Anticipatory computing coming to a device near you


So what’s the real deal with the ecosystem of increasing intelligent software services, smaller and more powerful devices and connectivity embedded into everything? It creates an ecosystem in which the user is at the centre of things. The system anticipates a users actions, activity and intentions. Basically it becomes anticipatory.

Anticipatory computing has a small entry on Wikipedia, but it sums it up pretty good:


The term is used to describe when technology anticipates our needs and acts accordingly.


Getting machines to anticipate what you should do will liberate you and free up your mind to focus on other stuff that requires more focus and attention.

So one of the more common examples of this new wave of anticipatory services is Google Now. It’s still in its early stages, but is already impressive. It uses my data to get to know my context. For example, it calculates my ideal travel schedule based on my agenda and sends up soccer scores Google knows I’m interested in without me asking. Check out the demo.

Foursquare just jumped on the bandwagon
So Foursquare just launched it’s new app update and it is continuing its vision of telling you where to go next, not just where you are. People that opt-in to receive the real-time notifications will get an update on their iOS device that suggests what to eat at a restaurant, or what to do when they visit a new place. Foursquare will only provide notifications that are relevant to you personally. The application learns your behavior based on previous check-ins and recommendations. You won’t get notifications everywhere you go; rather, when you’re at a restaurant.

Osito, the app formerly known as Sherpa, is another a predictive intelligence app that picks up on your location and scans your calendar and connected email accounts to display information about your day. The app is set on figuring out when it should display what it does thanks to its thoughtful reliance on location triggers. If it sifts through your email and happens upon a boarding pass for instance, you’ll only see it once you’re actually within range of the airport you’ll need to use it in.

Things need to be anticipatory
The whole idea of the internet of things – sensor networks, wearable devices, embedded intelligence, smart home/offices and so on – fits perfectly into the idea of creating anticipatory systems around a user. Enabling the technology to disappear and let some kind of silent intelligence take over. Users have a personal hierarchy of what kind of information is important. I don’t need a push notification of a tweet if I’m trying to catch a train; I need to know how much time I have left. It would be even better if my wearable calculated distance to walking speed that tells me if I need to walk faster to catch the train. In this case the system anticipates my information needs.

It is about the convergence of people, devices, data and the web. So build new systems, apps, devices that focus on:

  • embeddedness: many networked devices are integrated into the environment, make it part of the system
  • context awareness: it should be able recognize a user and it’s situational context
  • personalization: it should be able to be tailored to a user needs
  • adaptiveness: they can change in response to the user
  • anticipatory features: they can anticipate  a user desires without conscious mediation.

This will be the new default. The future of technology is not only about location-based apps; it is about user context and the way technology anticipates the needs of a user.

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