Digital technology has permeated the everyday life of majority of the population – wake up alarm, weather alert, fitness tracking, diet plan, travel itinerary, shopping, communication, workplace, cars, education, personal finance, entertainment and so on. The profound interlacing of the human and technology has made us oblivious of their distinguished presence.
According to Mark Weiser who coined the term Ubiquitous Computing in 1991, “The technology revolution will move into the everyday, the small and the invisible…, the most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabrics of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.”
Ubiquitous Computing also called Pervasive Computing is the consequence of such rapid advancement of computing that technology is omnipresent and prevalent. Such devices are always inter-connected and continuously available by leveraging the internet and wireless computing. Pervasiveness is critical as it provides greater scope to understand and factor in the inter and intra service dependencies required to minimize “service silos”. One of the profound impact of Digital Technology is not just limited to the shift in the way we work, solve and communicate, but how swiftly the underlying technologies have advanced.
Today, the proliferation of smartphones, cloud, IoT devices, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, compact battery etc. have given rise to a seamless, interconnected, intelligent network that connects many people and objects. These apparatuses and capabilities continue to evolve, driving new means to solve complex problems with greater precision.
Some of the key characteristics of Pervasive Computing are:
• Ability to get embedded and negligibly visible or apparent as extraneous object
• Low power consumption and battery powered
• In-built memory retention
• Capability to sense the environment and process it quickly and continuously
• Active connectivity through wireless network and internet
• Ability to interpret / translate different languages in written or spoken or via gestures or other triggers
• Interoperability with other devices
• Easily portable
• Operable without any active human supervision
The building blocks which form the foundation to operationalize pervasive computing are Sensors, Actuators, Embedded Application, Broadcast / Relay Network, Cloud / Smart device Applications, and User Interface.
In Pervasive Computing, several threads are processed spontaneously in the background and respond on behalf of the user based on predefined algorithm, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning. However, in this environment of various devices interacting with one another, the surroundings and users, the requirements are manifold, like Context awareness, Interoperability, Power requirements, Security & Privacy, Accuracy & Reliability, and Frictionless Service.
Some of the Use Cases of Pervasive Computing
1. Healthcare – A simple living room can be converted into a healthcare unit with the help of smart wearable body sensors which would monitor the patient’s vital statistics such as heart rate, blood pressure, pulse rate, body temperature, respiratory activity, oxygen saturation, glucose level and even electrocardiograms. Coupled with telemonitoring by the healthcare facilities, these becomes extremely useful for those who are unattended such as the elderly or physically challenged.
One other example in healthcare would be the use of a unique digital health ID. An individual allotted with such digital identity can use it to retrieve own Personal Health Record and Electronic Medical Record or provide consent to any healthcare service provider to retrieve and use it for further diagnosis and treatment. Physician, diagnostic laboratory, pharmacy would seamlessly get information to take necessary action and benefit through the use of pervasive computing.
2. Education – The National Education Policy 2020 lays higher emphasis on the life of learning instead of teaching. In this context, Pervasive Computing would empower the students and faculties to use multiple channels for personalised content delivery, instructions, and evaluation. A student would be able to continue part of a classroom session through a streaming web application or mobile app, closed academic social media, or podcast or FM or even a designated TV channel.
3. Transport – In electronic toll systems in highways and expressways, pervasive systems enable a vehicle fitted with an issued QR or bar code to pass smoothly through the barrier. The system through a code reader automatically detects an incoming vehicle and deducts the toll charges from the prepaid account. Such systems may also allow interaction with the cars navigation system suggest / allocate parking slots and tickets or assist in selecting hotel or restaurants during the travel. It can also automatically alert the nearest police station or car service station or hospital in case of emergency such as road accident etc.
4. Agriculture – In agriculture, pervasive systems would use sensors to measure soil health, sense the atmospheric conditions, moisture, humidity, sunlight etc. and provide necessary information to the cultivators to achieve high crop yields and reduce operational costs. Wireless technology can help the farmers to use water wisely and fulfil “more crop per drop” motto. Combined with motion sensors and CCTVs, it can also alert on pests or stray animals. Pervasive computing leveraging its various components would be able to revolutionize the farming methods.
Thus, Pervasive Computing presents myriad opportunities to integrate systems, enable convergence to provide real solutions and seamless experience to the users.