New Internet Era: Devices Emerging That Predict User Needs

The “mind-reading” keyboard app SwiftKey is what some tech writers say is part of a growing movement of devices and apps that will predict users’ needs and deliver them without having to be asked. Between the decline of computing costs and the ease of collecting data through apps, calendar appointments and more, companies like Google and Apple are rushing to deliver the best technology to anticipate what information or reminders users need.

SwiftKey is an Android app that replaces your on-screen keyboard and uses a prediction engine to help you type faster. It is one example of new technologies designed to anticipate our needs.

In an article for Fast Company, GigaOM founder Om Malik says “a fundamental change in the Internet itself” is what’s driving us toward a new era of computers delivering our needs without us having to ask. “We live in a world that is always connected,” Malik writes, noting how we share all kinds of information both on social media and with our apps.

So why wouldn’t Google and Apple use all that data to sense and cater to our needs? What Google Now does, for example, is looks at all of your personal data on Google — from your emails to your search history — and makes predictions on what you may want to do based on that information. Like, say, get flight status updates delivered to your home screen if you have a flight scheduled on your calendar.

“All of this pops up on your screen, as if by magic,” Malik says. “Could you get it yourself? Sure. This info lives in dozens of apps you could access, but Google stitches it together without your having to ask for it.” Though he says Now isn’t perfect, Malik claims it makes Apple’s Siri, who for all her personality often misses the mark, seem “cute.”

Despite opposition from those who deem these companies’ access to and use of personal data as invasive, Malik says “we’re falling behind in our ability to deal with all the data we create.” To make the most of the smartphone experience and all its capabilities, this up-and-coming era of users’ relationships with their devices will be more efficient and worthwhile. “However much we might want to be private,” he says, “we are not.”