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.