Context-Aware Computing (as Applied to the Internet of Things)

Contextual Awareness Notes - Bouffard


These notes are notes I took as I was digesting a paper exploring survey research on context-aware computing. The paper itself can be found on the Cornell University Library web site, Context Aware Computing for The Internet of Things: A Survey. Before arriving at the article I had been lost in a sort of stream of consciousness browsing “ambient displays”, “persuasive & self-reflective interfaces”, and “peripheral displays of information.” I then came across Anind K. Dey’s name, discovering that many of the topics associated with his name were even more interesting along a similar vein. Many of these topics revolved around The Internet of Things (IoT), context-aware computing, and human/computer interfaces. As I began reading there were a number of questions that began surfacing in my head, particularly what all these things might mean for presenting contextual information and where augmented reality technologies fit into this picture. I went looking for recent papers on context-aware computing, discovering that someone had recently taken a comprehensive look at the research and implementation of context-aware computing. It seemed a good place to begin understanding the technologies, challenges, and opportunities involved.

The questions I started out with:

  • How do context-aware computing and IoT intersect?
  • How would parameters for privacy be set?
  • How does one design a personal graph?
  • Is context-aware computing out on the ten-year horizon?
  • How might context-aware computing contribute to informal situated learning?

Context-aware computing refers to devices that can sense and react based on their environment. The paper served well in providing a great deal of detail about how components of the IoT might collect data to be processed into contextual information. It also provided explanations of numerous methods by which data can be moved, stored, and processed. Numerous frameworks for modeling, reasoning, and distributing contextual information were presented and compared, which could be used at various points along the context-aware computing continuum. I’ll spare the details, since the paper provides more than enough for anyone interested in building a foundation of understanding around the opportunities, as well as the challenges of generating and presenting meaning from data collected within the IoT.

I didn’t find any answers to my initial questions, but did come away with a greater breadth of understanding about the pieces and processes involved, and a snarl of ideas for what our relationship with information about our immediate environments might look like in the not-so-distant future. As technology develops and grows the IoT, the potential for context-aware computing to affect our lives personally, professionally, and across industries is far reaching. I find it telling that one of the researchers cited in the paper called this shift in our relationship with devices and information Web 4.0 (although they wouldn’t be the first ones to find it hard to resist numbering the generations of the Web). Anyway, I recommend reading the paper if anything I’ve mentioned here has piqued your interest. It is certainly interesting to consider the breadth of this sort of change and what its implications might be for teaching and learning.