The rise of intelligent apps: Where do we go from here?

From mobile banking on the go to managing your calories – there is an app for anything and everything. In this app-centric world, it comes as no surprise that businesses want to make sure they have a mobile presence that not only provides a full-service experience to customers at the tap of a screen, but also a user-friendly one.

People and businesses weren’t always this heavily invested in apps though. There has been a gradual progression in the functionality and adoption of apps as well as how they are developed. We can categorize this evolution in three phases:

  • Phase 1: When apps first emerged with mobile phones, they were fairly simple and addressed basic needs, such as calculators, calendars, ringtone editors, etc. Users were fairly content with these early applications.
  • Phase 2: When smartphones came into the market, the number of apps soon exploded. This gave rise to app stores, allowing people to selectively download programs. With consumers determining the ultimate success of an app, the user experience became more important and therefore more refined.
  • Phase 3: This is where we are today – with application programming interfaces allowing developers to analyze how people are using theirs apps, e.g., at what time of day and what are the most popular functions. This helps to guide new updates. For instance, one bank analyzed how its customers were running into issues depositing checks on its mobile app. This led the bank to add a concierge service. The “intelligent concierge” can look at a user’s activity, identify their problem and quickly route them to a solution.

So, where will the next frontier in apps take us? Like the intelligent concierge service offered through the mobile banking app mentioned above, there is a clear trend towards more intelligent applications.

In the forthcoming phase of intelligent mobile apps, we will see two evolutions:

Self-generating/evolutionary apps

Artificial intelligence (AI) will play a greater role in development and actually be able to learn and generate apps and experiences, much like the developer ecosystem would. In fact, people are experimenting with neural nets that can look at code bases and dynamically change the user interface themselves. So in that sense, AI will enable apps to not only collect and send data, but also think and act and importantly evolve their own form. The first steps in that direction have already been taken, in the form of mechanisms that allow the apps to show relevant information and functions based on who the user is for more personalized user interfaces and experiences, rather than generic screens and menus.

The rise of invisibility

Today, consumers have to input a lot of information to use apps to their fullest. For instance, when using a wellness app, you have to input detailed information on what you are eating (e.g., size, ingredients and restaurants) so that the app can track your overall diet. But equally now, the convergence of conversational AI and cognition with back-end analytics allows users to input information using just natural language. Thus, instead of manually entering what you ate, you simply tell the app: “I had two slices of pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut.” This leads to more fluid, easy user experiences, which consumers enjoy, and should be taken into consideration by any organization with a mobile app.

One might even argue that the mobile app was a bridge in the evolution to more ambient, more mobile human computer interfaces.

Looking back we have come a long way from the basic apps that came with early mobile phones and with the rise of AI there’s still a lot of progress to be made as interfaces become smarter. With the prevalence of apps for business and personal use showing no signs of waning, companies need to make sure they keep a finger on the pulse of these exciting changes.

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