Ambient computing, or ambient intelligence (AmI), is another one of those buzzwords that have been re-invented. Most of us use the word ambient to describe a soothing phenomenon or feeling. Dictionaries define ambient simply as surrounding or encircling; of or relating to immediate surroundings. In the technical sense, there is some factual history along with dozens of interesting and conflicting descriptions.
Ambient Computing for IoT
An Author at Gearbrain.com, Alistair Charlton, has an interesting take: “Ambient computing is what happens when AI meets the IoT.” As an example, he goes on to say, “Instead of us taking direct control of the smart devices—switching on the heating from our phone, for example—ambient computing is when the devices think for themselves, like a Nest Learning Thermostat.” He believes, “Ambient computing will lead to a future where the smart home runs itself, based on our needs and external factors like the weather, time of year, our daily schedule, and even our mood.” In this example, ambient computing is primarily focused on IoT solutions.
Ambient Computing In The Broad Sense
In contrast, author Narain Jashanmal of A Medium Corporation, claims that ambient computing is, “…not simply another name for the Internet of Things (IoT)—though there are aspects of IoT that embody ambient computing.” He uses this list of adjectives to describe it: invisible, embedded, familiar, discreet/discrete, distributed, modular, symbiotic, personal, inclusive, and conservative. Jashanmal sees ambient computing in a much broader sense, one that “…encompasses hardware, software, user experience, and human-machine interaction.”
Ambient Intelligence – Original Simplistic Form
The term ambient intelligence was actually invented as early as the 1990s by Eli Zelkha, an American professor, entrepreneur, and founder/co-founder of five companies. He describes ambient intelligence as electronic surroundings that are both sensitive and responsive to human presence. Zelkha used a different set of adjectives to describe the paradigm: embedded, context-aware, personalized, adaptive, and anticipatory. Since then, according to Zelkha’s biography, the concept has become a core strategy for some of the world’s leading high-tech companies including Amazon, Google, IBM, and Microsoft. It appears the term has been renamed to ambient computing in many cases.
Sounds A Lot Like Artificial Intelligence
While ambient intelligence sounds a lot like artificial intelligence (AI), there are some subtle differences. Artificial intelligence is typically associated with machine learning and is considered to be a simulation of human intelligence. The processes in AI include computer learning, reasoning, and self-correction in which a computer mimics our own human cognition—human-machine interaction. This IEEE article title, “Ambient Intelligence—The Next Step for Artificial Intelligence,” helps to explain it.
Ambient Computing and You
We all might agree that ambient computing (or AmI) is an automated response to human presence or human control. Whether or not you are immersed in new facets of face recognition, Internet of Things smart home automation for lighting and temperature control, or industry intelligence such as ubiquitous computing in your health tracker, it is without a doubt that ambient computing is impacting you now.
Consider ambient light sensors found in mobile devices, automotive applications, and smartphones, to name a few. Imagine the months and years ahead as more and more ambient intelligence opportunities arise. It’s an exciting time for the nation, growing companies, and individual consumers in terms of advancing technologies that use ambient intelligence.
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