We are living in a technological era. Major companies are competing against each other in pushing newer, better, and more attractive products and services onto the market. The mobile app industry is no different. It’s one of the most profitable industries in the world, with app store consumer spend predicted to surpass a staggering $122 billion in 2019.
So it certainly comes as no surprise that the developers and publishers are constantly on the lookout for more ways to improve their products. This includes applying some of the hottest technological advances, such as voice technology and blockchain.
Interacting with apps via voice tech
Voice technology and its most prominent representative in the form of voice assistant are currently leading a revolution that is changing our phones as we know them, minimizing screen dependence and providing users a more natural way to interact and get information without reaching for the phones in their pockets.
Voice technology has been around for quite some time but its full potential has never been truly leveraged. Its rise to fame started with the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) that brought us the likes of Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. This has led to AI and ML becoming an integral part of many mobile apps. We can now tell our mobile assistants to run apps, call people from our phonebooks, ask them about the weather or to tell us a joke. Devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home have increased the use of voice technology in the multi-platform ecosystem that is now a part of many homes around the world.
Despite its increasing popularity, integrating voice commands in mobile apps is still in its infancy. One of the examples of this movement is the British online clothing retailer Asos. In October 2018, the fashion giant introduced its voice app which uses Google Assistant to allow UK and US customers in to interact with the voice-enabled chatbot or “fashionbot” called Enki and order products they want.
Enki was first introduced as an Asos chatbot service on Facebook Messenger, allowing shoppers to search the site using images from the web or taken with their phones. Enki also provides recommendations in terms of brands and style matches.
Asos isn’t the only brand experimenting with voice-based technology. IFTTT, a free web-, iOS- and Android-based service that creates applets, or chains of simple conditional statements, is another one of them. Its users can now connect IFTTT’s mobile apps with Alexa or Google Assistant to add items in their to-do list apps, start a Google spreadsheet, lock their homes, etc.
Starbucks has introduced voice capabilities within its app, offering voice ordering as a way to create a better customer experience. Joining the company of voice-enabled ordering apps is the pizza chain Domino’s. As for other brands dipping their toes in the voice tech waters, they include Spotify, Philips Hue, Kayak, Capital One Bank, and many others.
Blockchain – a new force on the tech stage
Another important emerging technology we’re bound to hear more about in the years to come is the distributed ledger or blockchain. Although right now blockchain seems intimidating to many, it nevertheless has plenty of potential to change the world as we know it. In combination with IoT, AI, and big data, this technology offers numerous opportunities for mobile developers like for example in facilitating micropayments and smart contracts in supply chain management as seen in Walmart and IBM.
Topcoder, a crowdsourcing development specialist firm, says that blockchain, as “the architecture for a new kind of internet,” has many more uses in the tech world than just as a backbone for bitcoin and transaction records as it “does something that other structures cannot. It allows digital information to be distributed, but not copied.”
Blockchain started out as a convenient, cheap, and decentralized platform for handling cryptocurrency transactions without the involvement of third parties. It has since developed into so much more, finding its usefulness in the mobile app development as well. We’re primarily speaking of the finance and banking sector, where blockchain integration can provide a secure platform for financial operations, but it doesn’t have to end there.
Blockchain can find its place in retail apps as well, allowing customers to pay using bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies like ethereum or ripple. On top of that, a cryptocurrency exchange app can facilitate easier trading in these new assets.
One thing to consider is that blockchain cannot be incorporated just anywhere. It doesn’t work that way. For example, if your app is only about publishing content without any active transaction interface, there’s really no point of bringing blockchain into the mix and unnecessarily complicating the whole thing. If, on the other hand, your app features payment gateways, transaction interface, or anything with an important database that requires secure and decentralized technology, then blockchain might be the right fit for you.
Besides a good reason, blockchain incorporation requires an extensive understanding of the forces behind the technology, like blocks, smart contracts, as well as the programming languages (both traditional, like Python, and blockchain-specific, like Simplicity and Solidity), and back-end and front-end processes.
If you’re a developer who seeks to incorporate blockchain into your app, you’ll need to choose between 25 blockchain platforms that include both open-source and private platforms. Some of the names you’ll come across include HyperLedger, Stellar, MultiChain, HydraChain, etc.
Keeping up with the times
New technologies are being developed and tested as we speak. In order to succeed, app developers must stay on top of all these advancements at all times, improving their skills, and constantly learning and taking part in relevant discussions. Otherwise, they risk missing out on precious opportunities to succeed or even stay relevant in the ever-changing world.
Voice tech and blockchain are making an impact, becoming more popular with each day and the mobile app industry is starting to recognize this. Publishers and developers are increasingly experimenting with these emerging technologies and racing against each other in incorporating them in their apps, so this might be the high time to jump on that bandwagon and start learning about them as well.