The Convergence of Ubiquitous Computers and the Cloud

An image of cloud computing representing a connection to other devices.I think it is safe to say that a lot of our data has moved online. As envisioned by Mark Weiser computers, more importantly the Internet, have all but faded into the background of our existence making them a ubiquitous technology. Weiser suggested that because we are so fixated on screens that it was impossible in 1991 for the technology to fade into the background but now screens are everywhere: billboards are now huge digital “boards” and subways have digital screens playing the latest news or advertisements, our fridges have screens as do thermostats, ovens and alarm systems. However, 20 years later I believe his predictions have come true. The computer has been assimilated into society to the point where the boundaries between our data consumption via screens is hardly discernible. But what is interesting to note is how the power of the ubiquitous computer has moved much of our other ubiquitous technologies online. Things like writing and entertainment are now performed and stored online in a space known as the “Cloud.”

Email, Facebook, Netflix, Dropbox, iTunes, Google Drive etc. all these services rely on Cloud Computing to store vast amounts of information, which we as consumers can access. However, as discussed by Johnathan Strickland in his article How Cloud Computing Works, despite there being many benefits like lowering IT costs, increasing processing power and allowing you to access your files anywhere using any type of Internet enabled device (e.g. smartphone, tablet, laptop, computer). Security, privacy, usage fees and bandwidth caps are still issues that need to be addressed as more of our life moves into the online sphere. These are the challenges consumers face as they move their data online, embracing the ubiquitous nature of the medium.

However, there is skepticism and debate about cloud computing because how can one ensure privacy of proprietary information if someone else could potentially own? There are many stakeholders involved in creating Cloud Computing services:

  • The cloud computing system who provides the storage space
  • The user or company subscribing to the cloud computing services
  • The client who saved the data to their hardware
  • The company who owns the physical servers and databases

Printing, as a manufacturing process, has experienced one of the most interesting effects of Cloud Computing. The idea of being able to store your information on third-party databases is exciting and means that you free up valuable storage space on computer hard drives but many clients are not comfortable with their proprietary information being stored virtually. It’s a catch twenty-two, do you lose the client or save space and cost?

However, many consumers, just as they are unaware that they are using cloud computing, are unaware that there exist potential privacy and security risks. Take for example The 25 Most Common Passwords of 2013 according to SplashData the top three passwords of the year were “123456”, “password”, and “12345678.” These passwords are the same top three as in 2012. In addition, many of the passwords were the name of the application they were used for, i.e. “photoshop.” (CBSNews, 2014).

Password screenshsotConsumers are not adequately protecting themselves and what about the cost? With more content you have online it is imperative to be connected to the Internet at all times, or else you won’t be able to access your information. This can cost a significant amount of money.

For my part I see that with the proliferation of Internet enabled devices and the introduction of wearable technology that Cloud Computing and ubiquitous data consumption is destined to become more engrained in our lives. The world Weiser envisioned is becoming closer and closer to reality as the ubiquitous computer is now literally strapped to our wrists, pinging with every cloud-based email we receive.

Resources

CBSNews. (2014). The 25 most common passwords of 2013. Retrieved January 24, 2014, from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-25-most-common-passwords-of-2013/

Strickland, Jonathan.  “How Cloud Computing Works”  08 April 2008.  HowStuffWorks.com. <http://computer.howstuffworks.com/cloud-computing/cloud-computing.htm&gt;  25 January 2014.

Weiser, M. (1991). The Computer of the 21st Century. Retrieved January 24, 2014, from http://web.media.mit.edu/~anjchang/ti01/weiser-sciam91-ubicomp.pdf

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3 thoughts on “The Convergence of Ubiquitous Computers and the Cloud

  1. Hi Olivia,
    It was very interesting to read your thoughts on this. Funny enough, in my discussion I indicated that we aren’t quite in a world of ubiquitous computing yet, at least not as Weiser described it. But reading your article I came to realize that one’s opinion on this will really depend on how grand they’ve imagined this ubiquitous world to be. In my mind, we’ll only get there when every house is like IronMan’s.

  2. Great insights and I appreciated your consideration for privacy. To me I feel as though the expectation for privacy diminishes as more and more platforms move away from subscriptions. But, realistically, what choice do they have when consumers expect to receive these services for free. I look to the Instagram debacle as a great example of unrealistic consumer expectations.

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