Communication technologies are currently addressing our daily lives. Internet, fixed-line networks, wireless networks, and sensor technologies are converging, and seamless communication is expected to become widely available. Meanwhile, the miniaturization of devices and the rapid proliferation of handheld devices have paved the path towards pervasive computing and ubiquitous scenarios. The term ubiquitous and pervasive computing refers to making many computing devices available throughout the physical environment, while making them effectively invisible to the user (Weiser, 1991). Thanks to advances in the devices’ processing power, extended battery life, and the proliferation of mobile computing services, the realization of ubiquitous computing has become more apparent, being a major motivation for developing location and context-aware information delivery systems. Strongly related to ubiquitous computing is context-aware computing. In context-aware computing, the applications may change or adapt their functions, information, and user interface depending on the context and the client’s profile (Weiser, 1993). Many research centers and industries are actively working on the issues of context-awareness or more generally on ubiquitous computing (Baldauf, Dustdar, & Rosenberg, 2007). In particular, several proposals focus on smart spaces and intelligent environments (Harter, Hopper, Steggeles, Ward, & Webster, 1999; Kindberg et al., 2002; Smart-its, 2007), where it is expected that smart devices all around us will maintain updated information about their locations, the contexts in which they are being used, and relevant data about the users. Clearly, contextual services represent a milestone in today’s mobile computing paradigm, providing timely information anytime, anywhere. Nevertheless, there are still few examples of pervasive computing environments moving out from academic laboratories into our everyday lives. This occurs since pervasive technologies are still premature, and also because it is hard to define what a real pervasive system should be like. Moreover, despite the wide range of services and potential smart applications that can benefit from using such systems, there is still no clear insight about a realistic killer application.
Pervasive computing has been in development for more than 15 years. In this section we briefly review some of the most relevant prototypes.
Various companies are already working to extend wireless technologies that will seamlessly connect to other nearby devices. However, despite the wide range of services and potential smart applications that can benefit from using such tools, there is still no clear understanding about a realistic killer. One critical question that still needs to be addressed is the identification of business scenarios that can move ubiquitous computing from academic and research laboratories into our everyday lives.
Key Terms in this Chapter
WiFi: Short for wireless-fidelity; a logo from the WiFi Alliance that certifies network devices comply with the IEEE 802.11 wireless standards.
Ubiquitous System: A system from which the personal computer has disappeared and it has been replaced by a multitude of wireless computing devices embodied in everyday objects.
Fast Ethernet: A collective term for a number of Ethernet standards that carry traffic at the nominal rate of 100 Mbit/s.
Context-Aware Application: One of a set of applications that may change or adapt their functionality depending on the context, the client profile, and the user interface.
Wearable Computing: Computing devices that have been scaled down for body-wear, being always available in a transparent manner.
Bluetooth: A short-range low-power radio technology that allows multiple compatible devices to connect to each other to transmit voice and data.
Pervasive Computing: The next computing paradigm based on environments with information and communication technology—everywhere, for everyone, at all times.
Augmented Reality: A new technology that involves overlaying the real world with digital information. It will further blur the line between what is real and what is computer generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel, and smell.