About HotMobile

The History of HotMobile

Nigel Davies, Ramón Cáceres and Mahadev Satyanarayanan

February 2014

In the Beginning

The HotMobile workshop series has now been in existence for almost twenty years. The workshop began life as the 1st IEEE International Workshop on Mobile Computing Systems and Applications held at the Dream Inn, Santa Cruz, CA in December 1994. This was one of the first research forums held anywhere in the world that focused on mobile computing. Darell Long of the University of Santa Cruz was the founding General Chair of the workshop, and Mahadev Satyanarayanan of Carnegie Mellon University was the founding Program Chair.

The digest of the event reports that "the goal of this two-day meeting was to foster interaction between active workers in mobile computing, with a view toward cross-fertilization of ideas". In keeping with this goal, the event was organised as a small, informal workshop rather than a larger and more formal conference. The workshop was sponsored by the IEEE Computer Society Technical Committee on Operating Systems, in cooperation with ACM SIGOPS and USENIX.

The workshop was highly interactive and contained a large number of groundbreaking papers on topics such as context aware computing, support for disconnected operation and ad-hoc networking. For many, the highlight was a brainstorming session on the beach during which researchers exchanged ideas for new mobile computing applications and envisioned where the field might be in 5 years.

Not only have the papers published at this event had a tremendous impact on the field, but the workshop also left a lasting legacy in terms of the researchers involved. Many of the established senior researchers in our field today were graduate students or junior faculty at the workshop.


The timing of the December 1994 workshop coincided with an explosion of interest in mobile computing. Laptops had been around for about 5 years, but they tended to be relatively underpowered relative to the desktop workstations of that era. By 1994, however, laptops capable of running operating systems such as Unix had emerged. In addition, the forerunner of Wi-Fi wireless networking had appeared in the form of the 915 Mhz NCR WaveLan technology. The convergence of these computing and communication technologies lead to high research interest in mobile computing.

After the first workshop, there was tremendous enthusiasm and interest among participants to establish the workshop on an annual basis. However, the ACM MobiCom conference was created in mid-1995. The workshop organizers were concerned that having two forums in the newborn field of mobile computing would dilute the quality of each forum. For these reasons, they decided to delay organization of the second workshop.

By 1999, it was clear that there was so much interest in mobile computing that the workshop should be revived. Mobicom had evolved into a large conference that focused on wireless networking rather than broader systems and applications issues in mobile computing. There was clearly a need for a small highly interactive venue to share broader ideas in mobile computing, so WMCSA was relaunched. In 1999 it was co-located with OSDI in New Orleans. In 2000, the workshop returned to Monterey and attracted over 70 delegates. At this point it became clear that there was a continuing appetite for the workshop and it has become a more or less annual fixture since then.

By 2004, the workshop was attracting a record number of submissions and attendees. However, there was concern that the event was beginning to resemble a small conference rather than a highly interactive workshop. In addition, MobiSys had been created in 2003 as an ACM SIGMOBILE conference to complement the network focus of Mobicom. A decision was also made by the organizers to make WMCSA be part of ACM SIGMOBILE rather than IEEE. Coinciding with this change, the short name for the workshop name was changed from WMCSA to HotMobile.

These changes became effective in 2006. Since that time, the workshop has made a conscious effort to remain an attractive forum for short papers that emphasize exploratory ideas rather than fully completed work. This change has resulted in the workshop being able to maintain a focus on novelty and controversy that is a hallmark of the annual event.

To help researchers benefit from the long history of research in the workshop we provide access to the web sites for all previous workshops at www.hotmobile.org. This web site has been maintained for many years by Christos Efstratiou who continues to provide an outstanding service to the community through his work on this.

Recurring Themes

We are often asked to comment on the important themes that crop up repeatedly in the workshop series. While there are many that we could have selected we wanted to highlight three examples: privacy, disconnected and weakly-connected operation, and context-aware computing.

Privacy has always been an important topic in the workshop. From the outset it was recognised that mobile computing had the potential to raise significant privacy concerns and the first workshop featured a panel session that explored the likely privacy threats brought about by the introduction of mobile computing. Fast forward twenty years and in 2014 the workshop featured extensive discussion of the privacy implications of technologies such as Google Glass and mobile analytics.

Supporting access to data while on the move is at the heart of many mobile computing applications. Early work focused on models and systems support for data sharing and consistency while partially or totally disconnected. As cloud computing has gained significance the location of user data remains a key question for mobile computing research.

Context-aware computing has been a central theme of the workshop for many years. While many researchers originally focused on trying to achieve location transparency, at WMCSA/HotMobile there was always a recognition that location and context were useful cues for influencing application and system behaviour - leading to a wide range of proposals for new ways to exploit this information.

The Future

HotMobile continues to thrive - in 2014 there were over 90 attendees who met in Santa Barbara to enjoy two days of stimulating presentations and discussion. For those of us who have followed the workshop since its inception this annual event provides an opportunity to meet the leading researchers in the field as well as its next generation of leaders. Most of all, it is an opportunity to discuss innovative ideas in a positive, highly interactive environment. If you have not attended a HotMobile event we encourage you to submit your work and come-along to benefit from in-depth discussions with your peers.

Web Site maintained by Mateusz Mikusz