Contextual Search Gaining Ground In The Internet Of Things
May 7, 2013

Internet Searches May Someday Conduct Themselves

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Internet searches may someday conduct themselves, with content searching for users instead of the other way around, thanks to something known as “contextual searching,” according to a researcher from the University of Notre Dame.

In fact, experts say the technology is improving so much we may soon forget what the world was like without it.

Contextual search describes the capability for Internet search engines to recognize a number of factors beyond the simple search text entered by the user. These additional criteria form the "context" in which the search is conducted.

The technology has generated significant buzz in recent months due to interest from Google. The Internet search giant uses contextual search in its Google Now product to provide information based on location, and by accessing calendar entries and travel confirmation messages in Gmail accounts.

Google Now has been available on Android for the last six months, and was just released for the iOS platform.

"You no longer have to search for content, content can search for you, which flips the world of search completely on its head," said technology expert Brian Proffitt at the University of Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business.

"Basically, search engines examine your request and try to figure out what it is you really want," said Proffitt, author of 24 books on mobile technology and personal computing.

Proffitt also serves as editor and daily contributor for, one of the most widely read and respected tech blogs in the world.

"The better the guess, the better the perceived value of the search engine. In the days before computing was made completely mobile by smartphones, tablets and netbooks, searches were only aided by previous searches,” he said.

"Today, mobile computing is adding a new element to contextual searches," he said.

"By knowing where and when a search is being made, contextual search engines can infer much more about what you want and deliver more robust answers. For example, a search for nearby restaurants at breakfast time in Chicago will give you much different answers than the exact same search in Tokyo at midnight."

Context can also include more than location and time. For instance, search engines will also account for other users' searches made in the same place and even the known interests of the user.

"Someday soon“¦you'll watch a trailer of the latest romantic movie, and the next time you search for movie times at the local theater, that movie will be prominently displayed,” Pruitt said.

In the future, contextual searches may also be teamed up with the "Internet of Things," a euphemism used to describe an inter-connected network of devices reporting on what's going on around them.

"Imagine a part in your car sending a malfunction signal that schedules your car for a repair appointment, followed up by an automated function that checks your calendar online and schedules the appointment for you,” Pruitt said.

“Or, consider a hydro-sensor in your garden that sends you a message to let you know the plants need more water."

This is only a small part of what the “Internet of Things” will do, he said.

"Coupled with contextual searching, it could transform our online experience to something where, instead of us searching for knowledge, objects and machines around us will be delivering information to us or taking direct action," he said.

"Clothes could grow more opaque if the UV rating is too high on a given day. Pricing information for a new TV in the electronics store might display right on your phone. Nutrition information for cupcakes in your favorite bakery."

"It will all be there at your fingertips."