In other words, Citizen Developers are problem-solvers with a varied set of skills, most of which don’t have anything to do with traditional coding. The term has been floating around for a while, but it’s only with the influx of modern rapid development tools that we begin to see how it will impact businesses around the world in a very near future.
Karen Devine, vice president of marketing at QuickBase, says, “There’s such a big skills gap in the marketplace and so much competition for the opportunities in the coding space. But what we were surprised to find is that only 8 percent of the respondents say they have formal coding experience, but nearly 70 percent develop apps as part of their day job.”
According to a 2015 Gartner report titled Citizen Development is Fundamental to the Digital Workplace, at least 70% of large enterprises will have established successful Citizen Development policies by 2020. That’s a considerable increase, given that only 20% had these policies in 2010.
The report also found that most organizations leveraging Citizen Development ranged from small and mid-sized enterprises. In fact, 37% were from companies with less than 100 employees, and 35% were from companies with 100 – 5000 employees.
The biggest player in this landscape is QuickBase, a low-code application development platform provider headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In her interview for Forbes, Allison Mnookin, CEO of QuickBase, went on to say that “The low code market has finally arrived.”
With QuickBase, non-technical business users are empowered to create and customize secure cloud applications that can solve unique business challenges without compromising IT governance and control. “92% of QuickBase Citizen Developers have no coding background,” said Mnookin.
The only technical skills Citizen Developers need is the ability to mix and match various existing technological solutions and use them to solve previously identified problems and inefficiencies. Typical problems that users of QuickBase solve revolve around Excel files and Microsoft Access databases.
Companies who encourage their employees to take a pro-active role in software development reap multiple benefits. “We don’t have to interrupt our IT department to build an application. We just need a good idea, collaboration from the end users and some productive quiet time,” says Bruce Squibb, senior director of program development, Sodexo. As such, the total operation efficiency greatly increases, boosting ROI and reassuring employees that their work produces noticeable outcomes that benefit the whole company.
Of course, larger enterprises don’t expect that employees without deep IT knowledge would build and maintain mission-critical applications or integrate their compartmentalized solutions into the company network. Trained technical personnel is still expected to assist with these tasks. According to Gartner Research VP Mark Driver, the sweet spot for citizen development is for simple applications that are stand-alone and not mission critical.
But in the world where the foundational infrastructure is often outsourced to third-party companies, it’s precisely the non-critical stuff that matters and influences how employees accomplish their daily goals and how the company as a whole deals with upcoming challenges. As such, the role of Citizen Developers will only rise in importance, as the technology behind it improves over time.
At the core of gamification is game theory, a branch of mathematics that seeks to understand why an individual makes a particular decision and how the decisions made by one individual affect others. Using concepts and techniques from game theory, gamification aims to engage participants with activities they find appealing, in order to influence their behavior.
Common elements of gamification include various points, reward badges, and leaderboards where users can strive to outperform others. A properly implemented gamification has a lot of advantages ranging from an increase in customer engagement to higher customer loyalty and access to in-depth data that can give further insights into users’ interests and passions.
Let’s take a look at some real-life examples of gamification to understand just how omnipresent it really is.
ArmyConceived in 1999 by Colonel Casey Wardynski, the U.S. Army has developed and published a first-person shooter (FPS) game called America’s Army with a single goal: to support U.S. Army recruiting. The gameplay mechanics are very similar to other tactical shooters. Players are divided into squats and use realistic weapons as they fight against one another for a set number of rounds. Featured in the game is the HMMWV, Mk 19 grenade launcher, and Browning M2, among many other contemporary weapons from the arsenal of U.S. military. One game historian commented that the game has “grown in ways its originators couldn’t have imagined.” Indeed, its rating of 82 on Metacritic and the large number of industry awards confirms its great success among civilians from all over the world.
