Université du Québec à Chicoutimi
Maîtrise en art, Lectures Dirigées
Résumé de lecture
Par Paolo Almario
The dawning age of ubiquitous computing
GREENFIELD, ADAM. 2006. Everyware: The dawning age of ubiquitous computing. Berkley, CA. USA. New Riders imprint.
ADAM GREENFIELD is an internationally recognized user experience consultant and critical futurist, having worked for clients ranging from global concerns like Toyota, Capgemini, and Sony to local nonprofits.
Before starting his current practice, Studies and Observations, Adam was lead information architect for the Tokyo office of well-known Web consultancy Razorfish; prior to that, he worked as senior information architect for marchFirst, also in Tokyo. At various points ins his career, he has also been a rock critic for SPIN magazine, a medic at the Berkeley Free Clinic, a coffeehouse owner in West Philadelphia, and a PSYOP sergeant in the Special Operations Command of the U.S. Army.
With a particular interest in the interplay between mobility and the user experience, Adam organized the first international Moblogging conference in Tokyo in 2003, acclaimed as the world’s first symposium devoted to the practice of Web publishing from mobile devices. More recently, Adam sat on the final jury for the Gusedspace competition on novel uses of information technology in public space.
A co-founder of Boxes & Arrows, a Web-based journal on interactive design and information architecture, Adam speaks frequently before a wide variety of audiences on issues of design, culture, technology and user-experience. His Chrysler Design Award-nominated personal site can be found at www.v-2.org.
This review intends to capture the ideas held into the book by mixing self-interpretation and author’s literal work.
Greenfield attempts to describe a new way of computing that is taking shape right now and will keep on going for the next years. Because of it’s nature, it is assumed that this kind of computing will some day replace all kind of electronic devices such as computers. The name of this emerging technology can gather many names like ubiquitous computing, pervasive computing, physical computing, tangible media, etc. But the author defines it as everyware.
Everyware assumes that everything that surrounds human beings will be able to gather and process information and respond to user’s interaction and needs. It proposes an extremely strong informatics system beneath the surface that works so perfectly that it is beyond human awareness.
This vision of an all technology computing future goes so deep that even dives into the current human condition; it plans how it should change and how it should be handled, all in favor of an effective and easier way of living. Thus, it is necessary to re-evaluate notions such as privacy, using approaches with an unusual degree of care, just to imagine how this kind of computing will actually change our way of living.
Greenfield sees everyware as something that is coming and is unstoppable, there are so many forces driving the humanity to this kind of technology that the only thing she can possibly do is to be aware of what it is and the possible changes that this new “promise” will bring.
Surely this kind of computing will bring changes into every aspect of development, and will affect all kind of professions and that’s why it is so important to be aware of everyware’s reach. The decision taking process we do right now facing the upcoming ubiquitous computing will surely establish how is going to be our future from now on.[Section 1 – What is everyware?]
• Thesis 1 – There are many ubiquitous computings
Greenfield is not first one speaking about ubiquitous computing. Researchers from well established and recognized technology institutions have already published papers about computing that becomes ‘invisible’.
Mark Weiser part of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center published “Ubiquitous computing #1”. At the MIT Media Lab, professor Hiroshi Ishii did a research called “Things that think” and he spoke about “tangible media”. IBM wasn’t behind as they theorized about “pervasive computing” and the implementation of sensors in everyday objects.
Consequently, every one of these theories worked their way in different aspects on how this new technology should work and expand. Some held their ground in engineering and devices behavior, others went a little bit further by planning new elements like ubiquitous networking. At the end, the big question is, are they all really succeeding in creating this new computing era? Would they fulfill the theorized promises of how this kind of systems should work?
Much of this is discussed by communities involved in human-computer interaction contexts, but at the end the goal is one: reach a language of interaction suited to a world where information processing would be everywhere in the human environment.
• Thesis 2 – The many forms of ubiquitous computing are indistinguishable from the user’s perspective and will appear to a user as aspects of a single paradigm: everyware
The post-PC era can’t be described from the user’s point of view using technical terminology, since it’s something that it’s just starting to be developed. So working in specific and different technical fronts to reach this new era is a good start, but trying to consider how the users will live this kind of technology is something that must be done from the user’s experience perspective.
Something to be aware of is that the user’s experience will be a response to a complete and vast system that works networked and not by single nodes. This will allow users to interact with a network that is invisible and thus give them the experience that will generate the next paradigm shift the world will meet: everyware.
• Thesis 3 – Everyware is information processing embedded in the objects and surfaces of everyday life
The everyware paradigm implies the spread of computer’s functionalities into everyday objects. Today there are several devices we use everyday that are being controlled by electronic processors. We can even think about that right now we have reached to the point that we are not aware of the presence of many of these every-day computer-controlled objects, because they are dedicated to a specific independent functionality. It is not until they start to share the data they process that they will become interesting to us.
Not only the data sharing will be the starting point to being aware of those devices that surrounds us, it can lead also to a path of implementation into everyday objects such as clothing, furniture, walls and doorways.
The advantage of doing so is that those kinds of objects are already present in everyday life and can pass as unseen. Olivetti Research, made earlier developments in 1989. They deployed a version of Roy Want’s Active Badge, in which the familiar workplace identity tag became a platform of functionality.
Also at PARC a series of devices called tabs, pads and boards, provided not only a measurement of productivity and functionality of office workers, but also proposed a different approach to every day working ritual in front of a PC.
In terms of everyday non working-based devices, we are starting to see walls, books, clothes, that are being thought as sensors capable of feeling their environment. We may come to see such articles as the articulated parts of massively distribute computational engines.
When objects start to behave as parts of a system that shares information, the human-object relationship will be redefined. Our perception of the world will surely change and among the more significant consequences of this “computing everywhere” is that implies “information everywhere”.
• Thesis 4 – Everyware gives rise to a regime of ambient informatics
Everyday sensing objects can be thought as devices that can feed up a global network, if we think at that as something that is already happening, the input that receives the network can be easily described as clicks or keyboard messages. With the evolution of these objects, their input will also evolve and so on their input, leading us to an era where it is possible to speak about ambient informatics.
Ambient informatics is a state in which information is freely available at the point in space and time someone requires it, generally to support a specific decision. It would be possible to think about the changes this could bring, for example advertising: situations such as receiving a coupon as soon as we pass by an specific shop, or a taxi announcing a bank’s financing system and providing information of the closest ATM.
Web will be affected; nevertheless Internet will not be over. It will change the way we get the information from it. Ambient informatics could even deliver weather information in our bathroom mirror, or at our kitchen. Web as we know it may become something of a backwater.
• Thesis 5 – At its most refined, everyware can be understood as information processing dissolving in behavior
Designer Naoto Fukaswa speaks of “design dissolving in behavior”. That means that interactions with designed systems so well thought will abscond from awareness.
Everyware can be thought at this level of dissolving. Doing so will mean that ordinary interactions with information will become transparent, eliminating each time more the barriers imposed by the computer.
Scenarios such as business cards exchange could be rethought as simple behavior such as a handshake. Behavior dissolving can be thought as leaving behind physical barriers to get to the point of just human interaction doing the same kind of activities we achieve to do every day by using specific devices.
• Thesis 6 – There are many rationales for the move away from the PC, any one of which have been sufficient on its own
There are several forces that are driving everyware to it’s inevitable arise. Technical, social and economic movements are doing it, meanwhile in Japan the technology development is trying to give to their elder a better life quality, in business scenarios growing niches are being seen as opportunities to push one step at a time the evolution of ubiquitous computing.
With so many pressures operating in everyware’s favor, everyware can be thought as a paradigm. Even from a skeptical point of view, it can’t be denied that there’s something worthy of note happing.
• Thesis 7 – Everyware isn’t so much a particular kind of hardware or software as it is a situation
Everyware will not appear as a dedicated device with which people can interact. It will be delivered in such many ways that it cannot be a piece of hardware, it will hold many computational devices working together to achieve to interact with the user as a whole situation.
The diverse ways that everyware can be presented into out lives are linked by a set of assumptions about the proper role of technology. In that direction, designers may have to start thinking further in contextual sensitivity and users will have to face that computing is something that won’t be at arm’s length, It will be a situation that everyone will share.
• Thesis 8 – The project of everyware is nothing less than the colonization of everyday life by information technology
Our everyday is seen as some kind of activity that is shared by everyone, but the truth is that every one of us live this temporal and spatial situation in different ways, as such, every detail of our daily routine makes us different and so on it does each of our everyday. It’s difficult to think about how will technology intervene in such activities, because we are so used to do them in a specific way, but somehow we also understand that it is the direction computing is aiming right now.
