Jeremy Zawodny at Yahoo asks the fun but insightful question:
What would it be like if you could select an advertisement and then be shown a list of all conversations in your email archive that were relevant?
Jeremy noticed the contextual ads that appeared next to his gmail messages served as reasonable – not perfect, but reasonable – proxies for some of the main themes occuring in his email message threads.
So, Jeremy suggests that while you might remember the main topics of email threads today, it may be more difficult to remember them next week or next year. But, if advertisements were proxies for "personal tags", his theory suggests that the bridge to the next wave of context-aware and relevance-aware applications may well come from today’s contextual advertising technologies.
I agree with Jeremy that the contextual ad technologies of today provide insights into some of the core components of context-aware applications of tomorrow.
I believe Google and Yahoo – who have decided to monetize value through advertisements – are really the first leaders in the emerging opportunities related to "Sensing" technologies.
Said differently… just as the value creation engine for advertising has migrated to sensing technologies that determine context, the source of value for consumer and enterprise applications will migrate toward those technologies that sense and act on context, relevance and location.