LearningLearning platforms, such as Treehouse or Doulingo, revolutionize how people learn how to code, speak other languages, or how they gain professional knowledge and skills to advance their careers. Individual subjects and courses have clearly outlined paths for users to follow. For each completed lesson, users are rewarded with points and badges, which demonstrate their achievement. Points are usually multiplied if the user logs into to the side for multiple consecutive days in a row. This increases user retention and motivates people to keep studying.
HealthcareHealth insurance companies and health care providers are using gamification to stir people toward a healthier lifestyle. According to Gamification.co, United is working on an app called United Healthcare Motion. “People carrying insurance will be given wearable devices that will track their daily activities, including the number of steps they walk. Participants will be given financial incentives for meeting certain goals.” Other apps, such as Fitbit, MyFitnessPal, and Nike+ work on a similar principle. Nike+ allows people to track their runs and challenge friends – all to encourage them to top their personal records.
ShoppingRetailers have been using gamification for a long time, but they are only recently started to embrace technology to take it to the next level. Starbucks, for example, is now rewarding customers by giving them stars for their purchases. Each star fills up a virtual cup by a small bit. Once completely filled, the customer gets a free coffee.
Government ControlBut perhaps the most sinister application of gamification comes from China. The Chinese government has created a social tool named Sesame Credit to gamify obedience to the State. Using this tool, people are given scores based on how well their actions align with the official government policy.
The tool pulls data from social networks and online purchase histories, judging if people share articles that praise the Chinese government, purchase domestic products, and many others.
The tool is currently in a testing phase, but it’s expected that it will become mandatory by 2020. When that happens, the rating given by Sesame Credit could have real world consequences. Users with low scores could have their internet speeds restricted, and those with good scores could gain access to more lucrative jobs.
Pebble 2The original Pebble smartwatch was a black and white plastic device that was prone to scratches and for a long time lacked the ability to run third-party apps. Despite its flaws, a huge following quickly developed around it, proving that even unpolished products can be immensely successful if the underlying concept is interesting enough.
The Pebble 2 builds on the original idea but improves it in almost every way. The most notable addition is the ability to track heart rate. It took Pebble a long time to start taking health and fitness tracking seriously, only launching their own health-tracking application in December. According to The Verge, the company now believes that “fitness tracking has become the third pillar of smartwatch functionality, alongside notifications and basic communications.”
The smartwatch is also lighter and thinner than the original Pebble, and the still black-and-white display is finally protected with a Gorilla Glass coating. The built-in microphone extends capabilities of the Pebble 2. The show is run by an ARM Cortex M4 processor, which is a high performance embedded processor with DSP instructions developed to address digital signal control markets that demand an efficient, easy-to-use blend of control and signal processing capabilities, explains ARM on their official website.
Users should be able to get up to a week of battery life out of the smartwatch. It will cost $99 and is expected to ship in September of this year.
Time 2The Pebble Time 2 seems to be the premium watch from Pebble that customers we waiting for so long. The main problem with the Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel smartwatches was fundamental inability to justify their higher price. The Time Steel never really felt like a Pebble watch in the first place – not to mention that it was almost 4 times more expensive than the basic Pebble watch. The Time also sacrificed Pebble’s greatest feature, its long battery life, in favor of a clunky non-touch color display that was hard to read under direct sunlight.
So what has Pebble decided to do? They have decided to combine features of the Pebble Time and Pebble Time Steel into a single, highly-polished package. The new smartwatch can last up to 10 days and its 64-colour E-Paper screen with a 228 x 200 resolution now has more than 50 percent larger viewing area. The display is protected with Gorilla Glass 3, while the watch itself is made out of marine grade stainless steel. Not to lag behind the Pebble 2, the newly introduced heart-rate sensor and microphone are also present in this watch.
“We’ve been working with the display manufacturer to figure out a way of reducing border size which is one of the biggest pieces of feedback we got back from our customers. I think we’ve been able to crack it and get it down to this state,” says Pebble CEO Eric Migicovsky. Indeed, the bezel is significantly smaller than the one found on the previous version.
