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I had a dream last night that I was hiking along a stream with my family. It was the same path we'd hiked and geocached dozens of times. Except this time, Siri's voice interrupted our hike and asked if we'd like to play a game.
An app appeared on my phone, and using GPS, our hiking history and topographical maps of the area, it had created a real-time obstacle course, complete with a map, times to achieve and "land mine" rocks to avoid. The app had proactively invaded our routine hike by creating a totally new experience.
When I awoke, I wondered if I had read about such an app, or if it was truly a dream. Concluding that it was indeed a dream, I knew the article that had inspired it. Earlier in the week, I had read about fitness apps that are personalized using individual goals and GPS technology.
Next-generation smart apps have the potential to become an active part of our lives. By tracking and understanding our unique behaviors and habits, developers will be able to create apps that offer highly personalized recommendations and experiences. By 2017, Gartner predicts we are going to download mobile apps more than 268 billion times, and mobile users are likely to provide personalized data streams to more than 100 apps and services daily.
Our mobile devices, which many of us carry 24/7, can track where we've been, what we've done and when we did it. They can listen in on our conversations and access data we have stored on the device -- and in the cloud.
As a result, be on the watch for the following trends in the near future:
The emergence of "small data." The value and functionality of your mobile device will shift from connectivity to data capture and transfer. In a sense, your phone will act as your own "black box," recording your daily activity, similar to a flight recorder.
A listening mode on your phone. This feature will add a layer of richness to the data that is already being collected by third parties and enable apps to intervene with information, recommendations, etc.
Highly personalized experiences. Apps will leverage multiple sources of data and, with artificial intelligence, begin to create experiences and recommendations in real time, much of it designed around our daily lives and routines.
Intelligent ads. Yes, someone has to pay for the free apps, and advertisers will be at the ready. As the apps get smarter, so will the marketers. Ads will appear at the right time, with relevant offers based on your interests, past buying behaviors and preferences. Some will be rewards based on certain behaviors, and other offers will serve as incentives.
Think of the convenience of having an app on your phone listen in on conversations when you're traveling abroad and translate, in real time, to the local dialect. Or, as in my dream, the value of taking a routine outing and creating a totally new and highly engaging experience.
Of course, progress comes with a cost. Increasing the availability of personal data also increases the threat of those who would like to get their hands on it without your knowledge or approval. In fact, such security threats will slow the progress of this smart-app generation.
We will see improved security built into devices and apps, such as Glimpse. The question that will remain for many of us is, to what extent will we invite smart apps into our private lives? Given our concerns, can personalization create enough value to outweigh the risk of revealing too much about ourselves? Will we be comfortable with apps that are really "all about us"?