Ambient computing is a term that encompasses many different concepts. At its core, it is the combination of hardware, software, user experience and machine/human interaction and learning, all of these things becoming the idea of using a computer or internet-enabled device, without necessarily consciously using it.
It’s invisible to us, works in sync with us, is symbiotic and learns from us. Put simply, ambient computing is the collective devices we use at home and at work, becoming extensions of each other, and offering us an overall seamless experience. We no longer have to sit at a desktop computer to be operating a computer – that is the effect of ambient computing.
To better understand ambient computing, one should look at the concept of the IoT – the Internet of Things.
The IoT links technologies together, working in harmony to provide users with a smart experience. Think of smart buildings with their sensors, their memory, their ability; you enter the smart building with your pass, and it remembers your preferred lighting and temperature, it knows when and how you like your coffee, it recalls the time your first meeting of the day is due to start.
While this concept may sound impossibly futuristic to some, and costly to others, the IoT is actually a cost-saving notion in the long term, and it’s already in use all around the world. Our own devices, from our smartphones, laptops, tablets, smart TVs, smart watches, voice-activated digital assistants, to the plethora of smart, app-connected household goods now available, from cat flaps to coffee machines to smart lighting and daylight-imitating alarm clocks, are all creating an ambient computing experience in our homes. But what about in our workplaces?
Many businesses are still exploring the full capabilities of ambient computing and the IoT, and perhaps the way that different organisations plan to utilise the concept will vary wildly across types of industries.
Ambient computing provides an eco-system of response, one that can help a business function to its full potential, eliminating many steps in working processes, and helping form a stronger routine with the ability to collect analytics, and actively learn from them.
Ambient computing in the workplace
For the workplace, the traditional computer-employee relationship has been a simple one; the employee utilises computing to gather information, but with ambient computing, the computer (or rather, collection of internet-enabled devices) gathers the information for us, as soon as we indicate we need it, or perhaps even before. The convergence of devices and their abilities should be able to make this happen for any basic workplace task.
Most of us already find smartphones, laptops and tablets to be ubiquitous in the workplace. Expect voice-activated digital assistants and smart technology for the work environment, such as lighting, to become increasingly common in 2019 and beyond.
As we move towards the fully-integrated smart workplace, ambient computing will become the norm, and we’ll no longer view the typical workday as starting when we arrive at the office, log on to our computer and fire up our email (then head to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee).
Ambient computing will ensure our environment and our devices are one step ahead of us
Ambient computing will ensure our environment and our devices are one step ahead of us, and that will benefit us in multiple ways: cost saving for business leaders and decision makers, increased collaboration and flexibility for all employees.
We’ll be able to work in the way that best makes sense for us, and will have more time to focus on our important tasks, because the smaller administration and daily set-ups will be entirely taken care of. Ambient computing is our present, and more than ever, it’s our future.