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Context Aware Computing

what is Context Aware Computing

Context-aware computing promises a smooth interaction between humans and technology but few studies have been conducted regarding how autonomously an application should perform. Context-aware computing is a style of computing in which situational and environmental information about people, places, and things is used to anticipate immediate needs and proactively offer enriched situation-aware, and usable content, functions, and experiences. The notion of context is much more widely appreciated today. The term “context-aware computing” is commonly understood by those working in ubiquitous/pervasive computing, where it is felt that context is key in their efforts to disperse and enmesh computation into our lives.


Context is a powerful, and longstanding, concept in human-computer interaction. Interaction with computation is by explicit acts of communication (e.g., pointing to a menu item), and the context is implicit (e.g., default settings). Context can interpret explicit acts, making communication much more efficient. Thus, carefully embedding computing into the context of our lived activities can serve us with minimal effort on our part. Communication can be not only effortless but also naturally fit in with our ongoing activities.

A great deal of effort has gone into the field of context-aware computing over the past few years, building applications that have a greater awareness of the physical and social situations in which they are embedded. From a computational perspective, there are four goals for context-aware computing:

  • Increasing the number of input channels into computers
  • Pushing towards the more implicit acquisition of data
  • Creating better models that can take advantage of this increased input
  • Using the increased input and improved models in new and useful ways

Context-aware computing is not a new concept, but the ongoing mobile revolution makes it both necessary and feasible. Context-aware computing involves first acquiring context and then taking context-dependent actions.

  • Necessary because the mobile phone display is small and information must be delivered with much higher relevance and precision to meet user needs.
  • Feasible because small, light-weight mobile devices allow users to almost always carry them around, and much can be learned via a phone about its user’s habits and states

Context Aware Computing

Figure 1: Context-Aware Computing

Context-aware computing can be applied to benefit applications in many areas including but not limited to information retrieval, facility management, and productivity enhancement, in addition to the aforementioned three examples representing power management, health care, and commerce, respectively.

Defining Context Aware Computing

The Context-Aware Computing group uses "context knowledge" such as where we are, how we feel and what we have done to drive machines to use our intentions to work with us. Context awareness is the ability of a system or system component to gather information about its environment at any given time and adapt behaviors accordingly. Contextual or context-aware computing uses software and hardware to automatically collect and analyze data to guide responses.

Context-aware computing is essentially a type of computer operation that anticipates cases of use or, in other words, works in customized ways based on the context of user activities. This can apply either to a user's activities on the device, or the physical environment in which the device is being used. Context-aware computing has a lot in common with the principles of human-computer interaction; one notable difference, however, is that, with context-aware computing, most of the solutions that deliver this higher and more sophisticated functionality are applied at runtime, according to input, on the overall context of that particular use.


Examples of context-aware computing include the new design of mobile devices that switch between a vertical and a landscape orientation depending on how they are positioned. Another example is devices that change their screens and backlighting according to the amount of light in the room where they are being used. One very new concept that could be called context-aware computing is the inclusion of mechanical and sensory elements in future mobile devices that help them adjust themselves to minimize damage when they are dropped. Context-aware computing seeks to anticipate the ways that computers will need support from users in specific situations, whether it is indoors or outdoors, on manufacturing floors or in offices, or in any other kind of situation where a person relies on a piece of hardware to complete a task. This is a major element in the design of cutting-edge technology for today's consumer and business markets.


[1] Chang, Edward Y, "Context-aware computing: opportunities and open issues." Proceedings of the VLDB Endowment 6, no. 11 (2013), pp. 1172-1173

[2] Schilit, Bill, Norman Adams, and Roy Want, "Context-aware computing applications", In Mobile Computing Systems and Applications, WMCSA, First Workshop on, pp. 85-90, IEEE, 1994.

[3] Context-Aware Computing, available online at:

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