In my last post I stated that businesses should build applications with context in mind. Having contextually-aware applications means that those applications will incorporate or adapt to new data sources. Not everybody needs or wants the same thing when they use an application or visit a website. Because of this reality, context becomes both interesting and useful. Who is the person visiting the site or the application? What time is it? Where is she/he? When did they visit in the past? What are they viewing or doing at this moment, and how does it relate to what they’ve recently done?
The worth of context
All this contextual information can help the organization deliver the most meaningful, rewarding, and worthwhile experience. By understanding an individual’s situation and history, a business can anticipate his or her immediate needs and offer experiences appropriate for the individual’s situation. This information can be particularly useful when you are trying to provide one of your employees with the right information at the point of need. This point of need could be inventory data during a sales call or an alert sent to a plant manager that says there is a subtle change in production variables.
In the consumer domain, we are just beginning to see true contextual services that change as a result of knowing who the user is. In the business domain, I expect companies to transform business processes by developing mobile applications and processes that use contextual data, including location, time of day, previous transactions, and device type. Sensors in the latest devices also furnish physical context, such as temperature, humidity, motion, and more.
Variety of contextual elements
Today many business leaders think of context only as location. Location is one of the most important contextual elements mobile gives an organization. Where exactly is this employee, this customer, this package, this truck, or this container right now? But there are many types of contextual elements, such as device type, transaction history, and time of day.
We can use device type to understand whether the device has a big or a small screen; the context will determine how the application or web page responds with the appropriate amount of text or imaging to fill the screen. Transaction history may mean an opportunity to cross-sell—or to demand payment on delivery. Time of day means marketers can send different types of messages at the times when they are most likely to be read and acted upon.
Four connection and audience scenarios
These data sources provide situational and environmental information about people, places, and things. As companies rebuild existing applications or construct new applications and processes, IT will need to build apps and services that address four types of connection (audience) scenarios. These include:
- Business to consumer (B2C). The right information and services to live a richer, fuller life.
- Business to employee (B2E). The right information to perform efficiently and effectively at work.
- Business to Partners (B2P). The right information and services to build a viable business ecosystem between companies.
- Business (Things) to Things (B2T) and Things to People (T2C). The right information sent from a connected device to a business system for automating tasks.
An example of B2T and T2C include receiving an alert from your basement to your smartphone telling you that you have a leak in the basement. Sensors in things can also communicate with individuals to provide information about how the device is functioning. Another example is an alert from the HVAC system telling the building manager to order and install new air filters.
Are you building context into your business processes? If so, have you considered the four types of audience scenarios listed above? Please let us know in comments. You can also find me on Twitter @MaribelLopez.
Maribel Lopez is the CEO and mobile market strategist for Lopez Research, a market research and strategy consulting firm that specializes in communications technologies with a heavy emphasis on the disruptive nature of mobile technologies. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.