Technology gets Everyware

A few weeks ago, Roo and I met Kim at Hursley. During the discussion we covered Declarative Living, Twitter, etc. and she recommended the book Everyware by Adam Greenfield. I ordered a copy there and then.

Subtitled “The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing”, the book covers a number of themes around the emergence of pervasive technology and devices, and the path to a possible future which might be more of similar to that depicted in the film Minority Report, or aspects of the world from Philip K. Dick’s book Ubik (talking, self-aware doors, anyone?).

Having explained his vision of ubicomp, Greenfield argues that all of the components needed for a seamless experience (or, preferably, a seamful experience “with beautiful seams” for me to customise) already exist. He focuses on ultra-wideband as having the potential to provide near universal connectivity and RFID for identification. The last section of the book is particularly compelling, as it attempts to address the need for standards and concerns over privacy and so on – and his enthusiasm for Hong Kong’s Octopus card system is nearly enough to make me try Oyster, after all my wrangling and concern about it. I’m intrigued by his idea that we as developers and users can force the emergence of standards in the same way that web standards emerged and browsers were forced to support the same HTML functions during the 1990s. We’ll see what happens.

I have to say that it’s a great, great book. It is written as a series of 81 “theses” (chapters) of between 1 and 4 pages, so it is really easy to consume, and much like Ted’s book on blogging, I was able to spin through it a few chapters at a time in the evenings. The style is also very accessible, and Greenfield builds each argument very persuasively.

One surprise is that the book never mentioned technologies like motes, but perhaps that’s a little too recent. The future looks both exciting, and still somewhat frightening.

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5 thoughts on “Technology gets Everyware”

  1. I find the concept of “utility fog” even more interesting and disturbing than motes – and as an idea, it’s been around for a very long time.

  2. Hey there! I’m obviously delighted you enjoyed the book, and grateful that you appear to have found it useful.

    I don’t deal with smart dust in the book, let alone utility fog, because I simply find them too speculative to be fully germane to a discussion of informatics in everyday life in the near term. (It’s always possible that I’m wrong, of course, but I had to draw the line somewhere.)

    Given the real issues involved in getting even something as comparatively simple as a cellular telephone network to full robustness under the conditions of daily life, I actually find the idea of utility fog a little hard to credit. (As it happens, I’ve just today written a little bit on my reservations about nanotechnological enthusiasm.)

    As we know, though, the mere fact that something is not terribly likely to work has never stopped people from trying. So I guess we’ll see what happens.

  3. Thanks Andy I have added Everywhere to my wish list. You will probably find what I have to say about M.U.I somewhat less grandiose, I am looking for quick dirty hits now rather than bigger pictures, its more about adapting current practices.
    Looking forward to reading everywhere..


  4. Wow: Adam, thanks for the visit and the comments. I’ll certainly be adding you to my feed reader.

    It’s interesting that Wikipedia redirects motes to smart dust. I know colleagues who are working with motes (rather than smart dust) today, so I don’t think they are speculative. Incidentally, I don’t equate motes with nanotech, particularly. Smart dust might fall into that category.

    I’ve passed my copy of the book on to Roo, who I know is going to be really excited by the subject, with his background in pervasive computing.

    Utility fog is a new one on me. I’ll have to read up on the subject.

    Al, hope you enjoy the book.

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