Big Data is a big topic right now – and getting bigger. Forgive the not-so-subtle play on words. But as we are known to do in this industry, we often make big deals out of things.
It’s probably a safe assumption that most of us have heard the phrase “content is king.” In the continually evolving world of Big Data, Business Intelligence and Business Analytics, having lots of data has its advantages. We can now sift through huge amounts of data in very short time frames.
And there is a renewed interest in searching out those who understand the mathematics that power the process of making sense of all that data locked away in social graphs, email streams and sensor feeds. The patterns and relationships surfaced by all those math wizards are pretty amazing. The ads with which I am bombarded on a daily basis are actually starting to be of some use to me!
Obviously the whole area of Big Data and Analytics goes much deeper than my somewhat tongue in cheek example, which actually brings me to the topic of this post – context. Did you see the movie Minority Report? If so, you may remember the scene where detective John Anderton, played by Tom Cruise, is walking through a mall and all of the ads change as he approaches them, offering a warming and friendly personal greeting by name and suggesting the latest and greatest product that he just can’t live without. Pretty cool – even better than my example above.
So what do I mean by context? In simple terms it’s an understanding of the world around us and the things that contribute “to the moment.” Big Data and Analytics gives us a somewhat rear view mirror aspect of context and it allows us to plan for the next interaction with customers.
The context in which I’m interested is actually the real-time context – the John Anderton version of the here and now. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer by the day. We now have smart phones with pretty amazing spatial awareness and recognition capabilities. Combine that with the advancements in augmented reality and ecosystems being created by companies like Layar and others, and we have the building blocks for new channels to reach customers at the precise moment when a buying decision is imminent.
What the heck does this have to do with cloud computing? Maybe the idea of context is not top of mind with the average line of business owner or IT manager, but I would venture to say that it is starting to generate interest among product marketers and managers. Ultimately these product ideas need to get turned into product capabilities, and that’s where the cloud will add lots of value.
I believe that most of the services required to deliver a rich context experience won’t be owned by the enterprise – it’s simply too big of a challenge and expense to create and manage the infrastructure to provide (even near) real-time contextual services. The requirements to blend the historical behavior patterns of consumers (gleaned via Big Data) with current situational and geo-spatial awareness will be beyond the means of most companies.
Who will provide context services in the cloud? Maybe there’s a new service model – Context as a Services (CaaS). Yes, I can hear you groaning… we don’t need more marketing gibberish.
But I don’t believe “context” will neatly fit into the traditional SaaS model. It will take specialized service providers who have a combination of robust infrastructure, systems and applications combined with experience in gathering, correlating and presenting real-time data across a variety of channels. There won’t be a lot of these providers. Those who do it well will play a major role in reshaping the user experience.
Stay tuned, it’s going to get interesting!
About the Author: Robert Keahey
Robert Keahey is Partner and Founder of SummaLogic LLC, a business and IT consultancy specializing in strategy, marketing, product and business development across a variety of industry sectors.
Robert brings to his clients a record of results-oriented innovation, industry insight, superior service delivery and operational know-how complemented by a variety of information technology industry experiences. He has a network into high level executives in the information technology sector and has partnered with industry leaders to develop innovative and disruptive capabilities. He has relationships with numerous venture capital firms and has evaluated, developed and helped accelerate the business plans of several of their portfolio companies.
He is currently serving as Vice President, Business Development and Product Strategy for LAYERZngn, a leader in the emerging Software-Defined Networking market.