Future outlook

This week, myself and a colleague were asked to submit a 5,000 word 'future technologies' paper. Our department invests quite heavily in digital technologies and we are constantly striving to ensure we are getting the best value for money. Are we investing in the right thing? If we have good content then does the platform of communication even matter? The marketing industry is always striving to make use of any technological advancement so surely the only way forward is for that to continue?

Messaging apps are the
most used worldwide
One area that we see a lot of development in internally is that of apps. Our in-house team have a two year road map and as such these are being developed by most departments (we're just as guilty as anyone else). But are apps actually going to still be in vogue in 2018? The current industry trend is that it's only instant messaging apps seeing any significant growth. I am a champion of building responsive websites wherever possible as the only apps which can be fully justified are those which use the native features of the device (i.e. camera or GPS).

With Apple and Google embracing apps over 8 years ago, they soon became one of the fastest-growing software markets ever. Since then over 100 billion apps have been downloaded, generating billions in revenues for developers and billions more in subscriptions and other fees. This has paved the way for the latest trend of ‘chatbots’. These are text-based services which let users complete tasks such as checking news, organising meetings, ordering food or booking a flight by sending short messages. Bots are usually powered by artificial intelligence (hence the name, as in “robot”) but may also rely on humans.

With this growth in the amount of apps being produced the process in building and promoting them is becoming more costly. Users’ enthusiasm is waning, as they find downloading apps and navigating between them a hassle. A quarter of all downloaded apps are abandoned after a single use. Much like web pages, bots live on servers, not a user’s device, meaning they are easier to create and update. This is likely to make them attractive to businesses which have shied away from developing their own apps, such as restaurants and shops.

Many teenagers now spend more time on smartphones sending instant messages than perusing social networks. WhatsApp users average nearly 200 minutes each week using the service. The ongoing popularity of messaging apps suggests people will happily talk to chatbots.

Some examples of this are already trading and styling themselves as ‘intelligent avatars’. The website Etermime says that it ‘preserves your most important thoughts, stories and memories for eternity’. To do this it essentially distils all the digital content produced by one individual (photos, texts, emails and social media posts) to build a ‘robot’ version of them. This can then converse as if it was the real person by using their phraseology and history.

This gives a frightening insight into human nature where people try their best to cheat their inevitable demise. In fact, many people who spend their time in creative pursuits (such as painting, music or even writing a blog such as this) could be accused of having an 'immortality complex'. Where digital has before been seen as transitory and disposable it is now promising to be an eternal place of storage.

The smartphone predicted in 1930
Whilst chatbots may be the future the immediate future trend looks like it will be for ‘super-apps’ which encompass all the user does on their phone in one place (i.e. Instant messaging, booking travel, gaming and checking the news). This at least combats the issue of every department or company requiring you to download a separate app to use their service.

Of course, it's hard to predict the future but the appetite for all things digital has meant we're advancing faster than ever before. I hope our 'future predictions' don't come into fruition too soon or we'll have to write another one before the year is out!
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