Section: Application Domains

Pervasive Computing

Pervasive computing systems are being deployed in a rapidly increasing number of areas, including building automation and supply chain management. Regardless of their target area, pervasive computing systems have a typical architectural pattern. They aggregate data from a variety of distributed sources, whether sensing devices or software components, analyze a context to make decisions, and carry out decisions by invoking a range of actuators. Because pervasive computing systems are standing at the crossroads of several domains (e.g., distributed systems, multimedia, and embedded systems), they raise a number of challenges in software development:

  • Heterogeneity. Pervasive computing systems are made of off-the-shelf entities, that is, hardware and software building blocks. These entities run on specific platforms, feature various interaction models, and provide non-standard interfaces. This heterogeneity tends to percolate in the application code, preventing its portability and reusability, and cluttering it with low-level details.

  • Lack of structuring. Pervasive computing systems coordinate numerous, interrelated components. A lack of global structuring makes the development and evolution of such systems error-prone: component interactions may be invalid or missing.

  • Combination of technologies. Pervasive computing systems involve a variety of technological issues, including device intricacies, complex APIs of distributed systems technologies and middleware-specific features. Coping with this range of issues results in code bloated with special cases to glue technologies together.

  • Dynamicity. In a pervasive computing system, devices may either become available as they get deployed, or unavailable due to malfunction or network failure. Dealing with these issues explicitly in the implementation can quickly make the code cumbersome.

  • Testing. Pervasive computing systems are complicated to test. Doing so requires equipments to be acquired, tested, configured and deployed. Furthermore, some scenarios cannot be tested because of the nature of the situations involved (e.g., fire and smoke). As a result, the programmer must resort to writing specific code to achieve ad hoc testing.