Prof. Howard Williams


Professor Emeritus
School of Mathematical & Computer Sciences
Computer Science
+44 131 451 3430
EM 1.46


I am now retired and continuing to work part-time (20% of full-time) on one European research project (Societies). As a result I do not have any teaching or research responsibilities. In addition I am not taking on any new PhD or other research students.


After an appointment as physicist on an Antarctic team, I completed my PhD in Physics on the ionosphere over Antarctica. In 1970 I was appointed as the first lecturer in Computer Science at Rhodes University in South Africa, where I spent a decade, building up CS teaching and research.

In 1980 I was appointed Professor of Computer Science at Heriot-Watt and spent 8 years as Head of Dept. while at the same time building up a research group in the area of Databases and Knowledge Based Systems. In 1988 I took on the role of Research Director in Computer Science and in 1993 obtained a DSc in Computer Science. In 2002 Computer Science was merged with Maths and Actuarial Maths to form a new school and I became Head of Computer Science for two years within the school.

I have now retired and am only working part-time on one research project.


From the early 1980s until 2005 I was head of the Database research group and involved in a range of database research projects funded by the EU and UK Research Councils. These included logic, parallel and deductive object-oriented databases, active databases, spatial databases and knowledge based systems. I was also involved in several medical applications (e.g. telemedicine and a medical web portal for Scotland called SHOW) and two projects on research on the Grid.

More recently my research has focused on personalisation. This started with personalisation relating to databases but moved on to personalisation in ubiquitous and pervasive systems. Here I have been involved in four European research projects since 2001 (Youngster, Daidalos, Persist and now Societies). The major challenge of current research is to find ways of capturing user's needs and preferences and using these to automatically tailor the behaviour of a complex system of devices and resources to meet them.

  • E. PAPADOPOULOU, S. McBURNEY and M. H. WILLIAMS, A Model for Personalised Communications Control in Pervasive Systems, Proc. ACSE '09, pp. 71-76 (2009).
  • E. PAPADOPOULOU, S. GALLACHER, N. K. TAYLOR, M. H. WILLIAMS, Personal Smart Spaces as a Basis for Identifying Users in Pervasive Systems, International Workshop on Ubiquitous Service Systems and Technologies (USST 2010), in 2010 Symposia and Workshops on Ubiquitous, Autonomic and Trusted Computing, Xian, China, October 2010, IEEE CS Press, pp. 88 – 93 (2010).
  • A. J. G. GRAY, W. NUTT and M. H. WILLIAMS, Answering Queries over Incomplete Data Stream Histories, International Journal of Web Information Systems, vol. 3, No. 1/2, pp. 41- 60 (2007).
  • Y. YANG, F. MAHON, M. H. WILLIAMS and T. PFEIFER, Context-aware Dynamic Personalized Service Re-composition in a Pervasive Service Environment, Proceedings of 3rd IFIP International Conference on Ubiquitous Intelligence and Computing (UIC 06), Sept. 3-6, Wuhan, China, Springer Verlag LNCS 4159, pp. 724-735 (2006).
  • M.H.WILLIAMS, G.VENTERS, G.VENTERS and D.MARWICK, Developing a Regional Healthcare Information Network, IEEE Trans on IT in Biomedicine, vol. 5, pp. 177-180 (2001).