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The future of mobile is AI

The mantra ‘mobile first’ is being replaced by ‘mobile only’: companies must be ready to facilitate the entire customer journey on the mobile. On Black Friday of this year, as much as 57% of the turnover was achieved via mobile devices. In Europe, 80 million consumers only use mobile devices these days. However, this ongoing growth in hardware, software and apps does provide consumers and companies with the necessary challenges: digital friction and an increasing lack of attention. Pioneering companies are currently researching the possibilities offered by push messages, smart apps and chat interfaces. Artificial intelligence is the next chapter. Which areas should your company focus on next year?

Millennials are mobile only. And Facebook is used mobile only 50% of the time these days: desktops don’t get a look-in. The mobile conversion rate is also increasing: more and more banks are making it possible to pay using iDEAL via the bank app, without a bank reader. The arrival of Apple Pay in the Netherlands will further encourage mobile payments. Mobile is also increasingly being used to control other screens, as is already evident from wearables.

All these developments combine to make mobile the ‘king of the digital eco system.’ However, this kingdom is cracking under increasing pressure. By 2025, we will have an average of 14 portable devices with all the associated apps, messages and settings. Managing and using these devices will practically become a full-time job. In brief, digital friction is increasing.

From contained to timeline

The proliferation of apps is turning your mobile into a Swiss army knife. Apps are becoming increasingly complex and there is also growing competition for the top ten apps used by mobile users: social, payment apps, media apps such as Netflix and Flipboard, weather and traffic apps, smart home, pay as you drive etc. This is comparable with the growth of TV channels. For the users, these separate apps require a great deal of work. Apps are currently contained, but this is already starting to change. For example, Google recently launched 70 Android apps which can post messages on the Google Now timeline. This will bring the content outside the app.

Smart notifications

Your smartphone isn’t actually smart: you are simply receiving a constant stream of push messages from various apps. For example, WhatsApp sends you notification of each chat message. Each message is received with the same priority, with no distinction according to relevance. This notification can only be activated or deactivated.

We need smart notifications: the sorting, summarising, filtering and bundling of messages so you can deal with them when it suits you. For this, you need context such as your location, activities and daily schedule in order to respond accordingly. AI (artificial intelligence) can learn to use this context to make your smartphone truly smart.

Minor decisions made for you

There are lots of decisions in life which we don’t want to make, but which are simply necessary. And this is where the big opportunity for AI lies. Currently, parking apps only tell you that your parking session is about to expire. AI would be able to tell that I am nowhere near my car and that I also have another appointment after the current one. The parking session could then be extended automatically, with no intervention on my part. AI could also help me to make an appointment, smartly taking the weather, traffic and any subsequent appointments into account. This does not need to be called AI, it could also be a ‘smart diary’.

In the future, AI could also make purchasing decisions for you, such as choosing an energy supplier or insurance. For example, the smart thermostat Nest knows all about your energy consumption and could therefore request quotations for you and then make the best choice. Your smart car could sort out your car insurance and your home assistant could arrange your home insurance. For companies, the opportunity therefore lies in making their product details available to intelligent systems via APIs.

Human to machine communication via chat

Facebook is currently testing M in California: a digital assistant which allows you to order flowers or book a table in a restaurant. Much of the work is still carried out by a human team behind M, but the intention is for M to learn the tasks and become independent. With all the relevant knowledge about your preferences and your social network, M has a great deal of potential. Content will be brought into Facebook from other channels which means that you no longer need to leave Facebook: you will be shown a smaller version of the web which is completely relevant to you.

AI will be steered via chat on the basis of a bird-eye view: no buttons or difficult menus are required. While chatting with a friend, you can use an @ mention to immediately request information or have a task carried out. For example, you might be discussing a weekend in London. You can use @Rabobank to check your bank balance and @Booking.com to book a hotel, all via chat.

One solution for this might be IBM Watson: an intelligent system which can communicate between humans and machines (H2M communication) using natural language. You can also expect your digital assistant to communicate with other digital assistants for you via chat: M2M. Smart. So that mobile technology starts to make life easier once again, and not more complex.

An app which only provides information is no longer enough. In order to end up in the top ten frequently used apps, you need to offer genuine added value in a way which combats this digital friction. The application of context in customer data and AI are the tools which can make this difference.

This article has been published in Dutch on Emerce