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Pervasive Computing: Past, Present and Future



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1 Pervasive Computing Past Present and Future Stan Kurkovsky Member IEEE Abstract The paradigm of pervasive computing describes ubiquitous computing environments that provide anytime and anywhere access to information services while making the presence of the system invisible to the user Pervasive computing envisioned by Mark Weiser emerged at the conjunction of research and development in a number of areas which include embedded and devices and systems wireless communications and distributed mobile and context aware computing This paper provides an overview of constituent components of pervasive computing and outlines the current progress made as a result of convergence of these areas of research Index Terms Pervasive computing embedded and mobile devices context awareness mobile computing I INTRODUCTION T HE concept of pervasive computing is based on a simple idea that with advances in technology computing equipment will grow smaller and gain more power this would allow small devices to be ubiquitously and invisibly embedded in the everyday human surroundings and therefore provide an easy and omnipresent access to a computing environment In his seminal paper describing early ideas of developing such a pervasive environment 32 Mark Weiser presented a system that included three classes of computing devices tabs pads and boards The design of each of these devices was suggested by the functionality of the similar office instruments 31 Like Post It notes tabs were small devices designed for writing small notes they were location aware and had a pressure sensitive screen Larger than tabs pads were wireless pen based notebooks similar to writing pads Boards were significantly larger wall sized interactive surfaces similar to office whiteboards In spite of the fact that the development of these devices did not go beyond early research phases at the Xerox PARC labs they sparked a significant interest in the research and industrial community due to their potentially significant impact on the way how people interact with computing technology The fundamental properties of a system comprised of tabs pads and boards described by Weiser include wireless communications embedded and mobile devices distributed computing and context awareness Although none of these concepts are new each of them has experienced a dramatic Manuscript received November 5 2007 S Kurkovsky is with the Department of Computer Science at Central Connecticut State University New Britain CT 06111 USA email kurkovskysta ccsu edu growth in recent decades reaching out into practical domains which until recently would not seem very applicable For example wireless communication was pioneered at the end of the XIX century yet recent advances in development of mobile devices and efficient telecommunications technologies have led to an unprecedented growth in use of mobile telephones and a widespread popularity of rich media available to their users Global connectivity provided by the Internet and cheap bandwidth took the concept of distributed computations pioneered in the early 1970 s into the era of grid and utility computing The fundamental principles of pervasive computing systems available anytime and anywhere evolved from the convergence of the same diverse technologies and concepts comprising the system envisioned by Weiser Pervasive computing is one of the many areas of computer science where academic research e g context awareness and efficient telecommunications protocols seamlessly integrate with advances in the industry e g hardware and software for mobile devices and embedded systems which results not only in wide availability of hardware platforms for research but also in the rapid adoption of academic research outcomes by the industry 2 4 13 As in any emerging research area there are many challenging problems in pervasive computing One of the most important and open questions is how to ensure that a computing system is seamlessly and invisibly embedded in the environment and how to minimize the possible impact of its intrusiveness on a user s perception Generally there are two mutually complementing approaches to solving the problem of unobtrusiveness of a pervasive system by miniaturization of devices and embedding of the system s logic into wearable handheld and mobile devices as well as into the environment and by achieving a level of intelligence of the system that will be able to anticipate the actions of the user in the context of the factors in the environment As a result such a pervasive system will fade into the background and the users will only need to interact with such a system at their leisure without giving it much thought 14 23 28 30 32 Research and development in pervasive computing systems has come a long way from tabs pads and boards however the underlying theoretical and technological concepts still remain the same This paper examines the modern conceptual framework of pervasive computing systems and presents an overview of its constituent areas The paper also outlines the current state of the art in using mobile and smart phones as devices that enable pervasive computing environments 2 II COMPONENTS OF PERVASIVE COMPUTING SYSTEMS According to Weiser 32 pervasive computing systems create or are a part of an immersive completely connected environment which becomes completely integrated with normal surroundings and become indistinguishable from them To a large extent technological solutions comprising the fundamentals of a pervasive computing system are already in place it is just a matter of finding better and more efficient ways of their integration 10 25 28 Thus pervasive computing emerged at the conjunction of the following areas embedded and mobile devices and systems wireless communications and distributed mobile and context aware computing Continuous progress in integrated circuit and processor design engendered a proliferation of ever more powerful and smaller computing devices Processor power of today s smart phones may approach that of some desktops a decade ago 27 Miniaturization and complex circuit design provides the capability to embed computational logic into a variety of devices ranging from toasters shavers and picture frames to automobiles capable of parking themselves or adjusting to the road and traffic conditions to home appliances that can communicate with each other 11 22 Such a convergence of computational ubiquity and device embedding provides a mechanism for adjusting


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