In recent years much research and development effort has been directed towards the broad field of ambient intelligence (AmI), and this trend is set to continue for the foreseeable future. AmI aims at seamlessly integrating services within smart infrastructures to be used at home, at work, in the car, on the move, and generally in most environments inhabited by people. It is a relatively new paradigm rooted in ubiquitous computing, which calls for the integration and convergence of multiple disciplines, such as sensor networks, portable devices, intelligent systems, human-computer and social interactions, as well as many techniques within artificial intelligence, such as planning, contextual reasoning, speech recognition, language translation, learning, adaptability, and temporal and hypothetical reasoning. The term AmI was coined by the European Commission, when in 2001 one of its Programme Advisory Groups launched the AmI challenge (Ducatel et al., 2001), later updated in 2003 (Ducatel et al., 2003). But although the term AmI originated from Europe, the goals of the work have been adopted worldwide, see for example (The Aware Home, 2007), (The Oxygen Project, 2007), and (The Sony Interaction Lab, 2007). The foundations of AmI infrastructures are based on the impressive progress we are witnessing in wireless technologies, sensor networks, display capabilities, processing speeds and mobile services. These developments help provide much useful (row) information for AmI applications. Further progress is needed in taking full advantage of such information in order to provide the degree of intelligence, flexibility and naturalness envisaged. This is where artificial intelligence and multi-agent techniques have important roles to play. In this paper we will review the progress that has been made in intelligent systems, discuss the role of artificial intelligence and agent technologies and focus on the application of AmI for independent living.
Ambient intelligence is a vision of the information society where normal working and living environments are surrounded by embedded intelligent devices that can merge unobtrusively into the background and work through intuitive interfaces. Such devices, each specialised in one or more capabilities, are intended to work together within an infrastructure of intelligent systems, to provide a multitude of services aimed at generally improving safety and security and improving quality of life in ordinary living, travelling and working environments.
The European Commission identified four AmI scenarios (Ducatel et al. 2001, 2003) in order to stimulate imagination and initiate and structure research in this area. We summarise two of these to provide the flavour of AmI visions.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Context Awareness: Refers to the idea that computers can both sense and react according to the state of the environment they are situated. Devices may have information about the circumstances under which they are able to operate and react accordingly.
Smart Homes: Homes equipped with intelligent sensors and devices within a communications infrastructure that allows the various systems and devices to communicate with each other for monitoring and maintenance purposes.
Wireless Sensor Networks: Wireless networks consisting of spatially distributed autonomous devices using sensors to cooperatively monitor physical or environmental conditions, such as temperature, sound, vibration, pressure, motion or pollutants, at different locations.
Natural Interaction: The investigation of the relationships between humans and machines aiming to create interactive artifacts that respect and exploit the natural dynamics through which people communicate and discover the real world.
Cognitive Agents+C329: Software agents endowed with high-level mental attitudes such as beliefs, goals and plans
Ubiquitous Computing: A model of human-computer interaction in which information processing is integrated into everyday objects and activities. Unlike the desktop paradigm, in which a single user chooses to interact with a single device for a specialized purpose, with ubiquitous computing a user interacts with many computational devices and systems simultaneously, in the course of ordinary activities, and may not necessarily even be aware that is doing so.
Artificial Societies: Complex systems consisting of a, possibly large, set of agents whose interaction are constrained by norms and the roles the agents are responsible to play.