mobile-apps2What’s driving the seemingly never-ending growth in mobile data traffic? Well for one thing, mobile apps, in what seems like a flash, have skyrocketed in popularity to emerge as “the official channel to drive content and services to consumers,” according to new market research from Gartner.

More than 268 billion mobile app downloads will have taken place by 2017, generating more than $77 billion in revenue and “making apps one of the most popular computing tools for users across the globe,” according to Gartner’s “Predicts 2014: Apps, Personal Cloud and Data Analytics Will Drive New Consumer Interactions.”

Pick any established or budding product, service, market sector or online activity for that matter, and you’ll more than likely find there’s one, if not a range of mobile apps to choose from. And while mobile apps send data downstream to users, they’ll also be sending ever greater amounts of data upstream, Gartner analysts point out.

The market research company “predicts that mobile users will provide personalized data streams to more than 100 apps and services every day.

“From entertainment content to productivity services, from quantified-self to home automation, there is an app for practically anything a connected consumer may want to achieve,” Gartner research director Brian Blau was quoted as saying. “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.”

All the data flowing upstream from end users via mobile, whether free or paid-for, is “often treated as a resource,” by app providers, mobile service providers and other commercial participants. Free apps, in fact, accounted for 92% of app downloads in 2013. Already the key element in user engagement strategies, the importance of these data flows will only increase “as the use of mobile devices, including wearable devices, expands into other areas of consumer and business activities,” Gartner highlights.

“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,” Blau commented. “By 2017, Gartner predicts that wearable devices will drive 50 percent of total app interactions.”

Though there are clear risks involved, such as protecting personal data and privacy, collating the ever-growing amount of data regarding consumers stands to benefit consumers as well as commercial enterprises, which can leverage and capitalize on these data flows to develop better products and services.

Tied in large extent to mobile devices, rising adoption of wearable devices will also be a boon to cloud service providers. “Considering their underlying service, most wearable devices need some type of user interface,” Blau elaborated.

“Taking the example of a fitness-tracking device, ultimately its on-board 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.”

The increasing power and sophistication of cloud-connected mobile apps are giving rise to cognizant computing, Gartner also highlights, “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. In fact, it can be so sophisticated that through their solution providers, consumer brands know a lot about any individual consumer, such as the consumer’s demographic data, location, preferences, habits, and even his or her social circle, in some cases.”

As a result, Gartner foresees cognizant computing becoming a driver for growing adoption of smart home solutions by 2015. “Cognizant computing takes intelligent actions on behalf of users based on their historical data, preferences and rules,” explained Gartner research director Sandy Shen.

“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.

Large Internet and cloud service service providers, such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, have a headstart in leveraging and capitalizing on the opportunities that are emerging as cognizant computing develops. In addition to already having large repositories of data and analytic expertise, consumers also trust them to manage their personal data, a critical aspect of success, Gartner notes.

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