Despite these improvements, the display still doesn’t support touch, and the entire watch is controlled with buttons – a back button on the left side and up, down, and select buttons on the right side. At least, Pebble has made some efforts to increase their usability by adding a new framework called Actions. With this framework, users can use the buttons to quickly access various custom-configured shortcuts. “We’re really taking a renewed focus on the health and fitness aspects of the watch,” Migicovsky pointed out when asked why the company has decided to use a silicon band instead of a leather band like the one found on Pebble Time Round, the company’s stylish smartwatch. “We wanted to make sure it was water resistant up to 30 meters like the rest of our products, but also added a rubber strap so you can work out or swim.”
The Time 2 is available in gold, silver, and black color version. The smartwatch is priced at $169 and should ship in November.
Pebble CorePerhaps the most interesting of all new gadgets from Pebble is the Pebble Core, the company’s first non-smartwatch gadget. This small dongle can be attached to just about anything, using a magnetized leather clip.
The device came to life a direct result of the feedback Pebble received from their customers, who, while enjoying Pebble smartwatches, found themselves, again and again, wishing there was a convenient way how they could listen to music and track their location without hauling a smartphone with them.
The Core is a compact, square wearable device that can be connected with an iPhone or Android smartphone. But it can also be used independently, thanks to a Micro SIM card slot. As such, the Core is almost as if Pebble took all the advanced functionality from high-end smartwatches and stripped it to its minimal form. “Pebble didn’t have a way of accessing the Internet before without a phone. This gives us a bit of a pathway to get through to the Internet,” Migicovsky told CNET.
Inside is 4GB of storage space for use in conjunction with the dedicated Spotify support, which allows users to download music playlists for offline listening – either via a 3.5mm jack for headphones or over Bluetooth – in case they don’t want to take advantage of Core’s 3G capabilities. But the device can do much more than just replace your old mp3 player. The built-in microphone and GPS allow for voice messages, emergency SOS texts, quick Uber hailing, and the company has announced plans to integrate Amazon Alexa to access Amazon Prime Music, shop on Amazon, and even listen to news headlines and weather reports. The Pebble Core is said to last up to nine hours of active battery life. It can then be charged with any compatible Qi wireless charger.
The Pebble Core is also the first Pebble gadget to run on Android OS. The company believes that this will make the device more appealing to hackers and tinkerers, who could use it to do all sorts of wild things, including home automation.
Pebble plans to start shipping the core from January 2017 for $99 – only Kickstarter backers will get it for $69. It will be available in either black or white color.
Pebble’s CompetitionThe new versions of smartwatches from Pebble are certainly a substantial improvement, but are they good enough to compete with other major manufacturers of smartwatches and fitness trackers?
Apple WatchFor consumers’ point of view, the price of the Apple Watch is not easy to justify. The new Time 2 offers a similar premium design but for a much lower price. What it doesn’t offer is the same premium user experience. The somewhat clunky, button-controlled 64-colour E-Paper screen simply can’t compete with the AMOLED capacitive touchscreen found on the Apple Watch. It could, however, be redeemed by the amazing battery life and compatibility with both Android and iOS devices.
For developers, Apple’s ecosystem offers a lot of possibilities how to make a living with paid apps published on the App Store. Developers get 70% of sales revenue while Apple handles worldwide payment processing and distribution. That’s not to say that Pebble doesn’t have its own version of the App Store, but they don’t allow paid apps. As such, Pebble is likely to appeal more to the open-source crowd of enthusiastic tinkerers.
Android Wear SmartwatchesWith new Android Wear smartwatches being released every month, customers have enough options to choose a watch that perfectly fits their needs; from sporty smartwatches such as the Casio Smart Outdoor Watch or Moto 360 Sport, to elegant timepieces such as the Fossil Q Wander or the Huawei Watch. But, at the end of the day, it all boils down to the philosophy behind the product. Pebble position themselves as manufacturers of everyday products that keep things simple and accessible. On the other hand, Android is known for its fragmented market that can be hard to navigate.
