Robert Scoble and Shel Israel don’t predict the future in their new book The Age of Context, released this week. They show us how five existing technologies (they call them “forces”) are converging to bring us the next wave in the web. It’s no surprise more change is ahead of us. The internet is only a baby, after all.
We can choose to react, or we can accept it. Facebook updates their interface and everyone freaks out. iPhone releases iOS7 and again, we complain. Inherently, we don’t like change. But this, my friends, is no Facebook update. And it will affect everyone; not only marketers.
Here are the five technologies, each providing layers of data that come together and give consumers hyper-personalized service and products.
- Mobile: There are more cellphones than people in the world. But we’re not just talking about smartphones and tablets here. Wearables such as Google glass will become more mainstream. It’s already happening in the fitness industry. People already are, and will continue to be more connected wherever they are.
- Social Media: It goes without saying social is everywhere. It is the underlying theme that connects and engages us all.
- Data: The amount of data available to businesses is now verging on overwhelming if they don’t have the resources to properly analyze, correlate and execute programs based on what they gather.
- Sensors: Sensors measure and report things. They understand behavior and proximity. They warn us of things like tsunamis and hurricanes. They warn of disease and heart problems. Sensors in our iPhones know when to turn the screen sideways. They detect bluetooth and wifi. Now, sensors enable stores to know when loyal customers have arrived. Sensors in your car and in your phone will be able to “testify against you” if you are a criminal.
- Location: The app Foursquare was one of the first to allow you to check in to locations and see where your friends are. Now, location is part of many apps we use to find a reputed business nearby or friends such as Yelp, Facebook, Google Maps. “Without location, there is no context,” said Caterina Fake, CEO of Findery.
All these data – location, activity, intention, networks – are coming together to give brands better insight into how to serve you. The five “forces” converged provide context, allowing some really cool (and some really creepy) things.
The Cool of Context
The other evening I sat down with a group of friends for a glass of wine and the waiter whom (I’m ashamed to admit) I didn’t recognize, offered a suggested glass of wine they now have on their list: “I thought you’d like it because you liked the A to Z Pinot Noir.” I beamed. It made me so happy he recognized me and knew what I’d like, saving me from having to look through the list and make a decision.
The Age of Context means this kind of thing can now be bottled up and sold. So when you go to the stadium as a season passholder, you might have your preferred beer waiting for you and you might be informed when the restroom lines nearest you have simmered down. Department stores will have the ability to understand what you’re doing when you’re in their store. They can make suggestions and offers via text message. They’ll tell you when your favorite items are on sale. Ski resorts have the ability to know where you are on the mountain and how far off you are from coming in for your usual hot toddy. They’ll have it ready for you when you walk in.
You’ll be able to turn off the stove in your home remotely. Your windows and mirrors will become computer screens. Doctors will know if you’ve followed their instructions or not. Cars will become driverless.
The Creepy of Context
For all this goodness comes a price, and a component of creepiness.
Future generations will become accustomed to a different sense of privacy than we have been used to. The nature of the environment will drive that shift. Robert and Shel and Israel discuss the possible pitfalls in privacy with the understanding that there are some major issues to resolve. One example: Google will notify friends in your relevant circles of your flight delay sending the new details. What if you’re connected with someone you only know peripherally, and they now have your travel plans? Certainly, safety issues come into play. There will be some bumps along the road, there is no doubt.
I’ve only scratched the surface here with a focus on how context will affect marketing. The book covers far more such as many new and very cool emerging technologies and how it will shift trends and behavior in urban development, health care, and the home.
From a marketing standpoint, those brands who don’t pay attention will fail because customer expectation is about to go through the roof. From a research and development perspective, I can only imagine the possibilities. We have a lot to look forward to!
The Jetsons might look cool flying around in their cars, but heck – they still had to operate them!
Ready to read more? You can get The Age of Context here. I don’t think you can blink your eyes for it yet, but they are working on it.
PPS. Thanks to Robert Scoble and Shel Israel for the manuscript to review the book. This review honestly reflects my opinion. I wasn’t required to write about it.