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Context-aware computing is essentially a type of computer operation that anticipates cases of use or, in other words, works in customized ways based on the context of user activities. This can apply either to a user's activities on the device, or the physical environment in which the device is being used.
In general, context-aware computing relies on engineering principles that have been done according to how people are expected to be using the computers or devices in question. Context-aware computing has a lot in common with the principles of human-computer interaction; one notable difference, however, is that, with context-aware computing, most of the solutions that deliver this higher and more sophisticated functionality are applied at runtime, according to input, on the overall context of that particular use.
Examples of context-aware computing include the new design of mobile devices that switch between a vertical and a landscape orientation depending on how they are positioned. Another example is devices that change their screens and backlighting according to the amount of light in the room where they are being used. One very new concept that could be called context-aware computing is the inclusion of mechanical and sensory elements in future mobile devices that help them adjust themselves to minimize damage when they are dropped.
Context-aware computing seeks to anticipate the ways that computers will need support from users in specific situations, whether it is indoors or outdoors, on manufacturing floors or in offices, or in any other kind of situation where a person relies on a piece of hardware to complete a task. This is a major element in the design of cutting-edge technology for today's consumer and business markets.