This describes the concept of embedding or integrating computers into the environment with a view to enabling people to interact with them in a more “natural” way. Also referred to amongst other descriptions as “ubiquitous computing” or “ambient intelligence”, current examples include the use of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and GPS systems in vehicles. Wireless networking technology (WiFi) is a key enabler for many of the applications and there is a growing trend towards greater connectivity through the use of broadband. For example in Philadelphia, “officials view broadband as an essential social service” and plan to introduce web access for all their citizens via a city-wide wireless network by the end of 2006.
Extensions of pervasive computing, which are being investigated actively at the moment include devices which sense changes in their environment and adapt and act on these changes, through to work on human-computer interactions and artificial intelligence.
In the short term, rapid expansion is expected in the use of RFID technology, where a vast range of applications are envisaged, offering benefits such as increased productivity and improved resource utilisation, together with reduced cycle times and re-work. All elements of the supply chain from raw material input through to delivery of product to the customer are potentially amenable to some form of RFID control and monitoring. In addition to logistics and product tracking applications, examples of the implementation of RFID technologies are foreseen in areas as diverse as personal identification, anti-counterfeiting, payment systems, maintenance management and healthcare.