Invisible apps paving way for watch life

Product Hunt is an important trendwatcher for developments in digital services via the new apps that are becoming popular. Yesterday they marked ‘the invisible app’ as a clear new trend. Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt made a list that consists of embedded functionality like Katch that record Meerkat live streams to Youtube, Magic as a SMS Siri and bots like Blippybot finding GIFs for you, and Clara scheduling your appointments.

At the Hackbattle of The Next Web we saw also this happen in some of the most interesting concepts that were presented. This was mainly triggered by the use of one of the companies providing SMS and voice APIs: Nexmo.

I think it is an important trend too. Not new per se. We talk about bots as service for a longer time, but it will flourish with the introduction of the new generation smart watches and other wearables. I talked on the ‘Notifaction Model’ for the new apps that are build on the context and sensor driven notification layer as binder of the services. See the presentation below for instance.


We are just at te beginning of our automated and artificial intelligence driven service layer we will use for daytime tasks. These invisible apps are the first iteration with simple tasks, but will grow in much smarter enhancements that we will control via our wearable devices.

The power of Graph Search is social recommendation

Some quick thought on the introduction of Graph Search by Facebook. Of course it can be handy to be able to find stuff you posted before yourself. And maybe even the filtering of your timeline and stuff of you and your friends by making add-like queries. This is what we see in the promo movies that are released after the launch.

But is the real power of this function not in something else. In the mobile version of this search. Something that gets Facebook really going on mobile even. I make a link to another app that does not succeeded after the introduction at SxSW in 2011, Ditto. This app was very well designed and smart in the purpose. This app meant to give you the opportunity to share your intentions in the short term in order to make your social peers aware and create rendezvous moments. The way to create the events was beautiful and it is still one of the best designed mobile apps. It lacked however the necessary user base and with that the data to create interesting experiences. And without that no users were starting to use it. It was simply just another social network for most of us.

I think a Ditto like design and service build on the data of Facebook and interacts like the new Graph Search could make a great service for getting recommendations. A smart search that integrates the context awareness could be a serious competitor for Google Now. With the data of Facebook this kind of data could make it into a social driven recommendation tool on the spot.

And for the controlling of the app could it even be an important tool to let voice controlled interaction commands tipping.

Quick thought, feels like an interesting route to me, however needs some extra thinking to make it into a real valuable tool. That is easier if we have experienced the Graph Search in real life. Curious to see how it turns out, or better, how it is played out.

Focus on design for notifications

Design for mobile has one important aspect that is overlooked often: notifications. I think that the connection with an app and the functionality is highly defined by smart use of notifications. Mostly notifications are applied directly connected to the in app streams or to the functions of the app in general. I think however that you can win a lot with doing a separate design track for these notifications. Building a relation via the right (and not the wrong) notifications is a chance.
This will even become more important with the merge of OSes to cloud-based operating systems, like the new Mountain Lion indicates clearly. Notifications everywhere are a result of the trend to mobile first and well put in this article on SoMoClo.

When I have to judge designs for mobile apps I always pay extra attention to the notifications. And with designing service ecosystems with coherent touch-points the notifications can be the binding element, the element that is key in the relation with the service of the organisation.

Some basic rules for good notification design that I propose.

  • think of the relation a user has with the service as the start
  • make a concept; based on motivations of use
  • be humble and relevant; with notifications as default
  • be personal and adaptive; let the user define the level of notifications
  • design the landing separately; connected to the intention of the notification
  • adapt to the context; ideally a notification on your phone on the go should be different from the one when your are on the couch. At least make a difference between devices
  • provide good copy; make copy personal, fitting the service. Choose carefully what to put in the notification for direct reading.

I have to think hard on good examples. Some apps do it right on parts of the notifications. I like the way Foursquare let me filter on users instead of only on functions for instance. And boxcar does a good job to set filters. But I don’t can think of one compelling example. Let me know if you have any!

Mobile as next step in connecting the world to Facebook

Coming Wednesday (November 3rd) Facebook will have an event on mobile. There are many speculations on the expected news, in that sense these events are becoming as hot as those of Apple, from new mobile apps to a Facebook phone. I’m not gonna predict, but I can think what would be interesting. As Facebook does all the time; it will look for a solution that connect the world to Facebook.

