Ubiquitous Computing

OverviewUbiquitous Computing

Ubiquitous computing is a human-computer interaction model that integrates the information processing into everyday objects and activities. It is a paradigm shift that makes the technology virtually invisible in our lives. In the first wave of computing, mainframes were shared by lots of people. In the second wave of computing, personal computers were engaged by individual users.


In the third wave of ubiquitous computing, many computational devices and systems are engaged by a single user simultaneously. In a Ubiquitous computing environment, you can expect hundreds of wireless computing devices of different sizes integrated in a single room. Ubiquitous computing is normally wireless, mobile, and networked, allowing its users to get connected to the world around them. It is the opposite of virtual reality. It integrates human factors, computer science, engineering, and social sciences and uses different user interfaces, operating systems, networks, and wireless communications.

HistoryMedia wire

Mark Weiser in 1988 articulated the idea of ubiquitous computing for the first time at the Computer Science Lab at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). He coined the phrase “ubiquitous computing” and wrote several papers on it. The initial forms of ubiquitous computing include tabs, pads, and boards. The first ever known ubiquitous system was the artist Natalie Jeremijenko’s Live Wire or Dangling String situated at Xerox PARC, under the technical leadership of Mark Weiser.

Mark Weiser suggested the idea of enormous number of ubiquitous computers embedding into everything in our everyday life so that we use them anytime, anywhere without the knowledge of them. Today, ubiquitous computing is still at an early phase as it requires revolutionary software and hardware technologies.


All ubiquitous computing models have robust devices distributed at all scales. Some of the core concepts of these models are given below.

  • Contemporary command-line/menu-driven or GUI based Human Computer Interactions
  • Hi-tech, silicon based new computing gadgets
  • Distributed connection
  • Small form electronic devices with better ambient displays, public screens, and new input techniques
  • Readily available, high bandwidth, wireless data communication
  • Personalized machine learning with better logic and inference
  • Automatic identification through RFID or numbering schemes
  • Mechanical, chemical, electrical, and bio-sensing mechanisms
  • Physical, informational, and social context awareness
  • Smart control embedded systems
  • State and behavior encapsulated virtual counterparts


There are very diverse ubiquitous computing applications that are based on human computer interaction (HCI) models. These applications use traditional graphical or text-based user interfaces that allow speech, gesture, and physical interactions. They are context-sensitive and add additional capabilities and functionalities to every day objects. They are embedded in real world environment to help in multi-tasking with access to large volumes of diverse information and enable user collaborations. The major functional units of ubiquitous applications are

  • Interfacing
  • Processing
  • Communicating

Some of ubiquitous applications include the following.

  • Home network
  • Entertainment and gaming
  • Intelligence service
  • Ubiquitous learning
  • Tourism
  • Transportation
  • Ubiquitous business and shopping
  • Research laboratories
  • Health monitoring
  • Environmental control

The major problem with ubiquitous computing applications is privacy. As ubiquitous environment gets complete information of the user in that environment, the potential of leaking the information cannot be ruled out. Another problem is about maintaining personalization of ubiquitous computing environment. Whenever a new person joins, his profile must be added to all devices and updated when moved to a new site.

Wearable Computer

A wearable computer is a personal computer that is worn on the body like a piece of clothing to implement behavioral modeling or health monitoring systems or information technologies. It is used by military and government professionals in many of their daily operations. The US Army’s Land Warrior system is the most extensive wearable computer that forms an inevitable part of the warrior system. A wearable computer provides computational support for the user based on the context while his body is actively engaged in the physical environment. Some of the issues that are prevalent in wearable computer are power management, heat dissipation, personal area networks, wireless connections, software architectures, and sensor networks. But it can be augmented into all actions and acts as an extension of user’s mind or body.

Some of the few milestones in the history of wearable computer are given below.

1961 – First wearable computer was designed by the mathematician Edward O. Thorp and Claude E. Shannon. The system had a small packet sized analog computer that predicted roulette wheels

1966 – Thorp’s book “Beat the Dealer” first mentioned the invention of the wearable computer

1967 – Hubert Upton created an analogue wearable computer with an eyeglass-mounted display to aid lip reading

1970 – Eudaemonic Enterprises created similar roulette-prediction wearable computers using next-generation technology with CMOS 6502 microprocessors.

1980 – Many general-purpose wearable computers came into existence

1981 – Steve Mann built a new backpack-mounted 6502-based computer with flash-bulbs, cameras and other photographic systems

1994 – Steve Mann created the Wearable Wireless Webcam

1989 – Private Eye head-mounted display was built by Reflection Technology

1993 – Columbia University built Knowledge-based Augmented Reality for Maintenance Assistance (KARMA)

Wearable Computer Implementation Diagram

personal computer network

Wearable computers provide privacy and personalization to every user, but fail in maintaining localized information. It cannot sense information beyond the local area of the user. Even wearable computers cannot manage resources among several people.

Ubiquitous Vs. Wearable

Table personal computer

Sensors in Ubiquitous Computing

Table personal computer

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