Here comes the age of ambient everything

Trends in social, search, mobile, wearable and the Internet of things will alter our perception of reality. Change is in the air.

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4. The Internet of things. Our "things," such as our home appliances, will get microprocessors and Internet connections. Here's a very simple example: laundry. We put some clothes in the washer, and the washing machine will know who we are because it will detect identity from the phone. If we leave to run errands during the rinse cycle, the smart washer won't bother notifying us when it's finished because it will know that we're not home. As we walk up the path toward the door, the porch light will come on and the door will unlock -- Bluetooth will alert the house that we're home. The lights will come on. The song that was half-played in the car will finish playing in the house. Oh, and the washer will know that we've returned and will remind us to put the clothes in the dryer. Walking into the house will feel like we're walking into a room full of data and intelligence.

5. Location-based commerce. We hear a lot about location-based advertising and marketing, but this will often be conjoined with location-based purchasing. Combine these, and shopping becomes ambient. For example, today you might spot a pair of sunglasses in a store window and decide to go in and buy them. With location-based commerce, you'll be able to buy sunglasses that you see on someone else's face or in a movie or magazine. The old way to shop was to go to specific locations like malls and look for things to buy. Location-based commerce turns the whole world into a store and puts everything you see up for sale.

Contextual computing is coming. But it won't feel like context. It will feel like ambience.

Think about how touch tablets make you forget that you're using a computer. While swiping through your apps, you forget that this is an information machine with memory and storage and graphics processing. Kids growing up with post-PC devices don't know and don't care how it all works. It's just a magic window to a world of entertainment and information. The same thing will happen with the technologies behind mobile notifications, wearable computing, preemptive search, the Internet of things and location-based commerce. We will forget they exist.

Instead, our perceptions about reality itself will change. We'll experience contextual systems as ambient knowledge -- walking into a room will feel like we're being immersed in the knowledge that exists in that room.

I've seen the future through Google Glass. And it's a future of ambient everything.

Change is in the air.

This column, "Here Comes the Age of Ambient Everything," was originally published on

Mike Elgan writes about technology and tech culture. You can contact Mike and learn more about him on Google+. You can also see more articles by Mike Elgan on

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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