• By Sin Mei C
  • October 18, 2013

This Week in Context (20131018)

Lots of inspiring news this week in the areas of the internet of things, smartphone sensors and contextualization: the coming of open-source car entertainment systems, a context-aware launcher, and people don’t mind companies using behavioural data (that much).

There’s some great news for us too, as our data architect David is now finally (#cancelledflight) half-way to Sydney, where he’ll speak at ISWC2013 on semantic technologies supercharging the Jini platform for context-aware applications, and I’m almost off to London to attend AppsWorld Europe and London Web Standard’s Modern, Progressive enhancement + Online identity (#lwsprogid) event. If you are visiting any of these events, spot David or me, and want to talk context, please do say helloWe respond to tweets directed at @dafmetal and @vintfalken, respectively

And now the news round-up:

  • The mobile cookie, aka Stanford researchers discover ‘alarming’ method for phone tracking, fingerprinting through sensor flaws
    Scientists have found a way to unique identify mobile phone by the ‘in-accurateness’ of the device’s sensor readings. Every accelerometer is predictably imperfect, and slight differences in the readings can be used to produce a fingerprint and identify a smart phone.  Identification is also possible through microphone and speaker, and there also for each device a unique frequency response curve can be generated. Marketers (or government institutions, as the focus has been on these lately) could use the ID the same way they use cookies to identify a particular user, monitor their online actions and target ads accordingly.
  • ‘Aviate is a context-aware homescreen replacement meant to bring Android into the future’ on PandoDaily (#ProTip: Check for privacy issue fix before installing!) 
    Launched this week in private beta is the sleek looking and useful launcher Aviate, which tailors your Android’s home screen to the location you’re at, and gives you easy access to the apps and smartphone functions you’re most likely to need in that situation. For example your Calendar and adding events when you’re at work, directions to home/work & navigation apps if you’re on the road, and weather and alarm clock when you’re at home. The launcher is definitely worth giving it a try, as soon as they’ve resolved a privacy issue that exposes your location and app usage to whomever has your device ID. ThumbsUp Lab has a really cool product with this, but it’s a shame they did not realize that whenever dealing with a user’s ‘context’ (thus personal data), privacy and security should be a number one priority.
  • InMobi Launches New Ad Formats that Deliver up to 10 Times Higher Interaction Rate
    In a press release, InMobi has announced that they’ll be using ‘context’ as a way to severely increase interaction rate. Examples they give are building recall of sporting apparel brands by associating its products with live soccer score feeds; taking local temperature conditions into account to allow a coffee chain brand to either promote hot or iced coffee, and the by now default ‘contextual advertising’ based on location. Give it a few more years, and a little addition of the internet of things, and that coffee brand even knows if it is feasible at all to suggest I have coffee, depending on how many coffees my personal digital barrista already served me. 😉 Which brings me to..
  • .. over 43% of consumers globally being supportive of brands using online behavioural data for marketing if it improves their online experience.
    And I’d like to stress the latter. And add ‘offline’ too. I don’t mind sharing (certain) personal data, as long as there is openness about what it is used for and who has access. Because let us not forget, this study by Wave 7 (find it here on DropBox) also reports that almost 70% of global consumers registered concern about the amount of personal data generated online.  Of course, there must be balanced value in the data for better experience deals as well. Take for example Volkswagen, they no longer just sell me a car, they sell me the service of getting from A to B (whilst enjoying my recently discovered option: seat heating). If they are able to make that service better (a more advanced warning when it’s time to change my tires, pre-heating my seat the moment I leave the house) or cheaper (for example, decreased fuel usage), they can have a go at my personal ‘offline’ data. Speaking about automobiles…
  • … finally, your car is about to go open source!
    Automakers want to standardize on a Linux-based OS that would make vehicle infotainment systems act more like smartphones. Currently, in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) systems have limited functionality as most of the car manufacturers use proprietary software to power their IVIs, meaning car-based apps are also proprietary, and need to be developed separately for each brand or consortium. A shared, open-source IVI operating system would benefit carmakers as they would jointly fund development, but also third-party app developers, as they could now supply apps that work on all systems. But then how would Audi differentiate its IVI from that of Skoda? They would still have proprietary user interfaces on top, a bit like an HTC blend of Android, vs the Samsung version, vs stock.

I’ll leave you with some fascinating thoughts by Jaron Lanier on the future of the personal data market, nicely summarized on the Sogeti blog by Erik Van Ommeren: .. but an answer I’ve been exploring is an old model, discussed in the sixties by Ted Nelson (Harvard). In this model, you keep track of where bits originated in an online system. Then you pay people in micropayments based on what data is valuable. It creates a more balanced system that is sustainable. It could create a big data driven society with a high degrees of automation and still a high employment.”

Do you have news related to context-aware machinery & machinations, quantified self or the Internet of Things you want me to mention in next week’s This Week in Context? Tweet it @getjini, or share with us on Google+.

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