Invisible Apps

The term “invisible app” describe a mobile app that works in the background and automatically brings important things forward to you. Our phones have new sensors, faster connections, and with smarter things happening in the cloud, we’ll see more of this in the future.

One of the big challenges has been creating the software to do these smart things for us. Some of the simplest, and most useful things require analyzing a lot of information. Weather is a good example: look at all of the data available, and tell a user when it’s going to rain. Sounds simple, but it’s a relatively hard problem. An app called Dark Sky does this well; this app started as a simple app that you could open, and it would tell you if it was going to rain in the next hour. You had to check the app, and you could see the answer. Over time, this grew to be automated, and the new version of the app will automatically alert you if it’s going to rain (we’ve written about this before). Often times, small startups bring these new things forward, and then the established players follow. The excellent Yahoo! Weather app just added rain alerts to their app:

yahoo-weather-update

We’ll see a lot more of this in the future, but a few things stand in the way. On our mobile devices, battery life is a real issue, and to do some of these things automatically, apps need to know your location (which does cause a drain), and the better sensors (like the iPhone 6 barometric sensor) can help with weather, but also impact battery life.

In the end, a lot of this stuff will evolve incrementally (invisibly?) over time, and we’ll end up in a much better and easier place in the future.

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