Philip van Allen

Models Essay PDF


1. Introduction
A new era of technology integration is emerging that will provide unique affordances and capabilities different from those of today’s computers and gadgets. What will this new system be like? How will it work? How can we create a system that has an open character, and permits people to adapt it to their own needs? And how we can design it to be resistant to privacy invasions, yet capable of rich exchange? How, then, can we use design to benefit people in the most interesting ways?

The guiding concepts and models used to drive the design and implementation of ubiquitous computing and its technology infrastructure and associated applications will largely determine its character. RFIDs, smart sensors, back-end servers and wireless access to information everywhere are only the technology components of a system. How these are integrated with each other, what form they take, what and where the human interface is, and who controls their capabilities, behavior and information content is still to be determined.

The Internet is an instructive case study for how a good model benefited an emerging medium. The strong vision and guiding concepts defined by ARPA (later renamed DARPA – Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) with its contractors the Rand Corporation and BBN Technologies formed an open platform that has accommodated many productive uses that were completely unanticipated when the Internet was created.

While driven by Cold War concerns of survivable operations in the case of a nuclear attack, the radical model (especially for a centralized command-and-control military) of a decentralized network where information is broken down and passed around using open standards has turned out to be incredibly robust and useful. The model created the opportunity for applications that include email, the Web, Internet telephony and self-published video, all running on a system design whose basic philosophy was established in the 1960s. The productiveness of the system grows directly out of the model defined and defended by the Internet’s founders.

So now, in the early days of the 21st century, we are at a moment when designers, engineers and, I hope, the public, have an opportunity and the responsibility to define beneficial models for an emerging new medium of technologies integrated into everyday things. Will it have the open and productive character of the Internet? Will it have the closed, centrally controlled model of cable TV? Or are there other models for this new medium? For an understanding of possible directions, we can look at some of the visions given to this new infrastructure. Proposed models include those designated by a variety of terms, including ubiquitous computing, ambient intelligence, everyware, sensor networks, the Internet of Things, and our term, the New Ecology of Things.

> 2. Ubiquitous Computing