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on 5 November 2013
I enjoyed the book as a rapid survey of the contextual technology landscape, and particularly welcomed the examples - although the approach make the book seem more like an extended post or magazine article. Where it fell down is in assessing the problems - privacy, data ownership, security etc etc. The NSA revelations, which were just breaking when the book was written, and which continue to unfold may come to make this shortcoming weigh much more heavily than it might otherwise. Worth reading, though....
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on 24 November 2013
This book just fails to deliver. If you know anything about this area, you'll get nothing from this book. If you know nothing but are interested, you'll get an unrealistic view of where tech is going. The general direction and points that are made are generally where the tech world is going. However there are 2 big problems with this book. First, it's like reading a massive advert for a couple of products/services/companies (Google Glass being one). Second, the way technology is discussed is so out of touch with what it takes to actually invent and deliver such technology you don't get a realistic view of where the tech world is heading. As a professional working in this area I'm greatly disappointed by this by journalists who I considered to be knowledgeable. If you're interested in this area, you're far better off spending your time reading articles on the net than bothering with this book.
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on 16 September 2013
This book is a must read for anyone with a smartphone, and anyone interested in the role of technology in society - which is basically everybody!

Science fiction author William Gibson once wrote that `the future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed'. What Scoble and Israel have done for this book is travel to the places where the future has arrived, and returned with a picture to show the rest of us how our lives will increasingly be shaped by ever present, and increasingly intelligent every day technology.

It is a place where technology has the power to make our lives better, with a rich contextual connection to the people and the world around us. However, as they point out, this future may have a price in the form of diminished privacy, and that as a society we are yet to form the rules, laws and behavioural norms that balance these benefits and costs.

Some of those rules and laws are already being debated and prepared, so above all this is a very timely book, which adds to the debate about getting the balance right. Scoble and Israel rightly highlight the issues of transparency, permission and control as central to this debate. They don't claim to have any answers, but this book is nevertheless a valuable contribution to the discussions about how we can make sure that the future of technology is one that benefits us all.
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on 27 October 2016
Thought provoking. Solid research. Good use of interviews and well presented reference links allow you to go your own way, if you want.

1. A printed book it is. dating fast (publ. 2014). Of course. Combining it with some of WIRED magazine's examples gets you up to date.
2. Not a single illustration in the age of the infographic (pun intended) raised a bushy eyebrow.

All in an interesting read.

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on 24 September 2013
Would you wear Google Glass? Will you buy a smartwatch? Do you own a Nike FuelBand, Jawbone or Fitbit? Then this book is made for you. For everyone else on the planet, we'll be shaped by the concepts in this book, whether we're aware of it or not. Chances are, if you're reading this, you want to be a participant in a digital contextual future, not some outsider moaning about privacy and Big Brother and the good old days before big data, so dive in!

The context of The Age Of Context is that five emerging forces - mobile, social media, data, sensors and location - and about to create sociological change that this book documents. This decade will be defined by the technology, economics and social need and willing to use these five forces to change the world.

The other context for this book is that co-author Robert Scoble is one of the lucky few to be trailing Google Glass - expected to be one of the first to market wearable tech gadgets that change out relationship with technology. Glass is written about plenty here and much of the book's genesis comes from and is, ahem, seen thru the lens of Glass.

The move from mouse and keyboard to touchscreens in our pocket; from physical music, films and documents on drives to files in the cloud... these are small steps compared to what the age of context brings.

So what does the future look like? Doctors actually talking to patients while your notes and a differential diagnosis pops up on screen. Shops that know when I'm coming, know how important a customer I am, and gives me relevant offers. Self-driving cars (yep, we're all a little freaked out about this one, but think about the advantages for the blind and disabled, say the authors). More efficient policing (and traffic lights!) based on sensors and big data. Medicines that tell your doctor when they've been taken.

The Age of Context hails a revolution that's driven by tech that can affect billions of us for better or worse. The authors, like me, are positive about the future, while addressing privacy concerns and shouts of 'Big Brother'. But it's not technology itself, but how we use our imaginations to use these five forces for good or bad that will define human progress in the next 20 years or so.

A chapter on the contextual self focuses on health sensors that can be worn or embedded in our bodies to report on changes to dozens of health metrics. A contextual age can solve the No.1 problem that many leading health sector thinkers have been discussing - how to take healthcare from a centrally located resource, based around doctors and hospitals to a patient-centric resource.

The solutions so far have been a move towards community outreach, such as asking dentists in the UK to ask patients about smoking, weight loss and healthy eating. The use of sensor-based healthcare allows for quicker and more accurate diagnosis and deployment of resources within a country's health service, but also a move towards self-diagnosis and self management. The implications of these changes should see economic savings, better allocation of health budgets, increased health, and the benefits that come with patients taking responsibility for their care through intelligent monitoring, rather than waiting for a doctor to take responsibility for patients' health.

