The industry news has reiterated it endlessly: The future of technology is mobile. Gartner’s report that smartphone sales topped one billion units last year bears that out. And with wearable devices and tiny smart devices popping up everywhere, the Internet of Things only proves that tech is going more and more mobile.
So it was a bit surprising when this month’s 2015 Technology Expo in London proclaimed “the future of technology isn’t mobile, it’s contextual.”
How can that be?
Putting contextual in context
We’re all familiar with contextual advertising. It can be low-tech, like placing gum at a grocery checkout or a billboard near a competitor’s showroom. A higher-tech version is Google Ads, comparing keywords on your webpage against a vast catalog of goods and services – to present an ad you’re likely to click. Or so they hope.
But people are moving farther and faster from their desktop computer. That’s where mobile contextual technology comes in, which includes location and proximity services. It also includes crunching context data, like past activities, searches and social media comments. It’s no longer just what the user is browsing now. It’s from where they are looking, what they are (and have been) doing, and with whom – and predicting what they’ll want to do next.
Without mobile technology at the heart of it, though, there would be little need for location services. And without location services, there is no context. So if mobile isn’t the future, it certainly enables the future.
The future of mobile applications is contextual – and growing
According to Juniper Research, the market for context and location-based services will more than triple in the next five years, reaching $43.3 billion by 2019. The lion share of that market will be driven by ad-supported, contextually-aware mobile apps. These include social media apps, which can combine location data with advanced user psychographics, to fine-tune the ads for specific audiences.
We’re already using mobile apps to recommend restaurants, based on the direction we’re traveling down the freeway – and based on past spending and cuisine choices. These are useful to us as mobile users, yes. But they also drive revenue for businesses that pay the app developer to run their ads.
There will be plenty more apps, both private and commercial, that aim to increase operational efficiency in the enterprise. Companies like UPS and Fedex are visible examples of just how mobile information tracking can help businesses maintain a competitive edge.
Don’t forget the Internet of Things
It isn’t just about apps running inside our smartphones, either. The Internet of Things (IoT) is all about context, too. With billions of tiny devices added over the same five-year period, IoT presents developers and marketers greater opportunities than simple location-based apps.
From a consumer side, these tiny sensors can detect our presence – via our phone or watch – in a particular retail aisle. The app can alert us to today’s special on salmon fillets – and recommend a recipe whose ingredients are conveniently nearby on Aisle 4B. It can even detect we need assistance and signal store personnel, if we stand still too long.
Business and logistics applications will also explode, from location tracking of a particular refrigerated truck to the temperature in the cargo holds of trucks and planes. The possibilities are endless, and they are mobile and contextual.
Infrastructure in a mobile context
So it’s not that mobile is no longer the future of tech. It’s just that contextual technology will make mobile even more powerful. Location- and context-aware apps and a plethora of IoT devices will create booming business opportunities.
If your company’s mobile strategy includes contextual awareness – either for your customers or your employees – your infrastructure must also become mobile aware. Handling the data from contextual devices will increase the demands on your network, computing and storage resources. It’s best to plan ahead, so your future IT services and planning stay in context.
Are you planning to take advantage of contextual technologies? Is your IT infrastructure ready to handle it? Let us hear about it in the Comments section.