What is Ambient Computing? Everything you need to know about the rise of invisible technology

Have you ever watched Disney’s 1999 movie Smart House? The film, way ahead of its time, tells the story of a computerized house that is programmed to help with everything that happens in the house. Rebound: the house comes to life and becomes a nightmare.

Although not a danger of today’s smart home technology, many are still hesitant to implement artificial intelligence in their daily tasks, especially given the privacy risks. When devices use artificial intelligence to log and learn your behavior to help you better, what happens to that data is a valid concern.

“Security and privacy concerns are the main challenges we see in ambient computing and smart assistant technologies,” says Low of research firm Canalys. “The privacy issue generally relates to how user information is collected and used to train and deliver AI services.”

This is especially the case when you bring devices into the house and allow them to record and analyze your very personal habits. This means securing devices and data becomes a top priority.

“A highly connected ecosystem formed by multiple devices with multiple points of connectivity would need more robust security to ensure devices are well secured and protected. Apps and associated cloud services also need to be protected,” says Low.

Despite this concern, experts believe that as a society we are moving in a direction in which ambient computing is more widely accepted and these concerns are starting to fade. The determining factor will be how companies go about implementing this technology.

“I think public trust will very much depend on the ability of the companies that receive all this data to treat it with some degree of integrity,” Seaward says.

In addition to building trust in data security and privacy, it’s important for companies to build consumer confidence in whether these devices can reliably do what they’re supposed to do.

As voice assistants expand their functions, they become responsible for more and more important tasks in a person’s life, whether it’s locking your front door or ordering groceries.

In order to let a voice assistant play such an important role, there must be a level of trust between the consumer and the device based on reliability. Until this level of trust is in place, consumer hesitation will prevent the benefits of ambient computing from being fully maximized.

“As clients begin to rely on ambient systems, we see them engaging more deeply and in more aspects of their lives. With this comes an expectation that these systems will steadily improve as and as they’re used, and we’re working hard to live up to that,” says Sharma.

Sherry J. Basler