The mobile cloud is in a very early stage of development, but it is poised to develop over the next five years into an innovative repository of services, functionality and capabilities for mobile devices. The mobile cloud removes the need for elements of a mobile app (e.g., storage, processing and input) to be physically packaged together, opening up new possibilities for mobile app developers.
Mobile cloud apps have, in general, started with addressing rather simple functions. This is in the process of changing, and we expect to see a rapid progression to increasingly complex apps. These changes and progressions are aided by the increasing capabilities of the device and tablet OSs, which are on a path of convergence with the desktop, tower and server OSs.
As mobile devices add more and more capabilities, the range of possible apps and services is expanding rapidly. These capabilities include geo-location, cameras, microphones and an increasing number of sensors of physical activities - i.e., gravitometers, accelerometers and environmental factors. Of great interest in pushing the envelope of mobile cloud capabilities is the area of context awareness and how these new sensors and other features blend in to the opportunity to define context and enhance user experiences.
As we discuss, context awareness is not a simple feature or app. Rather, it incorporates inputs from the widest imaginable range of sources: search, various device capabilities (sensors), cameras, GPS, social networking and more. It uses these inputs to tailor information and responses to the user in the most personalized manner possible.
This study considers the mobile cloud app ecosystem from the following angles:
Enterprise: We believe the enterprise faces some distinctive issues in approaching the area of the mobile cloud. In the enterprise sphere, mobile clouds and mobile apps are not viewed as a distinct priority currently. This is because the enterprise is trying to deal with what it generally views as two separate phenomena: cloud and mobile (largely bring your own device - BYOD). We examine two growing aspects of enterprise mobile cloud apps: backend as a service (BaaS) and mobile application management (MAM). Both of these are extremely important and helpful, and will lead to consolidation with other aspects of the growing mobile cloud as it progresses.
Personal: Developments are surging ahead in the personal mobile cloud apps area, driven partly by entrenched superpowers of the mobile cloud world such as Google, whose presence appears in almost all areas, as well as emerging and startup developers, and even from academic sources. We discuss some of the aspects of mobile cloud app development, mostly focused on how the mobile-centric aspects of apps and the device-driven capabilities are being explored and where this can lead.
Verticals: We have chosen to focus on two specific verticals, which illustrate different aspects of how mobile cloud apps are developing: 1) medical/healthcare, where mobile cloud will continue to gain importance in patient monitoring, healthcare records, doctor's routines and insurance; and 2) automotive, which presents a growing number of systems employing various approaches to telematics. These verticals are not only interesting because they have been particularly vibrant areas for the spread of mobile apps and the mobile cloud, but also because they contribute to our understanding of the issues surrounding mobile clouds in the enterprise area.
Transcending capabilities: We examine two capabilities that we believe will have major impact on the future of mobile cloud apps: voice recognition/response and augmented reality. Signaled by the appearance of Siri in 2011, mobile is clearly the breeding ground for the widespread use of voice recognition and response; and the mobile cloud is the key enabler for this technology to become really useful. Augmented reality, broadly speaking, involves combining the information that exists in the world of machines, computers and the Internet with the "real world." This will also find its flowering in mobile, with the absolutely essential requirement of a mobile cloud.
Mobile Cloud Apps: The Driving Factors - the third report in Heavy Reading's Mobile Cloud Survival Series - explores the impact of the mobile cloud on the mobile app ecosystem and examines the major capabilities that we believe will shape the future of mobile cloud apps. The report offers detailed case studies of mobile cloud apps in the medical/healthcare and automotive verticals, as well as analysis of "transcending" capabilities such as voice recognition/response and augmented reality, which are revolutionizing the mobile user experience.
The excerpt below shows a schematic view of what we refer to as the Mobile Cloud App World, showing how this ecosystem is fed by fixed cloud apps, mobile-centric apps, device-driven apps and transcending capabilities; managed by cloud platforms; and accessed by various types of mobile devices and OSs.
Mobile Cloud Apps: The Driving Factors is structured as follows:
Section 1 introduces the concept of the mobile cloud app world and lays out our segmenting of the market into enterprise, personal, verticals, and transcending capabilities of mobile cloud apps.
Section 2 examines the relationship of enterprises and mobile cloud apps, including particular issues that are significant for the spread of the mobile cloud.
Section 3 explores the evolution of personal mobile cloud apps, focusing especially on the key areas of context awareness, social networking and facial recognition.
Section 4 presents our case studies of the medical/healthcare and automotive verticals, two areas we believe will have extremely strong influence on the growth of mobile cloud apps.
Section 5 considers what we have termed "transcending capabilities" - cutting-edge functions that may offer tremendous enhancement of the mobile user experience, including voice recognition/response and augmented reality.
Mobile Cloud Apps: The Driving Factors - the third report of the Mobile Cloud Survival Series - is published in PDF format.