Communications and Network, 2013, 5, 106-111
doi:10.4236/cn.2013.51B024 Published Online February 2013 (
Research Online Mobile: Towards a Universal
Collaboration Research Environment
Taotao Shi, Yongzheng Ma, Guangyuan Liu, Jianjun Xie, Hongwei Yang
Computer Network Information Center, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
Received 2013
The collaboration research environment aims to support a team of researchers who are working coordinately over the
Internet. With the popularity of mobile phones and the widespread use of the high-speed wireless network, people are
demanding a universal collabo ration research en v ironment in wh ic h they can cooperate wherever they are. In this paper,
we present the Research Online Mobile, a universal collabo ration research environment based on the Duckling platform,
which is an open source software. The framework, key services and applications of the Research Online Mobile are also
elucidated. The Research Online Mobile has been released and used by several research communities.
Keywords: Research Online Smartphones Android iOS
1. Introduction
The Internet has profoundly changed and will continue to
change our work style. A Software system that supports a
team of researchers who are working coordinately over
the Internet is called the collaboration Research Envi-
ronment [1].
The collaboration research enviro nment actually origi-
nates from the Computer Supported Cooperative Work
(CSCW) [2]. On the basis of the CSCW technology, the
collaboration research environment exploits various types
of cyberinfrastructure, such as high-speed networks, high
performance computing, and mass storages, to integrate
and share resources. Thus, it can support a wide range of
exchanges and cooperations, including collaborative edi-
tion, remote control, computer simulation, realtime com-
munication and multimedia interactions, among a team
of researchers from different disciplines, organizations,
and institutions.
1.1. The Duckling Platform
Based on concepts and key technologies of the collabora-
tion research environment, Computer Network Informa-
tion Center, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CNIC-CAS)
has developed the Duckling platform which provides
visual displays and applications of various types of re-
search infrastructure for researchers by Web 2.0. Ac-
cording to some special demands from researchers, a lot
of plug-ins have been released based on the APIs pro-
vided by the Duckling. Currently, there are a spectrum of
plug-ins covering conference services, universal commu-
nications, organizations and document management plug-
The Duckling platform provides a common research
collaboration basement and forms a set of virtual re-
search collaboration oriented software operating envi-
ronments with application integration technologies. The
Duckling platform is an Internet-based virtual collabora-
tion infrastructure for scientific communities. With col-
laboration tools of the Duckling platform, researchers
can create private virtual research spaces to exchange
and communicate on research topics.
The latest version of Duckling is 3.0. Its source code
and deployment package were officially released on the
world’s largest open-source site SourceForge on March
17, 2010.
1.2. Research Online
By means of the cloud service, Research Online
( is based on the Duckling plat-
form and provides transparent collaboration services for
researchers, including collaborative edition, document
storage, research management, scientific data processing,
high performance computing, and data visualization. It
integrates distributed cyberinfrastructure of Chinese
Academy of Sciences and merges scientific data from
various disciplines.
Currently, about 100 groups of researchers have their
collaboration spaces in Research Online. They can have a
unique name, distinctive user interface style, and cus-
tomized home page through a series of steps. It can en-
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CN
T. T. SHI ET AL. 107
able a virtual research team carry out the collaborative
researching work such as document sharing, data col-
laboration, instant messaging and project management.
Since Research Online is responsible fo r the maintenanc e
and management of every collaboration space, research-
ers only need to focus on their research work.
1.3. Research Online Mobile
On Research Online, users can create their own collabo-
ration spaces in an easy way, which can support a team
to disseminate their scientific research work and publish
the relevant information. By December 31, 2011, there
were already 314 team spaces, 456 personal spaces, 883
users on Research Online.
Research Online can ensure a smooth collaboration
process in idea exchange, theoretical discussions and
project implementations. However, there are more con-
ferences, business trips and fragmented time nowadays,
simple operations like following up projects, sharing
knowledge and browsing information on Research Online
can be completed without the desktop devices, which is
becoming more and more popular. Moreover, with the
popularity of mobile phones and the widespread use of
the high-speed wireless network, people are demanding
that they can access Research Online wherever they are.
Research Online Mobile is to fulfill this requirement.
