Context Properties

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This page is part of the work of the Needs and Preferences Working Group.

The tables below collect various properties describing a context of use, including aspects such as environment, situation, time, location. These are collected from other projects, standards and technologies.

As discussed in the meeting on 2012-06-26, please feel free to add relevant properties into the table.

  • Vassilis: User Profile Ontology, paper on context modeling, SOUPA ontologies
    • Outcome:*The review of the SOUPA ontologies, resulted in a few context properties that may be considered for reuse. The general practice for defining these parameters are via OWL enumerated classes, i.e.  Direction = {N S E W NW NE SW SE}, DistanceUnit = {Mile Yard Foot Inch Kilometer Meter Centimeter}.
      • The same practice (i.e. definition of OWL enumerated classes) is currently followed in the User Profile Ontology, e.g. the Location class includes the subclasses "IndoorLocation" and "OutdoorLocation", each of which has been defined as enumerated class ({Classroom Home HomeOffice WorkOffice LivingRoom Restaurant ...} and {Car Mall Park ...}, respectively)."
  • Claudia: ISO 9241-11 Annex A - Outcome: Components of the context of use of a product defined by ISO9210 include: user, tasks, equipment, and environments.
    • User: knowledge, skill, experience, education, training, physical attributes, and motor and sensory capabilities (similar to access4all/cloud4all preference).
    • Task: activities undertaken to achieve a goal (not yet covered by access4all/cloud4all)
    • Equipment: hardware, software and materials (similar to device context Access4All/Cloud4All?)
      • Basic description: Product identification, Product description, Main application areas
      • Specification: Hardware, Software, Materials, Services
    • Environment (physical and social environment) (similar to context of use access4all/cloud4all)
    • Organizational environment: Structure , Attitudes and culture, Job design
    • Technical environment (Configuration): Hardware, Software, Reference materials
    • Physical environment:
          • Workplace conditions: Atmospheric conditions,Auditory environment,Thermal environment,Visual environment, Environmental instability
          • Workplace design: space and furniture, user posture, location, workplace safety, health hazards, Protective clothing and equipment

      Context - Approach for Definition

      A structured application centric definition for context-based interaction was defined by Zimmerman (based on a definition provided by Dey): Context is any information that can be used to characterize the situation of an entity [1]. Elements for the description of this context information fall into five categories: individuality, activity, location, time, and relations. The activity predominantly determines the relevancy of context elements in specific situations, and the location and time primarily drive the creation of relations between entities and enable the exchange of context information among entities [5].

      Other definitions can be categorized into:

      • Definitions by synonyms: application's environment [2], situation [3]
      • Definitions by examples through context elements: location, identity, time, temperature, noise, beliefs, desires, commitments, and intentions of the human [4]. Approaches that defined context through examples [6]:
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      Problem associated with such indirect definitions are summarized in [5]:

      • Incompleteness
      • Similar meaning of the term context, situation, and environment induce self-referencing of these terms in definitions.
      • Limited practical usefulness and no basis for their construction (except UCD)

      Relations to AccessforAll/cloud4All Approach

      • Individuality
        • user preference (similar to access4all/cloud4all preference/ 'user profile)
        • device/solutions specification (similar to device context task force Access4All/Cloud4All)
      • Time(=> similar to task force context description)
      • Location (=> similar to task force context description)
      • Activity: task of an entity, goal-oriented activities (not yet covered by accessforall/cloud4all)


      1. Anind K. Dey. 2001. Understanding and Using Context. Personal Ubiquitous Comput. 5, 1 (January 2001), 4-7.
      2. Hull, R., Neaves, P., Bedford-Roberts, J.: Towards Situated Computing. In: Krulwich, B. (ed.) The First International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC ’97), Cambridge, MA (1997)
      3. Brown, P.J.: The Stick-e Document: A Framework for Creating Context-Aware Applications, International Conference on Electronic Documents, Document Manipulation, and Document Dissemination (EP 96). In: Proceedings published in Origination, Dissemination, and Design (EP-ODD), Palo Alto, CA, vol. 8(1), pp. 259–272. John Wiley & Sons, Chichester (1996)
      4. Chen, H.: An Intelligent Broker Architecture for Pervasive Context-Aware Systems. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Maryland, Baltimore County (2004) 
      5. Andreas Zimmermann, Andreas Lorenz und Reinhard Oppermann: An Operational Definition of Context; Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 2007, Volume 4635/2007
      6. Jesper J. Bisgaard , Dk Aalborg East. How is Context and Context-awareness Defined and Applied? A Survey of Context-awareness

