Smartphones will be smarter than you by 2017


Gartner predicts that smartphones will be able to predict a consumer's next move and next purchase simply by analyzing data collected on their users via cognizant computing.

"Smartphones are becoming smarter, and will be smarter than you by 2017," says Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner, in a statement to the press. "If there is heavy traffic, it will wake you up early for a meeting with your boss, or simply send an apology if it is a meeting with your colleague. The smartphone will gather contextual information from its calendar, its sensors, the user's location and personal data."

In other words, as the smartphone learns more about you, your habits and your needs, it will begin to plan, speak and act in your behalf--without necessarily consulting you beforehand. Anyone here besides me shuddering at that thought?

Yes, a smartphone can collect massive amounts of data about me but it still can't factor in human nuances and other influences that cannot be registered by a sensor or retrieved from the cloud. Therefore it will be acting on partial information most of the time.

In keeping with Milanesi's example above wherein an apology would be automatically sent to a colleague, that may be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the personality, availability and other issues associated with that colleague.

For example, maybe that colleague has been trying to avoid a meeting with you for months and that automated apology is all the excuse that person needs to skip out on the meeting yet again. Or, maybe that colleague loves to cause trouble and starts complaining loudly to the powers-that-be that you're late for the meeting--that you technically aren't late for yet, it's just that your phone apologized early. There are other scenarios, too, where the phone's action could be problematic, all because it couldn't detect and analyze associated nuances in human behaviors.

But let's assume for the sake of argument that the smartphone is helpful in most cases. After all, smartphones are attentive little data gatherers and cognizant computing, the next step in personal cloud computing, is a bit of a wondrous thing.

"We assume that apps will acquire knowledge over time and get better with improved predictions of what users need and want, with data collection and response happening in real-time," said Milanesi.

According to Gartner the first services to be automated via smartphone are largely considered menial tasks such as booking a car for its yearly service, creating a weekly to-do list, sending birthday greetings or responding to mundane email messages. But how much does a birthday greeting mean to a loved one or friend if it's an automatically delivered, canned response? And which emails will the smartphone consider mundane?

Gartner says that gradually, as confidence in the outsourcing of more menial tasks to the smartphone increases, consumers will become accustomed to allowing a greater array of apps and services "to take control of other aspects of their lives--this will be the era of cognizant computing."

"By 2017 mobile phones will be smarter than people not because of an intrinsic intelligence, but because the cloud and the data stored in the cloud will provide them with the computational ability to make sense of the information they have so they appear smart," says Milanesi. "Phones will become our secret digital agent, but only if we are willing to provide the information they require. Regulatory and privacy issues, as well as the level of comfort users will have in sharing this information, will differ considerably across age groups as well as geographies."

And there's the rub isn't it?

Smartphones are already used to spy on users via apps and other initiatives. Consider for example, my earlier post "Google beta-testing tracking mobile users everywhere they go--even when not using a Google app."

At what point will smartphones become manipulative of their owners? At what point will we frogs boil in the water of convenience heated by an increasing number of prying eyes?

For more:
- see the Gartner press release

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