Efficient computer support of product innovation processes has become an important issue of industrial competitiveness in the last forty years. As a consequence, there has been a growing demand for new computer-based tools and system. Various hardware, software and knowledge technologies have been used over the years as the basis of design support systems. With the appearance of network technologies, the conventional standalone workstation paradigm has been replaced by the paradigm of web-interconnected collaborative environments. Currently, the emerging and rapidly proliferating mobile and ubiquitous computing technologies create a technological push again. These technologies force us to reconsider not only the digital information processing devices and their interconnection, but also the way of obtaining, processing and communicating product design information. Many researches and laboratories are engaged with the development of novel concepts, architectures, tools and methods for next-generation design support environments. They will integrate many resources of the current collaborative design environments with pervasive computing functionality and large-scale mobility in a volatile manner. Part of the design support tools will have fixed location, but will be remotely accessible through wireless networks. Other part of the tools will be moving with the designers as portable, embedded, wearable and transferable devices, and will feature ad hoc connectivity. These not only offer new ways for aggregation, processing and presentation of design information, but also enable alternative ways of completing design activities. Our current research concentrates on three interrelated main issues: (i) studying workflow scenarios for future design support environment, (ii) investigation and integration of multiple technologies into an ad hoc interconnected heterogeneous infrastructure, and (iii) exploring efficient methods for utilizing new affordances in supporting product innovation. In this paper we report on the results of our recent technology study that analyzed the current results and trends of ubiquitous technology development, and tried to form a vision about the possible manifestation of future ubiquitous design support environments. Essentially, they have been conceptualized as ad hoc and volatile networks of fixed and mobile information collection, processing and communication units. This network functions as a complex service provider system, with special attention to the on-demand information management in the fuzzy front end of design projects.

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