Lectures / 30/11/2009 7:30 pmCommunication?
Pervasive Computing: How much technology is too much technology?
Uninspired visions usually result in uninspired technology. The “universal workhorse”, the Personal Computer, and the “universal medium”, the Internet, appear as uninspired building blocks in view of the expectations of what truly “smart systems” and services adapted to today’s lifestyles ought to be able to deliver. Could it be that in these cases the technology came first and human needs and expectations came second?
“Pervasive Computing” stands this paradigm on its head and starts with the question of where people need technology, how much they need and whether they need any at all. This is the dawn of the era that will see the all-purpose computer fade away: this stalwart allrounder will be replaced by task specific computers, down-sized to the point of invisibility and embedded in the infrastructure. The “computer” will then not be a single device but the sum of all networked appliances, vehicles, workrooms, living rooms, furniture items and pieces of clothing. Nature itself will be part of this network. All computer functions are delegated to artifacts and spaces and form a background intelligence that is no longer immediately visible. Tiny hidden sensors monitor the environment and actuators control the systems. IT permeates everything and becomes “ubiquitous”. The first stage in this era of the evolution of IT, the networking of everything, is already very far advanced today as regards the technology: almost anything can communicate with everything else at any time, on a permanent, wireless basis and without intervisibility. A global all-embracing data network is responsible for long-distance data transport, miniaturized radio technology takes over for the “last few inches”. The question as to whether things are actually aware of each other despite these possibilities of data exchange in a totally networked world, whether they are aware of what their existence or their encounters amount to and are able to act according to that awareness remains for the second phase of this era to work out under the catchword “awareness”. This will be shaped by the challenge to find technological solutions for the mutual perception involving human beings and objects (with embedded computers) and/or networked objects. One part of this perception is the Who-or-what perception (Object Awareness), another is the where perception (Location Awareness). The ubiquity of global positioning systems and of geoinformation systems with their consumer friendly access technologies (e.g. Google Earth or Virtual Earth) demonstrate how far we have already advanced into this technological era.
The lecture will be illustrated with examples from diverse areas of Pervasive Computing, especially with far advanced research prototypes, such as “SPECTACLES”, multisensory mixed-reality sunglasses with wireless internet access, “WorldKey”, a car key system that interacts spontaneously with the environment, “EnPassant”, a delivery system of multimedia content for mobile telephones or “DigitalGraffiti”, a georeferencing system for depositing multimedia content.