Since the early days of Ambient Intelligence I have been following at close range and with great curiosity the various developments and achievements that have been reported in the open literature on this novel paradigm for the disappearing computer. To obtain a proper feeling for the speed at which the AmI concept has been developing itself, I have been monitoring its Web presence over the past five years by registering on a monthly basis the number of hits Google returns upon the controlled search for the key words “Ambient Intelligence”. After a wavering start with a grand total of only a few hundred hits the number ramped up almost exponentially for a number of consecutive years. Since the beginning of 2006 the growth started to slow down to follow a more or less linear increase leading to current value of about 550,000 hits.
The incredible speedup of the AmI Web presence can be attributed to the publication of the seminal document by the Society and Technology Advisory Group's (ISTAG). It explains the AmI concept on the basis of four AmI scenarios and through this remarkably simple approach the issue attracted an enormous amount of attention. Furthermore, the European Commission follow up on the ISTAG research recommendations by launching the sixth Frame Work Programme in IST using the concept of Ambient Intelligence as its central research theme. This obviously has largely contributed to the enormous growth in the number of studies into the AmI concept.
Evidently, the evolution in the number of Google hits reflects the typical development of a novel paradigm such as Ambient Intelligence. After a conception phase in which the concept is being shaped by a small community of truly convicted early adopters it spreads rapidly to become a leading theme for a large and broad audience of researchers. After the hype the growth slows down again to normal proportions and this is also the phase in which the concept is judged on its true merits. It needs reflection to get rooted; it needs criticism to separate the wheat from the chaff, and it needs reinvention to become robust. It simply needs time to become truly meaningful. To a certain extent this also can be viewed as an existential phase as it reveals whether there is any substance to the concept at all and whether it is truly capable of inspiring researchers to come up with new ideas and glue them together to become a fully integrated disruptive computing paradigm that is meaningful to society providing its participants with maximum benefit.
The Second Workshop on Artificial Intelligence Techniques for Ambient Intelligence (AITAmI'07) has contributed to this purification process as it provided a critical forum for the discussion of the recent developments in the area. The present volume, which resulted from the workshop, does even more so contribute, as the editors have succeeded in compiling a most remarkable collection of chapters. Some chapters are extended version of the best papers presented at the workshop, others are high-quality invited contributions that provide critical reviews of specific developments. The chapters reflect a high scholarship and expertise of the contributing authors and the book is definitely a mandatory reading for anyone who is professionally active in this promising field of Ambient Intelligence.
It goes without saying that it is my strong belief that Ambient Intelligence will be become an influential new computing paradigm and I am confident that the present volume will contribute to the steady growth of the number of AmI Google hits as many other researchers will feel the need to refer to many of its most inspiring chapters.
Emile Aarts, Scientific Program Manager, Philips Research, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, August 2007