If the Internet of Things (IoT) actually materializes as quickly and universally as many pundits and vendors believe, mobile application developers will be plenty busy writing code and – for many, but not all – counting their cash.
While there's still as much hype as there is promise for a future dominated by connected devices communicating, there's little doubt that mobile apps and their developers will be central to however this latest "next big thing" plays out.
A new report from Gartner predicts that by 2017, mobile apps will be downloaded more than 268 billion times and generate more than $77 billion in revenue. It also sees mobile users providing personalized data streams – and thus more revenue-generating opportunities – to more than 100 different applications and services every day.
"Mobile apps have become the official channel to drive content and services to consumers," Brian Blau, a Gartner research director, said in the report. "This connection to consumer services means users are constantly funneling data through mobile apps. As users continue to adopt and interact with apps, it is their data – what they say, what they do, where they go – that is transforming the app interaction paradigm."
While the vast majority (92 percent) of mobile apps are still free, the data that users are providing – to say nothing of the advertising that almost always accompanies these freebies – is a potential mobile gold mine of its own. This data resource figures to grow exponentially if and when wearable devices and connected household appliances become as common and popular as smartphones and tablets are today.
That means companies such as Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple that have established relationships with mobile app users will have a leg up in predicting and offering the services and products people want based on the vast reservoir of personalized information – location, preferences and friends – they've already gathered. This type of cognizant computing will be key to enabling so-called smart home solutions.
"It can predict user needs and complete tasks without users initiating the action or interfering with the service," Gartner's Sandy Shen added. "It can take the very simplistic format of completing a recurring event such as to turn on the water heater at a preset time, or the more sophisticated format of calling the rescue services and connecting with the doctor when an emergency occurs.
By the way, Gartner expects wearable devices to account for half of total app interactions by 2017.