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Connect-World’s eLetter – 11th Oct 2017
How Artificial Intelligence might transform your smartphone
The Artificial Intelligence – AI, opportunity comes at a time when the global smartphone installed base is still growing. By 2020, the smartphone-installed base will exceed six billion units, up from four billion in 2016, with revenues totalling US$355 billion.
Consumer spending on mobile apps is expected to reach US$74 billion in 2020, up from US$54 billion in 2016. An IHS Market report adds that the number of addressable smartphones for device-based payment services, such as Apple Pay and Android Pay, will rise to more than five billion units by 2020, up from 2.7 billion in 2016.
CCS Insight’s forecast reveals the emerging potential for 5G-capable handsets, despite the fact that early deployment of 5G networks will focus on providing fixed wireless connections. The analyst firm expects 100 million 5G-capable phones will be shipped in 2021; leading the charge will be North America and developed markets in Asia–Pacific such as Japan and South Korea.
China will remain the largest global market, with sales reaching half a billion units in 2021. Growth in the Chinese market has been sustained longer than previously expected, fuelled by consumers continuing to upgrade to 4G-capable handsets. Principal growth markets during the forecast period will be in Africa, India and some other markets in South-East Asia.
The forecast highlights India as a particularly important market, with a compound annual growth rate of four percent between 2016 and 2021 — significantly higher than the 1.3 percent worldwide average.
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Artificial intelligence powering our mobile phones is set to make the biggest impact on how we live and do business in the future. Possibilities, in the not-too-distant future, include what might be called “intelligent apps”, or, rather “more intelligent”, an app which, say, launches itself before you can think of it but knows it is likely something you need based on your past use of the phone and digital history. It launches Instagram before you’re able to tap the icon, or launch a maps app, or even takes a photo (if you’re near a famous landmark, say).
It is something we’re starting to see – the existing versions of Apple Maps and Google Maps can predict where you want to go next (based on past habits and recent searches), but it’s just a flavour of how clever they might get in the years ahead.
What if Google knows your sister is in London and knows you’re arranged to meet her tonight? Your route could be ready and waiting, together with optional stop-offs for those snacks you like. This isn’t all that difficult to do if Google has all the information it needs.
Digital assistants will become “humanised”, like the computer in Star Trek, a sexy female voice (?), they won’t just be able to organise our time for us, they’ll become “friends” who celebrate happy occasions and go through the bad times with us. Feeling under stress at work this week? Cortana (a voice-controlled virtual assistant for Microsoft Windows ) knows just what to say and the right music to play afterwards.
It may seem disconcerting to have an AI app in your phone making restaurant bookings on your behalf but eventually it won’t be any different to telling a PA or close friend to do it – in fact, the smart app could well be better at the job, and will certainly never clock off.
At the present time, digital assistants have turned into a fragmented mess and they’re all little more than a minor convenience, assuming they work at all. Much has been promised by AI and voice control, but the reality hasn’t caught up to the expectation. Even worse, there’s no way to choose an AI platform today because everything is still in flux and each system comes with its own caveats.
Want to use Alexa? Great! But it’s really only useful on the Amazon Echo. You’ll still need to use Siri on your iPhone or Google Assistant on your Android phone. Plus, while Amazon can brag about having the best third-party support with over 10,000 Alexa skills, most of them don’t make sense with voice controls. (Try ordering an Uber on an Echo and you’ll see what I mean. It’ll test your patience).
It’s a fragmented system of competitors trying to muscle their service onto every device with mixed results. None of them, even the best like Google Assistant, are smart enough to live up to their promise. There isn’t a single one that meets the expectations the industry has dumped on them, and choosing one of them now will just result in headaches down the road.
We will, likely, see a convergence of these services into just one or two key players living inside all our gadgets. This is the concept called ambient computing, or ambient intelligence (AmI). In the AmI world, devices work in concert to support people in carrying out everyday life activities, tasks and rituals in an easy, natural way using information and intelligence that is hidden in the network connecting these devices (Internet of Things). As these devices grow smaller, more connected and more integrated into our environment, the technology ‘disappears’ into our surroundings until only the user interface remains perceivable by users.
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