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Thanks to constant technological advancements and innovation smartphones have come a long way, from being a mere personal computer to becoming a personal assistant. While the evolution has been fascinating, it also leaves much to anticipate – what would the next generation of smartphones be all about?

Topping the list of predictions is artificial intelligence – a feature that is likely to be much more prominent in the smartphones of the future. In fact, such is the hype that at the Mobile World Congress this year, the discussion was centred around how AI can manage entire communication networks, and identify and fix problems more efficiently than a human brain (source). In fact, the value of AI is reported to rise to over $70 billion by 2020. To understand this phenomenon better, it might be a good idea to understand what artificial intelligence is all about and how can it shape the future of smartphones.

What is AI?

Artificial intelligence, commonly called AI, is an area of computer science where machines are designed in such a way that they are able to perform intelligent tasks such as thinking, analysing and responding to situations – just like a human brain would do. This term was coined by a Stanford researcher, John McCarthy, in 1956 and since then, this concept has captured the interest of many. If you have heard or ever interacted with Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana or IBM’s Watson, you would have already got a glimpse of what AI is about. In other words, when your smartphone is able to recognise face and voice, or is able to track your location and throw relevant content at your screen, it is leveraging the power of AI.

What’s in there for the mobile world?

Gartner, a tech research company, says ‘’AI app development will be one of the top ten strategic trends in 2017 and will be embedded into every category of enterprise mobile apps.’’ Given the fact that an increasing number of people are relying more on their mobile apps than that of desktops, optimising mobile apps to make the user experience more personalised, seamless and relevant is the definite need of the hour.

This has already gained momentum in some circles and tech giants including Amazon and Uber have set the pace with their success stories. AI technology can be integrated with mobile apps in various ways. Let us take a look at what can be accomplished using AI in mobile apps:

  • 1. Prediction – With the help of predictive AI, mobile apps create content such as offer notifications and updates in the hope of enhancing user experience and ultimately improving conversion rates. Such push notifications and feeds are the result of the data generated by a customer’s previous purchases and level of interest shown while browsing the content of a business.
  • 2. Reasoning – AI integrated in mobile apps can help users make an informed decision. It has the ability to assess risks and complications that cannot be easily comprehended or foreseen by a human brain. For example, Uber can guide you about which route to take based on the traffic and road condition within the area of travel. Likewise, certain banks can notify you once there has been an unusual transaction on your account. Such benefits help businesses to develop their credibility and provide confidence to its users.
  • 3. Content – One of the reasons mobile apps fail to attract customers is the lack of quality content. With the use of AI in the mobile app, the various data generated by the user can help businesses understand user behaviour and not only send relevant content but also educate them on how to take their search to the next level. For example, if someone is looking for a musical instrument, the app can also suggest music classes, books on music, etc.
  • 4. Personalisation – Through mobile apps, businesses can access information about location, browsing history, purchase history and more. Such data, when harnessed by an AI algorithm, can provide useful insights about customers and what kind of content would be most relevant for them. For instance, personal assistants such as Siri and Alexa can send links to restaurants based on food you have ordered in the past, or pictures of your favourite dresses when you want to buy an outfit for a party.

However, AI should not just be seen in relation to the e-commerce business – it has spread to other walks of life as well. So, interestingly, when you save a meeting with someone in a specific location, your AI-powered mobile opens the route map when you are just about to leave for the meeting. In another case, when you take a picture, your mobile automatically asks you if the picture should be shared on Instagram or Facebook.

While the integration of AI with smartphones paves the way to unlimited possibilities, one of the major obstacles to overcome would be ‘the power requirement’. Just like a human brain, software and hardware requires a good amount of energy to process information and send out data in a timely manner. However, at the moment the market is still struggling to find a solution that can reduce the consumption of energy while increasing the performance of a smartphone. Of course, developers are working to find a breakthrough, and we might already have something in hand (MIT researches have supposedly created a neural-network chip named Eyeriss that consumes much less energy than a mobile graphic unit); nonetheless, the mobile world is likely to continue taking giant stride towards AI. In all likelihood, AI can be considered as an unprecedented technological phenomenon and there is no turning back. It’s just a matter of time before AI can be fully integrated into our mobile devices – making our app-friendly smartphones truly wiser!

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