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Ubiquitous Computing Research Spreads

Two major research facilities have joined efforts to strengthen the link among Internet-enabled devices.

Researchers with electronics maker Fujitsu and the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) signed a multi-year, joint research agreement in the field of ubiquitous (sometimes called pervasive) computing.

The idea is that almost any device (clothing, tools, appliances, cars, homes, the human body and your coffee mug) can be embedded with chips to connect it to an infinite network of other devices.

The goal of ubiquitous computing is to create an environment where those devices are embedded in such a way that the connection to the greater Internet is unobtrusive and always available. Researchers said they will combine the vast array of current network technologies with wireless computing, voice recognition, Internet capability and artificial intelligence into one architecture.

"Taking advantage of these strengths, we will be able to make our cutting-edge technology concepts and visions a reality," Mark Bernstein, president and center director of PARC, said in a statement. "Beyond the broad commercial potential, we are excited that working to support Fujitsu's international customer base will fuel new ideas about the potential for PARC research."

To complete their vision, Fujitsu and PARC said they will focus on a "meta standard" interconnect technology that PARC calls "Obje"; it lets devices interoperate over wired and wireless networks.

The researchers will also work on simpler and more secure wireless networking, streamlined software architecture for interoperability, better ad-hoc sensor network technology and advanced information visualization technologies.

"Fujitsu has highly regarded PARC's long-term research perspective and its ability to create visionary concepts, such as ubiquitous computing, that incorporate social science insights," Takashi Aoki, corporate vice president of Fujitsu, said in a statement.

The two groups said they will also incorporate social science to create new business opportunities, both at the business-to-business and business-to-customer levels. Plans to develop secure and simple technologies are expected to involve several areas of research:

  • Safeguarding and securing personal information in global electronic health care systems.
  • Improving local disaster-response systems by making it possible for data networks to reorganize and locally adapt to changes.
  • Tying businesses and consumers together with a flow of personalized information services, thus opening the field of "ubiquitous customer relationship management."
  • Networking intelligent transportation systems with a focus on standardization.

The trend toward ubiquitous computing is gaining in popularity, with players like IBM , Microsoft , HP , Intel , Sun Microsystems and Cisco Systems all taking active roles.

The Fujitsu and PARC partnership extends beyond 2010 and will use resources from their collective R&D labs. The companies said they expect the first round of results as early as 2006.