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The App Generation will lead to $77bn in revenues by 2017

By 2017, mobile apps will be downloaded more than 268 billion times, generating revenue of more than $77bn and making apps one of the most popular computing tools for users across the globe. That’s according to research firm Gartner, who also predicts that mobile users will provide personalised data streams to more than 100 apps and services every day.

“Mobile apps have become the official channel to drive content and services to consumers,” said Brian Blau, research director at Gartner. “This connection to consumer services means users are constantly funnelling 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.”

Quicker than you can say ‘paradigm shift’, Gartner believes that in the next three to four years, apps will no longer be simply confined to smartphones and tablets, but will impact a wider set of devices, from home appliances to cars and wearable devices. This last category, wearable devices – currently the preserve of the ugliest mash-ups of tech and clothing accessories ever known – is expected to drive 50 per cent of total app interactions.

“While wearable devices will not fully rely on, or be a slave to, mobile devices, it is a way for manufacturers to keep these devices small and efficient, therefore significantly reducing device costs in favour of using apps, which are more easily maintained and updated,” said Blau. “Taking the example of a fitness-tracking device, ultimately its onboard data will need to be uploaded into the cloud, processed, and then analyzed in reporting back to the user. Apps are an obvious and convenient platform to enable great products and services to be developed.”

App users are providing vast quantities of data and often accept advertising or data connectivity in exchange for access. Gartner believes mobile apps are becoming a vehicle for “cognizant computing”, in which the data gathered through the use of the apps and the analytics around it are becoming more important in both volume and value.

“Cognizant computing takes intelligent actions on behalf of users based on their historical data, preferences and rules,” said Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner. “It can predict user needs and complete tasks without users initiating the action or interfering with the service. 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.”

Shen says that large service providers such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple are likely to have a head start in this market due to the relationship they already have with consumers, which provides them with a large repository of user data that they can analyze and predict — a key asset in cognizant computing.

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