The next wave of computing’s here and it’s cognizant

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Heading to the future

At the moment a lot of the technology we own still does one thing. Your watch, for instance, is probably still — for all intents and purposes — just a watch. Most people’s TVs are still just TVs. All that’s about to change thanks to cognizant computing.

The concept of cognizant computing isn’t all that new. In effect, it’s the seamless integration of connected devices and personal cloud services that form and feed into much larger ecosystems, platforms and operating systems. It’s only very recently though that we’ve seen it come into effect.

According to tech research company Gartner, cognizant computing is the natural evolution of a world driven not by devices but rather collections of apps and services that extend across multiple platforms and exist outside the realm of connected screens, such as phones, tablets, PCs or televisions.

In effect, the technology behind apps and online services has got to the point where the platform they’re used on no longer matters. This is something that is not possible in stand-alone applications or devices.

It also means that people don’t have to adopt or make a commitment to a platform or service in total and can adopt through long-term interaction and purchases that are driven by short-term task-driven functions. The ability track information through the cloud for instance means that the miles you log on using the Runkeeper app on your personal iPhone will still be there if you download and log in to the app from your partner’s Android device.

Previously, devices like wristwatches, key fobs, thermostats and shoes couldn’t really develop much further than their original use. With the right sensors and the ability to connect, through the cloud, to any number of devices and platforms means that they gain value way beyond what was originally imagined possible.

Smart watches for instance have been around for a while now. For the most part however they failed to gain any traction because they were expensive, had little perceived value, and emphasised technology over form and only existed as standalone devices. Compare that to the Pebble Smartwatch. One of the darlings of crowdfunding site Kickstarter in 2012, it connects with your Android or iOS device and allows you to perform a whole host of functions without having to take it out of your pocket.

“One of the defining experiences of cognizant computing is that the devices that drive the experience fall into what we refer to as the invisible space. We define this as the combination of devices and services that unite to form an experience that is below the daily threshold of awareness,” says Jessica Ekholm, research director at Gartner. “In practice, consumers will forget the devices are being carried, worn or used until they need to interact with them for control or to obtain feedback in terms of data or information.”

“Personal cloud services and ecosystems are now the centre of the digital consumer experience,” says Gartner research director Michael Gartenberg. “Combined with increasingly ubiquitous connections, cognizant devices offer new opportunities to drive new device adoption, grow personal cloud services and act as a tipping point for consumer platform adoption. As new digital devices decrease in size, tie into existing applications such as home automation and personal fitness, and increase in perceived user functionality as well as overall form, we will see an increase of multiple devices throughout the home and person that will trend into the invisible space.”

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