Mobile is important for Facebook and will be more important in locking in people to the service. The integration with voice can be interesting in an mobile environment, now they are partnering with Skype. So let’s say; you get a call icon with every post to directly call that one using the technology of Skype. Every account is automatically hooked up to Skype. You don’t need a Skype account (or telephone number anymore), your Facebook identity is your entrance to voice communication. In that sense Facebook will add 500 million accounts to Skype, with whom they joined forces.

I don’t think it is necessary for Facebook to offer their own phone. In contrary, good apps for all platforms where Skype is integrated will be enough to change the way we call today. The weakest point for using Skype as replacement for normal telephone use is the lack of installed base. Not all your friends are on Skype, and Skype is not active all the time. Roaming between mobile and facebook accounts with skype will change that perception.

I think it could be really exciting to see what Facebook will introduce. If it will be the backward integration of Skype it could be as game changing as the social graph tools to connect the world to Facebook.

The wallet as a service

In an article on O’Reilly this week I read an interesting discussion on the mobile wallet. Naveed Anwar of Paypal coined the on-demand wallet.

The mobile wallet is necessarily an on-demand wallet, meaning it’s accessible from different devices and platforms and can hold more than any wallet in your back pocket: multiple funding sources, coupons, receipts, loyalty cards, private label cards, and business cards … and that’s just the start.

I believe too that we are moving to a new form of wallet after all and that this will be a service more than a physical thing. A service that can be used from different places and devices. On the other hand I think we need long time some kind of tangible reference points. It is no problem to combine those however.
Continue reading The wallet as a service

Location as the new black, also for Facebook

Location is hot again. And a lot of speculations are made on the position Facebook will take. Will Facebook be the One Ring of Location gives a good overview. I think there will be a smooth integration of location in your Facebook profile and new targeting options will be connected to it.

For me the concept of location in Facebook can have three elements:
Continue reading Location as the new black, also for Facebook

Diversity defines the features

I proposed a talk for Reboot this year. It accumulates my feelings on a emerging trend on impulse shaped services. In the period heading to the conference I’ll try to connect findings on this topic from others if I ran into them.

Great thoughts of Kevin Kelly as ever. In an extensive post as always he talks on the increasing diversity in technology, in his model of the technium. I agree on his vision and see a lot of challenging developments.

Once one to one marketing was the holy grail. The digital revolution was making a personalized communication possible. It turns out to be impractical and expensive. Segmentation is still the dominant manner. Based on the ideas of diversity we see a one to one product development emerge.
Continue reading Diversity defines the features

social als driver voor location based services

Het is de eeuwige belofte: location based services. Maar het is er nog nooit echt van gekomen. Natuurlijk omdat het altijd te veel gedoe was, maar ook vooral omdat de waarde ervan maar niet los kwam. Dat gaat nu veranderen onder invloed van de doorbraak van het social web.

Een mooi voorbeeld van de volgende stap van location based services zijn de augmented functies in de Android telefoon, waar je een laag over de werkelijkheid legt en op basis van je locatie van het internet relevante informatie haalt. Dit jaar zullen er flinke ontwikkelingen volgen met Adroid. Meer toestellen (40), maar wellicht ook eindelijk de integratie van de verschillende functies. Vanuit een open ontwikkeling.

Wat niet goed is aan het voorbeeld van de augmented functie Wikitude is de focus op points-of-interests. Dat zal geen succes worden. Hoe vaak wil je weten hoever de Bijlmerbajes weg ligt. Maar aan de andere kant is er de laatste jaren veel gebeurd die de ontwikkelingen positief gaan beïnvloeden:

  • de common practice van navigatie. Je verwacht dat je kunt zien waar je bent en waarde wordt gekoppeld aan je locatie
  • de doorbraak van social media. Het is veel leuker om de locatie toe te voegen aan je sociale relaties. Er zijn al wat applicaties aan het ontstaan die de locatie van je vrienden plot op kaarten. Nanonavi is daar een van.
  • de snelle verschuiving van de internetbeleving naar connected context applicaties.

We zijn gewend aan het raken aan locatie door de alom aanwezigheid van navigatie. De stap om populaire location based services zal het verbinden van sociale functies. Wie zijn er in de buurt, maar ook, wie zijn er in de buurt waar je mogelijk een verbinding mee zou kunnen hebben. Of social search op basis van de locatie. Etc. 

Pas als we via die weg gewend zijn geraakt aan het gebruik onze locatie voor het creëren van waarde zullen ook contextdiensten geaccepteerd kunnen worden.