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Gartner: Phones Will Be Smarter than Their Users by 2017

Mobile devices will be smarter than the people who use them by the year 2017, according to new analysis from market research firm Gartner. That will not be because of some intelligence baked into the devices, said the firm, but because the data and computational ability in the cloud will allow phones to appear to be smarter.

"Mobile phones have turned into smartphones thanks to two things: technology and apps," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at the company, in a prepared statement. "Technology has added features such as cameras, locations and sensors, while apps have connected those to an array of functions that, for the most part, add and improve our day to day life from a social, knowledge, entertainment and productivity point of view." 

The functions those apps and sensors are able to fill has improved over time and Mianesi said that Gartner predicts that they will continue to do so. Eventually, she said, apps will improve to the point that data collection and response will happen in real time.

At first, those responses will be confined to menial tasks such as scheduling, sending out holiday or birthday greetings, or booking maintenance appointments for equipment.

"Gradually," according to a Gartner news release, "as confidence in the outsourcing of more menial tasks to the smartphone increases, consumers are expected to become accustomed to allowing a greater array of apps and services to take control of other aspects of their lives — this will be the era of cognizant computing."

"Smartphones are becoming smarter, and will be smarter than you by 2017," said Carolina Milanesi, research vice president at Gartner. "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."

Cognizant computing will occur through four phases, dubbed sync me, see me, know me and be me, according to the company. Sync me includes the ability to store copies of digital assets and sync them across devices. See me includes the ability to track history and context, such as where a user is and has been and his or her mood. These first two phases are already under way.

The next phase, know me, includes the ability for phones to understand what a user wants or needs and present it to them without being asked. In the fourth phase, be me, the devices will act on behalf of their users "based on learned or explicit rules," according to the company.

Gartner predicts that within five years, and maybe as soon as two, cognizant computing will become one of the strongest forces in IT and hardware will be devalued as consumers shift their attention to services and brands.

"With the move into a cognizant computing world, the battle to own the consumer will intensify as vendors will try and control the data in the cloud, and through that the relationship with the users," according to a Gartner news release. "Hardware vendors will unlikely be credited with the good, but surely be blamed about the ugly when the device fails to deliver. The device will be seen as dumb rather than the malfunctioning of the real brain: the cloud."

The company said that privacy will be an issue for some, with adoption varying by age group and geography, but predicted that "for many it will only be an issue if they do not get enough in return for their personal data. Consumers tend to give up a lot for convenience. The benefit of certain apps might instigate behaviors that were unthinkable yesterday."

Go to gartner.com for more information about Gartner.

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is the multimedia editor for Campus Technology and THE Journal. He can be reached at jbolkan@1105media.com.

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