This paper presents Research Online Mobile which
supports researchers’ access their collaboration spaces in
Research Online anywhere and anytime by smartphones.
The framework, key services and applications of the Re-
search Online Mobile are also clarified. Research Online
Mobile has already been released and used by several
research communities.
2. Framework
2.1. Characteristics
Research Online Mobile has the following features: 1)
Low-cost construction: no software or hardware special
requirements in server-side deployment. 2) Transmitting
quickly: fast access to the page, and provide a pleasant
user experience. 3) Easy to navigate: everyone can
browse viewpoints and documents anytime, anywhere. 4)
Knowledge sharing in multimedia: multimedia is the
main way in knowledg e sharing. 5) Easy to extend: make
it possible to maintain and extend new functions.
2.2. Architecture Design
1) OAuth Authentication: OAuth [3] is an open stan-
dard for authorization. It does not allow a third party to
reach the user’s account information. That is to say, a
third party can apply for the authorization of the user’s
resources without sharing user’s username and password,
then the authorization between different applications is
reliable and safe. The abstract flow illustrated in Figure
1 describes interactions between the user, Research
Online Mobile, and th e resource server.
In the first step, a user requests the protected resources
from the resource server through Research Online Mo-
bile. Second, Research Online Mobile requests an unau-
thorized request token from the resource server. Then,
the server validates user’s username and password, and if
valid, it issues an unauthorized request token with corre-
sponding encryption key (step 2 to step 4). Third, the
resource server authenticates the unauthorized request
token presented by Research Online Mobile, if valid, it
returns the authorization grant, an authorized request
token, and its encryption key (step 4 to step 5). Fourth,
the server authenticates the client and validates the au-
thorization grant, If valid, it would issue an access token
(step 6 to step 7). Thus, with the access token validated
by the server, Research Online Mobile can get the pro-
tected resources (step 8 to step 9). Finally, the user can
access the protected resources in Research Online Mobile
as shown in the step 10.
2) System Architecture: As shown in Figure 2, Research
Figure 1. OAuth authentication process.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CN
Online Mobile can be deployed in the portable devices,
such as smartphones, tablet PCs, and iPod touch.
During the login process, a user is identified by the
OAuth Authentication. With the interface on the client,
the user information and the service requests are submit-
ted to the server. The server-side interface extracts the
appropriate data from the background database and
packages them in to packets, then sen ds them to the clien t.
When receiving responses, the client parses the corre-
sponding data packets from the server and displays them
to the user. Meanwhile, the server is responsible for sav-
ing data from the client to the database.
2.3. System Design
1) Server-side Design: In Research Online, any web
page can be seen as a carrier of information and knowl-
edge, just as an article. After writing ideas on a page in
Research Online, or uploading any type of file as an at-
tachment, users can share with their team members.
As shown in Figure 3, “Login Authentication” is re-
sponsible for OAuth authentication and authorization
when users sign in. “Query” and “Search” are designed
to get the appropriate data from the server-side’s data-
base, including the participation of users, collection of
pages, and list of corresponding pages and page contents.
Then, the server packages them into Json format and
sends them to the client for parsing and displaying. “Ac-
cess Page Content” is to obtain the page content from the
server according to its URL, and then the page would be
displayed in the client’s Web View control. “Check Ver-
sion for Update” supports version comparison and up-
grade. “Saving Media Data To Database” can save pic-
tures and recording files coming from the client to the
server-side’s database.
2) Client Design: The interface on the client uses a
relative layout, which ensures that the client is adaptive
to different resolutions of the screen. The list of pages
displays the title, creator, and creation date of the page.
User can access the appropriate content in the Web View
by clicking on an item in the list to get the page’s URL.
On Research Online Mobile, users can visit the team’s
information, browse documents, share the knowledge in
multimedia, and perform other operations anytime, any-
place even if when they are offline. When the client gets
response from the server, it would make a data copy to
its local database for offline using. “Navigation” aims to
help users focus on the pages which have been modified
or created recently. “Collection” is similar to the folder,
through which users can get th e resu lts of the pr eliminary
classification of documents and materials. “Team Up-
dating” shows the pages updated recently sorted by date.
