From "We Can" To "We Should"

Just finished my cruise trip to Mexico with my gf and it was a fantastic experience, though I had to read around 100 papers and organize them for finding my potential research directions and wrote the journal.. I managed to do so before the start of new year and enjoyed the trip at the same time.. phew..

Anyway. After reading the papers about sensing and wireless at MobiCom, MobiSys, SenSys, NSDI, HotMobile from 2012 to 2015, I find the interesting phenomenon. We always claim that we can do this by using that. Taking "localization" as an example, it's been studied for years and people use all kinds of technologies (e.g., FM, Wi-Fi, RFID, sound, geomagnetic, visible light, 60GHz, etc.) to accomplish meter-level or cm-level or even mm-level accuracy. Of course, they are done by assuming various kinds of scenarios. And we show that we can do it. Most introductions would look like: 

Recent works like xxx have proposed xxx for localizations. One unexplored/more promising area is xxx because under some certain scenarios xxx or xxx do not work.

While this is totally fine, what I see is

Hey, we can use an unexpected method to do similar things just like prior methods and we get better results.

But I never see things like

Hey guys, we did these methods and xxx is the one we should use.

Of course, this is not easy to do so since it requires you to understand pros and cons for all methods very well, and you probably need to consider many practical scenarios, group them in different buckets, and determine which one is the most suitable method for each bucket. Nevertheless, I did not see any paper doing it. Surveys are just summaries, but can hardly be a well-proved and deterministic statement. Is it simply because it's too hard to bucketize the scenarios? Or just no one cares?

One may say, getting better results means that we should use the method. The problem is that there are no real and comprehensive cross comparisons. I think while it's not bad at all to try new methods saying that we can, it's important to guide or lead the discussion whether we should use the method.

One interesting paper that tries to answer the "should" question from a fundamental perspective is "Barometric Phone Sensors -- More Hype Than Hope!" from HotMobile'14. The authors studied the sensor "barometer" and tried to see its limitations and discussed whether we should use this sensor for certain purposes.

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