They are all looking for The Killer App: 3G handset manufacturers and operators, ubiquitous computing researchers and context-awareness proponents.
There isn’t any (or if there is, it’s hiding pretty well).
The important thing is, that there doesn’t have to be.
What we need to do is make all our applications, devices, contextual data sources and communities play together. The whole is larger than the sum of the parts. None of the individual pieces might be that crucial to anybody, but their agglomeration might just be.
We have (e.g.) the following pieces, none of which are really hot on their own:
- a PIM calendar (organizing your time)
- your mobile phone profile (making the phone not ring when you are at the movies)
- cameraphone (taking bad photos and maybe sending them via MMS)
- GPS (navigation)
- heart rate sensor on your fitness watch (tracking the level of exercise when running)
- Bluetooth (sending business cards?)
- smartphone and 3G connection (reading e-mail)
What if we make these play together? We can get things like:
- tagging automatically your photos with location (GPS, GSM cell), people around you (Bluetooth), events (calendar), sharing and publishing them (3G, flickr) – now you can search for them and tell stories about them
- letting others know you can’t answer the phone right now: put your phone on silent and let it be broadcast via a social awareness service
- allowing you to coordinate activities with others by sharing location and calendar information with a social awareness (presence) service
- make yourself exercise more by knowing that your fitness group sees whether you went on the run or not
- sharing daily activities with your loved ones even if you are not there (seeing places they go to, what events they have) with a presence service
- keeping an automatic diary of your life
(I’m not claiming that there aren’t privacy issues, usability, standards etc. to be solved. But they can be solved.)
It’s of course not trivial to sell any of these things on their own if the value is created by their combination. But some of them people already have (calendars, phones) – we just have to make better use of them. People might also start to use things they have not previously really used (the calendar and profiles on your phone) if they provide more value.
Synergy! (I know it’s a dirty word).
We have tried to do some of these things with ContextPhone. The whole point is of course that we can’t do this on our own, but everybody else should join in.