As we enter 2019, we’ll see the full potential of past mobile innovations come into focus, as leading tech corporations battle for dominance. This forecast is particularly prevalent for trends now fully integrated into mainstream society, such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), virtual assistants and chatbots. Mobile developers will also continue to make advancements in artificial neural networks and computer vision, and create seamless connections between our physical and digital lives. Meanwhile, the rollout of 5G will elevate network speed across a newly turbocharged mobile landscape, unlocking the potential of a digitally connected society.
Below are five key technological trends set to shake up this year’s mobile marketing industry.
1. Artificial Neural Networks
There are many things computers can do better than people but our human brains are still a step ahead when it comes to common sense. It’s always been a struggle for machines to interpret the context of real-world situations and reason like people. In an attempt to make computers more human-like and inspired by the structure of the human brain, programmers created artificial neural networks (ANN).
The first neural networks were developed in the 1950s to address this issue. An ANN is the computer programmer’s attempt to simulate the network of interconnected brain neurons, so computers can also learn and make human-like decisions. ANNs can be used to classify information, predict outcomes and cluster data.
Today, Google uses a 10-to-30-layered neural network to power its Google Photos and YouTube video recommendations. Facebook uses artificial neural networks for its DeepFace algorithm, which can recognise specific faces with 97% accuracy. An ANN also powers the Skype Translator, which is a Skype add-on that can perform translations in real-time as people speak into the software.
2. Computer Vision
Computer vision is a branch of computer science that enables computers to identify and process objects in images and videos in the same way that people do. However, until recently, computer vision only worked in a limited capacity. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and innovations in neural networks, computer vision has made advancements in recent years.
Today, computer vision’s most mainstream application are facial recognition applications. This technology that enables computers to match images of people’s faces to their identities has been adopted across a wide range of industries, including law enforcement (criminals can now be identified by computers through images and videos), social media (Facebook uses facial recognition to tag users and Snapchat places filters on top of people’s faces) and mobile device manufacturers (Apple’s iPhone offers a face recognition option for logging in instead of the traditional PIN code).
It’s been almost a decade since the first rumours of 5G, the next generation of mobile broadband began — and now, it’s finally becoming a reality. The most exciting and crucial aspects of 5G are its exponentially faster download and upload speeds. Latency, otherwise known as the time it takes devices to communicate with one another over wireless networks, will also dramatically decrease.
This means our future world could be entirely connected by a wireless network of devices, from self-driving cars to our home appliances. Bandwidth is expected to be up to 20 gigabits per second, according to the International Telecommunications Union. The real-life impact? People will be able to use VR/AR and download high-definition TV shows or movies, all on their smartphones.
At the recent Mobile World Congress 2019, many leading telecommunications brands teased their release of mobile phones with 5G capabilities, including Huawei and OnePlus. Likewise, mobile network operators have been busy planning for the 5G future, with almost all major companies in the United States, Europe and Asia promising to make 5G a reality either this year or within the next few years.
4. Augmented and Virtual Reality
Would you believe that AR and VR have been around for decades? However, due to high development costs and the complexities of AR/VR devices, these technologies have sat relatively dormant until recently. In fact, it was 2016’s viral launch of Pokémon Go that cemented their position and potential in the commercial market. Snapchat and Facebook continued adding fuel to the AR bandwagon and introduced fun filters into their apps. Early in 2017, Ikea launched Ikea Place, an AR-driven app that helped customers visualise how its furniture would look in their homes or offices. Later that year, Ikea explored VR and let its shoppers use VR headsets to play games and interact with the furniture in select stores.
However, one of the most significant coups for AR/VR technology has been Tencent’s announcement in 2018 that it was looking to add VR to WeChat. This will have a huge impact on VR’s accessibility in the future, as WeChat is the most widely used messenger app in the world with one billion active users per month. It’s clear the future of AR and VR is bright and will continue having a major impact on people’s daily lives through consumer and enterprise apps and software.
5. AI-backed Virtual Assistants
Text-only searches are slowly giving way to visual and voice searches, with ComScore predicting that half of all searches will be voice searches by 2020. With voice search, people input verbal commands to virtual assistants like Alexa, Siri and Google Home. However, in the future, we expect these virtual assistants to be further integrated with more devices, including but not limited to smartphones (Siri is already in smartphones?), wearables, smart TVs, and other smart appliances and smart homes. People can look forward to a future where they can access voice-activated chatbots that provide answers to questions in an instant, wherever they are.
However, virtual assistants aren’t just limited to the leading companies in the tech sector anymore. These days, almost every big brand in every major industry offers its own virtual assistant to consumers, from banking (Bank of America’s Erica) to fast food (Domino’s Pizza’s Dom).
One of the most recent global retailers to launch its own virtual assistant was Uniqlo with Uniqlo IQ, a mobile assistant that uses voice recognition and AI to give customers personalised recommendations. What’s unique about Uniqlo’s service, however, is that it’s integrated into the Google Assistant app in Japan. This means that after saying “Uniqlo IQ” or “Uniqlo FAQ,’ Google Assistant will become Uniqlo IQ in order to help find answers. According to Uniqlo, this is the first time a company has worked this closely with Google on a brand-specific solution.
As you can see, the virtual assistant space continues to evolve, with new updates released almost constantly. Brands should keep an eye on this space in order to leverage emerging trends and reach early adopters. Likewise, marketers must rethink their content marketing plans around the future of voice-based search and its impact on existing search engine optimisation strategies.
Even after a decade since their first emergence, mobile apps and technology are in demand more than ever. In fact, they’ve evolved into a necessity for everyday life. The 2019 trends are clear: advancements in technology are taking us into the realm of hyper-personalised, real-time and contextual mobile content. It’s evident that 2019 is set to be another year of change for all industries. The best way for businesses to continue delivering long-term value is to focus on these key trends and subsequently future-proof their mobile services for customers.