Everyware is something that is meant to happen, it will change the way we are used to receive information technology. It is impossible to precise the exact procedure that will take to this phenomena to arrive, but right now it is only possible to think about who will be the possible decision makers, and how should we prepare so when it arrives it does in ways congenial to us.[Section 2 – How is everyware different from what we are used to?]
• Thesis 9 – Everyware has profoundly different implications for the user experience than previous paradigms
In this way of thinking, everyware will be far away from the current experience of computing. Currently, the act of interacting with a computer is a task driven methodology. Everyware will be far beyond. Instead of initializing the experience by, for example, turning the pc on, everyware will be able to be started from a particular not thought action such as going into a room.
In that kind of way, everyware will be designed from a point of view similar to the current user’s experience methodology.
As for how to get that point, current developments and theories work around the answers to questions such as: How does a system knows that I’m addressing to it? How do I know a system is attending when I refer to it? How do I know it understands me? How do I recover from mistakes? Etc.
• Thesis 10 – Everyware necessitates a new set of human interfaces modes
As said, everyware will induce into new human interface developing, new ways for people to communicate their needs and desires to the computational systems around them.
Current mobile devices have tried to go further from typical button-based interfaces, but even though of their efforts, none of them are entirely satisfactory. Everyware will require further more behavior-involved interfaces.
Further research has been made and now it is possible to speak about “tangible media” or “physical computing”. Devices that contemplate bridging the worlds of things and information: physical interface elements that are manipulated to perform operations on associated data. An example of this is the “media table” in the lobby of New York’s Asia Society build by Small Design Firm and Andrew Davies.
Such physical devices are ideal for places where conventional methods would be practically inappropriate. But even though of their success they keep holding the barrier between human natural behavior and computer response. Gestural, less self-conscious and more truly intuitive interfaces are the goal of everyware paradigm direction.
Nowadays this concern is studied and in the market can be represented by devices that are able to track hands or bodies gestures and give effective response to them. Nevertheless, this is just an early stage of exploration; many complications and pitfalls remain for the unwary.
Another field of new interfaces compile the ones that can handle voice orders, today there are many devices that can receive this kind of commands but new scenarios are possible if this kind of technology is developed in a greater way.
Gestural, tangible and sound recognition are doubt-less the interfaces that will surely inhabit a far larger number and variety of places in the world.
• Thesis 11 – Everyware appears not merely in more places than personal computing does, but in more different kind of places, at a greater variety of scales
Everyware will spread into mostly any place we can ever imagine computing can be involved, and even in those we can’t even think about already. Just like the desktop computers found their way first into offices, libraries, dorm rooms, to be later include in more places when laptops appeared, places like coffee houses, transit lounges, hotel rooms, airport concourses. Right now mobile technology has even gone further, so it is not difficult to imagine the next places where computing will be involved.
Such expansion must not be seen or thought in terms of places but in terms of scales of intervention, starting from the human body, passing trough room and building scales to finalize even thinking about city involved everyware.
• Thesis 12 – Everyware acts at the scale of the body
Sooner or later the human body will be considered as another kind of networked resource. There are plenty of motivations to do so and thus many fields where this kind of involvement can be extremely useful. The fact is that the human body is loaded of information and the only idea of being able to capture it and process it opens up new horizons where everyware will surely be involved.
So the first field could be the medical one, viruses could be detected and treated as they appear. The information is there waiting to be collected, and that is what the Pittsburgh-based project BodyMedia tries to achieve. This device deploys a certain type of sensors over the body’s skin and then captures live information and interprets it. Further medical uses can be started as the sensors try to reach more “interior” body data.
Another field that is currently being developed is the one involving wearable clothing. Development that has gone from optimizing mobile workers job (1990s) to high stylish fashions such as iPod compatible snowboard jackets. This field is explored in such a way that students all around the world are running hundreds of experiments regarding it.
Multiple approaches to military usage can be imagined and many projects are being developed now to improve a soldier’s performance while carrying technologies in his body that keeps him networked.
So each and one of this projects are being developed individually, but at the end a clear picture where we are heading takes picture: a world in which the body has been decisively reimagined as a site of networked computation.
• Thesis 13 – Everyware acts at the scale of the room
At the scale of the room Everyware becomes more architectural. The only idea of thinking about giving any kind of service at the scale of a room will lead to the awareness of every users exact position along the space. Thus, the first intervention surface it is possible to think about is the floor.
In 1997 the Olivetti and Oracle Research Lab at the University of Cambridge developed a prototype Active Floor, which monitored both weight distribution and the time variations of loads. The university of Florida developed also a Gator Tech Smart House using flooring with impact sensors that could detect falls and report them to emergency services.
More recent projects have also explored the floor involved computing. The NTT DoCoMo’s CarpetLAN and Leo Ferneke’s Sensacell where the more representatives, both projects trying to reach a balanced approach of implementation, costs and effectiveness.
In addition, doorway exploration has also been done. The knowledge of a door’s current status can be useful in many context-aware applications. But into this kind of involvement, not only the door behavior counts, but also the possibility of knowing how many people goes in or out a space.
Further furniture applications have already been developed: the first generation of internet-capable domestic appliances, typified by LG’s suite of refrigerator, air conditioner, microwave, and washing machine; is a whole line that can be bought today at market stores.
Even though, true utility in the digital room awaits a recognition that the networked whole is distinctly more than the sum of its parts. This was already being perceived when the MIT Tangible Media Group developed the ambientROOM in 1998, a project where the whole room became an interface.
All this kind of projects not only can reveal how we are leading to an everyware environment, but also let visualize how actual projects are being developed and are currently reaching the market.
• Thesis 14 – Everyware acts at the scale of the building
Thinking about architectural in building’s scale is something that most personal-computing developers haven’t reached yet, nor even thought about doing.
Even though, ideas of shaping circulatory, structural and program systems from a building by digital flows are not new, since they have been flying around since 1990s. Even architecture itself as a profession expects to reach this kind of behavior someday. But, until today, there’s no building capable of modifying his systems using real time networked information.
This doesn’t means that there has been any development done at all in building scale. Actual “smart buildings” offer light, heat, and air-conditioning, energy management control systems. But surely further explorations can be done like optimizing circulation and delivery of systems. That’s what Schindler Elevator’s Miconic 10 project proposes, a passenger vertical circulation system that can graduate it’s speed in terms of the number of passengers it carries.
Further exploration is being developed by projects like School of Computing’s Arch-OS, an “architectural operating system”. This system includes “building energy management systems, the flow of people and social interactions, ambient noise levels and environmental conditions”, and returns that to the public by several visualization processes. Even though this kind of project implementation is considered in the realm of arts, it will surely mark the precedent for future architectural usage.
While proposing operating systems like Arch-OS, other projects are being explored and intended to be compatible with this kind of platforms. dECOi’s 2003 Aegis Hyposurface proposes a surface that can be deployed almost in any architectural space and can hold several input/output devices that will send and retrieve information from the OS systems.
Other architectural scale intervention element is the façade; several projects from mapped projections to LED-illuminated propositions have already reached real intervention. A good example: UNStudio’s digital façade for Seoul’s high-end Galleria department store.
Further exploration in architectural intervention can lead to new material utilization that is aware of the need of introducing sensors so the building can respond to exterior inputs. And precisely that’s the proposal that Peter Testa has shown with his called Carbon-Tower prototype.
Most of current architectural concerns are mean to respond in an intelligent way to weather dynamics, surely a wide specter of data involvement can lead to even wider panoramas of intervention.
• Thesis 15 – Everyware acts at the scale of the street and of public space in general
Nowadays, technology intervention concerning a scale superior to the building itself leads to wayfinding. Technologies such as GPS are now pretty much known worldwide and so it does its limitations. GPS have specific requirements to work in an optimized way; so further implementation can’t be thought with this kind of imprecision.
Even though, exploring implementations of directional systems that can help people to find their way can be thought with other kind of technologies where architecture itself can be involved. In 1971 the MIT professor Kevin Lynch proposed The image of the City, a way of understanding how do people read cities, how do they understand them and find their way trough.
Lynch identified elements such as signing, maps, street names and numeration systems. Elements that today are being touched by computational enhancement. So street furniture, lamp posts and even manholes can be thought in a future as reference waypoints trough the city.
Maps are now seen as dynamic way of reaching the people and providing them useful real-time information on position and direction. At Lancaster University in the UK, a prototype has been implemented called GAUDI (from “grid of autonomous displays”), a signing based navigation system that could help visitors to find their way in the campus.
This kind of navigational systems can change the whole experience of a city, in such a way that Kevin Lynch couldn’t even imagine in 1970s. Nor if this kind of notion is put together with the other scales of intervention elements: intelligent body placed elements, responsive spaces and buildings.
Everyware can also be thought as an extension of power as it can reach the control of public space utilization, the whole concept of public and private can start to be shaped in several new ways.
• Thesis 16 – Everyware can be engaged inadvertently, unknowingly, or even unwillingly
The fact to go trough an everyware system can happen in an unaware sense, the whole principle of everyware is based in this contextual situation to arrive. But what happens when the lack of agency becomes relevant.
There are some situations where we are not disposed to engage into a system, and if everyware works at it is imagined to be, there will be also scenarios where personal data can be shared and sent unknowingly.
Today’s information systems are managed, at least most part of them, in a conscious way, so users have the control of the data being used in the interaction. So what happens if users also want to be merge into situations that are beyond the average, willingly desiring a specific condition outside the limits of comfort would be highly difficult to specify in everyware systems.
Either way it is a subject to think about how far can an information-processing system can go when it handles with variables based on individual existential ways.
• Thesis 17 – The overwhelming majority of people experiencing everyware will not be knowledgeable about information technology
Throughout the history of computer development, the audience that was able to have access to these devices has been always limited by variables such as price and hardware vs. home space conditions. In this way of thinking, people that has gotten access to computing has gone from highly educated and wealthy individuals to the lower income classes.
Current developments are being held to achieve the construction of a $100 computer so developing countries can have a more computing involved society.
As soon as these variables are reduced, the audience of computing becomes wider. Thus with everyware, ideas such as the presence of networked electronic devices in public spaces eliminates the idea of variables restraining the access to computing. So then, audience will become wider but only some few will have knowledge on how this systems works.
• Thesis 18 – In many circumstances, we can’t really conceive of the human being engaging everyware as a “user”
Traditionally when we refer to any kind of interaction activity or development we speak of the audience as users. Surely it is the right word to use inside interaction contexts, but when we speak of everyware, it remains short, with limitations.
In the first hand, the “user” makes reference to someone that in a determined space of time engage into a situation we have designed, with everyware this surely won’t happen because there will be no need of engagement, the interaction will be unaware to the user and constant.
However, trying to find a different term to refer to the individuals engaging everyware is a hard task, not for the matter of finding a word, but because the word user is so much established that trying to change it will have implications in many technical language implementation. So for now, the word “user” is the one that will be used for everyware’s audience as long as we are aware of it’s limitations.
• Thesis 19 – Everyware is always situated in a particular context
Current computing defines specific contexts for each interaction. A PC will always be there for me to engage it at my own will, and when I do it, everything is set up to experience a specific situation that I choose. Everything from the table, the computer and the room are part of the context that is created to deliver such situations. Thinking about them a little further, it is possible to get to the conclusion of why it was so important the virtual reality in the 90s; it was just because that context will seem to go each time more blur.
In everyware physical spaces or objects will not compose the context as a variable that determines specific computing experiences. A sensitively designed everyware will take note of the qualities our experiences derive from being situated in real space and time. Only by recreating such experiences is that everyware can be set as a context that will make sense of our interactions with one another.
• Thesis 20 – Everyware unavoidably invokes the specter of multiplicity
Everyware systems will get to manage unavoidably multiple data inputs. And go trough a decision making process that today is almost unreachable. If we think about the current interaction between people and their computers, it is a matter of direct and conscious engaging; there is no specific moment where the computer should “ask himself” if the user is addressing to him. This is a major problem to be solved as for the arrival of everyware systems.
Simple contexts can be imagined that can result problematic, a command like “open window” could have innumerous interpretations and is for the system to interpret all the possible variables to deliver the specific task the user is demanding.
Currently there are researches being done for this processes, planning the decision making process as a network that administrates time-based events is one of them, but even though, current computers only work in linear ways, they are fast, but when it gets to point of handling several variables to each and single situation, the system will surely suffer time delays.
Nevertheless, Stanford developed an event heap implementation called iRoom that could successfully coordinate activities among several desktop, laptop, and tablet Windows PCs, a Linux server, Palm OS and Windows CE handheld devices, multiple projectors, and a room lightning controller. This represents a first response to challenge of multiplicity that the majority of ubiquitous systems will be forced to confront.
• Thesis 21 – Everyware recombines practices and technologies in ways that are greater than the sum of their parts
Several of the most knowledgeable, prominent, and respected voices in academic ubicomp find hard to agree with the idea that every single electronic device that surrounds us will get to be part of an entire information-sharing system.
Nevertheless, it is not something utopic given the case that all this devices works by the logics of ones and zeroes, so getting to the point of gathering all them in a single stream of shared information is not impossible at all. Also, current technology usage has proven that for functionality purposes, different devices can be joined together for achieving an optimal performance.
Everyware case is different and possible as for its implementation and results will be far greater than the sum of each of the system parts that compose it.
• Thesis 22 – Everyware is relational
Everyware will be based in information-crossed processing, that means that for every situation where computational devices will intervene, there will be data comparison between databases. Such actions can lead to many unimaginable situations that will cover many fields in our human way of living. So then it can be concluded that everyware is relational, but it’s worth to take a look to how that could affect contexts such as economics.
The act of pricing articles to be sold is a calculus between several production, transportation, staffing and infrastructure variables. At the end, the user is not aware of the specific intervention of these variables to the price he is paying. However, in an everyware world, this whole ritual of capitalism-based society could start to shake as the information becomes accessible to every one.
Such scenario with no-hidden information is not that far away from us, current enterprises like Yahoo or Google don’t mind about sharing pieces of infrastructure to be used freely by third parties. It is worth thinking also, that in a relational world of shared information, any little change in a piece can lead to huge consequences in the whole system.
It is hard to imagine that a world so rich in sources of information won’t eventually provoke someone to take maximum advantage of their joining.
• Thesis 23 – Everyware has profoundly different social implications than previous information-technology paradigms
Everyware social implications will surely go further in the social subject. It will change not only the way we relate to each other, but also the view of ourselves as individuals. Each situation will surely push to the limit matters of trust, respect, reputation and credibility.
As for social relationships, how social protocols will start to behave when each individual is aware of an undetermined amount of other’s information.
Consequently, how could each individual start to behave when all his background follows him everywhere, how shocking could also result the fact of comparing our own built image to the one thrown by the data inside the system. Erving Goffman in 1958 taught us that we are all actors, that we switch masks between social contexts. It is hard to imagine how this will change in an everyware era, where there will be no possibilities of “mask wearing”.
Even though of this social impact, everyware is mostly unstoppable and for better or worse, is that way where technology is heading.[Section 3 – What’s driving the emergence of everyware?]
• Thesis 24 – Everyware, or something very much like it, is effectively inevitable
Even if everyware is not conceived the way is described in this book, it is impossible to imagine that something like it won’t come to us. Many theories diverge and speak about some other conceptions of ubiquitous computing.
Either way, it is known that forces that are impossible to restrain are driving this paradigm. Social matters, economic matters, politic matter, everything will lead us to an unavoidable ubiquitous computing era.
• Thesis 25 – Everyware has already staked a claim on our visual imaginary, which in turn exerts a surprising influence on the development of technology
Recent human story-telling genres have initialized a loop of technological developing that involves creative minds, audience influences and engineering research. Since this way of “evolving” appeared, humanity has been driven towards the development of what they could imagine.
So we could say that what is being represented right now in screens or in novel pages is a vision of how we imagine our future will be. Depending on how accurate this process is done, it will become not only a good piece of entertainment, but it will shape the ideal, and thus the objective, of the future that will come.
Recent approaches such as Minority Report from Steven Spielberg have let us see that everyware is a notion that it is deeply embedded into our conception of future computing.
• Thesis 26 – Something with the properties we see in everyware was foreordained the moment tools and services began to be expressed digitally
Before the notion of everyware existed, before the digital era, humanity had tools, these tools were at their most analog. They expressed a final product as a result of an analog process. Their nature could be mechanical, electronic, or even those two together, but all of these tools at the end were speaking different languages.
Suddenly, technological evolution marked by the optimization “trend” of going digital, so everything started to be expressed in languages of “on” and “off”, one and zero, true or false. This revolution drove us to the point that all this tools started to speak the same language, and because of that they could share information and functionalities.
In this kind of conditions, it is possible that everyware arrives, as everything that can be expressed digitally will be expressed digitally.
• Thesis 27 – Everyware is structurally latent in several emerging technologies
Even from the more skeptical point of view, everyware is a matter that seems to be unavoidable. It is hard to think in this very moment in technologies as individual groups of knowledge that are thought to be used for specific and individual actions in a very effective way.
Even if technology is seen that way, current developments in latest standards are showing us that each and one of these action fields are driving their selves to an unavoidable everyware context.
Current IPv6 protocol is meant to be as big as to be able to give several IP addresses to each grain of sand in the earth. Wireless communications are being developed to be each time faster. And so on many other examples. It is quite impossible to think about this technologies working separately without common objectives, is almost like they were speaking to us trying to tell us in which direction should computing go.
• Thesis 28 – Everyware is strongly implied by the need of business for continued growth and new markets beyond the pc
Capitalism is based on growth and that’s they way It was understood by enterprises dedicated to produce technological devices. But, currently we are getting to the point, that products launched before the PC have fallen into a non “that much” profitable business, because it is incredibly difficult to compete against a computer services.
In that way of thinking, markets will continue to adapt and some will keep on growing. And as it can be assumed, some one will make the entire infrastructure that everyware will use. It is for sure it will go that way, as current expectations of markets like “digital home” are thought to grow to $1 trillion to the end of the decade.
Business is one of those forces that is driving everyware, and surely everyware will drive business.
• Thesis 29 – Everyware is strongly implied by the needs of an aging population in the developed world
One of the situations that are characterizing developed countries is related to aged people. The life expectations are getting each time harder, and the world is just waiting to see how a great amount of this countries population will be a majority in the years to come. As for their care and aging with dignity, a lot of infrastructure will be needed, as much as specific technical human help.
The problem will be that there won’t be enough young population to assure the correct aging development of this future majority. The reason: fertility rates plummeting. It is a fact that population in regions like North America or Western Europe would already have fallen below replacement level if not for immigration.
Thus, technical and technological solutions are driving the lead to a secure and individual aging providing this audience with contexts each time closer to the idea of everyware to achieve it.
• Thesis 30 – Everyware is strongly implied by the ostensible need for security in the post-9/11 era
Security issues have leaded us to inevitably be aware of each other in a determined situation. It is true that the 9-11 has caused many changes in how surveillance works, but it surely happen that with everyware, this specific contexts will go beyond today’s simple question of “your papers please”.
The matter of security and surveillance is also a topic of control. If it is possible to achieve a permission system that can control people accessibility, tons of situations could change as long as the users wouldn’t even be aware of theirs granted and denied areas, they would just circulate.
As for this control matter MIT sociologist Gary T. Marx sees the widest possible scope for security applications in an “engineered society” like ours, where “the goal is to eliminate or limit violations by control of the physical and social environment”.
Further research in Marx work would lead to understanding his six social-engineering strategies as key to control, and it should surprise no one that everyware facilitates them all.
Currently there are several security companies working on developing computational solutions to lead ourselves to this every-time-closer to everyware context. So without a doubt, the matter of security is other of those forces leading humanity to everyware.
• Thesis 31 – Everyware is a strategy for the reduction of cognitive overload
Mark Weiser and John Seely Brown’s seminal “The Coming Age of Calm Technology” provided statistics on how today’s population is becoming more stressed and less tolerant identifying the interaction with computer interfaces as an important source of it. Even passive users could be that way because of the extensive and stressful it could be for them to go trough a computer based interface to achieve the task they want.
So for Weiser and Brown a new era of “Calm Technology” will arise. An era where interfaces should be based in eliminating interface limitations and in focusing in the tasks objectives, giving the user the easiness of achieving it in an non perceivable way.
It is hard to imagine such interfaces as for their direct implementation in several data managing processes, starting by a simple one such as email. Even though Jack Schulze and Matt Webb designed for Nokia a presentation called Attention Fader. It’s a framed picture that will show a London urban landscape that will be harmoniously built if no emails are to be checked, but it will become each time more chaotic as unread messages come to accumulate. The thing about this project is that the changes between the different states are done so slightly that user can even notice how the landscape is changing, but it receives the insight of his mailbox situation by a “calm technology” based interface.
As long as interfaces continue to be developed by this approach, further data manipulation can be done by users, making this processes less charged with stress. And as long as this development goes in that direction, everyware will be a step closer to become a reality.
• Thesis 32 – Everyware is strongly implied by the continuing validity of Moore’s law
Moore’s law predicted the curve of doubling transistors quantity inside smaller processors envelopes in a period of time set to 24 months. Surely the trend in economics for this objects have also changed and nowadays prices of processors are quite accessible as for they were in their recent appearance. So as this curve continues to be consistent, processor will be every time more powerful and their prices will continue to go down. It is not to forget that also the size of these electronic brains will also diminish.
Thus, human ritual will become to attach processors to places that they wouldn’t even think about before. As this process continues to be a loop, it is just only one of the many forces driving us to an everyware world.
• Thesis 33 – The appeal of everyware is at some level universal
There is a human inherent conditiohn of providing the world that surrounds us with some kind of life, as for innumerable fantasy tales can be gathered from our human history, nowadays we keep on dreaming of arriving to this world that is aware of us as we are aware of him. So human nature herself is another of the forces that is unavoidably driving us to an everyware context. As for what we need to know right now is how to be prepared to this change and specific issues to be aware of.[Section 4 – What are the issues we need to be aware of?]
• Thesis 34 – Everyware insinuates itself into transactions never before subject to technical intervention
New technological devices will provide humanity of well-directed actions and situations to ameliorate their life quality, in doing so computing will define the ritual we are going trough into several daily situations. But, is it necessary that these actions must be carried out that way? What happens if the ritual the devices choose for us are not the correct choice, as well as we realize from an uncomfortable way that our subjective way of doing anything is just “wrong” because the machine leads to it in a different approach.
Trying to imagine such a situation in social relationships can change the way we get to know each other to the point that our subjectivity is all canalized in a single way of acting.
Eliel Saarinen, architect and father of Eero taught to his students to always design a thing by considering in its next larger context. That way, and for human rituals and activities it is just better to not intervene.
• Thesis 35 – Everyware surfaces and makes explicit information that has always been latent in our lives, and this will frequently be incommensurate with social or psychological comfort
It is meant to be aware that once we enter into an everyware world, information from us will be accumulated as a principle of functionality, and as for everything to go as it is thought to be, that information will start to be shared through different networks.
Currently this kind of interaction and data bouncing between networks is bringing us problems to our social environments, this situations has lead the current social networks to manage our information in a very cautious way, and giving us enough control of it so we can stay ourselves out of troubles in our own social circles.
It is known also that human behavior can change depending on social contexts, and so the theory of “the masks” that each one of us use in between specific conditions will suffer directly from an everyware-managed world. It will simply result impossible to wear such masks as information is following all over us everywhere. The system will keep holding information as far as there is a system to hold it, and will change the way we’ve morally and ethically built our social relationships.
• Thesis 36 – Latent information is also made explicit as a result of the conventions suggested by everyware
Latent data pops to the surface in everyware as a result of new conventions, every bit as much as of new systems. These are ways of thinking about the world that follow in the wake of the mass adoption of information technology, as natural afterward as they would have seemed alien beforehand.
Thus, latent facts about the world will be brought to the surface and made available to our networked mnemotechnical system.
• Thesis 37 – Everyday life presents designers of everyware with a particularly difficult case because so very much about it is tacit, unspoken or defined with insufficient precision
One of the great challenges everyware will bring is to understand human behavior and situations in a way it’s never done before, or even thought. As well as we communicate via specific mediums such as voice, signals and visual stimulus, it can happen that situations will be described by these methods and yet have a completely different meaning or application. The use of metaphors in speeches could not be interpreted as it is spoken, and the same goes for usual human-human daily interaction.
Building such a system its not an impossible task, but it will be a difficult one. Yet, there are plenty of researches concerning Artificial Intelligence. But we cannot escape from the fact that our systems will continue to evolve into digital and we will continue to be analog-based humans.
• Thesis 38 – Everyware is problematic because it is hard to see literally
Everyware infrastructure will be composed of several devices such as sensors, microprocessors, memory chips, and they will be connected via several either physical or wire-less mechanisms. In this way of involvement, it will be difficult in the first stage to identify the actual everyware components, as they will be every time hidden and incorporated to the daily objects we interact with. From there on, our sensation of control by manipulating specific input controls will dramatically change.
• Thesis 39 – Everyware is problematic because it is hard to see figuratively
As far as everyware’s physical infrastructure will become each time harder to identify, also will be the way we use them for our daily activities. One day credit card payments will be done in such an unaware way that we will even forgot why is it called credit card, as there will be no longer exist such a card, there will be only payment and it will be done in an automatic way.
• Thesis 40 – The discourse of seamlessness effaces or elides meaningful distinctions between systems
As for the moment in everyware, the seamlessness discourse has been seen as it proposes many theories on how users should engage systems in a non-awareness way. But surely the debate is that this way of implementation will have two probable exits, one is the development of a superb artificial intelligence based system that can offer as many responses as the input we are able to give to it, or the other one, that we will be thrown to an limited and standardized way of developing each and single action in our daily life.
The debate goes a little further as it proposes that total seamlessness will not give total user satisfaction, while a “not-that-much” seamless system will provide users a certain level of customization and control so they can be satisfied as they do their actions in the way they want to do it.
Either way, we should think everyware as an open paradigm where it should be even possible to have control of this “settings”. In everyware as in life, good fences make good neighbors.
• Thesis 41 – Before they are knit together, the systems that comprise everyware may appear to be relatively conventional, with well-understood interfaces and affordances. When interconnected, they will assuredly interact in emergent and unpredictable ways
Everyware systems will be composed by different elements that will in fact relate to each other to achieve a determined task. It is mostly impossible to define which task will a system be able to perform only by looking at its components, either individually or all grouped up. It is only by their relationship one to the others that it will be possible to arrive to a solution to a specific problem, situation or task.
It is an important matter to understand due to for everyware speaking, designers should not fall into describing components, but situations and then on system relationships and after that the pieces that compose it. Such way of thinking is quite a challenge, perhaps it would be wiser to deal with the foreseeable implications of near-term systems before addressing the problems that await us a few steps further out.
• Thesis 42 – In everyware, many issues are decided at the level of architecture, and therefore do not admit to any substantive recourse in real time
Everyware systems will reach to the limits they will be designed to. Even every single computing system right now is ruled by his underneath architecture, it is the final user who decides whether it uses to its limits or not. In an everyware world this kind of dependence to the internal systems informational structure is something to be aware of.
Internet for example is a network designed to leave no trace of a connection but for an IP address, that way people can go in and out of it and won’t have the need of stepping out the anonymity they are provided unless they decide to do it, Internet’s architecture allows to do this.
So in a world where specific systems are to be designed to particular situations and problematic, the architectural planning will surely engage into details that won’t be resulting pleasant to share in other contexts. It can even be possible to lead us to people identification by characteristics that are today immoral, such as racism or religious views.
Thus, we can only hope that those engineering ubiquitous systems weight their decisions with the same consciousness of repercussion reflected in the design of the original Internet protocols. The downstream consequences of even the least significant-seeming architectural decision could turn out to be considerable and unpleasant.
• Thesis 43 – Everyware produces a wide belt of circumstances where human agency, judgment, and will are progressively supplanted by compliance with external, frequently algorithmically-applied, standards and norms
As fast as the technological and computational world evolves, many of our everyday actions and activities are being supported by devices whose only goal is to relief the burden and make each time our life easier. But what does this really means? If we think about it, way before the technological era we were able to perform each and every single task using only human skill. Thus, nowadays we can conclude that computational advances are replacing actual human skills that in some point in history were important.
Not far from today, the action of learning how to drive is revealed to one and every single one of us as a learning process that goes from the mastering of the machine to the synchronization of the ritual of going from a point A to a point B. In a future everyware context, people just won’t go trough this process and that what we think is a valuable skill today will be worthless some day ahead.
In a dramatic perspective, a further immersion in an everyware world can lead us to systemic-shaped personalities based only in physical and psychological wellness. We all know that a little bit of emotion and heart pikes are part of our daily life, and surely we don’t want to lose that. But, the more deeply these system infiltrate the decisions we make every day, the more they appear to call on all the powers of insight and inference implied by a relational technology, the less we may come to trust the evidence of our own senses.
• Thesis 44 – In the event of a default, fixing a locus of control may be effectively impossible
Everyware will be composed of systems and as is said, what is really important is how these are connected not only as for the sum of their parts but also the relations between different ones of them. So in a possible event of failure, it will be almost impossible to determine in a single glance the actual problem.
Only by verifying each element and their relationships between other systems is how it will be possible to reach a diagnosis and then fix what’s wrong. All kind of possibilities can be imagined as the relational and mnemotechnical systems we will live in will be built by innumerable numbers of connections.
• Thesis 45 – Users will understand their transactions with everyware to be essentially social in nature
Norbert Wiener, the “father of cybernetics”, have spoken an intuited in his 1950’s book, The Human Use of Human Beings, that when confronted with cybernetic machines, human beings found themselves behaving as if the system possessed agency.
Well intuited and well predicted must be said, as posterior interfaces were starting to be designed to be less social stressful for the users, and so examples such as Clippy from Microsoft’s Office were born.
As for future designers, in an everyware world they will have to internalize the Media Equation insights, as they are directly relevant to the attempted evocation of seamlessness. When there are fewer visible cues as to a system’s nature, we’re even more likely to mistake it for something capable of reciprocating our feelings.
• Thesis 46 – Users will tend to blame themselves for defaults in everyware
Usual non-regular users of computing devices have always had some trouble engaging trough this processes, as well that this is one of the objectives of the so called Calm Technology: to relief the stressful process that we live when interacting with technology. But as soon as we give a sight to this stress process, it is impressive how users mostly don’t realize that if a task they want to do becomes that difficult and stressful it is because an incompetent job made by a developer or designer.
Most users, immersed in their social relationship with the machines, and visualizing that something is not going well, take responsibility of that malfunctioning and so they blame their selves. Thus, those who will shape the next interfaces will be the ones holding a big responsibility as deeper interfaces will mean deeper sensation of social immersion instead of machine and mechanical interaction. So that’s the question for the next chapter, who gets to determine the shape of everyware?[Section 5 – Who gets to determine the shape of everyware?]
• Thesis 47 – The practice of technological development is tending to become more decentralized
Technology development started as a centralized business controlled by specific enterprises whose only goal was to sell users specific electronic devices. As soon as the Internet era arrived, people found that it was possible to be heard through this platform, and a common interest of communication was spread widely trough the world, as information became each time more accessible, society also realized that it was possible to engage into the experimentation of developing technological tools for specific tasks and applications.
This way, each time the technological development is getting each time more and more decentralized, as we can find developers everywhere. Thus, it is possible to imagine the ones shaping the future everyware implementations, and their reach will be almost limitless, as the information will become more and more accessible.
• Thesis 48 – Those developing everyware may have little idea that this is in fact what they are doing
Relatively few of the people engaged in developing the building blocks of ubiquitous systems will consciously think of what they are doing as such. They will be performing separately individual tasks, but they will likely have little sense for the larger schemes into which their creations will fit.
They’ll build tools to address the problem at hand, and inevitably some of these tools will fall under the rubric of everyware.
• Thesis 49 – Present IT development practices as applied to everyware will result in unacceptably bad user experience
In Weiser and Brown’s Seminal “The Coming Age of Calm Technology” it appears to have been the author’s contention that responses to a suddenly hegemonic computing world arise as a consequence of its very ubiquity: “if computers are everywhere, they better stay out of the way”.
Given the topic, this is a strikingly passive way for them to frame the question. It’s as if Weiser and Brown trusted all of the people developing ubiquitous technology to recognize the less salutary implications of their efforts ahead of time and plan accordingly.
This argument permeates subjects as Web and IT development itself. And after a detailed reflexing it is possible to say that this is not the place for value engineers, not unless they have first earned a sensitive understanding of how difficult the problem domain is and what kinds of complexity it genuinely requires.
• Thesis 50 – Everyware will appear differently in different places: that is, there is and will be no one continuum of adoption
Technology nowadays advances at higher rates, and so it does their links with cultural matters. It is impossible to deny that different cultures have different approaches to technological devices and their utilization.
The case of Japan is quite remarkable as theirs every-day life has became supported by mobile phone networking more than the web, as it happens in western cultures. It is possible, and easy to fall in a way of judgment based on our own way of experiencing technology but in a matter of fact, we must understand that different pressures are operating in these advanced technological cultures and they have predictably produced characteristically different effects.
Thus, as technology is leading us to an everyware-based world, it is possible that everyware presents itself as a result of different paths. Individuals make choices about technology all the time, and societies do as well. So the nature and potential of technology only go so far in determining what is made of it. The truly vexing challenge will reside in deciding what kind of everyware is right for a specific place in a specific time under specific circumstances.
• Thesis 51 – The precise shape of everyware is contingent on the decisions made by designers, regulators, and markets of empowered buyers. The grater mass of people exposed to such systems are likely to have relatively little say in their composition
Societies nowadays, or at least advanced and developed societies, have proven that are able to take decisions democratically concerning technology. Subjects as supersonic commercial flights and fission power utilization have been refused as a decision of many. So it is possible to say that people is able to see what are they dealing with and thus are capable of deciding whether to direct their lives in one or another direction.
However, it is possible that with everyware such process won’t be exactly the same. Not for in terms of democracy but in terms of the unawareness and seamlessness characteristics of everyware. It will arrive from different places and the people won’t be able to know what are they really dealing with, it can happen also that everyware arrives firstly as a hidden and masked technology following some individual interests. It is for sure that designers, regulators and markets will influence the way everyware will show up, but we don’t know how it will be shaped at first.
Thus, societies will be vulnerable to everyware at its first arrival, and the question here is, as a matter of democratic decisions for technology, shouldn’t we be discussing right now how everyware should arrive to our daily lives?
That is the questioning for the following section, as we ask ourselves when should we start to prepare for everyware.[Section 6 – When do we need to begin preparing for everyware?]
• Thesis 52 – At most, everyware will subsume traditional computing paradigms. It will not supplant them – certainly not in the near term
Everyware is a paradigm of all or nothing. Once we are engaged into it, the process will be unstoppable, but even though, it’s arrival won’t automatically mean the disappearance of previous computing forms or paradigms.
It is for sure that everyware devices will be able to cohabitate with today’s PCs and laptops. As it will count with backward compatibility, current-computing devices will be directed to remain discreet but they won’t disappear.
Thus, there will be space for today’s devices and we cannot think of it as a limitation of everyware robust arrival.
• Thesis 53 – Depending on how it is defined, everyware is both an immediate issue and a “hundred-year problem”
Being prepared to everyware’s arrival means that it will depend on the time that it takes to shape it. This is a quite relative answer, if we think about everyware as for the examples spread in this book; we could actually conclude that we are already dived into an everyware world.
On the other hand, everyware could be defined as Gene Becker’s definition of a “hundred-year problem” shaped in the HP’s labs: “a technical, social, ethical and political challenge of extraordinary subtlety and difficulty, resistant to comprehensive solution in anything like the near term.
Thus, we can say that current everyware state is currently in between these two points. And after analyzing and narrowing the window between these two extremes, it is possible to say that there is an existence of latter set of factors that constitute a critical brake on the longer-term development of everyware, the social and ethical questions are activated even by systems that are less total in ambition and extent. So such operational systems should be considered as well, and for the total shaping of everyware, the moment to begin developing a praxis appropriate to it is now.
• Thesis 54 – Many problems posed by everyware are highly resistant to comprehensive solution in the near term
The procedure until now has been about taking computing and technological aspects and merge them into a single ubiquitous computing, then, we’ve fusion it with our lives, thoughts, jobs, cities, etc.
We could actually say that, for an everyware panorama to arrive, we have most of the necessary components for it but we are waiting to the last pieces of the puzzle to be discovered or developed in the coming years.
But even though we already have most of the componentry we’ll ever require, there are excellent reasons to suppose that everyware will take decades to mature fully. Sprawling, amorphous, it touches on so many areas of our lives, complicates social an political debates that are already among the thorniest our societies have ever faced. In some cases indeed, we may never fully master the challenges involved. The following are some of the factors that are actively inhibiting either the development or the chances for adoption of ubiquitous computing.
• Thesis 55 – The necessary standards for interoperability do not exist or are not yet widely observed
The lack of standards has been linked directly to technologies development and in almost all of the cases, slows up their evolution.
It is to know also that without a doubt, there are marketing forces moving and engaging in battles for standards consolidation. Histories like VHS vs. Betamax or the today known “Browsers War” are facts that demonstrate how a technology can get stuck or derive to absurd implementations because of the lack of standards.
However, not all standard-established environments are optimal, as compliance with them is still subject to the usual vagaries.
Either case, it’s not that a relevant standard does not exist; it does, and it’s evidently being used successfully elsewhere. It’s merely a question of when, or whether, some combination of pressures from the bottom up and the top down will result in a convergence on one universal standard. And we understand by now, certainly, that such processes can drag on for an indefinite amount of time.
• Thesis 56 – The necessary network infrastructure does not exist
Whether they themselves are infrastructural or mobile in nature, all of the visions of everyware we’ve considered in this book depend vitally on near-universal broadband network access.
We should consider that most of today’s Internet initiatives have found quite larger problems in terms of lack of infrastructure. One of the biggest problems to consider is broadband penetration; even in developed countries it is not enough. By 2005 in the US there were several users that kept connecting to the Internet via 56k protocols.
Several challenges should be resolved, and until then, the only we can do is to work in the development of a ubiquitous computing for only some places.
It is not ridiculous to think in development of everyware by specific contexts. We must consider that there are regions in the world that don’t have even covered their basic needs. As information is a synonym of power, it will arrive after fulfilling initially electricity, water, sewer systems, etc.
Thus, whatever promise everyware may extend to us, it will be quite some time indeed until we all get to share its benisons on anything like an equal footing.
• Thesis 57 – Appropriate design documents and conventions do not yet exist
One expected factor that may inhibit the development of everyware for some time to come is that, while the necessary technical underpinnings may exist, a robust design practice devoted to the field does not. As designers, we haven’t even begun to agree on the conventions we’ll use to describe the systems we intend to build.
For many development processes there are many work and labor relationships protocols and conventions established; which allow to carry the task to a final result.
Such processes are guided and coordinated by specific series of “deliverables”: a documentation that at the end is the one who allows to track, monitor and direction a development process.
For everyware such type of documentation and conventions do not exist. The problem resides in that as designers we don’t even know how to engage such problematic.
Today’s similar problematic is solved by case-by-case basis, and development teams have tended to be small and homogenous enough that the necessary ideas can easily be conveyed, one way or another.
This can be incredibly problematic as it was for the web development. However, as everyware matures there will be a greater demand for consistency, reliability and accountability, and this will mandate the creation of deliverable formats to account for all of the relevant variables.
• Thesis 58 – As yet, everyware offers the user no compelling and clearly stated value proposition
Other inhibiting factor is the deep and as yet unaddressed disconnect that exists between the current discourse around ubiquitous systems, and any discernable desire on the part of meaningfully large populations for such systems.
It is worth noticing that we have arrived to a situation where speaking about ubiquitous computing has become almost a ‘cliché’. As when we think about it, every possible and imaginable situation leads us always to the same situations, and off course, what people really want is far away from the obvious.
It is ironically, then, that even knowing the ‘clichés’ possibilities of everyware, nobody speaks about wanting such situations. It’s a fact that the one thing real people demonstrably do not want in their present situation is everyware.
What people do want, and will ask for, is more granular. They want to be granted a god’s-eye view of the available parking spaces nearby, to spend less time fumbling with change at the register, to have fewer different remote controls to figure out and keep track of.
And everyware is the answer to all of these questions. But until those in the field are better able to convey this premise to the wider world in convincing and compelling detail, we can expect that adoption will be significantly slower than might otherwise be the case.
• Thesis 59 – The necessary processor speed already exists
One of the biggest challenges to get to an everyware-based world is the processor speed. Without a doubt, thinking about a system capable of administrating the variables involved in an everyday situation results intensive in terms of processor capabilities.
However, thinking about this as a problematic has no fundaments, due to the evolution rhythm of processors in terms of speed vs. price.
And for what it concerns to speed, we actually count with powerful processor devices, a single optimization for using them in dedicated tasks and that would be enough to cover some of the everyware needs for a, say, household context. Leaving aside the “AI-strong” part.
In terms of economy, the landscape is quite positive, as everyware future components will keep on being cheaper and cheaper.
Thus, processing capacity presents no obstacle to the emergence of full-fledged ubiquitous services.
• Thesis 60 – The necessary standards for interoperability do not exist or are not yet widely observed
Imagining all possible everyware systems running together makes us think about le amount of information they will be able to produce. How and where will this data find storage? Would that represent any sort of obstacle to everyware?
At 2002 in Göteborg, Lancaster Univeristy HCI pioneer Alan Dix described an audacious plan to record in high fidelity every sense impression a human being ever has, the total capacity necessary to store all of the experiences of an average life-time, and a guess as to what volume would suffice to do so: “If we start recording a baby’s experiences now, by the time she’s 70 all of it will fit into something the size of a grain of sand”.
Dix predictions are that all that information will fit in nothing more than 20TB, and by today’s storage capacity and following Moore’s law, we can say that by 2033 that amount of data will be able to be stored in a format the size and weight of a current-generation iPod nano.
There are theories that go even further, and by relying in wireless connections, they even speak about the disappearance of the physical storage devices. Information could be available always and in every place. This doesn’t do anything but pushing again calculations.
However, the purpose of providing such calculations is merely to backstop us. Any ubiquitous application that requires less in the way of local storage than that required by recording every sensation of an entire life in high fidelity would seem to present little problem from here on out.
• Thesis 61 – The necessary addressing scheme already exists
As considered earlier, a technology with the ambition to colonize much of the observable world has to offer some provision for addressing the very large number of nodes implied by such an ambition. We’ve seen that a provision along these lines appears to exist, in the form of something called IPv6.
IP is the short of Internet Protocol; a series of addresses that identifies each device connected to the Internet and designed to keep the networked into its end-to-end principles. Initially addresses in IPv4, may be 32 bits long, allowing over four billion possibilities. Nowadays, IPv4 is running out of space and that’s why IPv6 was launched as it could support 128 bits-long addresses, for a space of 2128 discrete hosts.
The significance of IPv6 is simply that it’s a necessary piece of the puzzle. Everyware needs a framework that provides arbitrarily for the communication of anything with anything else, and IPv6 fills that requirement admirably.
• Thesis 62 – The necessary display technologies already exist
Although many deployments of everyware will by their nature not require display screens of the conventional sort, there will still be a general requirement for the graphic presentation of information.
Without a doubt, displays will be affected directly by movements such as “calmed technology”, and thus, they will be getting more and more integrated with our environment. Prove of that are the current arising generations of tablets, dedicated, at their beginning, to be e-book readers only. This is a good example on how the notion of reading, the action itself, will prevail over the medium it is developed, either paper or screen.
Siemens is currently working in advanced displays and plans to introduce 80-dpi electrochromic packaging labels during 2007. The inference we can draw from such developments is that the challenges posed by a general requirement for highly legible ambient display are well on their way to being resolved, at a variety of scales. As a consequence, we can regard the issue of display as posing no further obstacle to the development of ubiquitous systems requiring them.
• Thesis 63 – The necessary wireless networking protocols already exist
If IPv6 gives us a way to identify each of the almost unimaginably rich profusion of nodes everyware will bring into being, we still need to provide some channel by which those nodes can communicate with each other. We already have some fairly specific ideas of what such a channel should look like: Most of our visions of ubiquity presuppose a network that is wireless, provides broadband, affords autodiscovery and is available wherever you might go.
As it happens, each of them is neatly answered by a brace of emerging networking standards.
Technologies as Wireless USB are currently menacing traditional Bluetooth. Wireless USB will afford speeds up to 480 Mbps. However, the company responsible of Bluetooth has already announced the next step in the evolution of their standard.
Wireless USB and its competing standards, although intended mainly to link peripherals at ranges of a few meters, begin to blur into what has historically been considered the domain of local area networking, LAN.
A similar situation is arising for WiFi and the emergent WiMAX. What WiMax has to offer is impressive: bandwidth sufficient for simultaneous voice over IP, video, and Internet streams, with data rates up to 70Mbps provided over ranges up to a nominal 50 kilometers.
This standards evolution, will guarantee the correct development of everyware, but one think is missing for this to happen: autodiscovery. The capacity of devices to be pared up by they own without user intervention. Autodiscovery is a sine qua non of truly ubiquitous connectivity.
With the near-term appearance of standards such as Wireless USB and WiMAX, the necessary provisions for ubiquitous networking are at last in hand. The question of how to connect devices can itself begin to disappear from consciousness, unless we explicitly desire otherwise.
• Thesis 64 – The necessary bridge between atoms and bits already exist
The logic of everyware is total. Whether anyone consciously intended it to be this way or not, this is a technology with the potential to sweep every person, object and place in the world into its ambit.
However, sometimes we’d like to account for something built before everyware was ever contemplated; sometimes we might want to keep track of something whose nature precludes ab initio integration.
So in order for the more total visions of information processing in everyday life to be fully workable, there exists a generic requirement for something that will allow all this otherwise unaugmented stuff of the physical world to exist also in the hyperspace of relational data, a bridge between the realm of atoms and that of bits.
Such bridges already exist. And can be found in examples like: RFID tags and two-dimensional bar-codes.
The significance of technologies like RFID and 2D bar-coding is that they offer a low-impact way to “import” physical objects into the data-sphere, to endow them with an informational shadow.
Richly provisioned with such bridges between the respective worlds of things and of data, there is no reason why everyware cannot already gather the stuff of our lives into the field of its awareness.
• Thesis 65 – The necessary standards for the representation and communication of structured data already exists
A factor that can be thought as an obstacle to everyware is the current technology heterogeneity behavior. In face of this reality questions emerge such as: How do such heterogeneous systems will ever manage to pass data back and forth as anything more than a stripped-down, decontextualized series of values?
A first attempt to solve this situation was the Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML), adopted as the international standard ISO 8879 in 1986. It was intended to permit the sharing of machine-readable documents between different systems.
SGML prove to be effective in some contexts, but if presented huge difficulties in many beginning with the World Wide Web environment. Thus, a streamlined subset of SGML was developed to solve such incompatibilities: XML.
Since its release XML became the lingua franca SGML never was, allowing the widest possible array of devices to share data in a manner comprehensible to all. However, XML compatibility is not universal, nor has it been perfectly implemented everywhere it has been deployed.
Nevertheless, XML has proven to be a solution to the problem of moving structured data across heterogeneous systems.
• Thesis 66 – For many of us, everyware is already a reality
When we speak of everyware and ubiquitous computing, we are not only speaking of something placed in the future, it is also about many things going on at this present time.
Far away from reaching the seamless ambit that it will require, everyware it’s present in most of our daily routines but its presence is way far from those sci-fi images we imagine when we discuss about it.
Systems as PayPass, Blink and RFID payment systems are already being used. For example, Hong Kong’s service Octopus is a contactless, stored-value “smartcard” used for electronic payment throughout the city, in heavy and increasing daily use since 1997.
According to the Octopus consortium, 95 percent of Hong Kong citizens between the ages of 16 and 65 use their product. As of late 2004 Octopus recorded some eight million transactions a day.
In the US, there is a system that wants to be directed to an Octopus-similar implementation, the so-called E-ZPass. But reaching Octopus audience and usage is far away from America’s reality.
What fully operational systems such as Octopus and E-ZPass tell us is that privacy concerns, social implications, ethical questions, and practical details of the user experience are no longer matters for conjecture or supposition. With ubiquitous systems finally available for empirical inquiry, these are things we need to focus on today.
• Thesis 67 – Everyware is an immediate issue because it will appear to be a commercially reasonable thing to attempt in the near term
Even if Octopus system is not ubiquitous enough, there is an actual whole city being built some 40 miles southwest of Seoul. A place that will become South Korea’s “ubiquitous city”: New Songdo.
It is a whole city that will cover many and further of the ideas here mentioned. It is a project that will cost more than $15 billion dollars and is being financed by international institutions like ABN Amro, as well as Korean heavyweights Kookmin Bank and Woori Bank.
Thus, it’s sufficient that hardheaded, profit-driven businesspeople think there’s a reasonable chance of seeing a return on their investment in everyware to lend the notion commercial credibility.
• Thesis 68 – Given that, in principle, all of the underpinnings necessary to construct a robust everyware already exist, the time for intervention is now
From a pessimist perspective, we could think that there are way too many obstacles to drive an everyware world to reality. It could be just an insight of a future system that right now is just disarticulated.
But, in the other hand, if we see all those variables as the ones giving birth to this new paradigm, then the time is apt for us to begin articulating some baseline standards for the ethical and responsible development of user-facing provisions in everyware.
• Thesis 69 – It is ethically incumbent on the designers of ubiquitous systems and environments to afford the human user some protection
Poet Delmore Schwartz one day wrote: “in dreams begin responsibilities”.
After years of debates and discussions, the dream of an ubiquitous computing is now becoming a reality and so on, it will arrive with several and heavy responsibilities. As it does not involve only designers, it will also cover a great amount of users; and so on, societies.
It is a matter of concern to not vary specific social interests, as it can be seen as incredibly problematic from several points of views. It is important to know which prerogatives we should stick to and that must be saved.[Section 7 – How might we safeguard our prerogatives in an everyware world?]
• Thesis 70 – It will be not sufficient simply to say, “First, do no harm”
The most essential principle is “first, do no harm”. If everyone contemplating the development of everyware could be relied upon to take this simple idea to heart, thoughtfully and with compassion, there would be very little need to enunciate any of the following.
As this principle relies on the good faith from creators, it doesn’t mean that it won’t cause any harm in the way. So then, the next step should be the development of a strategy for ethical development that does take all factors into account.
• Thesis 71 – We’re not very good at doing “smart” yet, and we may never be
History has proven that human works and tasks such as toolmakers, furniture, artisans and craftspeople have taken several years to its master. And for several we speak of hundreds or even thousands of years.
Thus, we can actually say that we don’t do “smart” very well yet the production of our current high-technological artifacts.
If we compare a current iPod with a chair, we could conclude that the chair is quite superior as for its structure is solid, it doesn’t require instructions, it can be deployed in almost any context and the only way of failure is because of a massive structural damage. And for the iPod, even though of Apple’s efforts and money put into it, it can’t account of the same characteristics.
What could ever happen when this differences start to permeate an everyware-based world.
So there’s certain hubris in daring to intervene, clumsily, in situations that already work reasonably well, and still more in labeling that intervention “smart”. If we want to consistently and reliably build ubiquitous systems that do share something of the nature of our finest tools, that do support the finest that is in us, we really will need some help.
• Thesis 72 – Even acknowledging their contingency, some explicit set of principles would be highly useful to developers and users both
Almost every existing everyware’s documentation is framed into academic developments. This means that they are part of a result from an approach based on the scientific method, which is more descriptive than proscriptive or prescriptive. Several debates and discussions have taken place but their realistic views are almost always lost into the descriptive and academic-based documents.
