Before considering progress in the field of smart devices, and considering their possible characteristics, it is necessary to get a look backwards to find tracks that have led to their emergence and current development.
Several areas contribute to the development of devices with processing and communication capacity.
1. In the industrial world (leaving computers to be treated later) two types of devices can be identified. First of all, relatively passive devices which return after solicitation, information of ˜yes or no type have been bestowed with more highly evolved processing and communication capacities. They can receive an order, apply a more or less sophisticated, processed reply. They unite devices that have been constructed with strong processing capacities (microprocessors), and communication capacities that make them qualified to offer high levels of functionality. "Electronic tags" are devices of the first type, and "electronic cards" without contacts correspond to devices of the second type.
These are physical entities of relatively small dimension. But be careful not to attribute all smart devices to objects of small size. Indeed, billboards, that can be of great size and updated by mini-messages via a SMS function are strong smart devices. It is the same, for example, with washing machines, that detect a breakdown and call the after-sale service via the GSM terminal.
In our analysis, it would be necessary not to neglect objects that can, because of their size or functionality, not be included in seminaries devoted to communicating devices, and to be thereby excluded from research. By extension, an object that has a minimum of processing and communication capacity has access to the status of small devices.
2. In the computer world, the miniaturisation of components on the one hand, and progress of communication protocols on the other hand, are at the root of significant progress in research and creativity. In general, the object, the slave of an object master in a first phase, detaches itself by the integration of more sophisticated communication tools. By claiming its autonomy in a second phase, it passes on a status of extension of what? To that autonomous tool. On the way, it wins some functionality that slips from the older master to the new. It is the path followed by objects such as "Palm" and other Pocket PC, pens and electronic paper (that are in a phase of development).
Conversely, the world of telecommunications is going to endow mobile phones by function increasingly rich to reply to the needs of the office.
It is necessary to notice in recent years a strong evolution of the fact that these objects acquire increasingly "intelligence" to take into account communication by their own resources. Protocols such as Jini or Bluetooth enter this category. This tendency is confirmed with protocols of higher level such as P2P. They get symmetrical communication between devices without passing by servers one of whose roles is to ensure this symmetry by coupling two asymmetries.
3. Without restraining considering of smart devices only as physical entities, software agents (which execute well with physical machines) constitute an area of very fertile research. These are software entities which have processing and communication capacity. In view of the suppleness of implementation, studies are mainly conducted mainly on architectural aspects and dialogue with humans or other software agents. That does not mean that they include the totality of data-processing especially classic, generic, and centralised but it concerns an available resource and is deployed according to need.
So what evolutionary trends that become apparent? What can we draw from the areas discussed above?
If we accept the postulate that there can be no dialogue without reciprocal context knowledge (reference and intention ) we can suppose that integration of the context (or at least of a formalisable part of the context) to the environment of smart devices will be an important research area in years to come. This tendency is already perceptible with the software entities that characterise their dialogue according to an evaluated and re-evaluated context permanently.
This dialogue must going to simplify (by being careful to note that the simplification becomes more complex) both between communicating devices (progress made in quoted protocols above show it) and between them and users. Current work on t multi-modality comes within the framework of this step.
For the moment all of these small devices need a source of energy. The area of utilisation of these objects is going to widen according to progress in this area (pace combustible batteries).
The miniaturisation of smart devices, that affects the physical connection of the different functionalities (access, interface, use, etc.), would have, through the constraints of each area, to bring elements of responses and integration at the same time. This will help with clarification of risks. For example, the dialogue interface will have to integrate the various modalities in the place function.
Through the totality of these progresses, smart devices will be better and better integrated with the arts (music, cinema, dance , photography, etc.), and used in the health domain, entertainment, among others.
A question remains opened: what will be the autonomy of smart devices? Will they stay under the user 's control, or will these objects, through their autonomy, propose to the users non-solicited actions? Might we see some users suppress or destroy objects or devices becoming too intrusive ? Might we see objects or devices at war?
We manufacture smart devices, experiment with them, sell them and chuck them out all the time. They are becoming more and more ubiquitous, and more varied, so they may strike us. Give us a chance to domesticate them to improve their usefulness instead of to leaving them in the wild state, under the pretext of innovation.