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The next big leap: Location Aware Smart Devices >> Context Aware Smart Devices

Information about an end user’s environment and preferences to improve the quality of interaction with that end user forms the basis of Context Aware Computing.

Three important aspects of context are:

  • Where you are
  • Who you are with
  • What resources are nearby

Context-aware in contrast with Location-aware includes nearby people, devices, lighting, noise level, network availability and even the social situation like whether you are with your family or a friend.

Consumers today go to an app and search for restaurants nearby or by cuisine and price. A context-aware device would have a similar feature that would know what restaurants you have picked in the past, if you liked the food and then make suggestions for restaurants nearby based on those preferences. Additionally, it would be integrated into maps and other programs on the device.

Context-aware computing is intended to revolutionize how we interact with our devices. Future devices will learn about you, your location, where you are going to, know what you want and would also know your likes and dislikes.

Researchers have been working for more than two decades on making computers be more in tune with their users. That means computers would sense and react to the environment around them. Done right, such devices would be so in sync with their owners that the former will feel like a natural extension of the latter.

Making this possible on PCs has proved to be challenging, however, the rise of smartphones and GPS-powered personal devices could change that.

The next step is smarter sensors. Today, while smartphones come equipped with accelerometers and digital compasses, the data gathered from these sensors is used only for extremely basic applications.

Overall, context-aware devices will have to use a combination of “hard-sensing,” or raw physical data about a user (such as where you are), and “soft-sensing” information about the user, such as preferences and social networks, to anticipate needs and make recommendations. This creates the cognitive framework for managing context. On the hardware side, context-aware computing will call for extremely energy-efficient sensors and devices. There is a need to keep the sensory aspects on them up and running at all times and do it at minimum power.

So far, context-aware computing hasn’t found commercial success. But as phones get smarter and tablets become popular, users will have a device where apps disappear and become part of the gadget’s intelligence.

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