The annual Consumer Electronics Show has come and gone, revealing a number of smartphone trends that may well change the way that we use these devices across the world. One of the hottest topics that were presented at CES this year is the move towards smarter gadgets that are able to track user movements, voice, faces and even their intents.
This concept has been coined ‘context awareness’, and as you may expect, technology companies are in a haste to put this idea to use in a real-world way that could forever change the way that users interact with their devices.
What is Context Awareness Exactly?
Simply put, context awareness provides a way for smartphones and other devices to identify what users want, responding to these needs without actual commands. If this sounds like a futuristic movie concept, think about how much our devices are already able to do.
Most smartphones on the market today already contain up to 18 sensors, which range from accelerometers that detect movements to magnetometers that indicate the direction the device faces and even gyroscopes that indicate the device’s special orientation.
For the most part however, these features are not activated until the user opens a specific app that uses this technology. With context awareness, these sensors would be automatically activated, swapping data with other features in the device such as camera, microphone and other microchips with the help of GPS and WiFi.
In fact, the technology behind this concept has gotten so intensive that tech companies are starting to produce sensor hubs – specially made chips that control interactions. Microsoft’s newly launched Surface tablet is just one device that already has sensor hubs installed with great success.
What Smarter Smartphones Mean for Users
Tech companies such as Movea have managed to develop algorithms that use these sensors to determine the position and orientation of devices. So accurate are these algorithms that it is even possible to tell if a smartphone is in a handbag, on a table or even in a pocket of a user that is on the move. Movea’s software is designed to offer a far more interactive alternative to maps, putting the user in a real-world navigation system that shows their location and where to go where they need to go.
Two other leading tech giants Qualcomm and Broadcom Corp. are using context awareness to pinpoint location at shopping centres and other places where GPS is not able to help. What this does is help consumers find specials and other store information as they browse shopping centres, while also helping retailers bring in new customers too.
While many experts are fully behind the new wave of smarter devices, others are a bit concerned about the privacy limitations that may arise. Whatever the case, the latest trends in smartphone technology certainly show that at some point, devices may well be smarter than their users.