Gartner: 20% of user interactions with smartphones to take place via VPAs by 2019

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KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 27): Advances in various technologies will drive users to interact with their smartphones in more intuitive ways, said Gartner Inc. By 2019, Gartner predicts 20% of all user interactions with the smartphone will take place via virtual personal assistants (VPAs).

"The role of interactions will intensify through the growing popularity of VPAs among smartphone users and conversations made with smart machines," said Gartner's research vice president Annette Zimmermann in a statement today.

Gartner's annual mobile apps survey conducted in the fourth quarter of 2016 among 3,021 consumers across three countries (US, UK and China) found that 42% of respondents in US and 32% in UK used VPAs on their smartphones in the last three months.

More than 37% of respondents (average across US and UK) used a VPA at least one or more times a day.

54% of UK and US respondents used Apple's Siri in the last three months, while Google Now is used by 41% of UK respondents and 48% of US respondents.

"VPAs usage is bound to accelerate as they add many new features, including integration for business services, further language support and appear across more devices," said Gartner research director Jessica Ekholm.

Today, VPAs are fulfilling simple tasks such as setting the alarm or retrieving information from the web, but in the near future these systems will be able to deliver more complex tasks.

Facebook Messenger is allowing users to interact with businesses to make purchases, chat with customer services and order Uber cars within the app.

Moreover, Tencent's WeChat generates over US$1.1 billion (RM4.9 billion) in revenue by offering 440 million users an all-in-one approach, letting them pay their bills, hail cabs and order products with a text.

China represents the most mature market by far, where the increased dominance of messaging platforms is causing the traditional app market to stall.

For example, Microsoft's integration of Cortana into Skype will allow users to chat with their VPA, which Cortana will then facilitate with a third-party bot to get things done, such as a hotel or flight booking.

"We expect AI (artificial intelligence), machine learning and VPAs to be one of the major strategic battlegrounds from 2017 onwards, and make many mobile apps fade and become subservants of VPAs," said Zimmermann.

With a predicted installed base of about 7 billion personal devices, 1.3 billion wearables and 5.7 billion other consumer Internet of things (IoT) endpoints by 2020, the majority of devices will be designed to function with minimal or zero touch.

By 2020, Gartner predicts that zero-touch user interfaces (UIs) will be available on 2 billion devices and IoT endpoints.

"Interactions will move away from touchscreens and will increasingly make use of voice, ambient technology, biometrics, movement and gestures," said Zimmermann.

"In this situation, apps using contextual information will become a crucial factor in user acceptance, as a voice-driven system's usability increases dramatically according to how much it knows about the user's surrounding environment.

"This is where device vendors' assets or partnerships in VPAs, natural language processing (NLP) and deep machine learning experts will matter," she explained.

Headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, USA, Gartner Inc is an information technology research and advisory company.