Five mobile takeaways for 2016

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As we reach the end of an exciting year, I’m in both a reflective and predictive mood. For me, there are three important things in this world: Health, Time and Money. With enough of each you have a chance to be happy. And you can do good. The following predictions focus on how mobile can make them happen in 2016.

Health

Technology is helping us to lead better, healthier lives.

#1: mHealth & Wearables

In 2016 the mhealth and wearables trend will gain significant traction, as they help to measure and improve people’s health and life. I can foresee a time when a doctor knows what you have been up to regardless of what you tell him or her. There will be no more health lies, unless the data lies.

This is thanks to the troves of connected health data and how it is becoming more interconnected and distributed via a network effect, falling device prices, along with it being correlated with our understanding of what causes ill health. As with many trends, greater concern and awareness over privacy issues will mean that there is an easy path to opt out with mHealth services.

If wearing a smart watch could extend your life by ten years, rather than just look nice, would you buy one, wear one and ensure it doesn’t live in a drawer?

(One third of US adults in 2014 who have owned a wearable product stopped using it within six months, source: Endeavour Partners)

#2: VR

With Sony, Oculus, and Samsung all releasing their customer versions of VR hardware in 2016, I predict VR will take more than its fair share of column inches and awards buzz.

And I hope it will be big news for health. VR will become a common treatment option for pain, stress, PTSD, burns, drug rehabilitation, and other conditions.

And a great way for creating immersive brand experiences that create a wow moment for the few, rather than the many. At Nimbletank we’re creating VR prototypes that make for brand wow moments, and/or that make the world a better place.

Time

Technology can take up our time but it can also give us time back. I believe great mobile experiences save the user time.

#3: Context 2.0

Context should have already changed our lives and the price is our data. The internet of things will make our lives easier and our mobile will be the remote control for life.

I’ve dedicated time to my playlists on Spotify and sharing my experiences on Foursquare. That investment in time pays back in terms of smarter more accurate and valuable recommendations. My hope is that kind of saves me back some of the time ploughed in over the years. It’s kind of like a beautiful hamster wheel!

2016 will see the rise of contextual assistants. A PA is no longer a luxury; it’s for everyone, available for free via mobile technology. We have a few things coming together on both hardware and software sides. The four horsemen - Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are all working on more open and more AI based personal assistants that will deliver the info we need, where and when we need it – learning about our tastes in real-time.

Voice interfaces are normalising. Hardware is moving quicker, with each new generation of handset packed with more, ever-cheapening sensors that surface new data points such as biometric data, alongside traditional content/context consumption and location data.

This is all against a backdrop of customers wanting more personal, contextually aware, time saving mobile experiences. Look at the Uber App: when you get to your destination, you don’t do anything – you just get out of your car, you don’t pay, or ask for a receipt – you’re done. You can even order an Uber from Facebook Messenger now, meaning you don’t need the app. Foursquare interactions are via the lock screen based on my location context. Again I don’t need to do anything.

Amazon Dash buttons are another great example. It’s mobile loyalty on crack – a simple one button life friendly interface to getting things I don’t have time to think about, quickly or when I need them.

WeChat, a Chinese messaging app with 600 million monthly active users is known as the 'everything app' and for good reason. WeChat is more than an App, its an ecosystem, with 10 million third-party apps hosted inside. You can change the temperature, lights and settings of your hotel room, or book a cab. Or pay for your shopping.

#4: AI (to solve business problems)

AI will thrive in 2016 as the boundaries of great products, service design, data and context are pushed even further. Cognitive technology such as that used by IBM’s Watson is a tech platform operating at the intersection of machine learning and natural language processing to make sense of and garner actionable insights from immense amounts of unstructured data. For me AI is the next digital disruption.

However, I will be challenging mobile teams to not just solve problems algorithmically. Harnessing the power of human curation, particularly in emotional fields, for example Beats Music/Apple Music or Twitter Moments curated services can significantly aid discovery and warm up cold hard tech.

As well as AI, I should be thinking about human intelligence; tools that let people quickly and simply give technology human instruction. If This Then That, IFTTT, is a service that allows users to create custom connections between their apps and digital utilities. For example, you can automatically back-up all of your Instagram photos to Dropbox. IFTTT users are creating 20 million shortcuts every day, organised across over 170 public channels.

Money

Apparently money makes the world go around. Yet it’s still quite painful to buy things online, in-store and pay friends. Everybody is looking for the next untapped value source and how to cut out the middle man - Uber did it with cars; Airbnb with property. Keep your eyes on companies in FinTech, as banks can’t afford to get cut out of the equation. Customers = capital.

#5: Mobile money

The big thing in 2016 is the rise of new FinTech solutions that you’ve never heard of, along with the introduction of new legislation.

The new banking Initiative – Payment services directive 2 – requires banks to expose their closely guarded data via APIs to third party services and other banks. It will be much easier to switch banks basically. Challenger banks will be the first to leverage open APIs to unlock their value of banking data.

The payment landscape is evolving rapidly, and yet 2 billion people are still ‘unbanked’ partly because they need an address. Peer-to-peer lending is also moving rapidly, and we’ve had great fun working with Santander on KiTTi, a group money solution. Expect big developments in these areas.

Banking via mobile phone numbers, as a new data point, is an exciting field in mobile money, with the likes of Happy Mango exploring new datasets such as mobile phone usage behavior (including calling, texting, browsing patterns) as indicators of responsibility and credit worthiness.

Apple Pay and Google Pay will likely dominate as mobile payment solutions in 2016. Every week another retailer launches a proprietary closed system for mobile payment, and I’m sure most of them will fail.

The shining example however is Starbucks, who have shown the value of placing mobile, payments and loyalty at the heart of the experience, along with first moving advantage. Their payment app gives the user a personal queue-skipping experience. Their success has been demonstrated through the incredible numbers achieved, 13m app users in the US and 16 per cent of payments are made via their app.

Blockchain will mature beyond the enabling technology behind Bitcoin. No one will be safe from disruption as blockchain applications push beyond just payments into healthcare, crowd funding, financial services, and even music.

It’s sure to be another interesting year.

David Skerrett is managing partner of Nimbletank.

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