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Mobile & Ubiquitous Computing
Since the invention of the computer we have seen two great waves of innovation, and the third is rapidly coming upon us. In the first wave, mainframes were installed in glass-walled rooms, and were characterized by many users sharing a single computer. Many fiddles and kludges were devised to make this interaction as easy as possible, until the Personal Computer (PC) arrived. This transformed the scene, as each person sat in front of their computer face-to-face. It was complex to use, required arcane knowledge, and still does, but no matter. We had our computer. The one-to-one orientation is still dominant, but this situation is about to be dramatically changed. By what?
By what I have called Mobile & Ubiquitous Computing, to join two of the commonly used terms. By a world in which each person uses tens or hundreds of computers each day. In which the computers are as invisible as possible. In which they facilitate our needs and demands as much as possible. In which some of them are mobile and we carry them around with us. In other modes they are everywhere and we expect to pick them up or have them respond to us whenever we enter a room.
Perhaps this will emphasize the direction of the change. When I was a boy we had two clocks in the home and one wristwatch per person; when we ended daylight saving this year I changed 20+ clocks in the house (VCR, oven, microwave, pool clock, bedside clocks, etc) and my own three watches. None of this of course should have been necessary. The clocks and watches should to have known what to do.
In the next decade this trend is the growth area of computing. Already the sales of processor chips in embedded devices are over 10x that of those sold in PCs. Its ramifications extend beyond the development of devices and applications, since to be effective they must be linked into a wireless seamless network many times more sophisticated than the Internet. By contrast, in the future the Internet will seem a clumsy one-dimensional network.  Most IT professionals will work supporting these devices and the services delivered to them. Most employers will need to be able to handle the consequential transformation of their businesses.
A few forerunners of the impending revolution are available on the market or publicized in the media as exciting developments. For example, web-capable mobile telephones and PC-based telephony; Personal Data Assistants (PDAs), Smart Cars, Smart Cards and Smart Homes. In other areas, wall-mounted displays, speech recognition, and touch-sensitive panels are making large leaps forward. GPS receivers allow personal navigation in unfamiliar places. EPIRBs save lives.
The Mobile & Ubiquitous Computing revolution is complex. It is the realization of the convergence of IT and communications technology, in actuality rather than as lip-service. For those wanting to position themselves for the next decade, it requires basic knowledge of radio technology and especially the cellular designs used in mobile phones but extended from 2D to 3D, the distributed computing focus of the Internet but freed from the constraints on non-mobile computers, how to handle the privacy problems when any person can be tracked everywhere at any time, how to make the human-computer interface really invisible (forget those WIMP interfaces on PCs and the dreadful VCRs), etc.

© Copyright  2000, 2001  AHJ Sale
Page last modified on 2001 July 19