Some people say apps are the future and that the future is here. With everything the various applications can do for anyone with a mobile device, can it get any better? Is there still something to look forward to where apps are concerned?
The growing app market
We might think there is an app for everything now, but according to Forrester Research app development in general is showing no signs of slowing down at all. The research group says innovation in the world of mobile apps is increasing massively. By 2015 the app market is estimated to reach $38 billion.
Another study by analyst firm Gartner show a similar trend, buoyed by the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) culture. According to Gartner research director Mark Hung, in the coming years $50 smartphones will become more and more available in developing and emerging countries, further fueling the need for more apps.
“The combination of competitive pricing pressure, open-channel market growth, and feature elimination/integration will very soon result in the $50 smartphone. Semiconductor vendors that serve the mobile handset market must have a product strategy to address the low-cost smartphone platform, with $50 as a target,” says Hung, “global, brand-name smartphone vendors must re-examine their product lineups to determine how their low-end offerings are differentiated from the competitive products offered by low-cost vendors. Otherwise, brand-name smartphone vendors may want to cede this market to the white-box vendors and focus on high-end devices.”
Along the line of increasing smartphones or smart devices is the rising need to keep up with the burgeoning app market in terms of the volume, variety and velocity of data.
“Increasing demand for mobile and multichannel means that a rapidly increasing number of organizations need to develop an internal mobile AD (application development) capability. But productivity challenges will drive businesses towards partnering with external organizations to deliver solutions in a timely and cost-effective manner,” says Gartner fellow David Mitchell Smith.
By 2016, Gartner also predicts more than half of the apps available will be hybrid apps, or those that can be used across multiple devices and operating systems. Gartner Vice President for Research Van Baker says enterprises should consider how applications can be enriched or improved by the addition of native device capabilities.
The age of the smart app
Another big thing currently taking place is the merging of mobile apps with the cloud, which will inevitably lead to smarter and smarter apps. These so-called smart apps for the smartphones and tablets are seen to potentially change how we use our brains and how we learn. Instead of remembering as much information as we can, we are going to let the apps do it for us. We are going to learn how different apps fit into the cloud and how to “negotiate” them. Our knowledge might also have to prioritize more on how to access specific information through specific smart apps.
According to eMbience: “It’s currently the wild wild west with regards to this space, so we strongly believe the earlier a business commits to this future, and the better thought out and easier to use their smart apps are, the more compelling and engaging they will be to users…which in turn will lead to increased mindshare, loyalty and profits,”
Some types of smart apps are actually here now. For instance, a Wal-Mart app can “sniff out” opportunity. When the app detects you are in a Wal-Mart store it can alert you to store-specific data like what items are on sale and for how much. For the future, users have suggested linking the app with the store display database so it can tell you where to find a certain item in the store without having to ask anyone.
ServiceMax, a company that provides solutions for field service management, has an app that automatically updates a technician’s schedule with incoming service requests, based on parameters like customer revenue, customer and technician location, the technician’s skill and even prior interaction with the customer.
Aside from retail and service there can also be food smartapps. While you’re walking down the street near your favorite coffee shop, a smartapp may also be able to notify you about their latest offerings.
Before images of self-aware artificial intelligence taking over the world and exterminating humans comes to your mind, know that a less sinister force drives smart apps, this is the cloud infrastructure and the observance of user behavior and preferences.
We already have mods that order pizza for us, tell us what movies are on and how they rated and even apps that do our banking for us. So, you think there is an app for everything, don’t you? However, experts say app developers have not even begun to scratch the surface of what they can get apps to do.
According to BBC, last year the UK's Department of Health said that it was looking at the possibility of doctors being allowed to prescribe apps, leading some medical experts to question what role they should play in healthcare.
Just what kind of apps? There is now almost an app for every medical condition. Diabetics can monitor their blood sugar levels with their smartphones. There are apps to track diet, pregnancy and menstrual cycles. Apps can also help track your blood pressure when you run. When people can’t go to the doctor, they turn to the app.
Another possible application in the field of medicine is in surgery. Accenture and Philips recently conducted a demo wherein a surgeon wore Google Glass that allowed him to monitor a patient’s vital signs. It allowed him to react to surgical procedural developments without having to turn away from the patient to look at the different monitors around him.
Such a device can also be used when a doctor makes his rounds of patients, says Mary Hamilton, managing director of consultancy for Accenture's technology labs. Linked to a database, a doctor can be updated on the medical history of a patient and will no longer have to ask about the patient’s name, age, what medicine they have been administered with lately and what minor or medical procedures they have just undergone, if any.