There’s a big gap in publications about technology business. There are technical books that explain the low-level details of technologies, how they work, and how to piece them together. There are vision books that describe how the world will change dramatically and inspire us to think beyond what we see today. Then there are business books that explain how to manage and operate various forms of businesses using technology.
While such books provide comprehensive and complete explorations within their niche, they tend to gloss over the important aspects of the other genres. Technical books leave business readers wondering why a new capability matters, business books lack technical vision, and vision books leave us all wondering what’s hype, what’s real, and how to get there.
With Ubiquitous Computing for Business, I try to bridge these gaps in technology, business, and vision books by describing a set of innovation case studies around ubiquitous computing and the business implications thereof – some of these include a mobile context-aware recommendation system for a Japanese client, mobile document printing, and virtual decision support for dressing rooms and related physical environments. I synthesize the lessons from these cases and many other examples to identify the value propositions that “Ubicomp” technologies create across industry segments.
But unlike most kinds of information technologies, where efficiency is generally the dominant value proposition, Ubicomp can take businesses even further by creating whole new business categories. So my book also includes methods for identifying opportunities and problems across types of businesses to help strategists anticipate innovations and steer their companies in new directions.
Ubiquitous computing IS here. Now what?
The term Ubiquitous Computing (“Ubicomp” for short) was coined by Mark Weiser at PARC in the late 1980s to describe a research program around the post-PC (Personal Computer) era, launched in 1973 with the Xerox Alto computer. Whereas personal computing was about users directly inputting data and controlling applications in specific spaces, Ubicomp would bridge users’ physical and electronic spaces through sensors, services, and multiple devices. In one sense, the term “Ubiquitous Computing” describes the pervasiveness of digital technologies in our lives; but the Ubicomp agenda is not to proliferate devices, but to invent new services that enhance our personal, social, and work practices as we utilize computation ubiquitously.
The vision of Ubicomp has already succeeded at one level – devices and networks are ubiquitous today. Frankly, that was the easy part.
Now, we need to leverage this Ubiquitous Computing environment to create smarter, more valuable, “context-aware” information services that proactively predict future situations, accurately target information to personal needs, help people communicate at convenient times, live healthier more active lives, conserve energy, remember events, and just make more informed, better decisions overall. The business opportunities in Ubicomp today are not just about selling more computer devices but in creating services that leverage the ubiquity of computing.
The book is available here, and there is some related information in this press release. Also, I invite you to attend the free PARC Forum talk I’m giving on April 28 – besides the comments below, I’d love to exchange insights in person.