Context Awareness Gets Real

 
 
By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2012-01-11
 
 
 

Over the last few years, location-based services—mostly available through smartphones—have led to new and more powerful capabilities in areas as diverse as weather forecasting and product marketing. The technology is rapidly changing the way businesses and consumers view and access data as well as how they interact with it.

What makes location-based capabilities so popular—and valuable—is the ability to put information in context. For example, the system might assess that a person is in proximity to a store and that she has recently exchanged messages in a social media stream about needing winter gloves or buying a car. A store or a dealership might then send a coupon or promotion.

The value of context: More targeted, efficient and less costly communications.

However, today’s systems remain in the nascent stages. An emerging IT revolution revolves around context-aware systems that can, among other things, adapt interfaces to the specific needs of a user and deliver highly targeted information—including marketing and advertising—from businesses.

Context-aware computing blends information from mobile, social, digital, and physical world sources, Clark says. Using more advanced data analytics and mapping capabilities, businesses will be able to use location and other data to “redefine how consumers search for and pay for products and services.” This will present a new set of opportunities—and change fundamental business strategies—for financial service providers, consumer packaged goods companies and retailers.

In addition, firms in transportation, utilities, energy and healthcare stand to gain considerable efficiency from context-aware computing through the use of presence-enhanced apps.

“The disruptions caused by context-aware computing will include major user, technology and business shifts,” Gartner analyst William Clark reports. The consulting firm predicts that Context-Aware Computing will begin to significantly influence consumer-facing and security strategies in 2012. The latter also includes fraud detection and prevention. By 2015, Gartner says that context-aware technologies will influence $96 billion in annual consumer spending.

“Enterprises can leverage context-aware computing to better target and deliver on the promise of increased customer intimacy for millions of consumers,” Clark notes. “The timing of investment in context-aware computing will be critical. Organizations that do not prepare for thoughtful information sharing—balancing usage, privacy and business models of consumers, context providers, and the enterprises themselves—will be at a severe disadvantage.”