Our relationship with our mobile devices has come a long way from the flip phone. The next wave of mobile applications is already reaching our shores and is swelling to embrace the new ways we interact with the world around us. Simple things, such as integrating the information from a fitness tracker, are now becoming commonplace, while more sophisticated interactions like payments are becoming widely available. This change is being driven by an increased sophistication of mobile applications. Move over Candy Crush Saga, businesses and app developers are driving what apps can do in new directions, and the time to sort out the impact of this shift is now.
Identity, convergence and digital tools
There are three main areas where change is taking place: identity, convergence and tools for digital living. Identity is intimately wrapped around much of what we do with mobile devices, and payment capabilities are the most visible here. While initially seen as a replacement for credit cards, payment integration is much more than that. Smart devices have information about their owners and context that can make interactions with merchants richer for both parties.
There are fraud-prevention aspects of identity as well. Having possession of a mobile phone isn’t enough to be secure. Technology already present in most phones can enhance levels of trust by building context. Apps can understand the environment in which they’re running and automatically raise levels of trust when there are more signs of a trusted environment. Is the phone in range of a known Wi-Fi signal? Are the owner’s keys, headset or car nearby? Enhancements in iOS 8 and Android L are increasing the type and quality of biometric information available to mobile apps. Each of these adds an increment of trust. Developers need to be aware of the opportunities to simplify trust establishment in order to keep systems secure yet still easy to use. We’re not done with passwords and PIN codes just yet, but we’re getting closer.
Many aspects of technology are converging, and new apps are part of that integration. We’ve had discrete ways of communicating via mobile devices and computers, but that divide is now disappearing. There shouldn’t be a need for different tools, and the blended messaging and notification functionality that’s arriving with new operating systems means that apps can span the distance between texting, email and in-app conversations. Businesses still need to determine customer preferences for communicating, but converged messaging apps can make that conversation seamless.
Seamless connectivity around the corner
We’re also on the cusp of seamless connectivity, as 4G LTE and Wi-Fi technologies overlap. This will increase connected data rates and allow users to make indoor/outdoor transitions without having to think about the process. Apps, on the other hand, need to be aware of connectivity levels to ensure satisfying user experiences. There is new operating system functionality that can bundle communications into bursts that will extend battery life at the same time, but apps have to be aware in order to take advantage of this.
Convergence extends from familiar things, such as entertainment and navigation systems in cars, to our homes and workplaces. Health and fitness integration is just getting started and it’s almost all fitness tracking today. The greater opportunities are in integrating daily health activities, such as blood sugar and pressure management and ageing-in-place support, where there is only initial application support. There are also opportunities for digital living that integrate environmental controls like heating, cooling, lighting and security. This is the beachhead for a growing number of connected devices and the rising tide of the Internet of Things (IoT). There are more data sources arriving at home and work, and they will offer even greater possibilities.
Mobile devices can be the personalised gateway for all of these opportunities, but the apps running on them are the key to making it possible. As smartphones become ubiquitous, entrepreneurs need to think about them as the platform for reaching their clients and next generation apps as the conduit for their value. The services and capabilities that they can offer are what are driving the coming wave of enhancements to digital living.