Digitization in all areas of life
The digital transformation is constantly progressing, be it our private life’s, in companies or in the public sector: The Internet of Things (IoT) is infusing more and more «things» with new skills or even intelligence, such as automobiles, industrial facilities or traffic lights. Mobile devices are replacing TV screens, we are increasingly relying on the personalized services of cool gadgets like smartwatches, AirPods, fitness and mHealth Trackers or smart home assistants, and there seems to be – at least one - app for every need. Some of these apps have such a great disruptive potential that entire industries are being shook to their cores (for example Uber, and in the future, possibly eedoctors?). Companies maintain their equipment and design products using the latest augmented reality tools, e-collaboration is continuing to eliminate borders and increase labor productivity, and - probably sooner rather than later - the buzz of drones in the sky is going to become a normal, everyday occurrence.
Advances in artificial intelligence (AI)
Thanks to sophisticated algorithms and big data, newer methods of artificial intelligence - the so-called «deep learning in neural networks» - allow machines to learn. Thanks to machine learning, applications can deal with situations that have not been programmed by humans. An impressive example was provided by Google's software Alphago, which beat the world's best players at «Go», a game that requires «human» characteristics such as intuition and creativity.
All tech giants - Amazon, Facebook, Google, Apple, IBM and Microsoft - are competing in the race for AI . In so doing, they - and most recently, Apple - are all disclosing research results and tools for application developers, not least of all in order to obtain even more data thereby.
Thus it can be expected that artificial intelligence will be incorporated in many applications this year - but much more in an evolutionary rather than revolutionary way. For example, Siri will understand us better and self-driving cars will drive safely through progressively more complex test tracks.
The App Economy continues to grow
According to Flurry, the time users spend with apps last year increased worldwide by a staggering 69%. The highest gains were recorded in messaging & social apps (394%), business & finance apps (43%) and shopping apps (31%).
According to App Annie, both the app downloads as well as the profit generated by apps - especially with gaming, live streaming and mobile commerce - continued to grow last year. The study also shows how apps can transform entire industries: video streaming apps like YouTube and Netflix are making gains at the expense of classic TV, retailers are making 31% of their online sales via mobile devices and online advertising will continue to shift to in-app video ads in social media, video and game platforms.
Apps will thus continue to remain a highly topical issue for users and providers and the battle for a coveted spot on users' dashboards is only likely to increase. This means even better apps that meet the user's core needs and leave nothing to be desired when it comes to usability and performance. At the same time, of course, the desire for clever app marketing is increasing.
Augmented Reality: More AR apps and Apple glasses?
Pokémon GO was the most successful AR app, or even one of the most successful apps last year (here are some more examples of exciting AR apps, including Swissquote, from Switzerland). This success will probably inspire more game providers, retailers and marketers in all industries to develop new AR apps this year.
AR smartglasses are mainly seeing gains in manufacturing and industry. At an impressive presentation of Microsoft Hololens last year, we were able to learn firsthand how the ambitious Mixed Reality application supports architects, product designers, automakers and even NASA. But there are also more cost-effective products such as R-7 Smartglasses by ODG that allow, for example, remote technical support for machines.
It is also rumored that Apple is working with Carl Zeiss on a pair of AR glasses to be introduced this year.
Not quite in the mainstream: Chatbots and digital assistants
The way people interact with machines will undoubtedly continue to change. With chatbots (easy) text-based dialogues can be conducted and with voice-based assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana or Google Assistant, we can talk with PCs, smartphones and watches, AirPods or home assistants. With something of a shout, so to speak, digital assistants search for restaurants, manage calendars, open apps, remember appointments or play our favorite song.
Although it has been much-hyped in the tech press, in our view, most Swiss only use voice-based assistants to a moderate extent at best. This is probably because speech recognition is not yet developed enough, barriers exist to speak with a device, and because some hardware such as Amazon Echo or Google Home is not yet available in Switzerland. Advances in speech recognition/NLP (natural language processing) and in machine learning, however, will undoubtedly continually increase the popularity of virtual assistants.