From app development companies to integrated technology hubs

In 2008, when we decided to enter the ‘mobile-app development-as-a-service’ business, little did we realize the extent to which the industry would change in less than 10 years. At launch, the App Store had just about 550 applications and a majority was paid (with most ranging from $0.99 to $9.99). The novelty factor of apps and the App Store drove the thinking behind app concepts back then. So we had apps which let out funny sounds when you waved the phone, mimicked a glass of beer and so on. Enterprises saw the benefit of getting on to the platform with news, finance and soon, e-commerce leading the way. Over the years, businesses have embraced mobile apps largely as a necessity than a fad.

In under a decade, there have been major technological advancements in mobile app development and related fields. These have gone on to impact our everyday lives in ways unimaginable a few years ago. Cloud storage and linked apps have made storing and sharing what’s precious to us, hassle-free. Allo, Siri and Alexa are changing the way people get information, Microsoft Pix picks the best of multiple shots taken on a smartphone and Prisma applies artistic effects on photographs – all thanks to a combinations of neural networks and Artificial Intelligence. Smartphones also play a central role in Internet of Things and connected sensors. For example, ShotTracker is a system that uses wearable technology to track basketball team’s shooting success using wearables, sensors and an app of course. The connected network then gives insights into player strengths and areas for improvement. Healthcare applications are also a critical part of IoT with use cases in several critical areas of medicine. Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality have been mentioned as potential game changers for a couple of years now but only a few of us could experience them. With iOS 11 and its ARKit, I see another revolution in the making, as ARKit opens up new possibilities for developers in gaming and utility products. What’s more, ARKit brings augmented reality to millions at one go.

Aside from these, advancements in analytics and how data is put to use has had a profound impact on product development. Every interaction in an app can tell a story, thus making product development a fusion of art & science. A deep understanding of consumer trends and insights into their behaviour and attitude towards categories has become a pre-requisite for crafting useful, relevant and delightful digital products. Moreover, since the consumer’s interaction with a piece of content can be across screens, devices and ‘moments’, crafting digital products for an omni-channel experience has become critical. It calls for a coming together of strategists with a grasp of consumer behaviour, creative minds that can craft a relevant experience and technologists who bring it all alive.

In my mind, the biggest impact of all the above is elevation of technology partners like Robosoft to someone who can potentially build businesses rather than someone who builds ‘apps’. We worked with a brand in food retail and saw orders through mobile devices double in just three months, thus saving costs. A digital solution we created for a mutual fund asset manager helped independent financial advisors improve productivity. In our experience, nowhere is the future of this convergence evident than in gaming. Mobile gaming is on the cutting edge be it in the realms of user acquisition via intelligent Digital Marketing techniques, or running next general CRM via Live Ops by continuously using machine learning or coming out with intelligent gamification mechanism to keep users engaged; all the while scaling the backend infrastructure to billions of transactions a day. In the future, companies are likely to seek integrated technology hubs, which they can partner with to create digital solutions which impacts business. Surely, a long way from ‘app development’ of 2008.

An edited version of the article was published in The Economic Times.

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