Context Aware Computing. That's the heading of one of the sections of Gartner's recently released Top Predictions for IT Organizations and Users, 2010 and Beyond. I'd never heard this term before but apparently it's well-studied in Computer Science. It deals with computer systems that are aware of the user's operating environment, whether that be their location, their identity, what they're doing, what time it is, etc. According to Gartner analysts Nick Jones and William Clark, and I'm with them on this one, it "is about to have a transformational effect on business." There are two technology trends that are converging to make this an enormous growth area: smartphones and cloud computing. In this same Gartner report, smartphones will overtake PCs as the primary web access device by 2013. And I think it might even happen sooner than that (I'll go out on a limb and say latter half of 2011).
In the document, the analysts compare context awareness to search, in that it's a keystone around which information is organized, though they say it differs from search in that it will be used to push information to users (while users pull information via search). I think this is all right on, and very exciting to watch. Now that all these sites have so much data about our habits, our networks, and now our locations, the next step is for them to deliver relevant information to us based on contextual analysis of this data.
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