The trend in the direction of hardware cost reduction and miniaturization allows including computing devices in several objects and environments (embedded systems). Ambient Intelligence (AmI) deals with a new world where computing devices are spread everywhere (ubiquity), allowing the human being to interact in physical world environments in an intelligent and unobtrusive way. These environments should be aware of the needs of people, customizing requirements and forecasting behaviours. AmI environments may be so diverse, such as homes, offices, meeting rooms, schools, hospitals, control centers, transports, touristic attractions, stores, sport installations, and music devices. Ambient Intelligence involves many different disciplines, like automation (sensors, control, and actuators), human-machine interaction and computer graphics, communication, ubiquitous computing, embedded systems, and, obviously, Artificial Intelligence. In the aims of Artificial Intelligence, research envisages to include more intelligence in the AmI environments, allowing a better support to the human being and the access to the essential knowledge to make better decisions when interacting with these environments
Ambient Intelligence (AmI) is a concept developed by the European Commission’s IST Advisory Group ISTAG (ISTAG, 2001)(ISTAG, 2002). ISTAG believes that it is necessary to take a holistic view of Ambient Intelligence, considering not just the technology, but the whole of the innovation supply-chain from science to end-user, and also the various features of the academic, industrial and administrative environment that facilitate or hinder realisation of the AmI vision (ISTAG, 2003). Due to the great amount of technologies involved in the Ambient Intelligence concept we may find several works that appeared even before the ISTAG vision pointing in the direction of Ambient Intelligence trends.
In what concerns Artificial Intelligence (AI), Ambient Intelligence is a new meaningful step in the evolution of AI (Ramos, 2007). AI has closely walked side-by-side with the evolution of Computer Science and Engineering. The building of the first artificial neural models and hardware, with the Walter Pitts and Warren McCullock work (Pitts & McCullock, 1943) and Marvin Minsky and Dean Edmonds SNARC system correspond to the first step. Computer-based Intelligent Systems, like the MYCIN Expert System (Shortliffe, 1976) or network-based Intelligent Systems, like AUTHORIZER’s ASSISTANT (Rothi, 1990) used by American Express for authorizing transactions consulting several Data Bases are the kind of systems of the second step of AI. From the 80’s Intelligent Agents and Multi-Agent Systems have established the third step, leading more recently to Ontologies and Semantic Web. From hardware to the computer, from the computer to the local network, from the local network to the Internet, and from the Internet to the Web, Artificial Intelligence was on the state of the art of computing, most of times a little bit ahead of the technology limits.
Now the centre is no more in the hardware, or in the computer, or even in the network. Intelligence must be provided to our daily-used environments. We are aware of the push in the direction of Intelligent Homes, Intelligent Vehicles, Intelligent Transportation Systems, Intelligent Manufacturing Systems, even Intelligent Cities. This is the reason why Ambient Intelligence concept is so important nowadays (Ramos, 2007).
Ambient Intelligence is not possible without Artificial Intelligence. On the other hand, AI researchers must be aware of the need to integrate their techniques with other scientific communities’ techniques (e.g. Automation, Computer Graphics, Communications). Ambient Intelligence is a tremendous challenge, needing the better effort of different scientific communities.
There is a miscellaneous of concepts and technologies related with Ambient Intelligence. Ubiquitous Computing, Pervasive Computing, Embedded Systems, and Context Awareness are the most common. However these concepts are different from Ambient Intelligence.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Context Awareness: Context Awareness means that the system is aware of the current situation we are dealing with.
Ambient Intelligence: Ambient Intelligence (AmI) deals with a new world where computing devices are spread everywhere, allowing the human being to interact in physical world environments in an intelligent and unobtrusive way. These environments should be aware of the needs of people, customizing requirements and forecasting behaviours.
Intelligent Transportation Systems: Intelligent Systems applied to the area of Transports, namely to traffic and travelling issues.
Pervasive Computing: Pervasive Computing is related with all the physical parts of our lives, the user may have not notion of the computing devices and details related with these physical parts.
Embedded Systems: Embedded Systems means that electronic and computing devices are embedded in current objects or goods.
Ubiquitous Computing: Ubiquitous Computing means that we have access to computing devices anywhere in an integrated and coherent way.
Intelligent Vehicles: A vehicle equipped with sensors and decision support components.
Intelligent Home: A home equipped with several electronic and interactive devices to help residents to manage conventional home decisions.
Intelligent Decision Room: A decision-making space, eg a meeting room or a control center, equipped with intelligent devices and/or systems to support decision-making processes.