Contextual Is The New Mobile

A new mobile form-factor is coming and it’s not restricted to your pocket. Wearable tech is all about unleashing the power of smartphones onto new types of devices. While the smartphone and tablet market seem to have devolved into a battle of bigger displays and faster processors, the form-factor for wearables is still open to a diverse range of hardware design, although it’s all about the war for your wrist for now. The overarching goal? Creating highly personalized interactions and experiences.

Blueprint for the future

The New Mobile = embedded + personalized + adaptive + anticipatory 
One thing that sets this new phase of the post-pc era apart from the introduction of the smartphone, is the fact that mobility is not the outcome, but the main driver to this transition.

Contextual based interaction with these devices is key to making this new mobility work. The new mobile requires devices, services and information  to be embedded (integrated into the environment), personalized (tailored to your needs), adaptive (change in response to you) and anticipatory (anticipating a users intentions without conscious mediation).

Contextual Information Design
I want to focus on this idea of context with regards to the concept of the internet of things and wearable computing. Drawing from a study by Perera et. al. (1), who have done a comprehensive survey on context-aware computing from a Internet of Things perspective by reviewing over 50 leading projects in the field, we can distinguish human factors and physical environment factors.

Human factors related to context is structured into three categories:

  1. information on the user (knowledge of habits, emotional state, physiological conditions)
  2. the user’s social environment (co-location of others, social interaction, group dynamics)
  3. the user’s tasks (spontaneous activity, engaged tasks, general goals)

Likewise, context related to physical environment is structured into three categories:

  1. location (absolute position, relative position, co-location)
  2. infrastructure (surrounding resources for computation, communication, task performance)
  3. physical conditions (noise, light, pressure, air quality)


The image above by Clark Dodsworth does a great job visualizing the ecosystem of context. The combination of sensor technology, (social, location, environment) data analytics, predictive algorithms and new mobile devices make for highly contextualized systems that serve us highly personalized everything; information, media, products, services and advertising.

So far all this is just a collection of possibilities, with huge barriers in interoperability, security and privacy. But consumers – or humans and technology users in general – do not want possibilities, they want seamless solutions.

Business to do’s? Design for people, create new and meaningful experiences and focus on creating value in systems of engagement. Design for context; right time in stead of real time.

(1) Charith Perera, Arkady Zaslavsky, Peter Christen, and Dimitrios Georgakopoulos (2013). “Context Aware Computing for The Internet of Things: A Survey”Communications Surveys Tutorials, IEEE. Early Access Articles (n/a): 1–44. doi:10.1109/SURV.2013.042313.00197.

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