In the future, mobile apps will think on their own

Better machine learning from sensor data will allow apps to understand the user better in the future, a mobile advertising company says.

Future mobile apps machine learning sensors virtual reality

Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about ZTE executive Wiaman Lam's vision of the future of the smartphone.

Lam had said in a blog post that his company was focusing on voice and gesture control to take its devices into the future.

As one would imagine, Lam isn't the only one with an opinion on where smartphones are headed. Mobile advertising company Adtile, in a sponsored post in VentureBeat in February, also made some prophecies. I went back to re-read them.

Adtile thinks that the future of the smartphone will incorporate more sensors, better machine learning, and virtual reality.

Existing sensors

In the post, Adtile says that sensor data is key to the future of the devices. It reckons that raw data, collected by the sensors and combined with machine learning and virtual reality, will enable the apps to provide contextual information.

"By searching for patterns in the data, intelligent apps can figure out whether you are tall or short, big or little, and even guess at gender," the post says.

Future sensors

Apps already do some of this, albeit primitively. For example, first-generation fitness apps use the accelerometer to track how fast you're running, and apps like Uber use the smartphone's GNSS (GPS) sensor to know where you are.

But future sensors—of which there will be more types—will "pick up on patterns and routines and learn a user's preferences over time," the post says.

"Anyone can collect data. Finding an automated way to create meaning of that data is paramount," Adtile founder Nils Forsblom says in the piece.


Apps will better anticipate what the user needs in the future. Phones could send calls to voicemail when driving, for example.

Immersive experiences could be obtained by combining sensor data with machine learning and virtual reality. The post uses the example of walking around an exhibit at a museum equipped with virtual reality to provide additional information.

More sensors

It also says that accelerometers and gyroscopes, despite being the sensors that everyone thinks of in the smartphone, aren't the only ones out there. Existing image sensors (camera), touch sensor (digitizer and screen), proximity sensor and GPS are all potential raw-data-gathering tools.

In fact, smartphones usually have a magnetometer, light sensor, and a thermometer used for measuring component temperature.

Over the years, phones have included pedometers, heart rate monitors, fingerprint sensors, and radiation sensors, too, according to a 2014 Phone Arena article.

The VentureBeat post, however, goes on to talk of new sensors and uses the example of chemical sensors, which could detect bad food.


But it's in advertising that ad company Adtile is most interested, obviously, and it says that in the future smartphones will let you "actively" engage with ads. They won't interrupt what you're doing.

Smartphones will end up being a "mix of invisible" apps.

And "mobile virtual reality will be the ultimate input-output device and creative medium," adds Forsblom.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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