Ubiquitous Computing Fundamentals

Table of Contents

Foreword Gregory D. Abowd Book Cover
Introduction John Krumm
1. Introduction to Ubiquitous Computing Roy Want
2. Ubiquitous Computing Systems  (slides) (video) Jakob Bardram and Adrian Friday
3. Privacy in Ubiquitous Computing Marc Langheinrich
4. Ubiquitous Computing Field Studies (slides on user studies) (video on user studies) A.J. Bernheim Brush
5. Ethnography in Ubiquitous Computing Alex S. Taylor
6. From GUI to UUI: Interfaces for Ubiquitous Computing Aaron Quigley
7. Location in Ubiquitous Computing (slides) (video) Alexander Varshavsky and Shwetak Patel
8. Context-Aware Computing Anind K. Dey
9. Processing Sequential Sensor Data (slides) (video) John Krumm

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Summary of a university course using our book, taught by Andrew Kun, a professor at the University of New Hampshire


It has been nearly two decades since the term "ubiquitous computing" burst into our research vernacular.  One of the strengths, and one of the challenges, of "ubicomp" is that it is hard to pin down exactly what the intellectual core is.  From the very beginning, ubicomp researchers have investigated both the bleeding edge technology challenges as well as the human-centered opportunities. There are other intellectual mergers of interest as well, including the bridge between the physical and the digital worlds and the (re-)merging of the academic communities of hardware and software. 

But this very diversity of intellectual themes presents two challenges to our community, both of which motivate the need for a book like this one.  First of all, for established researchers, we have to educate ourselves on the language and methods of disciplines different from the ones we have practiced for many years. Why?  Because if we are to advance as an intellectual community, then we all need to embrace the inherent diversity in our thoughts and skills.  While it is not strictly necessary that we become expert in all of the relevant subdisciplines of ubicomp represented in this book, it is necessary that we appreciate all of the perspectives and that we strive to make our own work more relevant and accessible to those many perspectives.

Second, and more importantly, we have to provide a foundation for future generations.  I deeply believe that any interesting problem to explore in our everyday lives requires expertise from many disciplines and perspectives.  Consequently, we have to train new researchers so that they will be able to stand on the results of the past and direct us as a community to go beyond where we are today. In short, our students must be empowered to be better than we are, or we face extinction as a relevant intellectual community.

Under the skillful guidance of John Krumm, the authors of these chapters have assembled a collection of well-written, tutorial style chapters on topics that have become core to research advances in ubiquitous computing over the past two decades. The result is a must-read text that provides an historical lens to see how ubicomp has matured into a multidisciplinary endeavor and will be an essential reference to researchers and those who want to learn more about this evolving field.

Professor Gregory D. Abowd, PhD
College of Computing
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, Georgia, USA



Jakob E. Bardram, PhD IT University of Copenhagen
Copenhagen, Denmark
  Shwetak Patel, PhD Computer Science and Engineering
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington, USA
A.J. Bernheim Brush, PhD Microsoft Research
Redmond, Washington, USA
  Aaron Quigley, PhD HITLab Australia
University Tasmania
Tasmania, Australia
Anind K. Dey, PhD HCI Institute
Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  Alex S. Taylor, PhD Microsoft Research
Cambridge, UK
Adrian Friday, PhD Computing Department
Lancaster University
Lancaster, UK
  Alexander Varshavsky, PhD AT&T Labs
Florham Park, New Jersey, USA
John Krumm, PhD Microsoft Research
Redmond, Washington, USA
  Roy Want, PhD Intel Corporation
Santa Clara, California, USA
Marc Langheinrich, PhD Faculty of Informatics
University of Lugano (USI)
Lugano, Switzerland



This book is an overview of the fascinating field of ubiquitous computing. Since this field is rapidly progressing, the book is aimed at people who want to explore it as researchers or track its evolution. Intended for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and professionals interested in ubiquitous computing research, the book covers the major fundamentals and research in the key areas that shape the field. Each chapter is a tutorial that provides readers with an introduction to an important subset of ubiquitous computing and also contains many valuable references to relevant research papers.

The field of ubiquitous computing is simultaneously young and broad. Research papers in the field commonly reference Mark Weiser, who famously coined the term “ubiquitous computing” in his Scientific American article in 1991. This is considered the start of the research area, and it has grown to encompass a broad array of technologies since then. While the field is broad, there are well-established conferences and researchers devoted to it.

We chose eleven of the most prominent ubiquitous computing research devotees to contribute chapters to this book in their area of expertise. Given the field’s breadth, it would be difficult to find one person who can expertly cover it all. Some of the chapter authors teach ubiquitous computing at universities. All of them are intimately involved in research in their specialty. Working in the area means they have the experience to not only describe the fundamental research issues, but to also explain practical ways to accomplish research and publish papers in the field.

Ubiquitous computing research can be categorized into three distinct areas where the research is focused: systems, experience, and sensors. The chapters of this book are similarly organized and categorized. The three categories and their supporting chapters are:

Systems – These chapters focus on how to build the software support for deploying ubiquitous computing applications.

Ubiquitous Computing Systems (Chapter 2) – important issues to consider when building the infrastructure to support ubiquitous computing applications

Privacy in Ubiquitous Computing (Chapter 3)– how to maintain privacy in systems that inherently need to connect with personal devices and information

Experience – These chapters highlight the critical points where ubiquitous computing technologies touch people.

Ubiquitous Computing Field Studies (Chapter 4)– shows how to evaluate ubiquitous computing applications in the field

Ethnography in Ubiquitous Computing (Chapter 5)– how to observe people and consider how they might use ubiquitous computing technology

From GUI to UUI: Interfaces for Ubiquitous Computing (Chapter 6)– moving from graphical to the ubiquitous computing user interface

Sensors – These chapters show how systems sense location and analyze and determine context.

Location in Ubiquitous Computing (Chapter 7)– how to measure a person’s location, one of the most important inputs for ubiquitous computing applications

Context-Aware Computing (Chapter 8)– explains the use of context to allow ubiquitous computing applications to deliver the right services at the right time

Processing Sequential Sensor Data (Chapter 9)– how to effectively process sensor data for location and context

In addition to these specific research areas, the book begins with a chapter called “Introduction to Ubiquitous Computing” that discusses the history of the field in terms of its major research projects.

Although the chapters cover interrelated topics, as a teacher or reader, they can be covered in any order.

We hope you will find this book to be a useful overview of and practical tutorial on the young and evolving field of ubiquitous computing.

John Krumm, PhD
Microsoft Research
Redmond, Washington, USA


  title = {Ubiquitous Computing Fundamentals},

  publisher = {Chapman and Hall/CRC},

  year = {2010},

  editor = {John Krumm},

  address={Boca Raton, FL},