation and context awareness: (1) recognizing a smartphone user’s activity in an indoor office environment, (2) recognizing a smartphone user‘s different modes of motion, such as walking, driving a car, riding a bus etc., and (3) determining the optimal route for a ship that must travel through ice-covered waters.

“The first two areas of research in my dissertation are aimed at enhancing context awareness in smartphones and other mobile devices. I use various machine learning techniques to demonstrate that these tasks can be performed with high accuracy using existing smartphone technology. The third research area is focused on improving efficiency and safety in the maritime industry. This is particularly relevant for Finnish industry, which is reliant on ships being able to deliver goods even in harsh winter conditions. On a broader scale, we know that ships are increasingly operating in the Arctic. A key enabling technology for Arctic operations is ice-aware navigation.”

Public defence of a doctoral dissertation on Monday, 21 December

MSc Robert E. Guinness’s doctoral dissertation in the field of pervasive computing entitled “Context Awareness for Navigation Applications” will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Computing and Electrical Engineering of Tampere University of Technology (TUT) in room TB109 in the Tietotalo building (address: Korkeakoulunkatu 1, Tampere, Finland) at 12 noon on Monday, 21 December 2015.

The opponents will be Dr. Martin Werner (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Germany) and Dr. Jari Syrjärinne (HERE, Finland). Professor Jarmo Takala, Dean of the Faculty of Computing and Electrical Engineering at TUT will act as Chairman. 

Robert Guinness (34) comes from St. Louis, USA, but has called Finland his home for the past six years. He currently resides in Kirkkonummi and works as a Senior Research Scientist and Group Leader at the Finnish Geospatial Research Institute of the National Land Survey of Finland.

Further information:
Robert Guinness, tel. +358 50 362 2796,

News submitted by: Tiina Leivo
Keywords: science and research, context awareness, navigation