Contextual computing could well be the next big thing. After all, the idea of context is hardly new. Marketers have been aware of the importance of context for years, which is why the saying \u201ccontent is king\u201d has changed to \u201ccontent is king, but context is queen and she wears the trousers.\u201d\nThe context in which we do something is as important \u2013 if not more important \u2013 than what we decide to do. That\u2019s why search engines are increasingly trying to understand not just the actual meaning of individual search terms but the context in which they were entered and thus the intent of the searcher. For example, if someone searches for \u2018Italian\u2019, are they looking for a local pizza joint or are they looking for language lessons?\nWhen it comes to computing, contextual computing (or \u201ccontext-aware computing\u201d) is the term that\u2019s used to refer to the use of computer technology to collect and analyze data about its own surroundings. The idea is to create devices which are aware of their surroundings and which can analyze the data to come up with exciting new use cases.\nOur smartphones have been collecting contextual data for years. After all, they use devices like gyroscopes to detect movement and they tap into location-based data to power many of the apps that we use daily, whether we\u2019re talking about Google Maps or Uber.\nHere are just five of the most important things that you need to know about contextual computing.\n1. It\u2019s been around for a while\nContextual computing isn\u2019t new. The basic premise has been around for decades, but it\u2019s only in the last ten years or so that the software and hardware have caught up with the theory and we\u2019ve seen the capability to draw real, meaningful insights.\nPart of the challenge is that non-uniform data from disparate sources can be difficult to process under an individual system. Data can be stored in different formats or use different syntax which can then lead to struggles interpreting it. Luckily, while we have access to and create more data than ever before, we also have access to tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning that can help us to process that data.\n2. It\u2019s the real augmented reality\nAs a society, we\u2019ve talked a lot about augmented reality in the recent years. The breakout success of Pok\u00e9mon Go showed us just how powerful augmented reality can be when it\u2019s applied correctly. Contextual computing is likely to have a knock-on effect on the field of AR development because it provides access to all sorts of new data that developers can tap into \u2013 but there\u2019s more.\nThere\u2019s been talk about contextual computing giving us a sixth sense. After all, it will allow us to augment our understanding of the world around us by giving us access to new \u201csenses\u201d, such as our velocity or the quality of the air that we\u2019re breathing. Sure, we might not be able to \u201cfeel\u201d it, but we will be able to tap into the data and to find new ways of using it.\n3. It knows us better than we do\nLook at a service like Google Now, which is specifically designed to deliver information to users by predicting what they want, based upon both historical and contextual data. But the exciting thing about this is that by doing this, technological devices can get to know us better than we know ourselves.\nFor example, our smartphones can tell from both GPS and their accelerometers where we are and how much activity we\u2019re getting. This, of course, is augmented further by data from wearable devices such as Fitbits, to the point at which an analysis of the data can predict when we\u2019ll be hungry and how much we ought to eat to offset our activity. It could even indicate what we\u2019re likely to fancy and what our budget is.\n4. It could help to build true artificial intelligence\nOne of the most exciting potential uses of contextual computing is the way it could help us to build a walking, talking artificial intelligence that can understand its surroundings, and which interacts with \u201csenses\u201d in a similar way to humans.\nOf course, we\u2019re a long way off this now and we\u2019ll need machine learning and deep learning technologies to continue to progress alongside contextual computing. All the data in the world won\u2019t do us any good if we\u2019re unable to process it, and contextual computing relies on both hardware to gather the data and software to try to make sense of it.\n5. It\u2019s always listening\nThe current leaders in the contextual computing field are companies like Google and Amazon, thanks to their virtual assistants. Siri and Alexa are always listening, and they use what they hear to provide contextual services. After all, if they\u2019re not listening out for instructions then they can\u2019t react to commands, so they come with a certain amount of contextual computing built in.\nBut as well as listening for instructions, these devices are getting better and better at also listening to our houses. They can turn the lights on when we enter rooms and adjust the temperature depending upon who\u2019s inside. So, there you have it \u2013 contextual computing can make our lives more comfortable whilst cutting down on emissions. What\u2019s not to love?\nConclusion\nUltimately, the main thing to remember is that new technologies are all well and good, but it\u2019s the use cases that we create for them which decide whether they\u2019ll offer long-term value to us as a society. Contextual computing is a rapidly developing field with many exciting use cases, but the technology is only just coming of age. It would be a mistake to theorize and draw conclusions without giving it a chance.\nStill, it\u2019s clear to see that data is the way forward, and contextual computing merely takes advantage of that data and creates a new use case. As we move closer and closer to embracing exciting new technologies like Amazon\u2019s Echo and Alexa, the amount of potential for contextual computing just gets greater and greater. It\u2019s an exciting time to be alive, and I can\u2019t wait to see what the innovators in the space come up with.