Book Review | Age of Context

Title: Age of Context – Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy

Authors: Robert Scoble & Shel Israel
Year: 2013
Publisher: Self-Published under Patrick Brewster Press
Pages: 177
Topic Covered: The future of technology, Mobile, Social Media, Sensors, Big Data, Location Marketing, Privacy

Movies like ‘Back to the Future’ and ‘Minority Report’ are my favourite kind of movies. I love going into the future and seeing what our world could be like once we’ve made greater advances in technology. If you want to go, as Doc Brown would say, “Back to the Future”, than Age of Context is the book for you. I promise you, once you pick it up, you won’t want to put it down.

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s book is built around what they call, the 5 forces of context: Mobile, Social Media, Data, Sensors and Location. Throughout the book they take you on a journey that explore topics like Google Glass, the ‘Internet of Things’, wearable technology, self-driving automobiles using sensors, technology and healthcare, personal digital assistants, and finally they conclude with the ever-important topic of privacy.

In fact, privacy and data abuse are topics that are an underlying theme throughout the book because of the very strong concerns people have. The reality is that virtually every online site collects, shares and sells user data. Now if you hold a very negative view on this issue, you fear and resist this. You take the stance that you don’t want ‘Big Brother’ watching you but there is another stance as well. One that says, big data allows everyone to easily get better results for what they are looking for through personalization of search results. Isn’t this a good thing? If you opt out of the Internet and of companies collecting your data, aren’t you opting out of modern times? What’s great about this book is that it addresses both sides, the good and the bad.

Imagine a world where you could go to the local hard-ware store, pick-up a set of Google glasses on loan, take them home and then have a staff member help you remotely in real-time while you were building a deck or installing a shower. Or imagine a world where cars automatically drove themselves. Think about the good this would do for traffic and how many people it would protect against drunk drivers, not to mention how it would change the lives of the blind and physically impaired.

But Scoble and Israel don’t just present examples that are still years away, they also provide examples that are happening right now like Uber, the new way to experience taking a taxicab. They talk about the strides that the New England Patriots are making in their stadium to provide an experience to their fans like never before using sensors and data collection. They also reference geo-fencing, a contextual technique that sets a virtual parameter around a real-world place, and how a winery is using it to communicate with customers like never before.

Age of Context also speaks to Social CRM, the ability for companies and customers to collaborate on products, support policy and other issues. This in my opinion is the true future of marketing. Brands interacting with customers and listening to what they want to produce marketing that caters to them. I love it when Scoble and Israel speak to how marketers are so content with response rates of 20%-30%. What about the 80%-70% that completely didn’t respond? Why aren’t we as marketers concerned that they completely ignored our message? Pinpoint Marketing is a new marketing that they present. As they state,

“This type of marketing is the ability of sellers to offer goods and services in the context of where you are and what you are doing, and to anticipate what you want to do next.  Sellers can compete for your business by being more accurate in their predictions. And marketers will know when to stop trying as your context changes.”

This really is a wonderful read and I strongly recommend it. Robert Scoble and Shel Israel are two futurists that show us how our world is changing using the 5 forces they outline. They manage to dazzle and amaze you through each page and make you so excited for what is to come. Now if only I could hop in a time-travelling DeLorean and get to 2035 to see how accurate Scoble and Israel really are.