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Alexa, order some more cold-brew coffee. Cortana, play some thrash metal. Okay Google, get me some articles on virtual agents. Hey Siri, write me a blog post.

Experts agree that we’re headed for a bright future where virtual assistants with artificial intelligence act as intermediaries for our mobile and digital lives. When even USA TODAY is publishing articles about personal digital assistants, you know the tipping point is nigh.

Text-based intelligent “bots” are already proliferating across messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, enabling users to order flowers, book plane tickets and even do their banking within their platform of choice. (In China, the messaging platform WeChat is already an everyday tool for ordering meals, making doctors’ appointments and even donating to charity). As Leonard Kie recently put it in CRM Magazine, bots are “making the basic email and messaging tools people use every day smarter.” They offer a convenient way for users to interact with brands without leaving their preferred environment to visit a website or download an app.

Ultimately, these voice- and text-based virtual agents will be pervasive across devices and across your home, the office, your car and your purse or pocket. They’ll be able to coordinate solutions from multiple apps, web services and platforms. Forrester Research says this evolution will move through a four-stage trajectory, as we go from single-device app and web experiences all the way to fully blended ecosystem experiences. These are heady times, my friends.

I was reminded of all of this through a recent TUNE webinar on The Future of Mobile. Guest speaker Julie Ask, Forrester VP and Principal Analyst, made two points abundantly clear:

  1. Large players like Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google are sprinting down the path of virtual agent / meta-platform dominance.
  2. This doesn’t mean mobile apps are dead or dying anytime soon.

Phunware and the Future: We’re Already Ready.

Here at Phunware, we talk a lot about mobile apps. They’re our bread and butter. But we’ve always had our eye on the horizon. Technology evolves. So do people. The way we use technology changes, along with the way we feel about it.

The Phunware platform is built to weather all of these changes.

  • It’s device-agnostic. Phunware’s platform features can be delivered across multiple devices—smartphones, tablets, wearables and so on. They’re built for interoperability, just like the “experience components” Forrester recommends.
  • It’s designed to deliver exceptional user experience, now and in the future. Phunware has been creating category-defining mobile experiences for brands across industries since 2009. When this expertise is coupled with data from the 800+ million devices touching Phunware’s platform every month, we can continually build and optimize audiences and campaigns.
  • It surfaces contextual data across all the apps your customers use—and makes it actionable. Context is critical for understanding your customers and creating positive user experiences, and you need data to understand context. But just as the TUNE webinar pointed out, it’s unrealistic to think users will spend most of their time in your branded app. Phunware Data allows you to gain visibility across the “walled gardens” of the different apps your users are using to understand what they’re doing, when, where, how and why.

Sometimes, it’s fun to watch all the drama unfold. People naturally worry that they’re getting left behind as one technology disrupts or displaces another. But when you start from a data-driven, interoperable, user-first premise, you can ride all of these waves with relative serenity.

Here are our recommendations:

  1. Start with a good solid app if you don’t have one.
  2. Make sure you’re using flexible building blocks.
  3. Gather every scrap of data you can.
  4. Keep the user experience first and foremost.

Now, let’s go make truly useful and really cool stuff.

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