Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sensing context

Sensors are a real mega-trend. Modern smart phones are packed with sensors including cameras, compasses, GPS, accelerometers, ambient light sensors, gyroscopes and proximity sensors. The latest S4 phone from Samsung pushes the boundaries even more with the inclusion of temperature and humidity sensors, according to this article from The Verge. Samsung are using these sensors to power their new S Health app:

 The phone features a built-in pedometer for tracking the number of steps you take — or run — during the day, much like Fitbit's line of devices. However, sensors in the phone also allow it to measure the ambient temperature and humidity of the room you're, all of which feeds into the S Health app itself.
In fact health apps powered by sensors are an extremely hot category with the aforementioned Fitbit, Nike's Fuelband  and the Jawbone Up competing to help us all get healthy by measuring everything we do and encouraging us to do more of the good stuff.

But the sensor mega-trend doesn't stop there: it will usher in a new age of context, says Robert Scoble, who, together with Shel Israel, is writing a book on the subject (he describes it here.)  He has been doing research for this book for some time and has numerous video interviews with companies he believe are in the vanguard of this trend, including, for example, Plantronics, whose headsets now come packed with sensors.  A good example of the context trend can be seen with the way Google Now is trying to anticipate your needs by understanding the time of day and location, coupled with your calendar and providing useful information (such as weather for flight status) before you need to search for it.

The growing commercial relevance of context will guarantee the explosion in sensors and the data they produce continue at speed.