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Brief background

Ambient Intelligence (AmI) is a development of Information Communication Technology which seamlessly integrates intelligent devices into the environment. If the current visions of Ambient Intelligence come true, then we will move to an age where we equip our entire environment with the ability to ‘think’ on its own and to make ‘smart’ decisions for us. The aim of the Ambient Intelligence (AmI) environment is to provide a context aware system, using unobtrusive computing devices, which will improve the quality of people’s lives by acknowledging their needs, requirements and preferences and thus acting in some way on their behalf.

The concept of AmI obviously refers to something that is more than just science fiction, but it is still unclear to what extent it indicates an already unfolding reality. Although it is impossible to predict if and in particular how this evolution towards AmI will take place, we can see many emerging technologies, supported by standardisation, social acceptance and legal frameworks, which could facilitate AmI. The decrease in cost of these emerging technologies as well as the emergence of customers that are willing to pay for the services that can be provided seems to increase the likelihood that at least some kind of AmI practices will surface. Besides these supporting and enabling technologies, techniques of user modelling and profiling are already widely-spread, providing customers with enhanced, personalised and customised services (e.g. Amazon’s customised suggested purchases or customisation of financial offers such as insurance quotes). Equally, there seems to be a smooth connection between targeted advertising, location based services and ambient intelligence.


Aml Scenario I
Having planned their wedding some 12 months earlier, the Craggs are on honeymoon for two weeks in Crete. This, due to circumstance, coincides with the imminent delivery of their first child whose announcement came as a ‘happy surprise’ some months earlier.
Aml Scenario II


The technical issues relating to the actual implementation and thus realisation of Ambient Intelligence (AmI) environments are immense, and in most cases tangible solutions to technical related problems are still yet to be found. This situation leads to some interesting points of debate on technical, legal and wider societal levels. There is little doubt that AmI will emerge somehow, somewhere in the future, but what form it will take is an open issue. The first scenario as presented shows that the AmI infrastructure works to enhance and facilitate the users, but ultimately with the user in charge. The second scenario shows that user control might not always be guaranteed. The interaction between incompatible systems might have unforeseen consequences for users. The autonomy of individuals might be seriously hampered by such developments, especially since in many cases the functioning of the systems will not be transparent and largely uncontrollable for the user. 

It is evident that one of the main objectives of AmI is to meet user needs, and it is for that reason that profiling activity needs to exist within it. Profiling activity is a continuous background activity and consists of extracting the useful information from current context related to the user (user location, user preferences, user behaviour, actions and wishes), identifying the users’ needs, selecting suitable services and adjusting the parameters of the selected services in order to allow the AmI environment to behave according to the users’ preferences, actions and expectations. Consequently, profiling activity is essential (and also justifies the need) to achieve an aware, adaptive and responsive environment and, in turn, to meet user needs and wishes. Although the technical issues of implementing AmI are quite apparent, the core principles of the data protection framework, notably data minimisation, purpose specification, informed consent, and proportionality, are not always easy to simply apply on Ambient Intelligence systems and environments. The continuous and sometimes even unnoticed collection and processing of personal data in AmI pose new challenges for the existing legal framework on data protection. The vision of AmI introduces new ways of how the practices of law and the practices of technological design interact and how to mutually transform both in order to ensure a sustainable alliance.

The area of AmI has been extensively explored by the FIDIS NoE from the perspective of various disciplines. The fundamental enabling technologies which may form key parts of the AmI infrastructure have been discussed in D12.2: ‘Study on Emerging AmI Technologies’, D11.2: ‘Mobility and Location Based Services’, D3.10: ‘Biometrics in identity management’ and D7.3: ‘Report on Actual and Possible Profiling Techniques in the Field of Ambient Intelligence’. Further to this, the very pertinent legal issues which need addressing, and the possible routes through which they may be addressed have been highlighted in D7.9: ‘A Vision of Ambient Law’, while solutions to the inherent security and privacy issues have been further developed in D7.7: ‘RFID, Profiling, and AmI’ and D12.3: ‘A Holistic Privacy Framework for RFID Applications’.