Imagine a device that uses a variety of sensory modalities to determine what you are doing at an instant, from being asleep to being out for a run with a friend. By combining hard sensor information such as where you are and the conditions around you combined with soft sensors such as your calendar, your social network and past preferences, future devices will constantly learn about who you are, how you live, work and plan. As your devices learn about your life, they can begin to anticipate your needs. Your device will ask you leave in ten minutes for your appointment in 90 minutes because the freeway is jammed. The “remote control” can sense who’s holding it and change channel preferences accordingly.

The future is here with the arrival of the Gimbal context awareness SDK for Android and iOS from Qualcomm Labs.

Context is extremely important, both psychologically and technologically, and brands have an amazing opportunity finding interesting and innovative ways to leverage and understand it. Contextual elements beneath our conscious awareness have dramatic effects on purchasing decisions.

The last few years, the marketing industry perfected the art and science of who people are: Demographics, Segmentations, Psychographics. Who you are is very important. When and where and what are as important. Who you are is a fundamental contextual layer, the location and time should serve as an activation layer for behavior. Why serve me ads at 4pm for coffee when I never drink a cup after 3pm? Contextual awareness will eliminate this waste. My devices know when I head out to get a coffee and open to explore new places. Very soon, these new technologies will be able to predict purchases before I consciously know about deciding to buy them.

But, let’s remain really careful. The marketing industry will ruin this opportunity if it just turns into another advertising bombardment.

Contextual Awareness only works if its:

– The marketing engagement has to be as relevant as humanly possible.

– It has to be completely frictionless (Not another check-in app or QR code.)

– Overall, it has to provide a solution to a problem.

The line between annoying spam and valuable marketing is very fine. Just ask the email folks.