About a week before the official release, I managed to snag a review copy of Age Of Context (Amazon), the new book of prolific tech reporter, Robert Scoble, and long time business reporter, Shel Israel. In less than 300 pages, they are able to paint the picture of a wicked world that is vastly different from what we experience today.
They start by describing the convergence of five forces: mobile, social media, sensors, big data and location. Put together, these hold five forces foster the growth of a new reality where applications and technology can fulfill a promise of personalized experiences on an unprecedented level. By using someone’s context, basically the situation a person finds himself in, it becomes possible for this new generation of technologies to tailor themselves to our lives and lifestyles.
Throughout the book, they lavishly illustrate their story with descriptions of how these new developments either help realize any of the five forces, or have the possibility to enhance our lives. Notable examples include Google Glass, the context-aware home and self-driving cars, which receive entire chapters of discussion, all of which I’d personally like to see in my life sooner rather than later. Especially this sooner part is eye-opening, as many of the technologies in the book are currently being worked on already. The Jini contextualization platform, for instance, aims to kickstart the appearance of context-awareness in many different apps and applications.
Additionally, Scoble and Israel regularly return to concerns regarding privacy and data usage. They correctly foresee the potentially debilitating effect that bad or missing legislation and mistreatment of data by organizations might have on the growing momentum of contextualization. Nonetheless, I share their hopefulness that the combination of transparency in data usage and the potential of these novel context-aware user experiences will help drive an effort to address any privacy concerns.
In short, after reading the book, I am convinced that the Age Of Context is actually already here. It really started a couple years ago and is just now picking up steam. If anything, I’d wager that the timeline predictions made in the book, even when made by two tuned-in reporters, will prove to be too safe and conservative. Technology has the tendency to break barriers where we least expect it sometimes.