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Emerging Pervasive Technologies
The technologies behind pervasive computing are Voice XML, Sync XML, WML, and Open Service Gateway initiatives, XML, Jini, Blue Tooth and Microsoft. NET.
1. Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networking
Napster popularized the application of P2P products and now the same technology has begun to sing a business melody. The basic idea behind it being the sharing of files and programs and communicating directly with people over the Internet, without having to rely on a centralized server. What it does is to create private workspaces for sharing files, exchanging information, creating databases and communication instantly. Companies can now participate in B2B marketplaces, cut out intermediaries and instead collaborate directly with suppliers. Peers on desktop PCs can share files directly over a network. Renting computing power can solve resource problems in smaller companies, thus improving the power of web applications.
2. Nano technology
We’ve seen science fiction flicks where miniature machines get into the human body and track cell patterns and behavior like those of cancer cells and exterminate them. Molecule sized computers can be manufactured to create new materials that can replace steel in all its properties and even withstand temperatures of 6,500 degree Fahrenheit. It is predicted that these materials will soon be used to build automobiles and office buildings. A la an invisible infrastructure!
3. Chips and the Net
Net-ready chips are a low cost method of getting on to the Internet. They follow all the necessary Internet Protocols and can be embedded in home appliances that can then be easily connected to the Internet. They function as tags that possess comprehensive information about the object that it is tagged on to and include details like the date and place it was manufactured.
4. Wireless technology
Wireless Internet connection helps access the Net through cellular phones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and Wireless laptops and this technology proposes enormous business opportunities. The sales force can avail real-time access to inventory records; price lists, order and customer account status and can book a sale almost instantaneously. Constant communication with wireless gadgets (that cost many degrees lesser than a laptop) can ensure that there is a constant feedback loop thus ensuring a new way of reaching customers.
5. The tapestry of distributed computing
Distributed computing is the processing power of thousands of PCs aggregated to create a super computer. A centralized server subsidizes a large computing task in to smaller bits. It then assigns those bits to thousands of desktop computers, each of which does a small task and returns the results to the server. Specialists in content delivery, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and financial services will see the use of distributed computing capabilities soon. A classic example of how it is being used today is in the SETI@home project. This project is about searching for extraterrestrial using radar arrays that look for intelligent patterns of radio waves among the background radiation. Thousands of volunteers have downloaded the SETI@home screen saver and when their machines are sitting idle, they get data from the project and do some data crunching and send it back for analysis.
6. Voice computing: Tell your computer to switch on!
Voice recognition software will soon allow users to switch on their computers by just talking to them. Even documents can be edited through voice commands. We’ll finally be reaching out to the frontier where man will be able to talk to all his machines and command them to do as he wishes.
In effect, we are talking about an e-web or the embedded web where the Internet’s role as content provider and shopping assistant morphs into that of companion and advisor. The embedded web with its swarm of sensors and appliances (an insect colony with worker bees) places machines at our beck and call and will take us to the ultimate end in convenience or render all our lives to become a real-life version of The Truman Show.
IBM’s pervasive computing lab:
This is a futuristic playground where IBM tests and shows off technology that connects devices in a seamless computing environment. The entire lab and all its rooms are a prime example of a web site. The digital images on display in the picture frames on the living room wall can be controlled remotely. Intelligent countertops in the kitchen recognize bar code labeled stuff and react accordingly.
Embedded devices in cars, refrigerators, shop floors, hospital rooms extend the Internet’s role beyond content providers and shopping assistants to companion and advisors. The Next-Gen web will be more interactive with a swarm of specialized devices like sensors, and other appliances, all with Internet access and the ability to communicate.
Pervasive computing illustrates a world that we are moving towards, quite rapidly. The promise of ‘convenience’ implies that islands of technologies will soon converge and simplify life even further. We will finally be witness to the long promised shift to convergence. Computing will no longer be a monopolizing activity that shackles us to our desktops. Basically easier computing that’s available everywhere as needed, devices that are going to be easy to use, as simple as calculators and telephones or ATMs. With an extensive range like mobile commerce to home automation, and from the well-connected car to the convenience of small devices, pervasive computing exemplifies a vision beyond the PC. Agreed that some of the technologies behind these devices are in their infancy or evolutionary stages, so it may just be a question of time before all that is promised is achieved.
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