Mobile computing devices have changed the way we look at computing. Laptops and personal digital assistants (PDAs) have unchained us from our desktop computers. A group of researchers at AT&T Laboratories Cambridge are preparing to put a new spin on mobile computing. In addition to taking the hardware with you, they are designing a ubiquitous networking system that allows your program applications to follow you wherever you go.By using a small radio transmitter and a building full of special sensors, your desktop can be anywhere you are, not just at your workstation. At the press of a button, the computer closest to you in any room becomes your computer for as long as you need it. In addition to computers, the Cambridge researchers have designed the system to work for other devices, including phones and digital cameras. As we move closer to intelligent computers, they may begin to follow our every move.
The essence of mobile computing is that a user's applications are available, in a suitably adapted form, wherever that user goes. Within a richly equipped networked environment such as a modern office the user need not carry any equipment around; the user-interfaces of the applications themselves can follow the user as they move, using the equipment and networking resources available. We call these applications Follow-me applications.Typically, a context-aware application needs to know the location of users and equipment, and the capabilities of the equipment and networking infrastructure. In this paper we describe a sensor-driven, or sentient, computing platform that collects environmental data, and presents that data in a form suitable for context-aware applications.