Pervasive computers cover many areas of both our working and personal lives. This chapter investigates this phenomenon through the human factors impacts, particularly in aviation. This chapter gives a brief introduction to pervasive computers and how they interact with aviation human factors research. Further, it follows the discussion on how pervasive computers have permeated into an integral part of the aviation industry by reviewing the specific issues of cockpit automation and the human-machine interface in the aircraft cockpit.
Clarification Of “Human Factors”, ‘Pervasive Computers’ And Their Interrelationship
Human factors … involve … the study of human’s capabilities, limitations, and behaviours and the integration of that knowledge into the systems we design for them … (to) enhance safety, performance and the general well-being of the operators of the system. (Koonce, 1979, cited in Garland, Wise & Hopkin, 1998, p3)
Historically a reference to technology meant mechanical inventions such as the steam engine, refrigeration, combustion engine and electricity. When we talk about technology today, we generally mean computers. Increasingly, the technology is experienced in the form of computer-based automation that aids or replaces the operator. Aircraft, motor vehicles and a variety of appliances were mechanical before. Improvement in the human-machine interface protecting the operator and the workings of the machine from the elements presupposed the introduction of instrumentation and from this the computerisation of that instrumentation, wireless operation and miniaturisation.
Pervasive technology, pervasive computing and ubiquitous computing all refer to the phenomena where technology is moving beyond the small portable devices designed for personal use (Satyanaryanan, 2001). The goal of pervasive computing, which combines current network technologies with wireless computing, is to create an environment where the connectivity of devices is embedded in such a way that the connectivity is unobtrusive and always available. Increasingly, all manufactured devices have embedded technology and connectivity as part of their information delivery and data storage capability associated with decision-making. Appliances, tools and toys comprise advanced technology incorporating a digital interface that utilises embedded systems to store discontinuous data (Webopedia) n.d.