2016: The year of Contextual Assistants


David Skerrett – Managing Partner, Nimbletank

The big thing in 2016 is useful recommendations powered by smarter context and greater empathy. The contextual assistant is the new PA.

To be honest context should have already changed our lives, and the price is our data. 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. A data lock-in. I’m loyal, to a point.

But in 2016 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.

Secondly hardware is moving quicker, we own more devices per person than ever before. Product lifecycles are shortening, with each new generation packed with more, ever-cheapening sensors that surface new data points such as biometric data, alongside traditional content/context consumption and location data.

Finally, this is all against a backdrop of customers wanting more personal, contextually aware, time saving mobile experiences. Look at the mobile experience with 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. Foursquare interactions are via the lock screen based on my location context. Again I don’t need to do anything.

Within the intersection of improving software, hardware and the desire to save time by paying with your data, the consumer will receive ever improving and greater personalised results.

Currently services generally do this separately, each in it’s own silo or walled garden.

Let’s say I’ve been with Apple for four years, during which time they’ve learnt how I use my various connected devices from Watch to PC, phone and tablet, along with my content and App habits. They even know my heart rate, when I see my Facebook post doesn’t get many likes! Sad face. But in 2016 the promise is that you have built-in services that start to aggregate all of this stuff into one place via Siri, on Apple devices for example, or a bot on Facebook Messenger. Soon the walls will tumble and a more joined up useful mobile world will greet us.

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