Posts Tagged ‘context aware computing’

The new King is “Context”

July 12, 2010

It’s good to be one of the first to have an opinion on a fast-developing scene. At the turn of the year, I offered my thoughts on context-aware computing (CAC), an area of technological development that is beginning to be hyped as the next big thing in IT.

 I had an early stab at a definition in that blog posting, saying CAC is associated to the concept that technology can sense, and then react to, the environment. Since then, the cacophony of hype surrounding CAC has continued to swell. 

 Analyst Gartner has continued to develop its thought leadership in the area. Leading publications have also started to write at-length about CAC, including a Computer Business Review feature that drew on my experiences and feelings.

 In that article, I offered an opinion that I will develop below – that context-aware computing, which is closely related to location-based services, can help with the creation of a single user experience. Sounds great, but at the moment the technology is not ready for such a giant leap.

 Location-based services (LBS) are the popular, media-friendly side of CAC. Users of Twitter and Google will be well aware of the proliferation of data feeds and apps, such as Foursquare, that provide information in relation to a user’s location.

 Smart firms are beginning to think about how they can use LBS to push relevant offers and opportunities. So, as you hit a certain part of a town, a restaurant chain or coffee shop could push special deals to your mobile device.

 Gartner predicts the LBS user base will grow globally from 96 million in 2009 to more than 526 million in 2012. For business, then, LBS is an area well worth exploring.

 Being able to target the customer at the right time is a tempting concept; what company wouldn’t want to increase customer loyalty through increased collaboration? But there’s a snag – and that’s where true CAC comes in.

 The key word is context. More than just being about location-based services and presence on mobile devices, true CAC is social – it understands you, your needs, and relates those desires to time and location. The right information/offer, at the right time, in the right place, on the right device !

 Train delays are automatically connected to your morning alarm; offers at your popular lunchtime haunts are pushed to your mobile location; and nearby friends are identified for a post-work pint. True context-aware computing, therefore, is about the provision of many different types of information on any device.

 There’s a lot of room for innovation and businesses must spend more time analysing the potential of CAC, rather than the hyped area of mobile apps. Context, after all, is much more powerful.

In the online world I expect Context to usurp Content as the next King.

Further Reading:


Context-Aware Computing

March 24, 2010

2009 was the year of cloud computing, but what will dominate business technology in 2010?

 Social media will continue to be pushed, as will related areas like customer engagement and personalisation. But there’s always an area that develops quickly and catches the media unaware.

 I’m going to take an early stab at a fast-emerging area known as context-aware computing (CAC). In its broadest sense, CAC deals with the concept that technology can sense, and then react to, the environment.

 The area has received significant research interest since the mid-1990s but is beginning to gain traction as a potentially significant area for business computing. Gartner, often a barometer for hype in technology, has already started to looking at CAC.

 In September 2009, the analyst stated that businesses could use CAC to target prospects, increase intimacy and enhance collaboration. Gartner defines context-aware computing as using information about the user to improve the quality of an interaction.

 The analyst expects CAC to develop quickly. The typical blue-chip company will manage between two and 10 business relationships with context providers by 2012, and context will be as influential in mobile consumer services and relationships as search engines are to the web by 2015.

 The figures sound impressive, but what do they actually mean? Rather than hype, what companies really needs is clear implications. Cloud computing, for example, is expected to have a huge impact on UK plc, but the majority of firms are still hanging back and waiting to see how the concept might be realised in business.

 If implications are not clear, CAC could quickly become the latest technology that is hyped before its problem-solving potential is properly defined.  What we don’t need is yet another technology looking for a problem; what we do need is an idea of how CAC might be exploited.

 Gartner suggests emerging context-enriched services will use location, presence and social attributes to anticipate an end user’s immediate needs, offering more-sophisticated and usable functions.

 Such definitions make CAC seem like the next generation of location-based services. I would hope context services will offer much more than that, helping firms to collate client information – such as areas of specialism and customer preferences – to create a much more personalised service.

 What is sure in this fast-developing area is that context, not just content, will be king during the next decade. And you would be well advised to think about how customer information can be used to help serve your clients better.

Further reading