Smartphones get Smarter

Ajay Chowdhury, Partner and Managing Director of BCG Digital Ventures London, shares his thoughts on why we’ll see even smarter services built on data and algorithms to create deep learning.

While smartphones have become indispensable to our lives, there are still things they do that are extremely dumb. Why do I need to put in all my details every year when I want to buy insurance? Why do I need to use a combination of the time, my diary and Citymapper to work out when to leave for a meeting and how to get there? Why do I have to check the weather app every day to decide whether to take my umbrella with me? Why does Amazon keep recommending things I already bought?

However, this is all about to change as companies figure out how to use the combination of personalised data, smart algorithms and pre-emptive notifications in an intelligent way to make our lives a lot easier. In 2016, we’ll really start to see smart services built with deep artificial intelligence capabilities appear and hit the mainstream. These will work by combining contextual, demographic and unstructured data with prediction analysis and deep learning to create services of great value.

We have seen the beginnings of this with Google Now, Netflix’s Suggestions and Nest. The investment the big players are making — Google buying DeepMind for a reported £500m, Apple ramping up Siri and Microsoft investing heavily in Cortana — will all begin to have an impact in 2016.

I see us moving to a world where simply asking Siri or Cortana to find you the best car insurance and answering a few yes-or-no questions will result in your insurance being renewed and the documents sent to your inbox. This is solving numerous pain points that customers face every year when they renew their annual car insurance.

In addition to transport and weather (services proactively reading our diaries and telling us to leave for a meeting, as well as the best way to get there and proactively ordering an Uber if it is raining), there will also be a battle for intelligence in the home. A battle currently being fought by Apple (Apple TV), Microsoft (Xbox), Sony (PlayStation) and Google (Chromecast, Nest) will increasingly become more important as the Internet of Things ramps up and more and more data is created to allow for deeper learning and more intelligent decision- making.

But there’s something to look out for in all this — what is the company’s motivation? For some, it’s the value that this level of data collection will bring and selling advertising on the back of it. For others, it’s providing services and selling devices to enable this.

What’s key in getting smart services to the mainstream and getting people to use them is making the interface simple and intuitive. Some interfaces will disappear completely and will be replaced by voice interaction. We’ll also start to see more and more easier to use hardware such as wearables, as well as improvements to software that recognise haptic feedback and gesture control.

Over the next 12 to 24 months, services will begin to become more refined, and there will be widespread adoption for some of the core services. Many more startups will enter the space that focus on deep learning. With that, we can expect buyouts and internal investment from corporates.

In the next five years, this will be completely transformed, and we’ll come to expect deep learning services that allow us to complete even some of the most time-consuming tasks in a few simple commands or, better still, without any involvement from us at all.

The key payoff for investment in this is building long-lasting relationships with your customers and creating highly personal and intuitive services, which they cannot live without.

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