W. Brian Arthur has observed that the Knowledge Revolution
is in the early stages of amenity-building. Arthur points out that
it took automobiles roughly half a century to reach amenity through
the development of highway infrastructures, rules, and protocols,
safe and easy-to-use equipment, and a host of other amenities of
driving. Other, earlier revolutions like steam power and railroads
followed similar patterns.
A revolution doesnt really arrive
until we structure our activities around the new technologyand
the new technology adapts to us by becoming easy to use.
W. Brian Arthur, March 2002
The predominant vision of ICT has focused on the development
of mobile personal digital devices. Laptop and notebook computers,
personal digital assistants, mobile telephone, and evolving generations
of hybridized devices have enabled individuals to carry knowledge
around with them and plug into wired or wireless networks to access
knowledge repositories and communications. Every day, mobile digital
devices are extending the capacity of individuals to communicate
and engage knowledge anytime, any place.
An alternative vision of ICT development holds even
greater promise for transforming the knowledge experience. The late
Marc Weiser and his colleagues championed the vision of ubiquitous
computing in which cheap, low-power computers with convenient
displays are embedded into our everyday environmentshomes,
work, schools, automobiles, and public places. These devices are
linked by wired/wireless networks and supported by applications
software. This ubiquitous atmosphere of computing will pervade common
places and interact with personal digital devices and/or computing
devices carried or imbedded in clothing.
Pervasive computing will include sensing and recognition
technologies that can deal with many inputs, including data, acoustics,
image, motion and gestures, light, heat, moisture, and pressure.
New kinds of unobtrusive interfaces between the physical and virtual
world will be deployed to support these environments.
Pervasive computing could be the migration path for
blending the physical and virtual worlds, achieving amenity. It
will support many kinds of interfacing/communications including
speaking, gestures, and writing, not just keyboard and mouse through
graphical user interface. Many inputs will be sensed automatically
with no required human action or intervention. New kinds of ambient
displays will be less demanding of our attention, enabling
us to engage knowledge peripherally or even subconsciously. Supported
by new developments in the World Wide Web, pervasive computing will
dramatically change the manner in which we experience knowledge.
The most profound technologies are those
that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday
life until theyre indistinguishable from it.
Marc Weiser, 1991
Demonstration environments for pervasive computing
have been developed for workplaces like Xerox PARC, homes, and museums.
As individuals enter these environments, they are immediately recognized
and authenticated, thereby triggering the availability of communication
and/or knowledge resources. The individuals can engage a variety
of displays ranging in size from an inch (pagers, phones and small,
embedded devices), to a foot (screens of notebook computers, personal
digital assistants of various kinds) to a yard (smart whiteboard-like
devices). The engagement can be any combination ranging from peripheral
to fully focused, using keyboard, speech, gesture, or other means.