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Network-aware support for mobile distributed teams

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Author: Kleij, R. van der · Jong, A. de · Brake, G.M. te · Greefe, T.E.
Institution: TNO Defensie en Veiligheid
Source:Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 940–948
Identifier: 90110
doi: doi:10.1016/j.chb.2009.04.001
Keywords: Sociology · Distributed teamwork · Mobile computing · Mobile groupware · Network awareness · Network-aware support · Virtual teams · Distributed teamwork · Mobile groupware · Network awareness · Network-aware support · Virtual teams · Disaster prevention · Graphic methods · Groupware · Mobile computing · Signaling · Wireless networks · teamwork · virtual environments · collaboration · decision support · virtual teams


An experiment evaluated network-aware support to increase understanding of the factors that are important for successful teamwork in mobile geographically dispersed teams of first responders. Participants performed a simulated search and rescue team task and were equipped with a digitized map and realtime situation updates on the location of other participants in a simulated disaster area. The connection to a server, however, was made deliberately error-prone, leading to occasional losses of network connections. Consequently, participants were not provided with real-time situation updates. To deal with this problem we equipped team members with a network-aware application that signaled network loss to them and adapted the graphical representation of the location of fellow team members accordingly to the quality of location information present. The experiment revealed that presenting complete and reliable geospatial information improves teamwork. Teams connected to a server over a fast and reliable link showed superior performance over teams with no network connection whatsoever to a server. The present study failed, however, to demonstrate the added value of network-aware support when teams had to collaborate in the presence of an unreliable communications infrastructure. Although participants indicated a slight preference for the network-aware application over a condition without support signaling network loss, no differences were observed in team process and outcome measures.