Organisations can leverage context-aware computing to better target prospects, increase customer intimacy, and enhance associate productivity and collaboration, according to Gartner.
By 2012, the typical Global 2000 company will be managing between two and 10 business relationships with context providers and, by 2015, context will be as influential in mobile consumer services and relationships as search engines are to the web.
Gartner defines context-aware computing as the concept of leveraging information about the end-user to improve the quality of the interaction. Emerging context-enriched services will use location, presence, social attributes, and other environmental information to anticipate an end user's immediate needs, offering more-sophisticated, situation-aware and usable functions.
"Although the rudiments of context-aware computing have been around for some time now, it is a disruptive technology that has the potential to be a real 'game changer' in terms of competitive advantage," says Anne Lapkin, research vice-president at Gartner. "Initial implementations of context-enriched services are already in play, and early adopters will find it easier to implement more-sophisticated services in the future."
Context-aware computing has the potential to solve a wide variety of business problems. Gartner says that, as more users employ a greater variety of applications, operating systems, browsers and devices, user experience problems will increase; new business opportunities will emerge, by virtue of knowing the customer more intimately; and productivity will improve as systems eliminate complexity for the user.
Gartner also said that advances in networks, mobile hardware capabilities, social computing, service-oriented architecture (SOA), and unified communication will make it easier to build and use context-enriched services. This will present a significant business opportunity for service providers, mobile device manufacturers and suppliers of communication infrastructure.
"Many organisations employ some context-enriched services today; however, while some are quite sophisticated, they tend to be disparate implementations," Lapkin says. "Location-based services, presence and portal personalisation are common, if simple, manifestations of context today.
"Many organisations are beginning to experiment with social networking, which can also provide significant context information as well as use context information to achieve better results. By 2011, Type A organisations (technology aggressive) will begin to integrate multiple contextual components to provide a richer user experience that enables top-line growth as well as workplace efficiencies."
Lapkin says that Gartner is beginning to see significant interest in context-aware computing from CIOs looking to harness context information to provide a wide range of benefits from increased associate activity to better customer intimacy and better-targeted marketing. Gartner recommends that CIOs consider four fundamental questions to begin to frame their approach to this important technology.
* Why Is context-aware computing worth my time and attention? Gartner research has shown that context-aware computing has a high correlation to business expectations and therefore is a natural place to invest time and effort as business leadership responds to turbulent economic conditions and positions the business for future growth. Context-aware computing can help by improving business processes, reducing enterprise costs, attracting and retaining new customers, improving workforce effectiveness, creating new products and services, expanding into new markets and geographies, and expanding current customer relationships.
* How should I approach my business to propose an investment in context-aware computing? Particularly in the current economic climate, where resources are scarce and businesses are hesitant to invest in new areas, Gartner recommends focusing management on how context-rich information can improve compelling business opportunities. For example, context-aware computing might be used to help improve the quality of call centre interactions, improve marketing efforts or increase the efficiency of collaboration.
* Why is it important to get started so early? The real promise of context-aware computing will be realised when context information can be federated across multiple sources and applications and when trust and privacy issues are addressed. These are not trivial challenges, and those organisations that begin to explore solutions now will be better placed to exploit the "game changing" potential as context information and context-enriched services become increasingly ubiquitous. Gartner maintains that experimentation will be critical to success.
* How do I successfully introduce context-aware computing in my organisation? The introduction of any new technology can be tricky, and Gartner recommends a five-point plan when adopting context-aware computing: Choose a current strategic initiative that can be improved through the use of context information; don't make the application too complex or too simple – the conventional wisdom is to make the implementation as simple as possible, but this will not allow for the demonstration of full benefits; weigh the costs of acquiring context information carefully; be sure to address privacy concerns; and be sure to measure the business benefits.