The Internet of Things – Augmented Reality’s role

The digital world is moving increasingly into the physical and ideas, which at one time seemed futuristic and revolutionary are now possible. But with the benefits come new issues.

Technology Growth

Technology is a fast growing market, with many people now owning multiple Wi-Fi-enabled devices. 1 billion new smartphones were shipped in 2013[1], and there will be more than 7 billion new Wi-Fi enabled devices in the next 3 years [2]. Research reports[3] have estimated that the number of devices connected to the Internet of Everything by 2020 will be between 26-30 billion.

With this increase user habits and expectations are changing, the amount of information consumed and shared by individuals during their day-to-day life has increased exponentially, in addition to new location service platforms being developed. Take the increase in geographical information. Users globally are sharing, tagging and creating points of interest on a day-to-day basis. People, places, maps and buildings are being pin pointed by location-based services.

One of the first examples of added-value location services was the Semapedia Project, created in 2005 with the goal of connecting objects and locations in the physical world to their respective Wikipedia entries using QR codes. More recently location-based services have grown in popularity with platforms such as Foursquare, creating a competitive element to location sharing, and Facebook’s location tagging function. These services provide us with an interesting perspective into the life and behaviours of users, and the way they are incorporating environments together.

Ubiquitous Computing and the Internet of Things

Ubiquitous Computing (Ubicomp) is the idea of a constant presence of technology in the world, unrestrained like desktop computing and therefore able to appear in any number of devices and formats from washing machines and fridges, to glasses.
The advancement of Ubicomp means that the Internet of Things (the interconnecting web of these computer-like devices) is technologically possible. While feasible, there is still a lack of any effective, unquestionable solution on how to help successfully link smart environments and individuals, as such circumstances demand a greater level of accessibility for each device without compromising functionality.

Ubiquitous Computing and its recognition via the Internet of Things brings with it an enormous flow of geography-based information. Ubiquitous Computing allows inanimate objects to become smart devices themselves. These ‘smart devices’ therefore become sources of potential services for users close to them. This new progress is adding large amounts of geographical data to that currently handled by users daily.

Interaction Challenges

With the growth of interaction technology also comes the problem of an information overload. The complex, global geographically referenced information is already proving to be a strain on the current system, and with a growing numbers of users connecting, this problem will only increase.

Gartner [4] predicted that by the end of 2012 machine to machine communication would account for 20% of non-video Internet traffic – a huge amount of networked data being sent via the Internet. For such information to be delivered efficiently, on a proper interfacing framework, location-services must become more powerful.

The key linking these may lie within augmented reality; to develop user interfaces with the specific interaction requirements of the Internet of Everything.

The Introducing of Augmented Reality

An obvious collaborator to this increase in geographical technology and popularity is Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality has been gaining traction as one of the most promising uses of the concept known as ‘Computer-mediated reality’. Although this concept also contains the already well-known Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality (AR) is rapidly becoming the hottest technology growth area. Augmented Reality is a combination of systems and experiences where the physical environment is an essential element of the experience. With AR a direct or indirect view of a real world situation is overlaid by computer-generated elements, rather than computer generated entirely.

The interaction capabilities of Augmented Reality interfaces provide a possible solution to the previously mentioned problems. The transition from Graphical to Tangible User interfaces will improve Human-Computer interaction in Smart Environments, and this is aided by the Augmented Reality approach with the physical world providing the environment and technology adding the relevant information by creating layers.

Further assets such as data mining, inference engines, multimodal interaction and a standardised approach (such as HTML5) will allow Augmented Reality interfacing to perform at its full potential.

[1] IDC
[2] Sys-Con
[3] Gartner – 26 billion, ABI Research – 30 billion.
[4] Gartner


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