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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Context Aware Technology: A Game Changer?

Jaya Smitha Menon
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Jaya Smitha Menon
Can you dream of a day when your mobile, depending on how busy you are, decides by itself whether to let it ring or reject the caller saying you are busy or in a meeting? Or how about your computer deciding which OS the user is using and then download the software relevant to that OS? Or perhaps your computer knows that you are currently in India, and decides to show you the result in kilogramsinstead of poundwhen you search for a weighing scale? Yes, this dream may become a reality as these are some of the things which researchers in the world’s largest labs are experimenting on - a technology which knows who you are, what you are doing, and what is important in your life and what is not.

We are talking about the advances that are expected to happen in the area of context aware technology. This form of technology which is in the toddler stage as of now uses information about your environment, activities and preferences to customize and enhance your digital life. What more, Gartner expects 40 percent of the world’s smartphone users toopt for context service providers by 2015.

World’s biggest tech companies and handset companies are spending a lot of money on this next level computing which is going to redefine the scope of our digital lives.

For years, we have seen technology using Global Positioning System satellites to provide data based on a location of a person which can deliver up-to-the-minute traffic and mapping data.But this technology takes it to a new level. It can now anlayse the person's task, surroundings and habits. It can now combine analysis and memory of ‘hard sensors’ such as location awareness and ‘soft sensors’ such as user preferences. Applications built using this technology allows user interaction through speech, gesture and typing,which are designed to adapt to the network connectivity present and to other ambient conditions.

So how does this ubiquitous and wearable computing analyze? It structures Human factors related context into three categories: information on the user (knowledge of habits, emotional state, biophysiological conditions), the user’s social environment (co-location of others, social interaction, group dynamics), and the user’s tasks (spontaneous activity, engaged tasks, general goals). Likewise, context related to physical environment is structured into three categories: location (absolute position, relative position, co-location), infrastructure (surrounding resources for computation, communication, task performance), and physical conditions (noise, light, pressure).

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