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Science & Technology > Managing information & knowledge >

The Rise of Proactive and Context-Aware Computing

Paper ID: 541 Last updated: 31/01/2012 09:08:31
Criteria: bullet Impact:  Likelihood:  Controversy:  Where: Global When: 3-10yrs How Fast: Years
0 people thought this paper expanded their thinking bullet
Keywords: bullet Computer Science - semantic processing, wireless services, computing, context-aware computing

Summary bullet

Discussion bullet

Proactive and context-aware computer systems that anticipate users' needs and perform tasks in a timely and context-sensitive manner may begin to have an impact within the next 10 years.

By 2015 computer users could be moving away from foreground computing where our devices and networks wait patiently and passively for our typed instructions or mouse clicks, toward new ways of interacting with computers in which delegated systems perform tasks proactively on users’ behalf, tuned precisely to the momentary requirements of time and place. A range of complex automated tasks could be performed proactively if a mobile computing unit were able to sense a person, application, or device's context. Examples include:

Search a smart calendar and itinerary for available times and destinations
Preconfigure account logins and identities
Set appointments with colleagues
Search and summarise background data for use in transit and at probable destinations, including proactively searching for and caching background data for meetings with people
Distribute documents and meeting work products

Context-aware systems will use software applications that understand our human context or our devices’ context. Micro-local information could be cached on embedded wireless micro servers. Geo-coded information (tagged with latitude, longitude, and altitude or height) and invisible digital map data could be accessible and actionable. Data about the functions, activities, and infrastructure of a place, along with its history, culture, politics, and economics could become selectively visible and useful online in information-saturated spaces.

Smart programs -- such as contextually enhanced calendars and to-do lists -- running on our smart wearable and persistent systems will negotiate with embedded sensor nets and pervasive net servers, performing delegated tasks on our behalf in a manner appropriate to the context. Mobile devices could be able to sense the signal environment -- the signal strength and the location of transmitters at different frequencies, including wide area mobile networks and wireless local area networks -- and then, on the next anticipated visit, preconfigure network signalling with programmable signal processors and software-defined radios.

Change may be gradual as many small component systems become available one-by-one. But over time, contextual computational processes will enhance personal and group productivity by proactively executing time-consuming processes to meet human requirements.

Implications bullet

Enhanced personal and group productivity

Early indicators bullet

Increasing personal use of computerized calendars, to-do lists, and itineraries
Delivery of low-key targeted ads in the context of each Google search
Development of a simple thermostat that adjusts air conditioners in the context of human and energy requirements for each time and place in a building
Development of demonstrations and prototypes, such as the toolkit for context-aware applications being built by Anind K. Dey at the University of California, Berkeley

What To Watch:
Demonstrations of prototypes of context-aware applications at annual conferences such as the International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing and the International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Modeling and Using Context improve in robustness and credibility as services and applications become practical for popular usage.
Convergence of technologies (eg "Tom-Tom"-like navigation aids) into mobile phones/hand-held devices.

Stop & Shop and IBM's (new "Shopping Buddy" shopping cart with scanner knows customer's history and favorites)
Dartmouth Solar (A Scalable Context-Fusion Network for Pervasive Computing) [<>link]
Intel's proactive computing research [<>link]
University of Lancaster
University of Cambridge Computer Laboratory
University of Bath
University of Calgary (Canada)

Drivers & Inhibitors bullet

Continued research and converging developments in related disciplines such as semantic processes, mobile communications, and embedded computers and sensor nets

Parallels & Precedents bullet

Xerox's PARCTAB[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

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Sources bullet

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The contents of this paper were supplied by the Institute for the Future, and have been reviewed by the Outsights-Ipsos MORI Partnership. Any views expressed are independent of government and do not constitute government policy.