You're going to hear these words Pervasive (or Ubiquitous) Computing more and more often in the next few years, so why not get ahead of the trend now? The first thing you need to know is that it's not a mere trend. Pervasive computing is something that is happening. It's a technological evolution of sorts, and it's probably already a part of your life. You may also have heard it called the IoT, or Internet of Things. We'll get to that in a moment. What is Pervasive Computing? Well, the most straightforward answer is that we, humans, are now putting microprocessors (read this as computers if you're not-so-tech-savvy) into everyday objects. It began with phones and cars. If it helps, you can think of smartphones and OnStar as the early examples of this type of technology. Essentially, we're adding brains linked to more extensive systems into inanimate objects, though their programming limits the minds.
The idea behind this is to take the 'computer' out of using a computer. This is accomplished by putting those same functions, data recording, sending and receiving messages, uploading to the cloud, and online shopping to name just a few, into things that people use every day. Speakers, wristwatches, thermostats and even doorbells are now capable of being connected to a larger network, vis a vis the internet.
The Dream of the Smarthome
The idea of a smart house that can anticipate your needs may seem very familiar to some people. The concept has been around since early science fiction. More recently fans of Eureka will know it as S.A.R.A.H. the house of the future. If you prefer reality and happen to be a bit of a technophile, you'll know that Bill Gates home back in the 90s not just the current Xanadu 2.0 mansion) had the makings of a smarthome before any other examples existed outside of film and books. Technology took a while to catch up for the public, but for the eccentric billionaire who was building the tech of the future, no expense was spared.
In its current iteration, his house truly is a smarthome. Guests receive pins while they visit. You input things like your lighting and temperature preferences, and the house adjusts to your comfort. We're not sure what it does if two guests are in the same room. Doubtless, when Bill himself is there, it adapts to him instead.
There's even a tree at Xanadu that's continuously monitored. Bill became particularly fond of it and gave the tree its own upgrade. The soil condition is perfect all the time. If it gets too dry an automated watering system kicks in without the need for any human interference. Presumably, the monitors also alert someone, or some integrated system if the tree needs food, mulch, or other assistance. If not, it's probably due for an upgrade about now anyhow. It's odd to think that there's a tree somewhere that's more tech-savvy and modern than many people are the world over.
Internet of Things
For those who are just catching up, the IoT (Internet of Things) is both a blanket term for everything connected to the internet and a specific term for the commonplace objects that are gaining popularity because of their ability to network with us and the internet. Gadgets like the Amazon Echo are a fantastic example of this up-and-coming tech.
You may think that in the future you'll be able to have a smart home that can tell you when you need to shop, what you're out of, and order it for you online. When you want to go out your futuristic fantasy home will be able to suggest and locate restaurants, book you a table, grab a couple of theater tickets, email your babysitter and confirm with her so you can leave the kids at home, call an uber and let you know when it arrives. Once you're gone, it will monitor your security cameras including hidden nanny cams, and alert you and the police, ambulance or fire station if anything goes wrong at home.
In reality, you could do all of that now. Sure, it'll cost a pretty penny, but you can have climate, and lighting control at the touch of a button even from a beach on the other side of the world. You can network smartdevices into as much or as little of your home as you want or can afford right now. For the right price, you could even have those nifty buttons that adapt each room to your family and guests.
What About Tomorrow
Maybe you're wondering, 'If we can do all of that now, then where is it all going in the future?' Well, some of the future will always be subject to dreams and speculation. However, we can make some pretty easy predictions based on what there is now, and what's being developed.
With all the drone-craze going on now, it seems pretty likely that you'll be getting drone deliveries in the near future. Everything from mail to pizza could be faster and more efficient with a drone fleet working to drop it off. If you're not aware of this, let us be the first to tell you that drones are not just toys or war machines. They can be used to rescue people in otherwise unreachable locations, monitor large areas for security and yes, even carry packages that weigh as much as a medium-sized dog pretty easily.
The UK is ahead of us on this concept. An insurance company called Direct Line is using drones for security now. Not just to keep an eye on a home or building. You can call up one of their Fleetlights to walk you home and provide light as you go at night. You'll certainly be less of a target for muggers and other ner do wells with a drone over your shoulder watching your back. Soon you'll be able to walk the kids home from school without missing your meeting as your smartdevices order and watch drones that track them along the way.
The Holograms aren't just an 80s cartoon band anymore. The next generation of phones to hit the market will be among the first to see hologram technology (or compatibility) integrated into the top end models. Other smart devices won't be far behind. Soon you'll be able to sit down together for a family dinner via hologram even if your spouse is on the other side of the world at a business conference and the kids are getting fast food down the street. Once it hits devices like the Echo and other smart gadgets, you'll be able to read a book inside your favorite museum or see a live Seaworld Show from your couch without ever getting sunburnt or wet. The uses are endless, and the technology exists now. Imagine seeing the Carmina Burana live show in real time and full-color 3D projected around you as though you had front row seats, even if you're too sick to get out of bed. The old cliche about endless possibilities is coming true, after all.
So, how is pervasive computing going to change our future? Well, think of the most incredible sci-fi technologies you've ever seen (other than space ships, lasers, and teleporters) from the holodeck of Star Trek to the drone-spitting mail truck in Ready Player One. Those things aren't just daydreams; they're achievable goals. One of the most astounding and uplifting things about being human is that we, collectively, can create anything we dream up. Computers just make it happen faster.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker