Pervasive Computing Isn't Everywhere ... Yet - Page 2

Mar 3, 2011

Pam Baker

But there are other obstacles for enterprises to overcome as well. "Although, the retail and the entertainment industries are embracing this technology, there are inherent challenges in adoption of pervasive computing in commercial enterprises," explained Sunil Bhatt, CTO at Allied Digital Services, a global IT solutions and technology services provider.

The issues are as follows:

Scalability : Future pervasive computing environments will likely face a proliferation of users, applications, networked devices, and their interactions on a scale never experienced before. As environmental "smartness" grows, so will the number of devices connected to the environment as will the intensity of human-machine interactions. However, traditional development requires recreating the application for each new device.

Even if an enterprise could generate new applications as fast as it adds new devices, writing application logic only once -- independent of devices -- would have tremendous value in solving the application scalability problems. Furthermore, applications typically are distributed and installed separately for each device class and processor family. As the number of devices grows, distributing and installing applications for each class and family will become unmanageable, especially across a wide geographic area.

Integration : Though pervasive computing components are already deployed in many environments, integrating them into a single platform is still a problem. As the number of devices and applications increase, integration becomes more complex. For example, servers must handle thousands of concurrent client connections, and the influx of pervasive devices would quickly approach the host's capacities. Integrating pervasive computing components has severe reliability, quality of service, invisibility, and security implications for pervasive networking.

Invisibility : A system that requires minimal human intervention offers a reasonable approximation of invisibility. To meet user expectations continuously, however, the environment and the objects in it must be able to tune themselves without distracting users at a conscious level.

A smart environment can implement tuning at different system levels. For example, network-level devices will require auto-configuration. Current manual techniques for configuring a device with addresses, subnet masks, default gateways, and so on are too cumbersome and time consuming for pervasive computing. Automated techniques to dynamically reconfigure the network when required are also crucial to realizing the pervasive computing vision.

Security: The remaining 800 lb. gorilla in the room is security. "The big shift is in secure apps and how to build and protect your apps in the pervasive computing environment," explained Dan Cornell, CTO of DenimGroup. However, enterprises are already grappling with this issue to some extent in efforts to secure both enterprise and consumer apps residing on the same devices. Once this issue is conquered, it will likely be extendable although not entirely extinguished.

Expect these obstacles to be overcome. Pervasive technologies of the sort seen in the sci-fi thriller Minority Report are not that far away.

A prolific and versatile writer, Pam Baker's published credits include numerous articles in leading publications including, but not limited to: Institutional Investor magazine,, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers. She has also authored several analytical studies on technology and eight books. Baker also wrote and produced an award-winning documentary on paper-making. She is a member of the National Press Club (NPC), Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and the Internet Press Guild (IPG).

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