The Age of Context is coming whether we like it or not, and whether we like Google Glass or not. It's bigger than any wearable tech, greater in impact to social media, and deserves bigger headlines than the latest iPhone launch. Robert Scoble and Shel Israel nail the topic in an experience similar to downloading a year's worth of Wired magazine onto your iPad and absorbing them in one sitting.

The single flaw with this book is a fitting one as it's a flaw arising from the context of the book. The writing style is often factual and sometimes lacks the mood, scene setting, characterisation and story telling that makes a Wired magazine feature a joy to read.

The other problem arising from the context of this book in time. Several times, companies mentioned in the book are just launching, in beta or just confirming a contract.

But these two quibbles can be overlooked because Scobles and Israel are there first, being visionaries. They won't get everything right. But someone has to write this book, and who better than forward-thinking at-the-coal-face-technophiles who are banner wavers for this new age. Let others that follow provide the meaning to the context - this book's job is to alert the world to the future.
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on 8 May 2014
There are deeper books on this subject out there but that doesn't mean that, even at it's current price (2GBP), you should dismiss it. Scoble and Isreal delve into the expectations, benefits and downsides of contextual data collection and analysis, predominately via mobile platforms.

The first half of the book addresses future concepts, innovation and practical applications of the world viewed and harvested by large, and small, companies -- to best serve our needs, wants and whims. It's going to be a great world...maybe! There's plenty of examples given; although none which will surprise most savvy readers. And it's all written in a straight-forward, appeal to all language. I didn't find this half of the book that surprising, nor did I find it particularly deep in information. It served a purpose, but I do have an interest in this area, generally speaking, so that might account for my impression of it.

The back end of the book; especially the health, and data privacy chapters were quite a bit more interesting. The writers highlight the flip-side of the 'wonderfully contextual' world with the stark realisation that insurance companies might just not want you to be in tip-top health all the time. And who owns the data anyway? It's highlighted as a worry and rightly so. This is serious when it comes down to it all.

All-in-all a coffee table book that doesn't particularly tax the reader, but there are some thinking points to be had. I'm not sure I'd have paid full price for it, given that you only have to watch Scoble on any podcast or interview to hear pretty much the full contents of the book given by him.

If you're really interested in the future (once you've finished AoC) that they are talking about, a great (fictional) read is Sycamore (Near-Future Dystopia) [Kindle Edition] Craig A. Falconer. The amount of overlap between the two books is very, very apparent. Highly recommended.
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on 8 October 2013
If you're someone who like to keep current in bleeding edge and future tech like I am, Robert and Shel have distilled all the research and interviews of the people who really shape our tech future and created an easy to read book. It does not delve deep into specific subjects, (a lot of the tech behind these innovations would require a lot of understanding!) but it is an eye opener to see how the tech we will use in the future will become more aware and be of more value to us. A great read, I'd wholeheartedly recommend it.
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on 1 July 2014
I loved this book because it explains in very common language and with great study cases the present of digital technology, its advantages and also the issues involved, particularly in terms of privacy. A must- read book not only for "geeks" but for everyone!
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on 24 October 2013
I was slightly dubious when I bought the book as I was worried it could be a tech fan boy romp that bore no relation to life outside of Silicon Valley. I was delighted to find that is was actually a pragmatic highly informative view of key trends and where they are going. If you are familiar with the themes it discusses you'll find all the key thinking here organized in a very readable way that makes you think deeper about what is happening with technology. If you aren't familiar with the latest tech trends then this book will absolutely blow your mind!
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on 28 September 2013
Review: Age of Context: Mobile Sensors, Data, and the Future of Privacy
by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel

Amazon U.S

Amazon UK

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Robert Scoble
Blog: http://scobleizer.com/
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Shel Israel


The Age of Context. is about how Everything we deal with is getting smarter about who we are, who we know, where are, and what we want.
Our things are getting to know us.

Five key tech trends
the fact that we have connected tech with us always.
the fact that we willingly identify our friends and family and never shut up about what interests us.
the fact that we now have the ability to store and sift enormous piles of clues.
the fact that even if we're not talking, our things are listening.
and watching.
and feeling.
the fact that our interests and requirements shift as we move through our environment. Driving to the airport? shopping? going to work? Waiting for the doctor?

Robert seems transfixed by what the new tech is bringing to us
Shel a bit more wary about it's taking from us.
The ultimate question the book raises: When companies know us better,
will they serve us better... or exploit us more ruthlessly?
Scoble leans into these changes. Israel holds back, more sensitive to how creepy it's all becoming.
The tension between their points of view gives the book a useful balance. And you can probably locate your own attitudes on the spectrum that runs between
Robert and Shel.

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel by Thomas Hawk
Scoble wearing Glass by Zennie62
used under CC license.
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