“More” includes the system services, such as choosing
Fiure 2. Research online mobile architecture.
Figure 3. Server-side design.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CN
T. T. SHI ET AL. 109
teams, re-login, canceling account, clearing cache, check-
ing for updates and switching servers. “Viewed Re-
cently” can help users find the pages concerned more
from the local database. It also provides an efficient
search engine to help users quickly find the desired
documents in “Search”. Additionally, in order to create a
simple, fast user experience, and reduce the burden of
entering text, the multimedia is taken as the main way of
inputting, detailed in “Inputting”. Client design is shown
in Figure 4.
3) Special Processing: Smartphones are becoming the
mainstream. They have very large coverage on the mo-
bile phone market and numerous users. However, due to
the growing network traffic produced by more and more
applications, the wireless network speed is still the key
factor. In order to provide users a pleasant user experi-
ence, there are several special technologies in transmis-
sion and navigation in Research Onlin e Mobile:
(1) GNUzip (GZIP) [4] is a GNU free software tool
which is designed for compression. When the client re-
quests several pages, the server compresses them via
GZIP. Generally, plain text content is compressed to
40% of its original size, which allows users to have a
faster transmission speed. (2) Due to the size and its
resolution, the screen of the portable device can only
accommodate a relatively small amount of information.
To allow users to focus on their research topics, the
pages returned from the server have no banners, borders,
or decorations, but only key information, including ob-
jectives, planning, scheduling and knowledge perspec-
tives, which can fit in the screen of the portal device. (3)
Research Online intends to build a knowledge-based
system like the Wiki, facilitating users to browse pages
by embedding links in the pages. However, in order to
keep users from browsing outside the current application,
which costs more time and produces unnecessary net-
work traffic, Research Online Mobile cancels the hyper-
links in the pages.
3. Implementation
3.1. Smartphone Platform
The 2012 Mobile Future Focus Report released by
ComScore shows that nearly 42 percent of U.S. mobile
phone users, 44 percent of the five European countries’
mobile phone users now owns a smartphone. Another
key conclusion is that the competition between different
smartphone platforms is fiercer. Currently, the Android
platform accounted for nearly half of the market, and iOS
nearly 30%, which means that Android and iOS are pre-
vailing in most markets [5].
With the rapid progress of the next generation wireless
communication, it is foreseeable that the smartphone is
essential for everyone in obtaining new information.
Since we usher in the era of the knowledge economy,
there are more meetings/conferences, business trips and
fragmented time nowadays. Therefore, Research Online
Mobile is a great improvement to Research Online with
the mobility, convenience to use, and the advantage of
the wireless network.
3.2. Android-Based
1) Android Architecture Analysis: Launched by Google
in 2007, Android is an operating system designed for
mobile devices. It’s the first one to create a truly open
mobile development platform for the portable device.
Android’s core system services rely on the Linux 2.6
kernel which includes some C/C++ library to provide
services for developers through the Android application
framework. Android Runtime includes a core library and
the Dalvik virtual machine which is developed by
Google in order to save resources on the phone. The An-
droid Software Development Kit (SDK) provides all the
Figure 4. Client design.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CN
tools and APIs for development [6]. Android platform
supports Java programming language for application
development. Programmers can use the Eclipse inte-
grated development environment to install the ADT tool
for the mobile development.
We choose the Android as one of our target mobile
device platforms because of its openness and wide indus-
try support. The source code of the Android is publicly
available and currently 50 leading telecom, hardware,
software companies are registered as its members [7].
Thus, our challenge is to implement the application on
the platform to facilitate the exchange for researchers.
2) Detailed Implementation : As shown in Figure 5(a),
users should login with Duckling pass. “Inputting” in the
bottom of the Tab Bar supports users to record the
knowledge and share with other team members by taking
pictures, uploading photos and recording. Pictures from
the smartphones’ camera or the system album should be
converted to the Bitmap format then to a byte stream,
finally uploaded to the server or saved locally. If the
photo is not uploaded successfully but saved, the system
must take the initiative to refresh the media library and
upload it again. As shown in Figure 5(b), “Recording” is
implemented with MediaRecorder. “Recording” needs to
determine the saving file path in advance to ensure a
smooth recording process, which is different from taking
pictures. As recording is complete, users can choose to
playback, upload or delete. On Android, the list of pages
uses List View to display the page information. As
shown in Figure 5(c), users can get the corresponding
page content after selecting one item in the list. The An-
droid-based Research Online Mobile supports version
updating. When a new version is available, users can
upgrade with the latest apk file download ed from server-
side ( and
installed automatically.
