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Fall 2004
The Next Wave
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Pervasively Connected by Technology

Dana Cuff, Director, Institute for Pervasive Computing and Safety
“Computation is normally seen as occurring outside the human body, but that distinction may be eroding. When information is embedded in everything, all of a sudden the environment’s role in our lives is not only much greater, but qualitatively different.”
—Dana Cuff

COMPUTER BUFFS are on their way to becoming “computer buses,” thanks to Microsoft. On June 22, the information technology giant was awarded U.S. Patent 6,754,472 for its proposal to develop a “method and apparatus for transmitting power and data using the human body.” The idea: Instead of radio signals or infrared, use the conductivity of human skin to seamlessly link such electronic devices as mobile phones, PDAs and pagers.

Baffled? Welcome to the fast-approaching era of pervasive computing, or “PerC,” the next critical frontier of information technology characterized by computers that are ever more miniaturized, embedded, omnipresent, always on and capable of sensing, processing and actuating endless cyclones of information anytime, anyplace. Also known as ubiquitous computing, ambient intelligence or simply post-PC computing, this emerging world, fertilized by the mobile Internet era, seeks to regulate interaction among users and computing devices that are both mobile and embedded in the public sphere.

“Computation is normally seen as occurring outside the human body, but that distinction may be eroding,” says Dana Cuff, director of the Institute for Pervasive Computing and Society, a transdisciplinary group at UCLA.“ When information is embedded in everything, all of a sudden the environment’s role in our lives is not only much greater, but qualitatively different.”

PerC stems from a consensus in the scientific community about the continuing validity of Moore’s Law, which refers to Intel cofounder Gordon Moore’s 1965 observation that the computer power available on a chip approximately doubles every 18 to 24 months. The law is expected to hold true for at least another decade, helping create microprocessors of such small size and cost that they can be embedded in just about anything from electrical devices and automobiles to toys and tools — all rendered “smart” because of their digital connection through wireless networks.

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