Ubiquitous computing now refers to a promise much more grandiose than that of a networked computer on every desk. Research points to an Internet developing over the next 10 years that is not only more pervasive but also treated as a commodity.
At the same time, advances in embedded computing technology will allow the mass production of Net-enabled objects, including everything from household appliances to transportation.
Ubiquitous computing promises to transform the way businesses and individuals interact on the Internet. Consumers and businesses will remain constantly connected, affording businesses a host of new sales channels and giving consumers access to global services.
To make this a reality, major players are pouring money into research and development at the networking and device levels. Agilent Technologies is perfecting a technology called WWDM (wide wavelength division multiplexing) that can be used with fibre-optic cabling to increase the speed that workstations access the Internet to 1GBps, about 10 times the speed of Fast Ethernet.
Speeding up the Internet backbone is only half of the ubiquitous computing equation. Some organisations are making strides in changing the computing paradigm, moving away from a browser-based interface. A Microsoft project dubbed Easy Living is focused on enabling computers to track users' whereabouts over the Internet, allowing them to be contacted by the most accessible Internet-enabled device, be it telephone, videoconferencing, or another technology.
Not to be outdone, IBM and Xerox's Palo Alto Research Centre are establishing parameters and boundaries in Internet ecology. Under this guise, communication options and interactivity with users is more fluid and free-flowing.
However, technological innovation is not enough to achieve true ubiquity. Continued standards evolvement in communication and information-rendering protocols, such as XML, is also paramount. Privacy and intellectual property rights are looming issues that must be ironed out, which translates into security and encryption development.
Nevertheless, the future is bright for ubiquitous computing. Over the next 10 years, as the Internet becomes more open, businesses will reap the benefits of enhanced access to a worldwide audience.
Future Watch: Ubiquitous computing
Technical advances in bandwidth, routing, and backbone technologies promise to dramatically change the shape and focus of the Internet, opening up new b-to-b and b-to-c communication and sales channels for businesses, increase choice for consumers, and reduce bandwidth bottlenecks. On the downside, it will raise privacy and intellectual property rights issues. Ubiquitous computing will become viable in five to 10 years.