The one area where Android is the undisputed king is application development. Their comprehensive suite of development tools, low entry fees, and competitive revenue percentage make the platform perfect for seasoned and inexperienced developers alike.
FitbitFitbit, the well-known manufacturer of activity trackers and wireless-enabled wearable technology devices, competes with Pebble with their only true smartwatch, the Fitbit Blaze. Since the Pebble 2 and Time 2 gained similar fitness tracking capabilities, costumes have to decide whether they want to spend their money on a single-purpose device that does one thing and does it well, or take advantage of over 13,000 apps in the Pebble app store that gives Pebble’s smartwatches a much greater variety of functionality. What’s more, Pebble smartwatches are also water-resistant and have a better battery life.
Summary“I see a future where at some point you’re gonna have multiple wearables that all talk to each other, that connect through the Internet,” stated Migicovsky. This new batch of devices clearly points to the new direction that Pebble is heading. To get there, the company will have to work on their infrastructure, which is still lacking compared to other big names who compete with Pebble in the smartwatch and fitness tracking market. The fact that Pebble has decided to use Android Wear for the Pebble Core shows that the company is aware of the issue and is trying new ways how to solve it. It will be interesting to watch how they manage to position themselves on the increasingly more saturated market.
As we moved beyond text into the era of graphics, the direct manipulation or WIMP (windows, icons, menus, and pointing) interfaces became the new norm. Their advantage was great discoverability, suitability for multi-tasking, and a certain level of intuitiveness. This same type of user interface has proved to be equally suitable for personal computers, smartphones, and even our home entertainment systems.
However, we are quickly reaching a point where the graphical user interface won’t allow us to take a full advantage of the ever-increasing capabilities of modern artificial intelligent systems backed by big data analysis and a human-like comprehension. We need more effective, efficient, and natural interfaces to support access to information, applications, and people, explains Morgan Kaufmann in Intelligent User Interfaces: An Introduction.
This new type of user interface, the intelligent user interface (IUI), should allow for “the comprehension of possibly imprecise, ambiguous, and/or partial multimodal input; generation of coordinated, cohesive, and coherent multimodal presentations; semi- or fully automated completion of delegated tasks; and management of the interaction (e.g., task completion, tailoring interaction styles, adapting the interface) by representing, reasoning, and exploiting models of the user, domain, task, and context,” explains Kaufmann.
What Are Intelligent User Interfaces (IUIs)Intelligent User Interfaces: An Introduction defines IUIs as “human-machine interfaces that aim to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and naturalness of human-machine interaction by representing, reasoning, and acting on models of the user, domain, task, discourse, and media (e.g., graphics, natural language, gesture).”
Naturally, the process of designing and implementing an IUI is a multidisciplinary endeavor, which lies at the intersection of human-computer interaction (HCI / HCD), ergonomics, cognitive science, and artificial intelligence, among other disciplines.
A well-executed IUI must be able to accurately analyze user’s input in one or several of following forms: spoken, typed, or handwritten language; and various gestures. Once the input is processed, the system formulates an output and, optionally, takes into consideration predictions how the interaction could continue, just like we humans do without even thinking about it.
The earliest examples of true IUIs follow the publication of the famous Turing test, developed by Alan Turing in 1950 to test a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. Many subsequent intelligent tutoring systems, such as PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) were developed for educational purposes and used by universities and government institutions.
While these systems are virtually unknown by the general public, there is one example of IUI that’s deeply engraved into the memory of everyone who is, at least, 20 years old. It is the infamous Office Assistant from Microsoft Office 2000/XP/2003, also known as Clippy. The paperclip was designed to give context-appropriate suggestions and tips to users based on their current actions. It was ultimately disabled in Office XP due to its unpopularity and completely removed in Office 2007.