      Properties Describing a Context of Use


      Property name (URI) Value space Default value English description Reference to standard, project Is core?
      urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:pidf:rpid:place-is For audio: noisy, ok, quiet, unknown;
      for video: toobright, ok, dark, unknown;
      for text (e.g. RTT): uncomfortable, inappropriate, ok, unknown.
      - ("unknown" could be a suitable default) "describes properties of the place the person is currently at" RFC 4480: Place-is Element
      (empty row)


      Property name (URI)
      Value space Default value English description Reference to standard, project Is core?
      urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:pidf:rpid:situation A value form the enumeration in RFC 4480, or IANA-registered values from other namespaces - "what the person is currently doing, expressed as an enumeration of activity-describing elements. A person can be engaged in multiple activities at the same time, e.g., traveling and having a meal." IETF RFC 4480: Activities Element
      urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:pidf:rpid:privacy enumeration (audio, text, unknown, video) - ("unknown" could be a suitable default) "which types of communication third parties in the vicinity of the presentity are unlikely to be able to intercept accidentally or intentionally" (emphasis added) IETF RFC 4480: Privacy Element
      (empty row)


      Property name (URI) Value space Default value English description Reference to standard, project Is core?
      urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:pidf:rpid:time-offset a positive or negative integer - "number of minutes of offset from UTC at the person's current location" RFC 4480: Time Offset
      (empty row)


      Property name (URI)
      Value space Default value English description Reference to standard, project Is core?
      urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:pidf:rpid:place-type Types enumerated in RFC 4589 or additional IANA-registered values as described in RFC 4589. - "the type of place the person is currently at" RFC 4480: Place-type Element and RFC 4589
      (empty row)


      Property name (URI) Value space Default value English description Reference to standard, project Is core?
      urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:pidf:rpid:mood At least the enumeration in XEP-0107 - "the mood of the presentity" RFC 4480: Mood Element
      urn:ietf:params:xml:ns:pidf:rpid:user-input active or idle - "records the user-input or usage state of the service or device, based on human user input, e.g., keyboard, pointing device, or voice. (...) The mechanism for such aggregation is beyond the scope of this document, but generally reflects the most recent user input across all devices and services" RFC 4480: User-Input Element
      (empty row)

      Notes & Use Cases

      Not knowing where to put these, and having no source for them, here are some instances of context that may be useful for implementing current assistive technologies and facilitating new ones.


      This is an important domain in which there is already a lot of attention to the needs of people with disabilities.

      • needing to be found
      • needing to be rescued or treated as a crime victim
      • needing to tell rescuers about needs; may need real-time captioning (CART), sign language interpreter, or personal communication assistant/caregiver to help communicate
      • device(s) used by person may have been stolen or are broken, out of reach, or the person unable to use them
      • caregivers may need to be notified; may want to be included in any communication between person and emergency responders

      Communication (see also "Relationship management" below)

      • initiating a conversation -- getting someone's attention
      • what is/are the preferred modalities of the others in the conversation? (e.g., do we need a language or sign language interpreter?)
      • what is the topic or purpose of the conversation? (for loading the right vocabularies, and executive functions)
      • maintaining the conversation
      • terminating the conversation
      • communicating with 1 person vs. many people -- different implications for turn-taking
      • private conversation/whispering
      • follow-up to a conversation -- I was creating an utterance and the other person left; I can continue to construct it and email it instead.
      • make a record of this conversation?


      I already bought the shoes I need, but I forgot and now I'm in another store about to buy another pair. Perhaps I am permitted to buy X but not Y, or permitted to buy 20 units of X but no more. Perhaps I'm allowed to spend a certain amount of money per week.

      Personal care & autonomy

      • toileting and other bodily self-care
      • sex (no incoming video calls, please)
      • getting personal attendant services


      • regular learning, in the classroom vs. a lab, vs. at home
      • being tested: nothing that could work like a cheat sheet; extended timing information is automatically displayed
      • doing research with access to only specific reference materials
      • classroom sign language interpreting or CART -- find a captioner or interpreter who knows the specific vocabulary of the subject being taught


      In general, how many cues, how much double checking, confirming, checking in with assistance do I get by default? Based on familiarity:

      • with this task
      • with this location
      • with this person
      • with this means of transportation or route

      Relationship management

      • Who is this person?
      • What kind of relationship is it and what are our respective roles?
      • What are some relevant details about this person?
      • How recently did I communicate with this person?
      • What did we discuss?
      • What plans, agreements, or commitments did we make? What business did we transact?
      • What are his/her/my expectations? Did either of us accomplish any items since we last interacted?

      Multipart task: an activity whose goal is accomplished on several devices or over several sessions. For example, I use a calculator, then transfer the answer to a tax form.

      Schedule context -- different performance requirements if I am free the whole day vs. have an appointment in 5 minutes.