• Michael Weeding

Ubiquitous Computing – Are we there yet?

Ubiquitous Computing defines the time when technology recedes into the background of our lives, this has also been described as the era of “Calm Technology”. The concept was first proposed by Mark Weiser back in the 1990s when he published a series of papers that challenged the entire way of thinking about established technological systems. With everything becoming more connected, from our homes, our cars, public places to our personal devices the question is has the gadgets we use adapted to our lives, or is this still a concept that lives in science fiction?

In today’s world there are many examples that would suggest we are well on the way to entering the era of calm technology, the Smartphone while initially a gadget that we needed to adopt has now adapted to our lives thanks to the ability to customise these devices using the many Apps available. For many people the phone tells them when to get up, what to eat to ensure that they do not exceed their daily calorie intake, where they need to be and how to get there, and all this can be achieved with minimal effort.

The time when Ubiquitous Computing becomes a reality has been described by many as a time when we start to wear technology. The excitement around the launch of Google Glass and the number of people who are keen to test this technology suggest that the pace of adoption of wearable devices is going to be fast. While Google Glass is about connecting people, places and things within the environment of the user, there is a unique opportunity for this type of technology to collect huge amounts of data about the individual who is wearing the device. This could mean that wearable devices could become our very own personal assistant of the future providing recommendations on the best decisions for us to make based on past behaviours, providing the user with a truly ubiquitous experience. We also cannot forget about Nike who has already produced a range of wearable devices that allows users to track their fitness while they exercise and the FuelBand is now an accepted accessory adorning the wrists of many people today that is driving the exercise regimes of these users.

On the other hand there would be many that would say that while technology is all around us it still has a long way to go to recede to the background of our lives. Technology is not easy, we have to adopt it, spend many hours setting it up and fixing it when it crashes. While it can tell us where we need to be and how to get there it can still get us lost, when it does it moves from the background of our lives into the forefront, as a result it may even find itself thrown out the window or into the bin and when it does this is the only time it has truly receded into the background of our lives.


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