Note: The Ubiquitous Computing Grand Challenge work is now being led from Nottingham University EPSRC funded Building a Community Project

Ubiquitous Computing Grand Challenge: Introduction


There is burgeoning population of 'effectively invisible' computers around us, embedded in the fabric of our homes, shops, vehicles, farms and some even in our bodies. They are invisible in that they are part of the environment and we can interact with them as we go about our normal activities. However they can range in size from large Plasma displays on the walls of buildings to microchips implanted in the human body. They help us command, control, communicate, do business, travel and entertain ourselves, and these 'invisible' computers are far more numerous than their desktop cousins. How many computers will you be using, wearing, or have installed in your body, in 2020? How many other computers will they be talking to? What will they be saying about you, doing for you, or to you? By that time computers will be ubiquitous and globally connected. Shall we be able to manage such large-scale systems, or even understand them? How do people interact with them and how does this new pervasive technology affect society? How can non-computing people configure and control them? What tools are needed for design and analysis of these constantly adapting and evolving systems? What theories will help us to understand their behaviour?

These are the sort of issues which make Ubiquitous Computing a Grand Challenge; join us in addressing them.

The Ubiquitous Computing Grand Challenge (UbicompGC) is one of the 6 UKCRC Grand Challenges.  It was formed by merging  two of the original Grand Challenges  GC2 "Science for global ubiquitous computing" which focused on theory and GC4 "Scalable ubiquitous computing systems" which focused on engineering aspects.  UbicompGC is formulating a research manifesto which postulates the need for combined Science (theory) as well as addressing the Engineering and Social issues related to building Ubiquitous Systems. So far, most research in the UK and elsewhere has focussed on the Engineering with very little attention on the theory required to underpin the design and analysis of ubiquitous systems which are intrinsically large-scale and complex. Some of the work in the Equator project  has addressed social aspects and how people will interact with Ubiquitous Systems.  The overview page summarises the goals of the challenge.

Background information on the Grand Challenges together with a report describing each of the challenges can be found on the UKCRC Grand Challenges site. We intend to hold a mini-workshop as part of the Grand Challenges Conference in Glasgow 22-24 March 2006. 

UbicompGC activities are currently being promoted by the EPSRC funded UK-UbiNet Network grant  which predated UbiCompGC and runs from April 2003 - March 2006.  The Ubicomp steering committee are all members of the UK-UbiNet management committees.  See the UK-UbiNet for information on UK and worldwide activities on ubiquitous computing, workshops organised which addressed the issues raised by the UbiCompGC research manifesto, future workshops and information on events and conferences.  

We welcome discussion of all aspects of UbicompGC. For this purpose, please subscribe to the UbicompGC email list. We especially invite discussion on the final draft of the UbicompGC manifesto, which we aim to finalise by 1 September 2005.

There will be a sequence of evolving Annexes to the manifesto, including descriptions of "foothill projects", also published for discussion with the manifesto. Two threads of discussion, called 'Manifesto' and 'Foothills', have been created for these discussions.

More generally, wide-ranging discussion will greatly help the steering committee in building a community around the Grand Challenge, and in coordinating its activity.

UbicompGC Steering Committee

  1. Prof. Morris Sloman, Department of Computing, Imperial College London (Chairman)
  2. Dr. Dan Chalmers, Informatics, University of Sussex
  3. Prof. Jon Crowcroft, Computer Laboratory University of Cambridge
  4. Prof. Marta Kwiatkowska, School of Computer Science, University of Birmingham
  5. Prof. Robin Milner, Computer Laboratory University of Cambridge
  6. Prof. Tom Rodden,  Computer Science and IT, University of Nottingham
  7. Prof. Vladimiro Sassone, Informatics, University of Sussex