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Artificial intelligence to shape apps development

Report by F5 Networks highlights the shift in balance of power from businesses to consumers

Artificial intelligence to shape apps development
McBain warns technological shifts now underway will add significant risks to an already fraught threat landscape.

The developmental trajectory of future apps will be heavily influenced by AI and machine learning, says a new report by F5 Networks, released ahead of the annual EMEA F5 Agility conference in Barcelona, Spain.

The Future of Apps study, commissioned to The Foresight Factory, says developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning are likely to include more personalised, predictive services in areas such as cognitive health and finance.

EMEA is already poised for the next wave of advances in AI, says the report.  Nearly a third of surveyed respondents across Europe and South Africa say they use voice commands on their mobile devices. Already, some 10,000 third-party voice enabled apps are available for use with Amazon's Alexa at the end of Q1 2017. 

The physical and digital worlds are blurring, says Josh McBain, director of consultancy, Foresight Factory, with an opportunity for unprecedented productivity and efficiency at both a corporate and individual level.  "More than ever before, embedded biometrics and AI will enable humans to take greater control of their personal data," says McBain.

"However, these technological shifts will bring significant risks to an increasingly fraught threat landscape, including the dangers of self-replicating AI, autonomous vehicle hacks or the weaponization of the Internet of Things. We now need to be prepared for when cybercriminals hack the human or even breach the brain," he adds.

The report says high-profile partnerships will be of critical importance, elevated by the looming influence of AI, machine learning and robotics. Late 2016 saw the formation in the US of the Partnership on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society. In January this year, the European Commission called for new rules for robotics to map out ethical standards and liabilities related to driverless cars.

Looking ahead, Foresight Factory flags critical advances in areas such as collaborative AI, where virtual assistants - and underlying apps - can communicate and act accordingly.

The report also highlights the increasing use of augmented and virtual reality and a foresees a future world of embedded smart technologies and individual realities.

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

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, the report calls for 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. 

According to Foresight Factory, consumer demand is fuelling much of the evolving innovation roadmap. Nearly half of surveyed respondents across Europe and South Africa have already used a VR headset or are interested in doing so, rising to 57% among Gen Y. 71% of EMEA consumers also agreed they need to satisfy a desire for new experiences, and nearly half (46%) said they would be interested in night vision contact lenses, increasing to 56% among Gen Y.

"In the future, a new application could very likely be the same as adding a new organ or sense," said Neil Harbisson, founder, Cyborg Foundation, and the first person in the world to have an antenna implanted in his skull.

"Once you merge with technology you can extend your perception and you can extend your senses to give you a much more profound experience of life and of reality.  It can change not only how you see your daily life but it can also change the way that you see the future."

New networks

Foresight Factory 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 global blockchain market will grow from USD 210.2 Million in 2016 to USD 2,312.5 Million by 2021.

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.

Ultimately, applications will herald radical changes in society and enterprises.

Lizzie Cohen-Laloum, senior vice president EMEA sales, F5 Networks, notes the increase pressure on organisations and developers to stay relevant. "Demands are changing at lightning pace and security concerns are surging. The Future of Apps indicates how the balance of power is shifting away from businesses, creating immense opportunities for those capable of delivering apps with speed, adaptive functionality and security.

"This is particularly true as apps increasingly harness the cloud and sit at the heart of complex ecosystems incorporating everything from voice and biometrics to haptics and augmented reality."

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