How close is too close in context-aware computing?

Context-aware technology is hyped to the max, enabling companies to gather precious data about customers. But it has to be mature to be useful and less obtrusive for consumers.

Companies want to form lasting relationships with customers and constituents, and increasingly they see context-aware tools as a way to do so.

Context-aware computing (CAC) uses personal data about audiences to tailor Web environments and messages to them. The CAC market is expected to grow from $27 billion in 2013 to $120 billion by 2018, with a growth rate of 35%.

Context-aware technology and strategies include marketing automation, cognitive computing and Web content management, location-based services and beacons, and responsive design. These tools can give customers more tailored suggestions, help expedite sales and can give companies insight into what customers want. Consumers can get deals, offers and more tailored information in exchange for providing more data.

But there are downsides to this ever-more enlightened universe, with more customer data. Not only does this world of personalized, context-aware communication involve exponentially more data to store and manage, but contextually aware computing also poses data concerns. Consumers are dubious about offering up personal information -- yes, they will do so in exchange for discounts or offers, but in some cases, their skepticism is enduring.

Not only does this world of context-aware communication involve exponentially more data to manage, but contextually aware computing also poses data concerns.

According to Forrester Research's 2015 survey "The State of Mobile Apps for Retailers," only a third of consumers who shop using retailer apps are willing to share their location with retailers, and only 24% who use retailer mobile apps are willing to share personal information. In addition, according to PricewaterhouseCooper's "Speed of Life: Consumer Intelligence Series" survey of 1,000 respondents, only 46% say that they are somewhat willing to share personal information in exchange for certain offers.

Our latest handbook, Context-Aware Tech Senses, Responds to Customer Needs, explores some of the technologies in context-aware computing and how these developments are faring. Geoffrey Bock starts off by evaluating various technologies in the market and how mature they are. As he notes, "Good personalization not only aggregates personal facts from disparate data sources, but also includes an awareness of context. Simple rules-based systems lead to dumb results." Next, Laurence Hart explores some of the prospects for context-aware content and Web content management -- with some important skepticism about the privacy of this data. And finally, Bock delves into cognitive computing, and how this technology can bring context-aware digital experience closer to reality.

Lauren Horwitz
Executive Editor

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