Those who have worked with me so far know me as a core technology person. From my days in networking, developing solutions for Internet mobility, security and multicast to my recent years in context aware computing, I have spanned several layers of the stack, but all within what would be considered technology.
Some 10 years ago, my focus may have fit squarely into the Technology Box. Even when I was working on peer-to-peer discovery solutions (way before IoT was a buzzword), my focus already spilled out of the Technology box into the Applications Box. If we didn’t build a vertical to demonstrate the technology, the value of the technology was only so much (no one wants middleware for sake of middleware!).
But in the last 6 or so years that I’ve been living and breathing context aware computing, things have dramatically been different. I’ve been obsessing over both hardware and apps, one more visibly than the other. My friends at Google would know me as a hybrid hardware-technologist – they’ve seen me champion the always-on aspect of context. As I wrote earlier, I strongly believe that the next big revolution in context will involve hardware!
What about apps, you ask. My obsession over apps started about 10 years ago and progressively reached a high and has stayed there over the last 5 years. To really get into this, let’s talk about context. I also wrote earlier about the evading business case for context. As I thought deeper and deeper about the technology around context and how all that comes together, the most disturbing question that lingered was “what is the killer app for context”? Location was lucky to have (outdoor) navigation as the killer use case, but other forms of context aren’t as lucky. Other than all the fundamental issues around bringing contextual personalization mainstream, context enthusiasts find it hard to grapple with the fact that there is no killer use case. Period.
So, does that mean context is useless and that we should stop working on it? Of course not! Assisting you with the right information at the right time, managing your notifications or allowing you to measure your fitness activity are all real things. It is inconceivable that information will continue to grow at the pace it is growing, without a gate that is contextual!
There is one key realization about context, which is really essential to parse – this is nearly impossible to bring to life at scale without being conceived, developed and introduced alongside applications. This is because algorithms and user inputs need to stay side by side for the magic to come together. And users don’t dwell in technology, they dwell in apps!
After working with this realization for a few years now, I’ve set out to bring personalization (via many things including context) to social commerce. It is an area where behavior analysis and context have a clear place and are yet under utilized at the moment. What we build in terms of personalization is yet to come, but the first step towards that is to bring the users together on a deeply engaging platform. My partners and I are uncomfortably excited about what’s coming – more excited than anything we’ve done before! Stay tuned!