If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, you know that the most favored servants are those who have come to know their employers’ needs and preferences so well that steps are proactively taken to ensure that members of the Grantham family are never in need of anything. Just as they begin getting hungry, a meal is being served. There’s no need to ever ask.
Fast-forward one hundred years later and we’re used to something quite the opposite: when we’re in need of something we must ask. We’re constantly asking the Internet, to the tune of several billion Google searches every day, and we’re constantly searching our computers, mobile devices and corporate networks for the files we need.
Just like a butler that remembers what you like for breakfast, there’s a new class of technology – predictive analysis – that logs your behavior in order to understand the content that you’re most likely to find valuable and directs you to it. You’re probably already familiar with Amazon.com or iTunes recommendations. Once a purchase has been made, the predictive analysis engine uses algorithms to locate other items or songs you may not know exist, but that you may like.
But predictive analysis technology is just once piece of the puzzle; a butler isn’t very useful if all he does is suggest a breakfast you might like and he doesn’t actually make and bring it to you. So there’s still the delivering, or “pushing”, of content. Email is good example of pushing content: you don’t search for new email; it’s just automatically delivered to your inbox and mobile devices.
So while it’s no longer amazing that we have lots of information at our fingertips, the potential value we can unlock in all of that information IS amazing, especially if the most relevant information to us is made easily and instantly available. In the future, we won’t waste time searching for files because that part has already been done for us, leaving us with more time to consume content and derive value from information.
The real challenge will be for technologies to catch up with the rapidly deteriorating desire we have to search for information. There are some awesome companies that are doing incredible things. As mentioned, Amazon.com and iTunes are recognizable names, but there are wicked cool startups like Zite (recently sold to CNN), that curates news that you’ll like and presents it beautifully on iPhone and iPad — and Huddle (disclosure: I do PR for Huddle) which is developing intelligent content delivery technology for the enterprise. But there’s room for more. Enter big data…
What are your thoughts about the future of search and predictive analysis?