IUI Versus CUIWith the rise of products such as Amazon Echo, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana and Google Now, we have gained the ability to accomplish many everyday tasks just by simply talking with our devices. In his article for Wired.com, Ron Kaplan calls this new user interface paradigm “the conversational user interface”.
He goes on to say, “This is the interface of the future, made even more necessary as computing propagates beyond laptops, tablets and smartphones to cars, thermostats, home appliances and now even watches … and glasses.” Ron continues by stating that “It’s “intelligent” because it combines these voice technologies with a natural-language understanding of the intention behind those spoken words, not just recognizing the words as a text transcription. The rest of the intelligence comes from contextual awareness (who said what, when and where), perceptive listening (automatically waking up when you speak) and artificial intelligence reasoning.”
For all practical purposes, CUI is a sub-category of IUI. We will see very shortly that it definitely isn’t the only one.
The Road AheadWe still have a long road ahead of us before IUIs become widely used for common applications. Kristina Höök charted how this journey will look like in her paper titled Steps to take before Intelligent User Interfaces become real:
“Unfortunately, there are a number of problems not yet solved that prevent us from creating good intelligent user interface applications: there is a need for methods for how to develop them; there are demands on better usability principles for them; we need a better understanding of the possible ways the interface can utilize intelligence to improve the interaction; and finally, we need to design better tools that will enable an intelligent system to survive the life-cycle of a system (including updates of the database, system support, etc.).” Numerous Natural Language Processing (NLP) vendors claim to have an intelligent product, however we are still years away from a comprehensive solution to be regularly available.
Despite the numerous challenges, substantial advancements are being made every year by researchers, tech pioneers, and enthusiasts from all over the world. The next big thing for the IUI is ACM IUI 2017, which is the 22nd annual meeting of the intelligent user interfaces community. This time, the event will take place in the St. Raphael Resort in Limassol, Cyprus.
ConclusionThere is no doubt that intelligent user interfaces will play an essential role in the way we interact with the technology around us during the next decade. Entirely new professions will emerge to meet the market demand and push the boundaries of what we deem possible.
Even though they are still in their infancy, ABI Research estimates suggest 3.9 million BLE beacons shipped globally in 2015. That’s because retailers, manufacturers, hotels, educational institutions, and governments see how transformative they could be for logistics, customer engagement, and information transmission.
Companies like Zebra are leading the way with innovative products like MPACT. Zebra’s marketing site states “MPact is the only indoor locationing platform to unify Wi-Fi and Bluetooth® Smart technology, improving locationing accuracy, while allowing you to connect to the most possible customers and capture more analytics and insight. Service is re-defined through impactful interactions with customers via the one device they almost always have in hand – their mobile phone. The result? Instant visibility into where customers are in your facility – and the ability to automatically take the best action to best serve each customer at any time during their visit.”
According to ZDNet, the largest retail deployment of beacons to date was carried out by drug store chain Rite Aid. The company recently announced a distribution of proximity beacons in each of its 4,500 U.S. stores.
Statistics from Swirl, Mobile Presence Management and Marketing Platform, explain why: Relevant mobile offers delivered to smartphones while shopping in a store would significantly influence likelihood to make a purchase for 72% of consumers. What’s more, 80% of consumers would welcome the option to use a mobile app while shopping in a store if that app delivered relevant sales and promotional notifications. That’s a staggering improvement when compared to traditional push notifications, which are opened only about 14 percent of the time, according to mobile advertising firm Beintoo.
As more retailers implement beacons to offer flash sales, provide customers with more product information, and speed up the checkout process, we can expect a dramatic rise in the rate of their adoption. A report from BI Intelligence says that “US in-store retail sales influenced by beacon-triggered messages will see a nearly tenfold increase between 2015 and 2016, from $4.1 billion to $44.4 billion.”
Mobile marketers and developers will have to learn new tricks to fully capitalize on the wealth of opportunities that the beacon technology presents.