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Smartphones will enable the ‘augmented person’

AI phones

via Flickr © Wendelin Jacober (CC BY 2.0)

  • Smartphones are powerful enough to be ‘intelligent’, so they will be
  • The aim is to reduce the user’s cognitive load, not make the phone even smarter
  • A I will enable the next wave of smartphone capabilities

What’s next for the smartphone? After all there has to be something new lest the entire industry falls flat. Gartner thinks that ‘something’ is Artificial Intelligence (AI).

As the smartphone platform gets more and more powerful (faster processors, denser memories) then it should soon, if it isn’t already, become powerful enough to run sophisticated  AI programs - perhaps in conjunction with AI workloads performing at the network edge.

So you have an artificially intelligent phone - what's next?

This ‘Phone AI’ could then be applied to a range of applications to generate ‘experiences’ of various kinds, and to improve the ongoing level of understanding between phone and user.   Gartner coins a nice phrase for this: reducing the user’s “cognitive load.”

"Future AI capabilities will allow smartphones to learn, plan and solve problems for users. This isn't just about making the smartphone smarter, but augmenting people by reducing their cognitive load.” says CK Lu, research director at Gartner.

In other words, instead of your phone setting the pace as at present and bombarding you with beeps, notifications, and decision requests (eg. Do you want to download now or later?) the phone will learn from your previous responses and deftly (hopefully) make many of these decisions for you, sparing you the brain-numbing details.

So, just in time for CES and a few weeks later, Mobile World Congress, Gartner is sharing its thoughts about AI and how and why it will be necessary to harness it to keep the tech economy churning.

Soon nearly all phones will be intelligent

The consultancy is projecting that 80 per cent of the smartphones shipped will have ‘on-device AI capabilities’ by 2022, up from just 10 per cent now where they tend to be limited to premium devices to finesse better data protection and power management than full cloud-based AI. As a result AI solutions will be an essential part of vendor roadmaps over the next two years.

Gartner reckons vendors will start with a single AI capability and then, if successful, add another, minimizing product risk. It’s also come up with possible use cases for AI on the device, including...

Digital Me: Smartphones will be an extension of the user, capable of recognizing them and predicting their next move. They will understand who you are, what you want, when you want it, how you want it done and execute tasks upon your authority.

User authentication: Security technology combined with machine learning, biometrics and user behavior will improve usability and self-service capabilities. For example, smartphones can capture and learn a user's behavior, such as patterns when they walk, swipe, apply pressure to the phone, scroll and type, without the need for passwords or active authentications.

Emotion recognition: Emotion sensing systems  and “affective” computing allow smartphones to detect, analyze, process and respond to people's emotional states and moods. The proliferation of virtual personal assistants and other AI-based technology for conversational systems is driving the need to add emotional intelligence for better context and an enhanced service experience.

Natural-language understanding: Continuous training and deep learning on smartphones will improve the accuracy of speech recognition, while better understanding the user's specific intentions.

Audio analytics: Where the smartphone's microphone is able to continuously listen to real-world sounds. AI capability on the device is able to tell those sounds, and instruct users or trigger events. For example, a smartphone hears a user snoring, then triggers the user's wristband to encourage a change in sleeping positions.

I’m not so sure about this last one - if my smartphone insisted on waking me over a snoring issue it would be in small pieces on the floor before you could say "insurance claim".

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