pervasive computing (ubiquitous computing)

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: IoT analytics guide: Understanding Internet of Things data
Contributor(s): Beth Archibald Tang

Pervasive computing (also called ubiquitous computing) is the growing trend towards embedding microprocessors in everyday objects so they can communicate information.  The words pervasive and ubiquitous mean "existing everywhere." Pervasive computing devices are completely connected and constantly available. 

Pervasive computing relies on the convergence of  wireless technologies, advanced electronics and the Internet. The goal of researchers working in pervasive computing is to create smart products that communicate unobtrusively. The products are connected to the Internet and the data they generate is easily available.  

Privacy advocates are concerned about the "big brother is watching you" aspects of pervasive computing, but from a practical standpoint, most researchers feel it will improve efficiency.  In a 1996 speech, Rick Belluzo, who was then executive VP and general manager of Hewlett-Packard, compared pervasive computing to electricity. He described it as being "the stage when we take computing for granted. We only notice its absence, rather than its presence."

An example of a practical application of pervasive computing is the replacement of old electric meters with smart meters. In the past, electric meters had to be manually read by a company representative. Smart meters report usage in real-time over the Internet.  They will also notify the power company when there is an outage, reset thermostats according to the  homeowner's directives, send messages to display units in the home and regulate the water heater.

See also: transparent computing, device relationship managementautonomic computing, Internet appliance, machine-to-machine (M2M), smart grid

This was last updated in December 2010

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