In our annual report 'The State of Mobile' we have identified five very concrete evolutions you should understand to stay on top of the digital game in 2017. The first is the future of location.
Location has always been a big deal. And awe-inspiring features like Google Now or Siri’s ‘Leave now’ have been around for some time now. So why should this still be on your radar?
Firstly, there are more and more ways to obtain data about an object’s exact location. Existing technologies like GPS are being incorporated into new devices like wearables and smart watches. Your Apple Watch will contextually help you at every step of the way, without needing its big brother iPhone. Bluetooth Low Energy beacons have become so low cost that they are a cheap means for determining proximity. And clever engineers work their magic through WiFi or cellular access points.
Additionally, the smartphone revolution led to a proliferation of cheap tracking sensors (gyroscopes! altometers! …), meaning you can expect a lot of devices that are aware of their surroundings. Take Google’s Project Tango, for instance: through cameras and sensors, a Tango-smartphone can make a live 3D map of its environment, recognize objects and determine its exact location. Sounds like a gadget for treasure hunters and space explorers, but this technology will be the driver for Virtual and Augmented/ Mixed Reality experiences. Or make indoor navigation truly useful.
Secondly, not only are there more devices and sensors that are fully location-savy, enhanced connectivity technologies means they can transmit this data in real time. Protocols like SigFox and LoRa can link devices with the cloud in a cheap, accessible and battery-efficiënt way. The new Bluetooth 5 standard boosts range, speed and data size, and is readying up for IoT.
Thirdly, on the software side, Artificial Intelligence has become capable of integrating all of this location-related data. Data finally becomes intelligence.
How is the trend evolving?
Asset tracking will become the norm.
We will know where all of our belongings are. And all of our loved ones too. Many privacy concerns will arise, but the benefits will be so plentiful, people will accept the potential downsides.
Augmented Reality will be big.
People will mistake it for a visualization gimmick, rather than a location tour-de-force. Pokemon Go didn’t become a success because it pasted Pokémon on your camera, but because of Niantic’s decadelong experience in location.
Every app will become like Google Now cards.
But rather than every company trying to fit all the pieces together all by itself, clever companies will offer these intelligence services to them. For example: Google’s Awareness API combines 7 location and context sources in a single API.
These location-savvy features will reach end-users through different distribution means.
Because apps become ultra lightweight (e.g. Instant Apps) or even integrated into messaging (and other) platforms, people will get access to relevant functionality on the spot without having to download the app first. Think of paying for parking tickets or ordering room service. Location will be one of the key indicators for determining a user’s context and hence which feature or service to surface.
Do's & Dont's
Much of this context will come directly from micro-location. But in turn, these context-enhanced apps and products will generate a lot of additional data, which will further feed the intelligent agent behind it. Smart apps will only become smarter. Either you get familiar with these algorithms, or figure out your place within other’s smart platforms or virtual private agents.
“Make your product smarter: give it a sense of awareness and context.”
But dare to think even further. Imagine that, for your industry, you know the exact micro-location of each and every asset or object, user or client, at all times? Wouldn’t that empower you to do things better or differently?
Or different things altogether?