Ambient intelligence

In computing, ambient intelligence (AmI) refers to electronic environments that are sensitive and responsive to the presence of people. Ambient intelligence is a vision on the future of consumer electronics, telecommunications and computing that was originally developed in the late 1990s by Eli Zelkha and his team at Palo Alto Ventures for the time frame 2010–2020.[1][2][3][4] In an ambient intelligence world, devices work in concert to support people in carrying out their everyday life activities, tasks and rituals in an easy, natural way using information and intelligence that is hidden in the network connecting these devices (for example: The Internet of Things). As these devices grow smaller, more connected and more integrated into our environment, the technology disappears into our surroundings until only the user interface remains perceivable by users.

The ambient intelligence paradigm builds upon pervasive computing, ubiquitous computing, profiling, context awareness, and human-centric computer interaction design, of which, is characterized by systems and technologies that are:[5]

  • embedded: many networked devices are integrated into the environment
  • context aware: these devices can recognize you and your situational context
  • personalized: they can be tailored to your needs
  • adaptive: they can change in response to you
  • anticipatory: they can anticipate your desires without conscious mediation.

A typical context of ambient intelligence environment is home, but may also be extended to work spaces (offices, coworking), public spaces (based on technologies such as smart street lights), and hospital environments.[6]


More and more people make decisions based on the effect their actions will have on their own inner, mental world. This experience-driven way of acting is a change from the past when people were primarily concerned about the use value of products and services, and is the basis for the experience economy. Ambient intelligence addresses this shift in existential view by emphasizing people and user experience.

The interest in user experience also grew in importance in the late 1990s because of the overload of products and services in the information society that were difficult to understand and hard to use. An urge emerged to design things from a user's point of view. Ambient intelligence is influenced by user-centered design where the user is placed in the center of the design activity and asked to give feedback through specific user evaluations and tests to improve the design or even co-create the design with the designer (participatory design) or with other users (end-user development).

In order for AmI to become a reality a number of key technologies are required:

History and invention

In 1998, the board of management of Philips commissioned a series of presentations and internal workshops, organized by Eli Zelkha and Brian Epstein of Palo Alto Ventures (who, with Simon Birrell, coined the term 'ambient intelligence') to investigate different scenarios that would transform the high-volume consumer electronic industry from the current "fragmented with features" world into a world in 2020 where user-friendly devices support ubiquitous information, communication and entertainment.[7] While developing the ambient intelligence concept, Palo Alto Ventures created the keynote address for Roel Pieper of Philips for the Digital Living Room Conference, 1998.[8] The group included Eli Zelkha, Brian Epstein, Simon Birrell, Doug Randall, and Clark Dodsworth. In the years after, these developments grew more mature. In 2005, Philips joined the Oxygen alliance, an international consortium of industrial partners within the context of the MIT Oxygen project,[9] aimed at developing technology for the computer of the 21st century. In 2000, plans were made to construct a feasibility and usability facility dedicated to ambient intelligence. This HomeLab officially opened on 24 April 2002.

Along with the development of the vision at Philips, a number of parallel initiatives started to explore ambient intelligence in more detail. Following the advice of the Information Society and Technology Advisory Group (ISTAG), the European Commission used the vision for the launch of their sixth framework (FP6) in Information, Society and Technology (IST), with a subsidiary budget of 3.7 billion euros. The European Commission played a crucial role in the further development of the AmI vision. As a result of many initiatives the AmI vision gained traction. During the past few years several major initiatives have been started. Fraunhofer Society started several activities in a variety of domains including multimedia, microsystems design and augmented spaces. MIT started an ambient intelligence research group at their Media Lab.[10] Several more research projects started in a variety of countries such as the US, Canada, Spain, France and the Netherlands. Since 2004, the European Symposium on Ambient Intelligence (EUSAI) and many other conferences have been held that address special topics in AmI.


