As computing power has increased exponentially, and the cost to produce chips has decreased, the ability to embed computing power into our everyday life has increased tremendously, with mobile phones as the archetypical example of computers becoming ubiquitous.
But ubiquitous computing is about more than just 4G-connected smartphones – it’s about an entirely new realm of possibilities of context-aware platforms.
In lecture, we discussed research suggesting that the most important qualities of a ubiquitous computing system is that it is:
- fluid enough to evolve or update and develop over time without required redeployment of a separate system,
- purposive enough that it actions have been expressed, either formally or even vaguely
- autonomous such that the actions of the system will be determined by the purpose or interactive experience,
- reflective enough to report to a higher system for guidance or intervention, if needed,
- trustworthy enough to be reliable and dependable,
- sustainably built such that it lasts for a long-life cycle, minimizing impact on users and environment,
- efficient enough that any performance delays are tolerable, and
- scalable, such that increased adoption does not make the increased complexity of the interconnected system unmanageable.
To this end, we are still in early days of truly ubiquitous computing, but a critical example I like to relate this to is that of human bionic implants, such as the Australian woman who just received the a bionic retinal implant, or the company that produces biochips that enable vision to patients with macular degeneration. Implantable microchips are undergoing clinical trials to help measure and monitor blood glucose levels to help diabetes patients manage their diet. Implantable computing procedures such as these have been going on since the early days of cochlear implants and hearing aids. Even simple glasses are among the earliest forms of wearable technology that really caught on.
Implantable computing, whether powered by bioelectricity or traditional means, has not been widely tested, and therefore cannot be said whether this technology is a good example of ubiquitous computing or not. Once the implantable retina has been exposed to the rigours of daily life on a wide enough scale, then perhaps we can see whether it is dependable enough and built well enough enough to become truly ubiquitous.
For now, the purposiveness of these technologies has been defined. It is now up to us to develop further into something that reliably and sustainably improves our lives.
Abowd, G. D., Mynatt, E. D., & Rodden, T. (2002). The human experience. IEEE Pervasive Computing, 1(1), 48-57.
Rogers, Y., (2006) Moving on from Weiser’s vision of calm computing: Engaging UbiComp experiences, In Proceedings of UbiComp 2006, Orange County, CA: Springer, pp. 404-421