We are moving towards a reality where the web just is. It surrounds us, it’s in our pockets, and it can provide us contextual information about the world around us. Below are a few trends towards a location-aware web:
1. The Move Towards Mobility
As mobile continues to grow as the preferred way of accessing the web over the desktop, the concept of being “online” and “offline” will become irrelevant. These worlds will integrate as we carry our social graph with us in our pockets and on our tablets. This offers a new kind of transparency about how we understand our interactions and transactions within the context of time, location, and social networks. The challenge is to find ways to manage these interactions in as seamless and frictionless a manner as possible.Stats & Projections:

  • half a billion people worldwide accessed the mobile internet in 2009, and that number is estimated to double over the next 5 years.
  • there will be 788 million mobile-only internet users around the world by 2015
  • close to a billion smartphones will be shipped worldwide by 2015
2. Smartphones Become Digital Wallets
As more people gain access to smartphones, there is a race to innovate financial services and offerings for mobile payments. The integration of near field communication (NFC) technology enables peer to peer and proximity-based payment. In order for this trend to accelerate, it is critical to have interoperability among devices and services. To that end, the NFC Forum, a 140 member organization of manufacturers, application developers, and financial services institutions is working together to develop standards-based NFC specifications.Adoption of NFC in Mobile Devices:

  • Amazon considering NFC service as an extension of Amazon Payments
  • Google released the first NFC-enabled Android phone in December, and is now teaming with MasterCard Inc. and Citigroup Inc. to enable payment by waving the phone at a checkout counter. VeriFone Systems Inc., who make credit-card readers for cash registers, is also involved in upgrading their devices to accept payment via a swipe from a smartphone.
  • Microsoft Corp. integrating mobile-payment technology into its Windows Phone 7
  • Apple rumored to be working on a NFC solution linking payments through iTunes
  • Isis, a mobile commerce joint venture between AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, announced plans to pilot a payment program in Salt Lake City in 2012

Stats & Projections:

  • Mobile payments to reach $618 billion by 2016 (Edgar, Dunn & Co.)
  • 1 in 5 smartphones worldwide to have NFC by 2014 (Juniper Research)
  • 340 million global wireless users will use mobile payments by 2014 (Gartner)
  • transaction value of mobile payments to reach $245 billion by 2014 (Gartner)
  • total payment value for NFC globally to reach € 111.19 billion in 2015 (Frost & Sullivan)
3. An Information Layer on Reality
Mobile augmented reality (AR) allows an individual to point their phone’s camera at an object in the physical environment, and see an overlay of information about that object on their screen. Though mobile AR is still in its infancy, it offers a contextual layer for the physical environment and a new level of granularity of information that alters our experience of the world. Current uses include navigation, location, geo-informational services, and gaming.AR Browsers:

Layar, Wikitude, Acrossair


Yelp Monocle – see customer reviews for restaurants, bars and local businesses
Lonely Planet Compass Guides – access Lonely Planet info and reviews at point of interest
TripAdvisor – access TripAdvisor info and reviews at point of interest
Parallel Kingdom – mobile location based massively multiplayer game

Stats & Projections:

  • Mobile augmented reality worth $1.5 billion by 2015 (Juniper Research)
  • revenue total associated with AR amounted to $21 million in 2010, projected to grow to $3 billion by 2016 (ABI Research)
4. Gaming Goes Social
The rise of smartphones and web-enabled devices are leading to social gaming becoming a mobile experience. Mobile not only means “on the go,” but also means social games become a physically contextual experience in the real world by adding a layer of geo-awareness to some games. This includes “checking in” to locations in the real world to receive virtual points or rewards, and completing tasks in games in order to receive real world discounts at participating retailers.Stats & Projections:

  • Japan’s leading social games company, DeNA, projects $1.3 billion in revenue for 2011
  • Zynga, developer of popular Facebook games, projects $1.8 billion in revenue for 2011
  • Mobile game revenue to top $11 billion by 2015 (Juniper Research)
  • games are biggest app category, both for social web & mobile devices (Morgan Stanley)

Opportunities Abound

It’s looking like mobile will soon become the way the majority of humans on the planet access the web, with NFC technology providing proximity-based information and mobile AR providing a visual information layer, creating a rich contextual information environment.

What are the most interesting tools and applications that can emerge from these conditions?

How will a mobile, context-aware web lead to more intelligent decisions and choices?