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Environmental Awareness


Pages: pp. 2-3

Traditional computing systems can make a wide range of assumptions about their operating environment. For example, users are typically seated at a desk in a fairly safe and comfortable environment with few resource or form-factor constraints. Mobile and pervasive computing systems are fundamentally different in this respect—they can make very few assumptions about the environment in which they operate. Context-aware systems that can sense and respond to their environment have long been a theme of research in our community. In this sense, the environment can be seen as providing an opportunity to help tailor a system's behavior or provide for new forms of interaction that unify physical and virtual components. However, the environment can also represent a major challenge to mobile and pervasive systems. Indeed, in his classic 1997 article "Mobile Computing: Where's the Tofu?" (Mobile Computing and Communications Review, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 17–21), IEEE Pervasive Computing's founding editor in chief Mahadev Satyanarayanan identified the fact that mobility is inherently hazardous as one of the four key constraints imposed on mobile systems (the others being their relative resource poverty, variable connectivity, and finite energy supplies).


Paul Lukowicz, Mary G. Baker, and Joseph Paradiso have brought together a wide range of articles that address mobile and pervasive computing technology use in hazardous environments—you can read their guest editors' introduction on page 13. As I read through the articles, I was struck by the fact that despite the excellent contributions made by the authors here, much work remains to be done in this area. From problems such as securing cell phones against theft (see for examples of Apple's latest patent in this area) to developing affordable and highly functional rugged computing systems able to withstand a construction site, we're still a long way from having effective mobile and pervasive computing systems for hostile environments. I hope that as you read the articles in this issue, they stimulate ideas that will help move forward this area.

In addition to the theme articles, this issue contains five regular articles. In "Smarter Phones for Healthier Lifestyles: An Adaptive Fitness Game," Fabio Buttussi and Luca Chittaro describe a context-aware game designed to help users exercise at the optimal intensity. The theme of healthy living is continued in "A Smart Kitchen for Nutrition-Aware Cooking," by Jen-Hao Chen and colleagues, in which the authors describe a kitchen that automatically provides nutritional guidance as cooks prepare dishes. Such papers demonstrate an interesting shift in pervasive computing research from focusing purely on healthcare in environments such as hospitals and the home to a new focus on helping to prevent illness. Whereas Chen's article focuses specifically on the kitchen, the topic of "smart homes" in general is the focus of "An Integral and Networked Home Automation Solution for Indoor Ambient Intelligence" by Miguel A. Zamora-Izquierdo and his colleagues. Finally, we have two papers that center on core technologies in the field. In "Cooperative Relative Positioning," Hans Gellersen and his coauthors describe a new system for providing relative positional information for interacting components, and in "An Alignment Approach for Context Prediction Tasks in UbiComp Environments," Stephan Sigg and colleagues focus on new techniques to improve context prediction.


In July, IEEE Pervasive Computing held its annual editorial board meeting where we reflected on the events of the past year and determined the editorial calendar for the following 12 months. Thanks go to my fellow board members who took the time to contribute to the meeting. This year, we focused both on setting the special-issue themes for the year and developing a range of new departmental offerings. All our research suggests that the departments are a major factor in the magazine's success and over the next few issues, readers will see several new departments, which we hope will contribute significantly to the magazine's value.

Our next issue focuses on a different form of environmental awareness—namely, how we can use pervasive computing technologies in the context of smart energy systems to help protect our environment. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the work described in this issue and that it does indeed act as a catalyst for research in the field.

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