The Context

Here is an idea, I haven’t seen this idea anywhere, I might have talked about it some form in the past, but never to this detail, and certainly it is an idea that is now clear in my mind.  Maybe someone else has had this idea also, parallel things like that happen, but just in case that hasn’t happened I’m writing it down.

It’s for free, I would like to claim it as my own idea just to stop the big companies claiming it and owning us all over again; what it really needs is a small developer to do it.  It is beyond my technical expertise and time to execute, so take it and make some dough.  I don’t want any, well I do, but I couldn’t possibly justify that, and what I REALLY want is to see it out there and be able to use it.  Hint my current phone operating system is Windows Mobile 6, but it needs developing for all platforms.

I call it “The Context”

I carry my phone everywhere.  (My phone doesn’t have GPS but I’m going pretend it does).

It can know where I am by three methods, GPS, Local Mast, Wireless Networks local to me.

It can initiate a dialogue, and, lastly, it knows what time it is.

Since it knows when and where I am, it can just ask me a couple of questions to establish some context.

Let’s do some scenarios, because I think best when I’m doing that.

I set a sensitivity in my app that gives me five minutes somewhere before it decides that I might be actually doing something rather than just walking around.

Say I’m in a coffee shop.  The Context tracking me in here, but lost the GPS because coffee shop is in a mall, but it knows I’m in town.  (I’m assuming a little history here for out narrative).  We’ve been sitting in the coffee shop for more than five minutes and the app buzzes me without turning on the phone screen.

There are two possibilities, I don’t want to be bothered, so I ignore it.  It takes note and saves it for later.

I want it to know, I want a context, so I get my phone and answer the buzz.  It’s giving me options

  1. I’ll talk.
  2. Go away.
  3. Later.

(Because I might have had the phone out already see and been using it).

I talk, it asks if this is a new place I want to remember.  Yeah ok, it’s Starbucks.  What sort of place is it?  It’s a coffee shop. (It might already know that Starbucks is a coffee shop, but that would make it bloatware, it can’t know everything, so don’t try, just answer the question).

You coming here regular?  No.  (Because I just came for coffee out of the blue)).

Or a yes would give.

At this time?  No/yes/maybe.

Cool, Remembered.  Want any more context words?  Nah, I’m good.

OK So it knows I’m in the Starbucks in town.  What use is it?


Let’s try a different place.  First time I go to the supermarket we have the same dialogue, but this time I tell it that (say) Sainsburys is a supermarket, and I add some more words, “shopping” “Food”.

That triggers a little search in my text documents for these words, I’m asked if these docs are relevant.  I can pick out that shopping list I keep on the phone, (yeah I do that, I forget things).  I tag one of them and say the rest are not relevant.

I shop and the phone leaves me in peace.  But now I can do two things, or rather, I can do one thing, and the other is done for me.

I can look at that list before I leave home, and The Context can remind me of other linked things, because Sainsburys is in town, it can pick up that tag and look at other places in town.  It might start by asking if I want to do in town related things.  I haven’t got time, so no.  It goes away.

But supposing I decide to shop while I’m in town, I go to Sainsburys, the context picks this up by detecting the GPS, the local mast and then the id of Sainsburys broadcast wireless id.  Note that since hiding Wireless ID is worthless in security terms, people let it broadcast now, which can help us know where we are without violating rules or privacy.  It’s just an SSID and we don’t have to worry about it, we’re not picking up their traffic in any way, we’re not interested in it, only in knowing where we are.

So The Context knows where I am.  It buzzes me.  This time I know it’s buzzing me because it has something useful to say, I whip out my phone.

“I think you’re in Sainburys shopping, and you can look at your shopping list, and your don’t forget list.”

“By the way, I know you usually shop at this time, but there is only 3/4 of an hour to go before you pick up the kids.  You usually take 30 minutes shopping, so there’s time”

Why can it do this?  Because it knows where we are in time, and I pick up the kids  at whenever.  If I had started shopping much later, it would have been quite a different dialogue.

“You haven’t got time for this now.  Get the kids.”

This is logistically easy to program, but it’s 2.30 in the morning practically and I’m not doing a flow chart at this time in the morning.

Point is, it’s not too hard to do for anyone who writes phone apps.  I’m not one of those people.  But I need this.  So does everyone else.

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