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Gartner Says Context-Aware Computing Will Be a $12 Billion Market By 2012


Analysts Discuss Top Tech Trends at Gartner Symposium/ITxpo, 17-19 November 2009 in Sydney

Sydney, Australia, Enterprises can leverage context-aware computing to better target prospects, increase customer intimacy, and enhance associate productivity and collaboration, according to Gartner, Inc. as organisations begin to use context information to increase top- and bottom-line growth and context providers begin to consolidate and monetize their knowledge of their clients. By 2012, Gartner predicts that context information will be a $12 billion market with at least two global context providers with more than 100 million subscribers each.

Gartner defines context-aware computing as the concept of leveraging information about the end user to improve the quality of the interaction. Emerging context-enriched services will use location, presence, social attributes, and other environmental information to anticipate an end user’s immediate needs, offering more-sophisticated, situation-aware and usable functions.

“Although the rudiments of context-aware computing have been around for some time now, it is a disruptive technology that has the potential to be a real ‘game changer’ in terms of competitive advantage,” said Anne Lapkin, research vice president at Gartner, who is in Sydney this week to present at the company’s annual Gartner Symposium/ITxpo event.

“Initial implementations of context-enriched services are already in play, and early adopters will find it easier to implement more-sophisticated services in the future. However, the real promise of context-aware computing will be realised when context information from multiple sources and multiple applications can be used simultaneously — and when trust and privacy issues are addressed.”

The promise of context-aware computing is such that many types of vendor are vying to be context providers and secure a piece of this growing market:

* Web vendors are well positioned to become context providers, as they typically have large populations of users about whom they collect a significant amount of context information. They will be able to leverage some of their technology (i.e., instant messaging and social networking), but will need to extend their capabilities to be more context-aware. Gartner believes that any Web vendor that does not become a context provider risks handing over effective customer ownership to someone else — with a significant impact on their mobile and classic Web businesses.
* Handset manufacturers have the opportunity to preinstall context data collection and presentation tools on their products. Nokia is exceptionally well placed to exploit the context opportunity because, although it is traditionally a handset manufacturer, it is making a strategic move as an emerging Web vendor with its OVI initiative. Other players that could move toward contextual services relatively easily are Apple and Research in Motion. Both have strong end-to-end control of their hardware and software as well as some experience in hosting server-side infrastructure.
* Social networking vendors such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Mixit and Loopt have some, but not all, of the foundations of context. They have rich information about their users, but have weaker access to real-time contextual data, no location-based services of their own and no minimal application delivery mechanisms beyond the browser.
* Mobile networks operators are weak in many key areas of context, but they have a substantial number of customers and significant information about them (i.e., calling patterns and subscriber data). They also have one major advantage denied to every other type of vendor they have discussed — they know the location of the handset (approximately) without having to install software on the handset at all. According to Gartner, the big challenge for network operators will be the need to interact cooperatively with a wide range of business partners — not a traditional strength of these organizations.
* Communications infrastructure vendors such as Cisco and Alcatel Lucent are making significant investments in context —Cisco with its Mobility engine and Alcatel with its recent mobile advertising offering. Companies with rich presence engines, such as Microsoft and Avaya, can also be significant players. These vendors can provide analytics on user location and will be a key federation point between enterprises, carriers and individual context information.

For enterprises, the challenge will be not only to identify the right business opportunities to leverage context information, but also to choose the right partners and context providers.

“These are by no means trivial challenges, but those enterprises that begin to explore solutions now will be better positioned to exploit the ‘game changing’ potential as context information and context-enriched services become widely available and used,” said Ms. Lapkin.

About Gartner Symposium/ITxpo

Gartner Symposium/ITxpo is the industry’s largest and most important annual gathering of CIOs and senior IT executives. This event delivers independent and objective content with the authority and weight of the world’s leading IT research and advisory organisation, and provides access to the latest solutions from technology providers. Gartner’s annual Symposium/ITxpo events are key components of attendees’ annual planning efforts. They rely on Gartner Symposium/ITxpo to gain insight into how their organisations can use IT to address business challenges and improve operational efficiency. More information can be found at

About Gartner:
Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading information technology research and advisory company. Gartner delivers the technology-related insight necessary for its clients to make the right decisions, every day. From CIOs and senior IT leaders in corporations and government agencies, to business leaders in high-tech and telecom enterprises and professional services firms, to technology investors, Gartner is the indispensable partner to 60,000 clients in 10,000 distinct organizations. Through the resources of Gartner Research, Gartner Consulting and Gartner Events, Gartner works with every client to research, analyze and interpret the business of IT within the context of their individual role. Founded in 1979, Gartner is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, U.S.A., and has 4,000 associates, including 1,200 research analysts and consultants in 80 countries. For more information, visit


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