3.3. iOS-Based
1) iOS Architecture Analysis: iOS is Apple Inc.’s mo-
bile operating system. iOS’s system consists of four lev-
els: the Core OS layer, the Core Services layer, the Me-
dia layer and the Cocoa Touch layer. System operation
occupies about 240 MB of memory space [8].
The Cocoa Touch layer contains the required frame-
work to create iOS applications. The Media layer con-
tains graphics technology, audio and video technologies
which combined with each other to bring the best multi-
media experience for mobile devices. The Core Services
layer provides basic system services for all applications.
The Core OS layer is the basis of a lot of other technolo-
gies [9]. iOS platform software development uses Objec-
tive-C language on the MAC computer, with Apple
Xcode (the underlying platform of development) and
Interface Builder (responsible for visual and graphic de-
sign of MAC) as the uniform development tools.
2) Detailed Implementation: “Team Updating” is the
home page when entering Research Online Mobile. It
shows that any additions or modifications of the page
content in a team. Table View on its interface layout can
be dropped down to refresh, which is implemented with
an open-source framework named EGORefreshTable-
HeaderView [10]. It can bring users a pleasant experi-
ence as shown in Figure 6(a). The attribute sourceType
of UIImagePickerController in iOS can tell whether the
picture is from syste m camera or the media library. Users
can get a local copy automatically once uploading pic-
tures successfully, shown in Figure 6(b). The application
implements recording with AVAudioRecorder and play-
back with AVAudioPlayer, and then users can choose to
upload or delete local recording files in UIActionSheet.
As shown in Figure 6(c), “More” makes it possible for
users to switch servers, choose participating teams, can-
cel the account and clear the cache.
(a) (b) (c)
Figure 5. Android-based implementation; (a) Login; (b) Recording; (c) Page content.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CN
T. T. SHI ET AL. 111
(a) (b) (c)
Figure 6. iOS-based implementation. (a) Team updating; (b) Photo uploading; (c ) Cle aring c ache.
4. Conclusions
Research Online provides transparent Internet-based col-
laboration services for researchers with Duckling. It can
integrate and share distributed and heterogeneous re-
sources in the application of scientific research. This pa-
per presents the Research Online Mobile framework,
Android-based and iOS-based implementation. It can
achieve researchers’ urgent demands to access their col-
laboration spaces in Research Online anywhere and any-
time by smart phones.
Research Online Mobile has been released and used by
several research communities. Furthermore, with the
rapid development of mobile computing technology and
the great needs for Research Online, Research Online
Mobile will certainly play an increasingly important role.
Thus, more comprehensive application modes should be
studied and imp roved in the future work.
5. Acknowledgements
This research is supported in part by the Chinese Acad-
emy of Sciences-Science grant INFO-115-D01 and the
CNIC Innovation Foundation under Grant CNIC_CX_
[1] N. Kai, et al. “Special Issue of Scientific Collaboration
and Its Typical Research Work,” Current Work of Infor-
matization, Vol. 20, 2010, pp. 14-30.
[2] G. L. Shi, Y. Xiang and G. X. Yang, “Theory and Prac-
tice of Computer Supported Cooperative Work,” Pub-
lishing House of Electronics Industry, Beijing, 2000.
[3] The OAuth 2.0 Authorization Protocol draft-ietf-oauth-
v2-20, 2011.
[4] The Gzip Home Page.
[6] R. Meier, “PROFESSIO NAL Android™2 Application D e-
velopment,” Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana,
[7] Open Handset Alliance. oha_members.html
[8] H. Karen, “Macworld Expo: Optimised OS X Sits on
‘Versatile’ Flash,” Macworld, 2007.
[9] Developer, “iOS Technology Overview,” Apple Inc., 2011.
Copyright © 2013 SciRes. CN