Applications to dramatically change the way we live and work

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Smartphone with cloud of application icons

The physical and digital worlds are blurring as we rapidly transition to a powerfully immersive digital and app-centric society. By all accounts, we’re living in a consumer’s world, as the balance of power shifts away from businesses. This brings an opportunity for unprecedented productivity and efficiency at both a corporate and individual level.

But these technological shifts will bring significant risks, including the dangers of self-replicating AI, autonomous vehicle hacks, or the weaponisation of the Internet of Things.

The recent Future of Apps report, commissioned by F5 Networks, highlights the evolution of AI and machine learning, as well as the need for new collaborative models to support heightened transparency demands. It also charts the rise of new app interfaces (including augmented and virtual reality) and the potential rich influence of blockchain technologies and edge computing.

Organisations need to quickly adapt and deliver models for proactive collaboration and transparency. This is crucial in the context of new data legislation, as well as the impact of IoT, AI and machine learning.

Secure and consumer-focused data practices could eventually emerge as a benchmark or standard equivalent to sustainability or environmental impact. There will also be significant changes in the power struggle for personal data.

Over the longer term, many consumers will move away from corporates to proactively isolate and control data sharing. Motivations around security will be matched by a desire to optimise personal return, with consumers only agreeing to share personal data in exchange for personalised offers or discounts.

The developmental trajectory of future apps will be heavily influenced by AI and machine learning.Developments in this field are likely to include more personalised, predictive services in areas such as cognitive health and finance.

Looking ahead, the report flagged critical advances in areas such as collaborative AI, where virtual assistants – and underlying apps – can communicate and act accordingly. The report also a raft of implications from the emergence of AI and machine learning, including their native ability to code and develop apps, as well as evolve functionality when “live”.

IDC predicts that the AR/VR market in Western Europe will reach $2.5 billion this year – a 131% increase on 2016. By 2020, the market is projected to hit $25.7 billion.

Against this backdrop, app interfaces will be transformed by the rise of “mixed reality” and hardware innovation. Location will become irrelevant to many aspects of communication, learning and experience, creating the notion of “individual realities”. In parallel, new risks will arise as individuals become ever more immersed in their computational existence.

To keep pace, developers need to approach app design with a view to embed or layer into a wider ecosystem. Equally, they need to anticipate new app interfaces that more effectively integrate voice, biometrics and haptics.

The report anticipates far greater decentralisation as blockchain technologies and edge computing become mainstream, empowering IoT and privacy-hungry consumers. Any momentum in this direction hinges on significant technological advances, including edge computing and 5G.

Research and Markets anticipates that, by 2020, blockchain technology and solutions will be used by up to 65% of enterprises.

The ethos of decentralised apps, or “dApps”, chimes with a growing appetite for peer-to-peer solutions, driven in part by institutional mistrust and a desire for better value. Across Europe and South Africa, a third of consumers (32%) have used or would be interested in using, a peer-to-peer lending service, rising to 37% among Gen Y.

There is growing pressure on organisations and developers to stay relevant. Demands are changing at lightning pace, and security concerns are surging. This creates opportunities for those capable of delivering apps with speed, adaptive functionality and security.

The author is the senior engineer at F5 Networks

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