Ambient Information at the Point of Need

What You Need, Before You Need It

Pedagogy and Learning, User Experience Comments (0)

Ambient technology, sometimes referred to in computing as Ambient Intelligence, is classified by the ability to give users what they need, sometimes without them asking for it, and before they may even know they need it.

When you have a task that is simple and sometimes repetitive, having an ambient technology at your disposal can streamline the process altogether. According to a journal entry in the IOS Press, for a technology to be ambient, it needs to be:

  • Human-centric in its interface
  • Have unobtrusive hardware
  • Be seamlessly connected
  • Behave dynamically with relatively easy control
  • Maintain security

An easy-to-understand example of ambient technology you may already use is a consumer technology such as a wearable fitness band – devices made by Fitbit or Jawbone store personal data that reacts to help users alter their own fitness routine through heart rate monitors and step counters.

This process is always occurring even if you are not actively exercising or interacting with the device. However, while the band may show information directly related to the user, the band itself does not change because it is designed for tracking your movement in most instances. It operates unobtrusively appearing as a piece of sporty jewelry or a watch – it hides none information from the user, and it also connects to a user’s cell phone or secure cloud account, if desired. All of these functions make a fitness band the perfect example of an ambient technology. Examples like this are everywhere, no pun intended.

The popular app/game “Ingress” takes this ambient activity tracking to an entirely new level, layering an ambient game world all around you.

Harvard Business Review addressed the use of ambient technologies in healthcare, and how they can give the user new experiences. For example, a project called Noah’s Ark allowed subjects to experience increased sleep quality by projecting images and poems on bedroom ceilings to improve rest and imagination during the sleep cycle. Keep in mind that a large part of this process is done and continues while the subject was asleep. So even if they knew it would occur, the subjects were not actively aware of the image-projection process taking place. If you’re tracking with me, you can probably see that these types of systems generate a lot of data. Big data, if you will.

With each passing year, we see a variety of technologies introduced that provide ambient intelligence or function within an environment. Whether it is a Bluetooth Low Energy, RFID, biometrics, or someday, nanotechnology, the reach will only expand. The CHAMPIONS framework advocates the research, analysis, and implementation of leveraging ambient technology in your organization.

Sound like science fiction? Perhaps.

But you can get started today. Consider setting automated notifications to give employees reminders as they go about their day. Learn about how geofences and digital wayfinding could enhance employee productivity. Once in place, this can teach both workers and management more about their own behavior and performance based on time and location, and they will be more likely to take responsibility for their actions on a day-to-day basis. Ambient technology usage and tracking may be the impetus you need to begin understanding how big data could be used to provide predictive analytics and recommendation.

Learn more by downloading the CHAMPIONS starter kit, developed by Float and Qualcomm Learning Center. 

Download the CHAMPIONS Starter Kit

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Dorsey Dixon

Dorsey Dixon graduated from Bradley University with a degree in public relations and organizational communication. Dorsey also holds a degree in network systems administration from DeVry University. He is an avid reader who is currently working on his first novel.

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On August 19, 2015
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