As far as dissemination of information on personal presence is out of control, ambient intelligence vision is subject of criticism (e.g. David Wright, Serge Gutwirth, Michael Friedewald et al., Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence, Springer, Dordrecht, 2008). Any immersive, personalized, context-aware and anticipatory characteristics brings up societal, political and cultural concerns about the loss of privacy. The example scenario above shows both the positive and negative possibilities offered by ambient intelligence. Applications of ambient intelligence do not necessarily have to reduce privacy in order to work.[11][12][13]

Power concentration in large organizations, a fragmented, decreasingly private society and hyperreal environments where the virtual is indistinguishable from the real are the main topics of critics.[14] Several research groups and communities are investigating the socioeconomic, political and cultural aspects of ambient intelligence. New thinking on AmI distances itself therefore from some of the original characteristics such as adaptive and anticipatory behaviour and emphasizes empowerment and participation to place control in the hands of people instead of organizations.

Social and political aspects

The ISTAG advisory group suggests that the following characteristics will permit the societal acceptance of ambient intelligence.

AmI should...

  • facilitate human contact.
  • be oriented towards community and cultural enhancement.
  • help to build knowledge and skills for work, better quality of work, citizenship and consumer choice.
  • inspire trust and confidence.
  • be consistent with long term sustainability—personal, societal and environmental—and with lifelong learning.
  • be made easy to live with and controllable by ordinary people.

Business models

The ISTAG group acknowledges the following entry points to AmI business landscape:

  • Initial premium value niche markets in industrial, commercial or public applications where enhanced interfaces are needed to support human performance in fast moving or delicate situations.
  • Start-up and spin-off opportunities from identifying potential service requirements and putting the services together that meet these new needs.
  • High access-low entry cost based on a loss leadership model in order to create economies of scale (mass customization).
  • Audience or customer's attention economy as a basis for 'free' end-user services paid for by advertising or complementary services or goods.
  • Self-provision—based upon the network economies of very large user communities providing information as a gift or at near zero cost (e.g. social networking applications).
  • The combination of multiple and diverse datasets in a platform for sense-making and understanding consumer behaviour (e.g. Near).


A variety of technologies can be used to enable Ambient intelligence environments such as (Gasson & Warwick 2007):


This means of computing links all pieces of technology together. This also allows the device to have the capability to remember past requests.[15]

Uses in fiction

See also


  1. Arribas-Ayllon, Michael. "Ambient Intelligence: an innovation narrative".
  2. Aarts, Emile H. L.; Encarnação, José Luis (13 December 2006). True Visions: The Emergence of Ambient Intelligence. Springer. ISBN 9783540289746 via Google Books.
  3. Nolin, Jan; Olson, Nasrine (2016). "The Internet of Things and Convenience (PDF Download Available)". Internet Research. 26 (2): 360–376. doi:10.1108/IntR-03-2014-0082.
  4. "Ambient Intelligence Knowledge Center .:".
  5. Brian Epstein, Digital Living Room Conference Keynote 1998, (17 June 1998: revised script) accessed 14/12/17
  6. "Ambient Intelligence within a Home Environment". Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  7. Olson, Nasrine; Nolin, Jan; Nelhans, Gustaf (2015). "Semantic web, ubiquitous computing, or internet of things? A macro-analysis of scholarly publications". Journal of Documentation. 71 (5): 884–916. doi:10.1108/JD-03-2013-0033.
  8. Aarts, Emile H. L.; Encarnação, José Luis (13 December 2006). True Visions: The Emergence of Ambient Intelligence. Springer. ISBN 9783540289746 via Google Books.
  9. "MIT Project Oxygen". Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Retrieved 2012-06-27.
  10. "Fluid Interfaces Group". MIT Media Lab. Archived from the original on 2012-05-10. Retrieved 2012-06-27.
  11. Hildebrandt, Mireille; Koops, Bert-Jaap (2010). "The Challenges of Ambient Law and Legal Protection in the Profiling Era" (PDF). The Modern Law Review. 73 (3): 428–460. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2230.2010.00806.x. ISSN 0026-7961. JSTOR 40660735.
  12. Lopez, Mar; Pedraza, Juanita; Carbó, Javier; Molina, José (2014-06-04). "Ambient Intelligence: Applications and Privacy Policies". Highlights of Practical Applications of Heterogeneous Multi-Agent Systems. The PAAMS Collection. Communications in Computer and Information Science. 430. pp. 191–201. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-07767-3_18. hdl:10016/27593. ISBN 978-3-319-07766-6.
  13. Streitz, Norbert; Charitos, Dimitris; Kaptein, Maurits; Böhlen, Marc (2019-01-01). "Grand challenges for ambient intelligence and implications for design contexts and smart societies". Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments. 11 (1): 87–107. doi:10.3233/AIS-180507. ISSN 1876-1364.
  14. "No Ads on Orkut, but Come". ClickZ. 2007-10-08. Retrieved 2017-12-14.
  15. Raisinghani, Mahesh S.; Benoit, Ally; Ding, Jianchun; Gomez, Maria; Gupta, Kanak; Gusila, Victor; Power, Daniel; Schmedding, Oliver (2006-03-30). "Ambient Intelligence: Changing Forms of Human-Computer Interaction and their Social Implications". Journal of Digital Information. 5 (4). ISSN 1368-7506.

