Context-Aware Computing


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

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