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Jul 23, 2014 10:50:00 AM

Book Review: “Age of Context” by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

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Context will bring us great things: or more precisely, just exactly what we want. As a location technology company, we have been tweaking and modifying new ways to layer our high-quality location data with context. The vision has been to intelligently build contextual “personas” of advertiser audiences based on their real-world activities to help them better reach the right person at the right time in the right location with the right message.

As we get ready to launch our Context Accelerator, we really wanted to delve into what thought leaders are saying today about context and where they think it will go. So we looked to the book “Age of Context”, written by notable technology pundits Robert Scoble and Shel Israel who did an excellent job in painting the picture of what a future in context would look like.

While the book covered many topics, there were 3 recurring themes that we noted throughout the book that we took a special interest in:

Hub of Context: Wearable Devices as One of Our Biggest Data Resources

Age of ContextOne of the most powerful devices coming up over and over in “Age of Context” was context via wearable devices. Not only is the market exploding at a rate previously underestimated, but the possibility for leveraging context that comes from using these devices on an individual level is astounding. From fitness trackers that help you better manage your health by understanding your base-level biological data to alert you or your doctor if something is wrong, to smart textiles that will react to the situations we are in by knowing who we are and where we are going - such as self-cleaning clothing - the data collected through these devices can be leveraged in some exciting ways.

Aside from these devices that will eventually be “designed to disappear” on us, we also agree with the authors about the possibility for connectivity with other devices around us will start to take shape in the form of the Internet of Things. Having sensors throughout your home that “know” when they need to be repaired, or devices like Nest that know what temperature you like to keep your home at what time of day are the next step in devices understanding us contextually.

Contextual Apps That Know Your Preferences...

As a company, we know not only the potential for apps to better utilize their users’ context, but after reading this book, it was confirmed that users will eventually come to expect it. Apps that know who you are and what your preferences are make life just a little easier, (we actually refer to this as “Appticipation”) will experience higher user retention, session times, and engagement rates.

Aside from apps that learn user behavior, the social sharing component of apps provides a venue for highly personalized functionality and content, as it’s in these networks that we share what we like, dislike, what we are doing and what we are likely to do next. And even (very valid) privacy concerns aside, both app developers and businesses via marketing and advertising have huge opportunities to slice their mass-marketing budgets and scale back with highly targeted messaging to the right people at the right time to skyrocket their conversion rates

...Which Brings Us to Context for Advertising:

As a new-age Inbound marketer, I couldn’t help but flinch while reading about the “intrusive marketing” tactics utilized in the past in Chapter 11. While such companies still clench onto the slim results that may possibly result from calling you at dinnertime and buying your email addresses with the purpose of spamming, the idea of context gets us marketers excited.

We only pay attention to advertising when it is helpful and interesting to us. To determine what content will impact a consumer’s purchasing decisions, advertisers must get to know their audiences on a personal level. With location technology, advertisers can target and reach their audiences based on where they are, where they have been, and where they are going. This involves customizing content and speak directly to the lifestyle of their audiences. Doing so ensures that their content resonates on a personal level, increasing ad inventory value and profitability.

The idea of bringing a customer exactly what they are looking for and what they want (again, right message, right place, right time: so often it’s hard for companies to do all 3) using the context of who a person is and what they are looking for can really transition the perception of marketing and advertising messaging: a notion that the authors embrace with their chapter on "Pinpoint Marketing". Scoble and Israel described this tactic as spending less money to reach highly targeted people results in high response rates, resulting in higher profits - instead of spending more money to reach more people.


The Bottom Line:

Accurate location integrated with layers of venue and demographic context - which Skyhook presents as an aggregate to keep individuals anonymous (we call these profiles “Personas”) - represent the holy grail for advertisers. The data gathered from wearable devices and mobile apps today better enables the gathering of context on their audiences, resulting better targeting for brands, more relevant content for consumers, and higher value for the same ad impressions. Advertisers can improve user engagement by reaching their audiences with relevant, higher value content where and when they are ready to make a buying decision.

While some concern over privacy always being an undertone, the future of context certainly brings with it a great deal of benefits in exchange for user data: users simply have to opt in. 

SOURCE: Book review of “Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data, and the Future of Privacy”, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel


Download our eBook to learn more on how we build personas by combining census demographic data - like income level, education, gender, age and ethnicity--with behavioral patterns based on where users go and when. These personas can provide powerful contextual data on audience lifestyles. Learn more > > new_personas_streetscene