So thinking about a design team that will one day design our everyware environment, how could we trust our prerogatives to people that only have as basis descriptive documents. But, this is just what all of our explorations have been building toward. After considering its definition, its origins, its likely implications, and the timing of its arrival, we are now ready to articulate five principles for the ethical development of everyware, even as we acknowledge that any such set of principles is bound to be contingent, provisional, and incomplete at best.
• Thesis 73 – Everyware must default to harmlessness
The first principle should cover the possible situation of an everyware system failing, what should be the protocol to follow then.
“Graceful degradation” is a term used in engineering to express the ideal that if a system fails, if at all possible it should fail gently in preference to catastrophically; functionality should be los progressively, not all at once.
Graceful degradation is nice, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough for our purposes. Given the assumption of responsibility inherent in everyware, we must go a good deal further. Ubiquitous systems must default to a mode that ensures users’ physical, psychic, and financial safety.
Coming to agreement as to what constitutes psychic and financial safety is probably more culture-dependent still. So it’s entirely possible that working out a definition of safety broad enough to be shared will leave few parties wholly content.
• Thesis 74 – Everyware must be self-disclosing
The second principle of ethical development concerns provisions to notify us when we are in the presence of some informatics system, however intangible or imperceptible it otherwise may be.
Given the degree to which ubiquitous systems will be interconnected, information once collected can easily, even inadvertently, be conveyed to parties unknown, operating outside the immediate context.
We might express such an imperative like this: Ubiquitous systems must contain provisions for immediate and transparent querying of their ownership, use, and capabilities.
• Thesis 75 – Everyware must be conservative of face
Something too rarely considered by the designers of ubiquitous systems is how easily their ordinary operation can place a user’s reputation and sense of dignity and worth at risk.
About all that we can properly ask for is that our technology be designed in such a way that it is conservative of face: that ubiquitous systems must not act in such a manner as would unduly embarrass or humiliate users, or expose them to ridicule or social approbrium, in the course of normal operations.
If such statement is not taken into account, the revelation of specific personal information can lead to awkward questions about our activities and intentions, the kind we’d rather not have to answer.
Our concern here goes beyond information privacy per se, to the instinctual recognition that no human community can survive the total evaporation of its membrane of protective hypocrisy.
However, there is the humiliation and damage to self-worth we experience when we simply can’t figure out how to use a poorly designed technical system of any sort. Sadly, no principle or guideline can ever endow all the world’s designers with equal measures of skill, diligence, and compassion. But, in the other hand, we can insist on is that those tasked with the development of everyware be reminded of the degree to which our sense of ourselves rides on the choices they make.
• Thesis 76 – Everyware must be conservative of time
Everyware promises to replace all those objects and devices we carry today just to be able to carry up with our daily routine. And it does it by replacing them with a compact and intuitive complement of interface provisions, ones that require far less of our time, energy and attention to deal with. The appeal of this paradoxical vision should not be underestimated. But the inevitable flipside of it, at least if our experience with other information technologies is an accurate guide, is that almost all users will face the prospect of wasted time and effort at one time or another.
Accordingly, we should assert as a principle the idea that ubiquitous systems must not introduce undue complications into ordinary operations. You should not have to configure, manage or monitor the behavior of a ubiquitous system intervening in daily situations.
Also, we should be able to identify states through our interaction with the systems, and by doing so we should be also allowed to go back if any mistake is committed. By doing so we can get closer to a system that indeed allows us to do a specific task in less time; leading, that way, our performance into a productive level.
Thus, we should insist in excluding ubiquitous systems from our everyday lives unless they are demonstrably more respectful of our time than information technologies have tended to be in the past.
• Thesis 77 – Everyware must be deniable
Our last principle is perhaps the hardest to observe. Ubiquitous systems must offer users the ability to opt out, always and at any point.
In other words, we should be able to say no, without suffering any kind of complication. This makes us also think about that there should exist alternatives.
Alternatives such as “backward” compatibility, the choice of using a key instead of a RFID tag, the choice of doing everything without a ubiquitous-based system. In fact, where the private sphere is concerned, you should be able to go about all the business of an adult life without ever once being compelled to engage the tendrils of some ubiquitous informatics system.
All of the wonderful things our ubiquitous technology will do for us will mean little if we don’t, as individuals, have genuine power to evaluate its merits on our own terms and make decisions accordingly. We must see that everyware serves us, and when it does not, we must be afforded the ability to shut it down. Even in the unlikely event that every detail of its implementation is handled perfectly and in a manner consistent with our highest ambitions, a paradise without choice is no paradise at all.
• Thesis 78 – Measures aimed at securing our prerogatives via technical means will also appear
It’s not as if the people now developing ubiquitous systems are blind to the more problematic implications of their work. But perhaps unsurprisingly, when they think of means to address these implications, they tend to consider technical solutions first.
A team from the Georgia Institute of Technology demonstrated, in September 2005, an ingenious system that would uphold self-guarded image ethic by defeating unwanted digital photography. Their system could dazzle any photograph taken to a target making it illegibly.
This functions as a timely reminder that there are other ways to protect us, and our prerogatives, from the less salutary impacts of ubiquitous technology. There will always be technical means.
• Thesis 79 – Technical measures intended to secure our prerogatives may ignite an arms race or otherwise muddy the issue
After a good technical mean appears as a solution, we can surely guess that it will be bombed with questions that can make its bases crumble. This may well be how evolution works, but it has the unfortunate effect of accommodating instead of challenging the idea that someone, for example, has the right to take your image, on your property, without you knowledge or consent. It’s a reframing of the discussion on ground that is potentially inimical to our concerns.
Once we’ve made the decision to rely on ecology of tools for our protection, we’ve let the chance to assert our own prerogatives slip away. An ethics will inevitably be inscribed in the design of such tools, but it needn’t be ours or anything we’d even remotely consider endorsing. And once the initiative slips from our grasp, it’s not likely to be returned to us for a very long time.
• Thesis 80 – The principles we’ve enunciated can be meaningfully asserted through voluntary compliance
One of the obvious difficulties with any set of principles such as the ones we’ve discussing concerns the matter of compliance; or in the other way, enforcement.
Can developers working on everyware reasonably be expected to police themselves? Will such guidelines as here expressed, be bypassed, going unobserved for the usual gamut of reasons, from ignorance to incompetence to unscrupulousness? Or will any such self-policing approach be rendered irrelevant by governmental attempts to regulate everyware?
It would be amazing to find that there will be no abusive utilization of everyware in the years to come. Also a not that optimistic panorama can be seen from a ‘mediocre’ development.
However, the example of the World Wide Web developing and its standards shows quite a good road for a bottom-up development. This example is both inspiring and relevant: the coordinated action of independent professionals and highly motivated, self-educated amateurs did change the course of an industry no particularly known for its flexibility.
• Thesis 81 – These principles are necessary but not sufficient: they constitute not an end, but a beginning[Conclusion] – Always crashing in the same car
Each morning I woke up and I indulge myself in the austerities of Buddhist meditation; I’ve doing this for more than 10 years now, absolutely without fail. And it’s one of the many things in my life that I cannot conceive of being improved by an overlay of ubiquitous information technology.
Even when the application of ubiquitous technology would clearly be useful, I know enough about how informatics systems are built and brought to market to be very skeptical about its chances of bringing wholesale improvement to the quality of my life.
There’s a lot of “I would love” when I think about it but, I have a hard time buying into the notion that such ubiquitous interventions in the world can be had without significant cost.
We are who we are in all the infuriating and delightful lineaments of our humanity. No matter how “convenient” it would be for us to learn to think and act in ways that accord with the technology we use, I very much doubt whether such a thing is practically achievable.
So maybe it would be wiser to develop an everyware that suits us, as opposed to the other way around. We seem to have a hard time with the notion that some aspects of life are simply too important, too meaningful, and too delicate to subject to the rather clumsy interventions of our present information technology. Moreover, anyone venturing to question the wisdom of such interventions risks being branded a neo-Luddite, or worse.
Each technology we invent contains certain inherent potentials of use. The hope in writing this book is to foster a wider awareness of the deep issues raised by everyware, so we can together make the decisions about its emergence that we so urgently need to.
When the stakes are as high as they are here, we must interrogate without mercy the value propositions we’re presented and adopt only those ubiquitous products and services that really do improve our lives.
The trouble is that in the present situation, time and useful insight are both in short supply. Ubiquitous computing appears in more places, in more guises, and in more ambitious conceptions with every passing day, and we’ve barely begun to confront it in the depth of understanding it demands.
The real struggle will be in finding an appropriate place for ubiquitous computing in our lives. The architect Mies van Der Rohe famously restated this in more optimistic terms; in his version, the details of implementation are precisely where one might go looking for God. In the case of everyware, we can only hope that Mies knew what he was talking about.