by Constantine Stephanidis
Ambient Intelligence (AmI) presents a vision of tomorrow where 'intelligent' environments react in an attentive, adaptive and active (sometimes proactive) way to the presence and activities of humans and objects in order to provide appropriate services to the inhabitants of these environments. It is an emerging field of research and development that is rapidly gaining wide attention from an increasing number of researchers and practitioners worldwide, particularly in Europe.
Ambient Intelligence technologies integrate sensing capabilities, processing power, reasoning mechanisms, networking facilities, applications and services, digital content and actuating capabilities distributed in the surrounding environment. While a wide variety of different technologies is involved, the goal of Ambient Intelligence is to either entirely hide their presence from users or to smoothly integrate them in their surroundings as enhanced environment artifacts rather than technological gadgets. This way, the computing-oriented connotation of technology essentially fades out or even disappears in the environment, providing seamless and unobtrusive interaction paradigms. Therefore, people and their social situation, ranging from individuals to groups, be they work groups, families or friends and their corresponding environments (office buildings, homes, public spaces, etc) are at the centre of the design considerations.
Ambient Intelligence brings a special perspective to the on-going research associated with technical fields like ubiquitous computing, pervasive and proactive computing, ambient computing, embedded computing, and smart objects. Ambient Intelligence has become well-focused by putting people and social contexts at the centre, while at the same time aiming to distribute, embed, coordinate and interactively deliver computing intelligence within the surrounding environment. The notion of Ambient Intelligence, as described above, is becoming a de facto key dimension of the emerging Information Society, since many of the new generation industrial digital products and services are clearly shifted towards an overall intelligent computing environment.
From a technological point of view, Ambient Intelligence is a particularly complex, multi-faceted and demanding scientific domain, requiring the presence and seamless integration of most of the key technologies existing today, thus posing numerous challenges in several research areas and requiring large scale experimentation.
The Institute of Computer Science (ICS) of FORTH is in the process of creating a large-scale, state-of-the-art Ambient Intelligence European Facility, which will act as a research nexus for studying and developing, from a human-centred perspective, related technologies and for assessing their impact on the individual, as well as on society as a whole.
Starting with the creation of an intelligent home simulator, the AmI facility will be expanded to address specific indoor and outdoor environments, relevant application domains (eg housing, work, health, security, education, transportation and entertainment), as well as their related physical, social and cultural characteristics.
The AmI Facility will also provide a showcase for demonstrating the potential added-value and benefits of AmI technologies in different aspects of everyday life and activities. In this way, the AmI Facility will foster the vision of Ambient Intelligence, facilitate multi-disciplinary international collaborations and provide a focal point for technology transfer and dissemination of know-how to European industry, adding to its competitive advantage. It will also contribute towards the European strategic priority for "an Information Society that is inclusive, provides high-quality public services and promotes quality of life", while also promoting synergies and knowledge diffusion in the context of relevant European research projects and actions.
The creation of this facility builds on the scientific know-how and technical expertise of FORTH-ICS in a number of contributing critical domains such as Human-Computer Interaction, Universal Access, Artificial Intelligence, Semantic-based Knowledge Systems, Robotics, Computational Vision, Networks and Telecommunications, Information Security, Distributed Systems, Computer architecture, Microelectronics, Sensors and Biomedical Informatics. All Laboratories of FORTH-ICS are actively engaged in this effort, and collaborations are promoted with other FORTH Institutes, as well as other organisations within and beyond ERCIM.
In the context of promoting research in the domain of AmI, FORTH-ICS has played a key role in the establishment of the new ERCIM working group: 'Smart Environments and Systems for Ambient Intelligence'. The AmI Facility of FORTH-ICS will promote and support active collaboration and synergies among the members of this ERCIM working group, by offering a technological platform and an experimental testbed for research and development activities.
Constantine Stephanidis, FORTH-ICS, Greece
Tel: +30 2810 391741