Sources and further reading

  • AMEA – Ambient Media Association – multidisciplinary association for developing an interdisciplinary viewpoint towards ambient media
  • Proceedings of the Semantic Ambient Media Workshop Series (iAMEA)
  • Eli Zelkha and Brian Epstein – first use and definition of ambient intelligence
  • Malcolm McCullough, Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing, MIT Press, 2005
  • X. Wang, J. S. Dong, C. Chin, S. R. Hettiarachchi and D. Zhang. Semantic Space: A Semantic Web Infrastructure for Smart Spaces. IEEE Pervasive Computing, 3(3):32-39, July–September 2004
  • B. Guo, D. Zhang, M.Imai. Towards a Cooperative Programming Framework for Context-Aware Applications. ACM/Springer Journal of Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, Vol. 15, No. 3, pp. 221–233, 2011.
  • Emile Aarts, Rick Harwig and Martin Schuurmans, chapter Ambient Intelligence in The Invisible Future: The Seamless Integration Of Technology Into Everyday Life, McGraw-Hill Companies, 2001
  • Emile Aarts, Stefano Marzano (editors), The New Everyday: Visions of Ambient Intelligence, 010 Publishers, 2003
  • Adam Greenfield, Everyware: The Dawning Age of Ubiquitous Computing, New Riders Publishing, 2006
  • Emile Aarts and José Encarnação, True Visions: The Emergence of Ambient Intelligence, Springer, 2006
  • Peter Morville, Ambient Findability: What We Find Changes Who We Become, O'Reilly Media, 2005
  • Nicholas Negroponte, Being Digital, Knopf, 1995
  • Donald Norman, The Design of Everyday Things, Basic Books, 2002
  • Tom Igoe and Dan O'sullivan. Physical Computing: Sensing and Controlling the Physical World with Computers, Course Technology PTR, 2004
  • Joseph Pine and James Gillmore, The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage, Harvard Business School Press, 1999
  • Bryon Reeves and Clifford Nass, The Media Equation: How People Treat Computers, Television, and New Media Like Real People and Places, University of Chicago Press, 1996
  • Mark Weiser, "The Computer for the Twenty-First Century," Scientific American, pp. 94–10, September 1991
  • Giuseppe Riva et al. Ambient Intelligence: The Evolution of Technology, Communication and Cognition towards the Future of Human-Computer Interaction, IOS, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2005
  • Tim Berners-Lee, Weaving the Web, Harper Collins, San Francisco CA, USA, 1999
  • Yang Cai and Juli Abascal (eds.), Ambient Intelligence in Everyday Life" Springer Lectures Notes in Computer Science (LNAI 3864), 2006
  • Yang Cai and Juli Abascal (eds.), Ambient Intelligence for Scientific Discovery: Foundations, Theories, and Systems, Springer Lectures Notes in Computer Science (LNCS 3345)
  • Dipak Surie, "Egocentric Interaction for Ambient Intelligence", PhD. Thesis, Dept. of Computing Science, Umeå University, Sweden, 2012.
  • Juan C. Augusto and Daniel Shapiro (Eds.). Advances in Ambient Intelligence. Volume 164, Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence and Applications (FAIA) series, IOS Press. 2007.
  • Mehul Bhatt and Hans Guesgen (Eds.). Proceedings of the 1st International Workshop on: Space, Time and Ambient Intelligence (STAMI 2009). Co-located with the Conference on Spatial Information Theory, 2009 (France). Also published within: Report Series of the Transregional Collaborative Research Center SFB/TR 8 Spatial Cognition, University of Bremen Bremen/ University of Freiburg. SFB/TR 8 Spatial Cognition Report No. 020-08/2009, Bremen, Germany STAMI 2009.
  • Jürgen Bohn e.a. Social, Economic and Ethical Implications of Ambient Intelligence and Ubiquitous Computing .
