Mobile computing and the apps that run on our smartphones and tablets are changing our lives every day. This goes without saying. What excites me is the pace at which this continues and the fact that we're just starting to scratch the surface of what's to come. For application development and delivery professionals, the challenge is how to remain relevant and compelling in this ever-changing landscape. An area that will immediately provide game-changing value-add is what I term Contextual Personal Data (CPD).

What Is Contextual Personal Data?

To level-set, we are all familiar with personal data. This is the information that drives advertising and marketing today, such as email/calendar/contacts, browsing and online purchase history, and everything that you divulge to social networks and allow them to harvest. CPD is the next evolution of this, enabled by mobile computing. Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices can now generate a new meta layer of information about an individual that is far more valuable because it is contextually relevant and dynamic. This is data such as "what time do I generally leave the house for work?" and "when I have coffee on the way to work, how much more productive am I that morning?” The next generation of compelling and successful mobile apps driven by CPD will interact with my life without requiring me to interact with them directly. This is the new landscape of contextual mobile computing.

Next Generation Success Stories

The mobile landscape will soon be littered with success stories around context-driven mobile apps that make use of Contextual Personal Data.  The following is a scenario that I predict is extremely close to reality but would have sounded like a Star Trek episode very recently: when I get into the car, I turn on the satellite radio to content that is relevant to me. This relevance is defined by past listening habits, inspection of my personal data sources (email/calendar/shopping habits/etc.), and inferences from my CPD sources (I historically get in the car at 7 a.m. to go to work, but today it's 7:15, so easy listening music is out and 80's hair bands are a better option). Once it has been determined that the content that is being suggested is accurate (a period of time in which I don't immediately change the channel) that personal data is now highly valuable. Advertisers are the obvious consumers of this data, but I'm sure radio content creators would crave access to it as well.

Let's continue with the above scenario. I've started my car, and the appropriate content is selected for me. I should *immediately* get an alert on my heads-up display telling me that the Mass Pike is a parking lot (due to my late departure time) and that the GPS on my phone is now showing me the better route. While on this route, an application such as Placeme determines that I usually stop at Starbucks on the way in but now will not be going that way, so *behind the scenes* it works with my GPS provider to route me to a coffee shop along the new route. This is CPD at its best. The obvious value-add here is that advertisers can now pay to have their retail offering used in these scenarios (similar to Google Adwords with search). Finally, my phone, through sensory data achieved by its placement in my pocket, can determine that my anxiety level is a bit high. It automatically uses this data to propose a schedule change to the first appointment on my calendar which is with a client that I've recently exchanged terse emails with. The mapping of high anxiety and a potential hostile client would not be beneficial to me nor my employer, so I gladly accept the time change and the day starts on a much better note. All of these alterations to my day-to-day life, whether accepted or rejected, provide inputs into the CPD engine that drive the higher-order computing meta layer that allows mobile computing to better our daily lives.

What are your thoughts on the new Contextual Personal Data and its usage in future apps? Drop me a line, and let’s discuss!