The Age of Context

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Context. The locus of your immediate environment. For a long time, computers and the data they house have been small passive elements of our context. In the old “pull” model, users had to think to go to a computer, sit down at them, “dial in” to the internet with a special phone number and password, type in a URL, and wait to consume the content therein. The only data services had about their users were cookies alluding to users’ trail of activity on the internet of URLs, at best.

How things have changed. Today, we are losing track of which devices are even connected in our environment – your laptop, smartphone, TV, speakers, watch, lights, garage door – even your toothbrush are now connected to the internet. These devices aren’t connected so you can turn on your Oral-B with an app – that would be stupid, which is why many people’s first reaction to the proliferation of connectivity into everyday objects is laughter. But a toothbrush that communicates detailed usage information to dentist offices and researchers to predict disease, optimize product design, and enable previously unimagined demographic research isn’t stupid, it’s a game changer. And that’s just toothbrushes.

Our immediate surroundings are increasingly filled with intelligent, connected devices that provide unprecedented information about us to anyone listening. The pull model of user interaction is being supplanted by the notification-centric push paradigm of notification streams. Robert Scoble and Shel Israel called this new paradigm the Age of Context; their observations and predictions have been echoed by many in the tech community. Cheap, proliferate connected sensors in our environments are churning out monolithic stores of data about us. This truly large abundance of Big Data is the oxygen to the burgeoning artificial intelligence renaissance, and it’s only going to accelerate at a faster and faster pace as these self-reinforcing network effects continue to compound. The Age of Context is upon us.

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