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Ubiquitous
computing:
Understanding
the future of the
Internet of Things

Author: Shane Schick

For a long time, ubiquitous computing was more of a theory about how technology could become more accessible and easier to use. Only with the Internet of Things (IoT) has that theory become a reality.

Computer scientist Mark Weiser first coined the term "ubiquitous computing" in 1988. He described the notion of technology that would be pervasive throughout a physical environment, like a home or office. He also suggested the technology might be invisible to the people using it, and that it would be enhanced in such a way that it would perform certain activities automatically.

Rather than walking up to a desktop computer or picking up a smartphone, for example, ubiquitous computing weaves technology into the background of everyday life. This would make it more convenient, simpler to operate and possibly even capable of anticipating our needs.

How the IoT made pervasive computing possible

Some aspects of ubiquitous computing have been realized through advancements in mobile technologies such as wearable devices and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. The use of sensors and other tools in the IoT, however, has made technology truly pervasive in almost every imaginable location.

This isn't limited to smart speakers that allow consumers to retrieve information with voice commands. The IoT has also allowed manufacturing companies to collect data about the wear and tear on their equipment over time, and even to forecast when parts will need to be repaired or replaced. In both cases, pervasive computing requires less interaction from human beings. However, it also extends the boundaries of where technology can be used to gather, analyze or manage data on our behalf.

Ubiquitous computing and the IoT have also benefited from the increasing data rates of high-speed networks and the use of edge computing to provide nearby processing and storage.

Pervasive computing: The relationship between ubiquity and business agility

When technology becomes more pervasive, businesses can make strategic decisions and execute on those decisions more quickly.

This can start with budgeting, where the predictive maintenance capabilities of the IoT can help identify upcoming costs. The engagement with smart devices can indicate fluctuations in consumer needs.

Agility also comes from being able to respond more quickly to changing business conditions, because data is automatically collected where customers are. IoT devices can send alerts when customers need new groceries or other supplies, or dispatch service technicians before their customers even realize a product has broken down.

As organizations get more sophisticated with pervasive computing, they can create customer experiences that remove traditional areas of friction. In turn, they can stand out from competitors and reach their growth targets more effectively.

Issues and challenges in ubiquitous computing

Pervasive or ubiquitous technology can also come with some potential risks or difficulties.

IoT environment design needs to take into account how systems will be architected, what applications will be enabled and the right edge technology that will achieve the desired results. Standards for IoT devices and applications are always evolving. IoT technology is changing rapidly, with more IoT-enabled devices becoming available all the time. As a result, integration and interoperability aren't always guaranteed.

Organizations that want to improve their ability to overcome the issues and challenges in ubiquitous computing can do so by tapping into the expertise of trusted third parties.

The right managed service provider, for instance, will have the required depth of understanding in edge computing, as well as the IoT best practices that keep deployments on time and within budget.

The opportunities to make technology more pervasive are everywhere, in other words. But enlisting expert help will ensure you do so from the ideal starting point.

Discover more IoT and pervasive computing solutions to advance your organization.