Overview of the Internet of Things and Ubiquitous Computing

Shashi Mehrotra

Koneru Lakshmaiah Education Foundation, India

Shweta Sinha

Amity University, Haryana, India

Sudhir Kumar Sharma

Institute of Information Technology and Management, India


Ubiquitous computing is characterized by an explosion of small portable computer products in the form of smartphones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), etc. It refers to the idea of an infinite collection of almost any device with computational capability; the device is embedded with a chip in such a way that the connection is hidden and yet, available anytime, anywhere. Today, the smartphones to be seen in every hand show the most convincing evidence of ubiquitous computing. The main focus of ubiquitous computing has been toward human-things/machine interaction. With the shift in computing trends, from mainframe computers, to desktop computers for individuals, to multiple computers for one person, the demand for ubiquity could be achieved by providing mobile computing power. The evolution of the IoT has helped in this direction. With the advent of the IoT. thing-thing communication has become possible. The IoT enables devices to sense their surroundings and collect data, to provide usable information, i.e., allowing communication between the devices. The internet serves as the backbone of the IoT network. The power of the IoT has made computing genuinely ubiquitous, in the sense that now, the network size has been extended to cover humans, objects, machines, and the internet. The IoT enables more direct integration between computer-based structures and the physical world. Because ubiquitous computing deals with human-thing interactions, and the IoT deals with thing-thing businesses, both face similar challenges. However, undoubtedly, thing-thing interactions are the more challenging.

Today, technologies such as the IoT, mobile technology, and ubiquitous computing have permeated our lives on an incomparable scale, and the interaction of data, people, things, and computing is growing at an increasingly fast pace. The technology growth trend shows a future where augmented and virtual reality, mobility, and related network technology, including the IoT. will drive computing to an extent that would make existing human-machine interactions more omnipresent, i.e., more ubiquitous. But, the protection of networks and devices from threats and attacks is a major concern of the IoT, also extending up to the perception, transportation, and application layers [I]. The coupling of physical devices requires seamless security for data privacy and demands robustness against attack by means of a strong authentication process. Undoubtedly, the security, auditability, and decentralization features of blockchain technology can cater to the risks of the IoT associated with centralization and network attacks [2]. To achieve seamless, secure communication in the IoT world, blockchain needs to be remodeled to meet the IoT’s specific needs.

This chapter intends to introduce ubiquitous computing and present the IoT as a way toward achieving it. More specifically, the chapter guides the reader through the fundamental concepts of ubiquitous computing and its technical foundation, along with the fundamentals of the IoT and the enabling technology behind it. With the help of the literature available in these domains, the impact of the IoT on ubiquitous computing is analyzed, with a discussion of the way forward in strengthening ubiquitous computing.

The organization of the chapter is as follows: Section 1.1 covers the fundamentals of ubiquitous computing. An overview of ubiquitous computing, including its technical background and characteristics, is presented in Section 1.2. Section 1.3 focuses on challenges and issues associated with ubiquitous computing, followed by IoT fundamentals and technological aspects in Section 1.4. Section 1.5 discusses the challenges and problems of the IoT, with a focus on IoT security. The impact of the IoT on ubiquitous computing is presented in Section 1.6. Some of the applications of ubiquitous computing in synergy with the IoT are discussed in Section 1.7. Section 1.8 presents the potential of blockchain as an IoT security solution, followed by concluding remarks in Section 1.9.

Overview of Ubiquitous Computing

The computing wave started with mainframe computers, massive in dimension and capable of computing huge amounts of data. Due to their cost, only a few mainframe computers existed in the world. After that came the era of desktop computing, which brought one computer onto every desk, to help business-related events, coupled to a network through wired media. Then, in 1988, Marc Weiser coined the term “Ubiquitous Computing.” Ubiquitous computing is a way of enhancing computer usage by making numerous computers available throughout the physical setting, but making them virtually unseen to the user [3]. He visualized that in the future, computing capabilities would be embedded in every object involved in our daily life, be it at the workplace or in the home [4]. It’s a computing environment at the intersection of computing, networking, and embedded computing. With technological advancements, as devices are getting smaller and smaller, ubiquitous computing can be characterized as wireless connected computers embedded invisibly into any type of object in the surroundings.

Technical Foundations

In 1965, Gordon Moore [5] stated that the computing power available on a microchip would double approximately every 18 months, and his prediction has proven accurate. Technological developments in the field of microelectronics have worked as a driving force behind ubiquitous computing. Recent progress in the fields of nanotechnology and microsystems has also influenced this growth. Figure 1.1 shows the three key technical advancements that have enabled ubiquitous computing.

Ubiquitous communication refers to the establishment of communication infrastructure and wireless technology to enable connectivity throughout. Ambient intelligence is a vision that applies to our everyday environment, especially the electronic

Key Technologies behind ubiquitous computing

FIGURE 1.1 Key Technologies behind ubiquitous computing.

environment, making it sensitive to the presence of people. Intelligent user interface refers to an interface that can capture a broad range of inputs, such as human body motion, action, and preferences. It should be user friendly and provide cognitive flow, apart from being secure and productive. Factors that influence the existence of ubiquitous computing include:

  • • Processing Pow'er: Cheaper, faster, smaller, more energy-efficient processing capability is desired.
  • • Storage: A large storage capacity with faster processing speed, small in dimension, is required.
  • • Networking: Low' power, low latency, and high bandwidth to support local, global, and ad hoc networking.
  • • Sensors: Small in size, with high accuracy, precision, and less energy consumption.
  • • Displays: Flexible material, projection, and low power consumption.

Characteristics of a Ubiquitous Computing Environment

Based on the definition of ubiquitous computing, any ubiquitous computing environment should possess the following characteristics:

  • • Ubiquity: In such a system, information should be accessible from any location at any time.
  • • Embeddedness and Immediacy: Communication and computing both must exist together and should provide immediately useful information at any time.
  • • Nomadism: Mobility has become a vital communication feature. The ubiquitous computing environment must provide freedom of movement to both users and computing w'ithout following any fixed pattern.
  • • Adaptiveness, proactiveness, and personalization: The computing environment should be adaptable to the user’s requirements and should provide flexibility and autonomy for communication and computing. It should be able to capture the correct information at the right time.
  • • Timelessness and seamlessness: There should be no need to restart the operation; the components should be easily upgradable and possess the ability to continue processing.
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