Quelle: http://europar-itec.uni-klu.ac.at/talks_extended.html

Pervasive Computing

Alois Ferscha (University Linz)


“The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it“ was Mark Weiser’s central statement in his seminal paper [Weis 91] in Scientific American in 1991. His conjecture, that “we are trying to conceive a new way of thinking about computers in the world, one that takes into account the natural human environment and allows the computers themselves to vanish into the background” has fertilized the embedding of ubiquitous computing technology into a physical environment which responds to people’s needs and actions. Most of the services delivered through such a “technology-rich” environment are services adapted to context, particularly to the person, the time and the place of their use. Along Weiser’s vision, it is expected that context-aware services will evolve, enabled by wirelessly ad-hoc networked, mobile, autonomous special purpose computing devices (i.e. “smart appliances”), providing largely invisible support for tasks performed by users. It is expected that services with explicit user input and output will be replaced by a computing landscape sensing the physical world via a huge variety of sensors, and controlling it via a manifold of actuators in such a way that it becomes merged with the virtual world. Applications and services will have to be greatly based on the notion of context and knowledge, will have to cope with highly dynamic environments and changing resources, and will need to evolve towards a more implicit and proactive interaction with users.

A second historical vision impacting the evolution of pervasive computing claimed for an intuitive, unobtrusive and distraction free interaction with technology-rich environments. In an attempt of bringing interaction “back to the real world” after an era of keyboard and screen interaction with computers, computers started to be understood as secondary artefacts, embedded and operating in the background, whereas the set of all physical objects present in the environment were started to be understood as the primary artefacts, the “interface”. Instead of interacting with digital data via keyboard and screen, physical interaction with digital data, i.e. interaction by manipulating physical artefacts via “graspable” or “tangible” interfaces, was proposed. Tangible interface research has evolved, where physical artefacts are considered as both (i) representations and (ii) controls for digital information. A physical object thus represents information while at the same time acts as a control for directly manipulating that information or underlying associations. With this seamless integration of representation and control into a physical artefact also input and output device fall together.

In this tutorial I will give a state-of-the-art survey on the field of pervasive computing. Starting from a historical view and a discussion of technolgoy trends, I will identify the main concepts, approaches and methods of pervasive computing, will identify the most topical research challenges, and work out the potentials with respect to industrial, commercial, societal and personal use applications. Technically, I will demonstrate how recent technological advances like in sub-micron and system-on-a-chip designs, wireless communications, micro-electro-mechanical systems, materials sciences, etc. have accelerated the development of low-cost, low-power, multifunctional, autonomous, embedded systems that are tiny in size and communicate untethered in short distances. Evidently, personal computing is giving way to a pervasive computing landscape populated by vast ubiquitous networks of wirelessly ad-hoc networked, mobile, wearable, autonomous, special purpose computing and communication appliances (“Smart Things”) and environments (“Smart Spaces”). Interaction, and consequently cooperation, in such environments is usually done implicitly (and invisibly) via a variety of sensors on the input side, and actuators on the output side.

This paradigm shift towards pervasive computing poses serious challenges to the conceptual architectures of coordination, and the related engineering disciplines in computer science. In my presentation I will reflect on the upcoming “theory of coordination”, the emerging pervasive and ubiquitous “cooperative” computing challenges and potentials, and in particular on the engineering issues associated with the provision of context aware cooperative systems. To ease the development of cooperative applications and services that have to be based on the notion of context we have built “context frameworks”, i.e. networked embedded software systems able to (i) describe, gather, transform, interpret and disseminate context information within ad-hoc, highly dynamic and frequently changing computing environments, (ii) dynamically discover, inspect, compose and aggregate software components in order to identify, control and extend context, as well as to overcome context barriers (like time, position, user preference, etc.), (iii) allow for dynamic interactions among components in a scalable fashion and satisfying requirements such as fidelity, QoS, fault-tolerance, reliability, safety and security, (iv) integrate heterogeneous computing environments and devices with different functionality, ability, form factor, size and limited resources wrt. processing power, memory size, communication, I/O capabilities, etc., (v) support the adaptation of novel forms of sensitive, tangible, situative, non-distracting user interfaces not limited to particular modes of interaction or input- output devices, and (vi) to allow for the implementation of learning, self-adaptive, plan-oriented, intelligent system behaviour.

Finally I will present and discuss system prototypes (“Wireless Campus”, “Digital Aura”, “WebWall”, “SmartLuggage”, “DigiScope”) that we have developed at the University of Linz to demonstrate pervasive computing systems in operation, to investigate novel forms of interaction and cooperation, and to envision their prospective potentials in industrial, business and commercial settings.


Alois Ferscha received a PhD in business informatics (1990) from the University of Vienna, Austria. From 1986 through 2000 he was with the Department of Applied Computer Science at the University of Vienna at the levels of assistant and associate professor. In 2000 he joined the University of Linz as full professor where he is now head of the department for Practical Computer Science.

The background of Prof. Ferscha is on topics related to parallel and distributed computing, like e.g. Computer Aided Parallel Software Engineering, Performance Oriented Distributed/Parallel Program Development, Parallel and Distributed Discrete Event Simulation and Performance Modeling/Analysis of. Currently he is focussed on Pervasive Computing, Embedded Software Systems, Wireless Communication, Multiuser Cooperation, Distributed Interaction and Distributed Interactive Simulation. He is responsible for the research “Topical Focus” on Pervasive Computing at the University of Linz.