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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Context Awareness and the Internet of Things

The next wave in the era of computing will be outside the realm of the traditional desktop. In the Internet of Things paradigm, everything of value will be on the network in one form or another. Radio frequency IDentification (RFID) and sensor network technologies will give rise to this new standard, in which information and communication are invisibly embedded in the environment around us. Everyday objects, such as cars, coffee cups, refrigerators, bathtubs, and more advanced, loosely coupled, computational and information services will be in each other’s interaction range and will communicate with one another. Large amounts of data will circulate in order to create smart and proactive environments that will significantly enhance both the work and leisure experiences of people. Smart interacting objects that adapt to the current situation without any human involvement will become the next logical step to people already connected anytime and anywhere.

With the growing presence of WiFi and 3G wireless Internet access, the evolution toward ubiquitous information and communication networks is already evident nowadays. However, for the Internet of Things vision to successfully emerge, the computing criterion will need to go beyond traditional mobile computing scenarios that use smartphones and portables, and evolve into connecting everyday existing objects and embedding intelligence into our environment. For technology to disappear from the consciousness of the user, the Internet of Things demands: (1) a shared understanding of the situation of its users and their appliances, (2) software architectures and pervasive communication networks to process and convey the contextual information to where it is relevant, and (3) the computational artifacts in the Internet of Things that aim for autonomous and smart behavior. With these three fundamental grounds in place, smart connectivity and context-aware computation via anything, anywhere, and anytime can be accomplished.

Context awareness plays an important role in enabling service-customization according to the current situation with minimal human intervention. Acquiring, analyzing, and interpreting relevant context information regarding the user will be a key ingredient to create a whole new range of smart entertainment and business applications that are more supportive to the user. Although context-aware systems have been in the research epicenter for a longtime, the ability to convey and select the most appropriate information to achieve nonintrusive behavior on multiuser-converged service platforms in mobile and heterogeneous environments remains a significant management challenge. Interoperability at the scale of the Internet of Things should go beyond syntactical interfaces and requires the sharing of common semantics across all software architectures. It also demands a seamless integration of existing computational artifacts (hardware and software) and communication infrastructures. Only then can context information be successfully shared between highly adaptive services across heterogeneous devices on large-scale networks that consider this information relevant for their purposes.

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