Coming soon to you: the information you need.

The day when your hat can extrapolate your mood from your brain activity and make a spa appointment on your behalf may not be far away.

The next big thing in the digital world won’t be a better way for you to find something. If a confluence of capabilities now on the horizon bears fruit, the next big thing is that information will find you.

Devices from your phone to your appliances will join forces in the background to make your life easier automatically.

Welcome to contextual search, a world where devices from your phone to your appliances will join forces in the background to make your life easier automatically.

Contextual, or predictive search, started with the now-humble recommendations pioneered by companies such as Amazon – where metadata applied behind the scenes led you to products with similar attributes via pages that made helpful suggestions such as “customer who bought this also bought…”.

But when such technology grows and expands to everything around us, it could result in what Andrew Dent, a strategist with virtualisation company Citrix Systems, calls “cyber-sense”. This is information from a growing field of devices that know more about you than ever before.

Today your smartphone knows your location, so everything from the local weather to nearby Facebook friends is available. What about tomorrow when your jacket can measure your vital signs or a hat can extrapolate your mood from your brain activity?

Connect it with information on your schedule (from your calendar), spatial information such as whether you’re running or at rest, the time of day and a hundred other factors, and machines everywhere can decide on, find and present the information they think you need.

The field is opened even wider by search technology that finds abstract connections for you, rather than you starting a search at a given point. A system out of Bangalore, India called CollabLayer lets you watch for specific keywords you assign to almost any kind of data in a network.

But you can also submit a collection of documents to CollabLayer when you don’t really have a search term in mind. The system extracts links between what it thinks are key entities and graphs them in a “semantic map”. Such a method can give search a heuristic or “proactive” approach that doesn’t really need the input of a user.

It’s a similar proposition to the semantic web framework championed by the W3C, the consortium led by the father of the worldwide web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. It aims to connect content across the web regardless of file formats, expanding the scope of what our data can do for us.

Put contextual search together with the “Internet of Things” concept and the real-world applications becomes obvious. When your smart car realises a brake pad is a bit worn, it asks your GPS where you are, checks your calendar to see when you have some free time, asks the manufacturer for a workshop near you that has the part, makes an appointment and sends you a text or email with everything set up before you had any idea.

With APIs (application programming interface – the “translation tool” between two applications) cheaper than ever for interconnecting search systems, software isn’t the issue.

One issue is sheer volume – there’s more contextual data than anyone can possibly process manually. Business Insider recently reported on a Moscow technology conference, where a professor added up the amount of data in the world that’s about you (not just what you generate yourself). The result was 44.5 gigabytes per person, compared with just 500 megabytes per person in 1986.

The other issue is commercialisation, and whether we have to be slaves to a single technology company for all this to work in the real world. With its vast desktop and mobile ecosystem, Google is the closest to a de-facto standard, and already a new Google service in the US lets you conduct contextual searches from what’s essentially your own information.

But for the brake pad example to work, a lot of proprietary systems need access to each other’s APIs, and history has shown large technology companies tend to protect their own patch. As Jared Carrizales, chief executive of Heroic Search says, “Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t think this capability will be available en masse on any other platform than Google.”

It might take an open source platform or a platform-agnostic public system to make contextual search truly seamless, but can the support base behind non-profit efforts sustain such a far-reaching infrastructure, and will governments want to compete directly with some of their biggest taxpayers?

Howard Turtle, director of the Centre for Natural Language Processing at Syracuse University, says it will take a few VHS versus Beta-style “standards wars”, but even then, individual preferences will generate whole new tiers of processing. “Of course, it also raises all sorts of privacy and security issues,” he adds.

So with the will and means that might already be in place, an ability to commercialise the services might be the only stumbling block to an internet that knows what you want.

How to Improve Your Virtual Communication Skills.


Healthy communication is the cornerstone of cultivating and sustaining healthy relationships. We connect and express ourselves through the spoken and written word, which ultimately allows us to develop our “voice” in the world.

How well you communicate directly correlates with how understood and heard you feel by the response you receive from the other end of the dialogue.

When it comes to communicating through text or email, the rules and guidelines for good communication don’t change. The integrity of your words should remain the same, and all the skills and etiquette you would apply in real life need to be applied.

Words are powerful with or without voice, and it’s even more important to be clear when tone is absent. Words are vulnerable to being twisted and misconstrued when they lack intonation, and human expression.

How many times have you sent an email or text to someone only to find that they have completely misinterpreted or misread what you were trying to say? Your correspondence with others reflects your ability to express yourself in real time, so if you struggle with getting your point across in general, you will most likely bump into obstacles when trying to do it through the written word.

Whether you are writing a work email, communicating with your Ex about something uncomfortable, or responding to a difficult situation, here are 5 skills to help you draft better correspondence.

These are skills that work both on and off the computer or smart phone, and should be applied in any conversation that requires a delicate touch.

1. Make sure your intention is clear

In any correspondence you always want to make your intention clear. There is usually one point you want to get across, but if you just let your words flow without much reflection you are bound to step into a landmine. Before you even start drafting clarify your ultimate intention. Is it to get the person to do something? Are you looking for an answer or response? Do you want an apology? Knowing what you are hoping to get will increase your chances of actually achieving that goal. Asking, “what is my intention?” is a good practice before beginning any conversation.

2. Establish boundaries

Believe it or not, boundaries can be conveyed as much through written word as they can in person. A boundary is a clear line defining what you are willing to accept or tolerate, and what is too much. Boundaries are conveyed through language like “I can’t allow you to…” or “I cannot accept the fact that…”

Boundaries can also come from your strong belief in how you feel. This is different then needing to be right, it’s more about being very clear that your experience is valid and true for you. This works when you are being accused of something, or blamed for something you don’t feel you did. A response to this might look something like “I appreciate your perspective, but I am confident that this isn’t true for me…”

3. Empathy

Using language that conveys a sense of empathy in your correspondence is always a good practice. Everyone wants to feel acknowledged and understood on some level, so you will need to pause and understand where the other person is coming from. Even if you don’t agree, it’s always a good idea to say that you can understand why or how they see things the way they do, and to let them know that you understand their position on the issues at hand.

Empathy is diffuser in communication, and it can calm even the most upset person. Look at it like a virtual hug. Empathy is contagious, and it’s hard to respond to it in a negative way.

4. Accountability

In any two-way conversation there are always two opinions, two perspectives and two subjective experiences. It’s rarely always the other person. Being accountable to how you might have contributed to the breakdown of what is happening, or acknowledging that you didn’t communicate well is a great habit to develop. Stepping back and asking yourself how you could have done things differently will help you clarify your point as well. Simply writing something like “I recognize that I have some responsibility in this situation…” opens up space for the other person to do the same.

5. Always maintain integrity

The written word can be as much a trigger as speaking with someone in person. There are some situations where even the most skillfully drafted communication will still ignite a negative response from the other party. If you are dealing with verbal attacks, and you know you aren’t going to get anywhere step out of the power struggle and end it with integrity. This is a graceful exit without being pulled down to the other person’s level.

Stepping out requires letting go of needing to feel validated or heard, and accepting that this person simply cannot engage on a healthy and productive level. This is a great practice in both virtual and real life because it shows you that you are always in control of how you feel, and how you respond.

Source: Purpose fairy

Is This a Mosquito?

It can be remotely controlled and is equipped with a camera and a microphone. It can land on you, and it may have the potential to take a DNA sample or leave RFID tracking nanotechnology inside your skin. It can fly through an open window, or it can attach to your clothing until you take it to your car or home.