  • ISTAG Scenarios for Ambient Intelligence in 2010
  • ISTAG Ambient Intelligence: from vision to reality
  • JRC/IPTS-ESTO Healthcare Technologies Roadmapping
  • Ambient Intelligence blog – Blog about news on Ambient Intelligence, wireless sensor networks, and related topics (in Spanish)
  • – Website for Ambient Intelligence, e-Health, virtual reality and future technologies in healthcare
  • Architectradure – Weblog on architecture and design
  • awareIT – News blog about Ambient Intelligence, Ubiquitous Computing and intelligent devices.
  • Digital Experience – Blog on interaction and experience design.
  • Information Aesthetics – Weblog on information visualization
  • Pasta and Vinegar – Weblog about emerging technologies usage/research/ foresight
  • Putting People First – News on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
  • José Encarnação (Ed.) et al.: Ambient Intelligence – The New Paradigm for Computer Science and for Information Technology. Special Topic of Journal it – Information Technology, Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich. Vol.50(2008) Issue 1.
  • Wright, David, Serge Gutwirth, Michael Friedewald et al., Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence, Springer, Dordrecht, 2008.
  • Carlos Ramos, Juan Augusto, and Daniel Shapiro (Eds.). Special Issue on Ambient Intelligence. IEEE Intelligent Systems, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 15–18, Mar/Apr, 2008.
  • Juan C. Augusto, Daniel Shapiro and Hamid Aghajan (Eds.). Proceedings of the 3rd Workshop on Artificial Intelligence Techniques for Ambient Intelligence (AITAmI2008), Patras, Greece. 21st–22 July 2008. Co-located event of ECAI 2008.
  • Personal Environment Service – Network architecture for AmI, IEEE Proceedings of Vehicular Technology Conference 2006, VTC-2006 Fall.
  • The European ITEA 2 research project OSAMI (Open Source AMbient Intelligence)
  • Benkő, Attila and Cecilia, Lanyi Sik (2009). Ambient Intelligence in Multimeda and Virtual Reality Environments for the rehabilitation, Multimedia Techniques for Device and Ambient Intelligence, Springer US, pp. 165–177, ISBN 978-0-387-88777-7, DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-88777-7_7.
  • SAME Series – Semantic Ambient Media Series Workshop
  • STAMI Series – Space, Time and Ambient Intelligence (STAMI). International Workshop Series.
  • UCAmI '10 – Symposium of Ubiquitous Computing and Ambient Intelligence – UCAmI
  • HAI'09 – International Workshop on Human Aspects in Ambient Intelligence
  • AmI-07 – European Conference on Ambient Intelligence
  • COSIT-Space-AmI-09 – Workshop on "Spatial and Temporal Reasoning for Ambient Intelligence Systems"
  • Sensami – a congress on ambient intelligence.
  • AITAmI – Workshop on "Artificial Intelligence Techniques for Ambient Intelligence"
  • IJACI – The International Journal of Ambient Computing and Intelligence
  • JAISE – The International Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments. ISSN 1876-1364
  • AISE – Book Series on Ambient Intelligence and Smart Environments.
  • – Internet of Things : mainly based on Ambient intelligence
  • IE'09 – Intelligent Environments Conference 2009
  • AmI-11 – International Joint Conference on Ambient Intelligent 2011
  • AmI-12 – International Joint Conference on Ambient Intelligent 2012
  • Rethinking The Internet of Things Nature driven view of M2M cloud communications
  • AmI – International Joint Conferences on Ambient Intelligent
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