Silicon Valley Is Building A New Generation Of Apps That Know What You Want Before You Ask For It

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For two days, the Valley's tech elite has pontificated on the "Next Big Thing" at Bloomberg's Next Big Thing Summit held in gorgeous Half Moon Bay, Calif.

One big thing came up over and over as the Next Big Thing: a concept called "contextually aware applications."

This means that our apps will get smarter, understand us better, and do more for us automatically,  thanks to sensors built into our mobile devices. With sensors, our apps can understand where we are, what we are doing, can fuse information from our GPS, our calendars, our social networks, our trip planners, the noise and weather of our surroundings and adjust themselves accordingly.

Google Now — an intelligent, predictive mobile search assistant — is the best example of a contextually-aware app to date, but the feeling is that it's only a glimmer of what's to come.

One day, our apps will see our appointments, arrange the best trip to avoid traffic, find us a local parking spot, and serve up driving and walking directions, along with all the emails and files we need for our meetings.  We do nothing but enter the appointment. It will even contact your nearby buddies to set up some social plans.

Some people also called this trend the Virtual Digital Assistant.

There were a few other ideas bantered about as the next big thing, too:

Cars designed for ride-sharing, instead of for a single owner. Imagine cars where you login to a custom software dashboard filled with your preferences, similar to how a PC allows multiple users to log in.

A revolution in health care devices. Devices that don't just tell you what you know, such as that your heart rate rose while your rode your bike, but what you don't know, such as how to adjust your workouts to get fit faster. Sensors built into devices will lead to personalized medicine, managing long-term illnesses, even planning your diet. 

Less-intrusive wearable computers. Debate raged as to weather Google Glass would really become the next big hit consumer device or if normal people will prefer a less-intrusive device, like a watch.  The thought was, a watch would be a bigger hit, first, but that everyone would be wearing some kind of voice-controlled device that would become our Virtual Digital Assistant.



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