My Smartphone is Smarter than Your Honor Student

By Lori Castle, Editor-in-Chief — December 02, 2013

Yes, there are still feature phones, but the market has tipped with smartphones making up 55% of overall global sales in the third quarter of 2013 according to Gartner. That’s up  45.8% from versus the same time last year.

And, pretty soon, the firm says, the phones will be “smarter than you.”
In a recent release, Gartner noted that the predictive nature of smartphones means the devices will soon be able to calculate a user’s next move, a consumer’s next purchase or interpret an employee’s actions based on what it knows. This insight will be performed based on an individual’s data gathered using cognizant computing — the next step in cloud computing.

Contextual Awareness
“Smartphones are becoming smarter, and will be smarter than you by 2017,” said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner in a statement. “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.”

However, a smartphone isn’t smart on its own, said Milanesi, but they have become so thanks to two things: technology and apps. “Technology has added features such as cameras, locations and sensors, while apps have connected those to an array of functions that, for the most part, add and improve our day to day life from a social, knowledge, entertainment and productivity point of view,” she explained.

What smartphones can do through apps has improved and broadened thanks to the  cloud, and Gartner makes the assumption 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 according to Milanesi.

Cognizant Computing
The first services that will be performed "automatically" will generally help with menial tasks  such as calendaring,  booking a car for its yearly service, creating a weekly to-do list or responding to mundane email messages.
 
Gradually, as confidence in the outsourcing of more menial tasks to the smartphone increases, users will become accustomed to allowing a greater array of apps and services to take control of other aspects of their lives — this will be what Gartner terms “the era of cognizant computing.”

The firm predicts that 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 users with the computational ability to make sense of the information they have.

Market Impact
Gartner forecasts two aspects of how cognizant computing will impact the market — on hardware vendors and on the other services and business models. Hardware vendors will continue to face the challenge of commoditization as ecosystem owners will try and shift the focus away from the hardware and onto services and brands.  

Plus, hardware vendors will unlikely be credited with the good, but surely be blamed about the ugly when the device fails to deliver. The device will be seen as dumb rather than the malfunctioning of the real brain: the cloud.

When it comes to business, regulatory and privacy issues could come into play. On the consumer facing side, the move into a cognizant computing world, will result in a more heated  battle to own the consumer as vendors will try and control the data in the cloud, and through that the relationship with the users.

Over the next two to five years, forecasts Gartner, cognizant computing will become one the strongest market forces affecting the entire ecosystems and value chains across IT.  In the enterprise, this could come into play in the field, where smartphone apps will become more than just workflow enablers, but think ahead of the employee to recommend action customized to that user and task.

When it comes to consumers, monetization will flow from the increased knowledge of the user, and the fine-tuning of offers that will increasingly be perceived as personal and highly relevant — which should lead to an increase in spend.

In both cases, however,  “It is about having the right rules or permissions in place … rather than the smartphone making ‘rogue’ …decisions,” said Milanesi.

While Gartner noted that privacy will be an issue for some users, for consumers  it will only be an issue if they do not get enough in return for their personal data. Consumers tend to give up a lot for convenience. The same can be said for employees who are always looking to apps to make their jobs easier and will utilize even non-sanctioned tools by bringing their own. Enterprises will have to create new policies as the progression continues.

Still, as Gartner pointed out, “The benefit of certain apps might instigate behaviors that were unthinkable yesterday.”

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