Soon your mobile will be your assistant, best friend and wingman all rolled into one

When I was a kid, the last word from my mother’s mouth before we went anywhere was invariably “behave.”

00011292“Behave” of course meant different things based on where we were going and what we were doing — shopping (no hiding in the clothing racks), church (sit down and stop fidgeting), the park (go run around and scream like a banshee). The time of day and who you were with changed what “behave” meant, too. Lunch? Hands are ok. Dinner? That’s silverware only. With my siblings in the backyard? Don’t fight. Playing with the neighbor’s kids? Be nice and don’t call them names.

Flash forward a few decades and I’m still checking my behavior protocols pretty much every where I go (although the warnings now come from my wife rather than my mother). It’s interesting that throughout our lives we’re acutely aware of context — where we are, who we’re with, and what we’re doing — and adjust our personal behavior accordingly.

Curiously, one of our most important personal items, the smartphone, is completely oblivious of context. While they keep our contacts, store our photos, help us to work, to socialize, and even “know” where we are, and when we’re there they still buzz, beep, click and whirl rudely demanding our attention regardless of what we might be doing. Why can’t they behave?

I’m sure we all could come up with a long list of explanations, but I’d hazard first among them is the folks who build the hardware and software think of them primarily as devices — a piece of electronics like a TV set or printer, or a really fancy toaster — not the sort of personal assistants or companions they’ve become. As such, they’re designed to do what they do without regard for “human” concepts like place and time. But two events in the past seven lead me to believe things on that front are about to change very quickly.

Late last week, my company, AirPatrol, announced ZoneAware, a mobile device locationing platform that will let organizations make their network infrastructure “context aware” for mobile devices — capable of dynamically triggering apps or pushing information to a device based on location, time and user. And earlier this week, Apple announced its new iPhone 5S and 5C models will be “contextually aware” based on the location, orientation and speed of travel of the phone — important features for wearable computing like watches and pedometers that communicate with the iPhone.

Admittedly, these are different forms of contextual awareness. Apple is working from the inside out, coupling personal gadgets and the iPhone with motion and direction to create a sort of walking bio-feedback network. Meanwhile, AirPatrol is working from the outside in, giving applications and web services the ability to interact with wireless devices based on location, time and user. But they’re complementary technologies both working toward a single goal of allowing your device to change its behavior based on where you are, what you’re doing and when.

This is pretty cool stuff when you think of all the great things that context aware devices and networks can do. No more embarrassing “booty shake” ringtones in the theater because your phone knew to set itself to vibrate. No more “I don’t have the presentation notes” in the conference room because they were pushed to everyone as they entered. No more 10 minute wait at the reception desk because your phone already notified the hotel you were here and provided all your reservation information and room preferences. No more forgetting that you needed milk and you were just at the store. No more forgetting names, no more running into your ex at that restaurant, no more forgetting the proper response to “Spasibo.” No more no mores. The possibilities are endless really. With context awareness your mobile could become your personal assistant, best friend and wing man all rolled into one.

Best of all, it’ll never have to remind you to behave.