Five forces of a fantastic future

Monday, 5 May 2014 - 9:00am IST | Agency: dna

The technology of tomorrow will be aware of its context using sensors, data and location, says a new book that gives readers a tantalising glimpse into the future. Krishna Bahirwani finds it exciting and maybe a little scary too

What is the technology of tomorrow and how will it affect our lives? For all those looking for answers, The Age of Context is a definite read. Authors Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, who predicted what blogs could mean for businesses back in 2006 in their book Naked Conversations, already have a reputation for delivering on the future. And they don't fail this time either.

The future of technology as revealed by the book makes you excited and scared at the same time. It gives you a picture of how innovation and technology will reshape our future and how we must adapt. Scoble and Israel want to show readers what comes next and not what has already happened. It's a worldwide innovation they describe as the "perfect storm of five forces"– Mobile, Social, Data, Sensors and Location.

The increasing connect with devices is causing a new kind of technology to emerge at the epicentre of lives. This technology is aware of its context or surroundings using sensors, data and location. This is the idea of context based computing. This book helps us understand this better.

The first of these five forces, Mobile, for instance, is taking new forms called wearable technology. Google Glass, which is taking the world by storm, is the most prominent. But wearable technology is also being seen elsewhere, from fitness trackers to smart watches.

The second, Social Networking, is not something people are just beginning to use, of course, but we will see a stream of personal data transforming our web experience by giving personalised content.

The third, Big Data. Today almost all of our life is online. Who we speak to, who our friends are, what our interests are and even things like who we crush on is all online. This generates petabytes of data which is being analyzed for all sorts of purposes right from social research to law enforcement.

Fourth comes Sensors, There has been an explosion of growth in the usage of Sensors and this is just the beginning. Sensors can track anything from motion to air quality. But the way sensors are used is evolving. Sensor fusion is a technology that takes information from disparate sources to come up with data you can depend on.
Finally, there is location, without Location there is no context and location data doubles every 18 months thanks to the data we generate using services like Foursquare and Google Maps.

The biggest thing in technology right is Big Data. Never in history has it been so cheap to store so much data. Never have we had the ability to analyse petabytes of data. All that has changed and it is opening new doorways in terms of asking difficult questions and making breakthrough discoveries in fields like genomics, health and business. The book lets you know that corporations are going to have access to your data, and that data can benefit you. But you always have the right to choose if you believe your data is going to somebody who might not be quite as altruistic as you would want them to be. This book also discusses how we consciously or unconsciously give up more and more data on a daily basis.

Age of Context is not just a manual on technology. It paints a picture of how the world around us is -- privacy no longer exists in the way we use technology. The authors say it might not be such a bad thing. They present the viewpoint that "the more technology knows about you the more benefits you will receive". In a way, companies now have to care about each of their customers in a way that they never did before. Personalized Marketing and Adaptive Education show this more than anything else. The future is about you.

Companies must and individuals must prepare themselves for the coming Age of Context. This book can be their perfect handbook for this age. Businesses can learn a lot from the technology presented in this book and using it can benefit them in more ways than one. Individuals can learn what is coming and prepare accordingly. Overall it's a fun read with simple language and interesting stories from Silicon Valley.

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