Age of Context Book Review
Many of us have heard or read about the refrigerator of the future that tells you when you’re low on milk. No biggie, right? But things are starting to accelerate when it comes to technology adapting to our lives in meaningful and almost scary ways. For example, how about a driverless taxi that knows you need a ride, knows where you need to go, plays your iPhone’s music on its speakers, and even automatically collects your payment? Or a wine store that sends you an e-invitation to an impromptu tasting because it knows you like Opus One and happen to be right around the corner?
Age of Context, a new book by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel, takes us into that new world, part of which is already here, and opens up the reader’s mind to what’s to come (along with some tough questions about privacy). The two authors are well-known and widely respected for their knowledge and experience in the areas of technology, social media, and communications. Both Scoble and Israel write from a very important intersection of entrepreneurship, social media, and cloud computing that should have most all of us paying attention.
Their basic premise is that the convergence of the following five forces is changing and disrupting the world quite dramatically:
- mobile devices
- social media
- big data
- location-based services
Whether we like it or not (this is not a social commentary), we’re all carrying mobile devices, sharing our locations, wearing monitors of our vital signs, and leaving a huge trail of data that we don’t even think about: toll roads we drive on, hotel rooms that we check in and out of, and brands/teams/products/ideas we like. Add sensors to the mix–microscopic devices that are receiving our input (sometimes unknowingly) and performing functions based upon logic and business rules written by corporations, governments, and other institutions.
While this type of life/tech convergence can be scary, Scoble and Israel offer a number of examples of how this can improve our lives. For example, NFL stadiums will know your seat and beer preference and know when you’re ready for a refill. In terms of medicine your toothbrush will sense tooth decay or even oral cancer and let you and your family dentist know early. Or imagine the cereal aisle in the grocery store that knows your nutritional needs and presents an offer for you on an iPad. The possibilities are pretty much endless.
Here’s an example from the book that describes a similar scenario using Google Glass, the new wearable device from Google:
It’s noon on a hot day in July a few years hence. Glass sees you have been on a long bike ride and now you are resting in the shade of a tree. You ask Glass to tell you where you can get a drink (not currently a command), and it tells you there is a mall a quarter of a mile away. It suggests an organic shop that has iced fruit drinks. When you enter the establishment, Google receives a small percentage of the price of what you purchase. Google earns a commission for delivering a customer.
Privacy concerns aside, you can imagine that marketers are going to have a whole lot to think about when it comes to truly connecting with customers. Marketing becomes much more about context (hence the title) than it does about message. Message should become driven more and more by context in order to be effective.
Scoble and Israel do a really great job of simplifying this tangled web of tools (or “storm,” as they call it) into a comprehensible model for all to understand. While their discoveries are not particularly original, their narrative for weaving them together is…and that is the most important part.
Age of Context is interesting, inventive, and a fun read. While the scenarios and framework sound Jetsons-like, they’re all either here or right around the corner. As a technology enthusiast, I loved it. As a CEO and digital marketing advisor to clients, I’m really glad I read it.