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Is Your Mobile Device Smarter Than You Yet?

I know mine is getting close

By Dennis Jones

Is your mobile device smarter than you

To jog your memory, it was fewer than four short years ago that research and advisory firm, Gartner, boldly predicted that your mobile device would be smarter than you by 2017. Now, here we are. It’s 2017. No time like the present to revisit Gartner’s bold prediction.

Well, what was it exactly? Back in 2013, Carolina Milanesi, then-research vice president at Gartner, had this to say:  “Smartphones are becoming smarter, and will be smarter than you by 2017. 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.”

Flash forward and we’re not entirely in the realm of the Jetsons quite yet, but Milanesi wasn’t too far off, speculating, as she was, at the precise moment when your mobile device, thanks to radical advances in technology, was becoming the smartphone you depend on today; in her words: “We assume 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.”

Take the example of Waze, for instance. It was in 2013, after all, that Google bought Waze, the GPS-based, geographical navigation app, which takes crowd-sourced data from its community of users, after Waze had won the Best Overall Mobile App award at the year’s Mobile World Congress. And Milanesi seems to be referring to Waze-like technologies in discussing the rise of a first wave of automatic services, apps designed to cut down on menial activities, re: calendaring, booking cars, creating to-do lists, sending birthday cards, etc.

However, those apps, already on the market in 2013, weren’t exactly what Milanesi had in mind when she predicted the transition of the mobile device into the really smartphone, a device that would be even more intelligent than its nominal, human owner. There, she was looking towards a burgeoning era of cognizant computing, i.e. what would happen after a consumer got comfortable outsourcing more than menial tasks to a mobile device. It is only at that time that our smartphones would truly be smarter than we are, not because of their intrinsic intelligence but because of access – access to the vast trove of our personal data stored in the cloud; like Milanesi said, “Phones will become our secret digital agent, but only if we are willing to provide the information they require.”

Most people take away the four phases of cognizant computing that Milanesi proposed; and they are as follows:

  • Sync me. During this phase, your mobile device will store copies of your digital assets and keep them in sync across all of your end points and contexts.
  • See me. At this point, your (now) smartphone will know where you are and have been, both digitally and in the real world, thanks to location services.
  • Know me. Here things get interesting, as by now, your smartphone will understand what you want and need and serve it up to you, when it think it’s the right time to do so.
  • Be me. All leading up to this final phase, when your smartphone will be able to act as you, based on learned rules.

I can’t say mine has gotten there yet.