Science & Nature

Jul 1, 2017

AND MAN CREATED THE APP

Who remembers the movie Minority Report, of 2002, in which Tom Cruise was passing the hand and the fingers in a screen with information to organize, to extend or to discard it, realizes that between that future and reality, it was very short time. 

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If computer science is already considered the third human revolution, apps are a revolution within the revolution. But first of all we must remember how we got here.

From the pager to the smartphone

The first step has taken place over the last three decades with the technological development that has allowed the reduction of electronic devices and, simultaneously, increasing their capacity. True miniaturization of electronic instruments, machines and tools resulted in the fusion of devices that were separated a few decades ago, culminating in the fusion of the mobile phone with the computer.

Telephone, mail and messages, radio, music players (Records or CD), clock and alarm clock, calendar and notifications, TV and video players (VHS or DVD), library, encyclopedia and dictionary, newspapers and magazines, Guide, phone book, GPS and compass, typewriter, word processor, calculator. Who still uses an alarm clock or CD player? Ever wondered how many objects disappeared? Spare space or electronic waste produced?

See interact and add

The second step was taken with the creation of technology that allowed the mouse and keyboard to merge with the screen and made wires disappear. We're talking about wireless communications and touch screens. These last ones created the portable device that allows to interact, a physical interface incorporated in the same device that allows the visualization and made us to pass from "click" to dragging the fingers, or touching the menus.

The third step came with the so-called Web 2.0. Increased communication speeds with more efficient protocols, increased bandwidth and better servers. It allowed the internet to move from unilateral communication to bilateral communication in which it is possible for the user to add content.

There is an app for that

With the transformation of the mobile phone into a computer in what has been called smartphone, the creation of applications – abbreviated by apps – has proliferated and nowadays there are applications for everything. Gone is the time when the phone was limited to the calculator or the Snake game that came with Nokias, in 1998.

Today we can buy or get all kinds of games for free, or download more calculators than we can imagine. Apps range from agendas and editing tools to content aggregators. Apps for health, physical activity, sleep or food. With different aspects and functions.

From production to selling

Apps are no more than applications running a feature via the operating system, which can be Android, Windows, Blackberry, Ubuntu or iOS in the case of iPhones or iPads, or by connecting to a database in the case of content such as newspapers, movies or music.

Certainly you had already crossed with the terms UI (user interface), UX (user experience) or API (application programming interface). It is the new professional skills required of designers and programmers who create these small programs and which range from basic design knowledge, semiotics for the use and creation of symbols or icons, from cognition for perception of what is intuitive or not, and ergonomics to optimize the movements in relation to the repetition of functions as, for example, in a game.

After the development, the apps are available in stores online. The iOS system has App Store as the exclusive distribution point and tests it, and it can be accepted or not. The Android system, while focused on Google Play, is not unique.

Apps may or may not be paid. When they are not paid they usually have advertisements or require add-ons that are paid, called integrated purchases.

The number of job creation linked to the development and marketing of Apps have been growing progressively and in 2013, for example, were estimated 529 thousand direct jobs only in the European Union.

The App store that started in 2008 with 500 apps today adds 20,000 apps per month. Over the next four years 40 billion app downloads were made.

Forbes estimates that there are currently 900 million users of Android apps and 600 million iOS, and that USD$ 5 billion has been paid by Apple to developers and that Google has paid about 900 million to its creators.

Hand the soul to the apps

Such huge investments are supposed to deliver results in a short time. And these are already beginning to show – more memory for even smaller devices, best performances and more functions, increased connectivity and interaction.

For these reasons, the development of apps for smartphones or tablets no longer fulfil the needs and requests of the most demanding user. Thus, there are other smart devices rising which allow more interaction by the user. We are talking over refrigerators that analyze their own contents and the lack of usual food, make the orders at your local supplier and even do their payment by bank account; kitchen robots which cook dinner at the order of a command given through a smartphone; home-audio systems which reproduce music at a voice command and are able to manage different environments in different parts of the house, etc.

Basically, all devices with electronic components will soon be able to be programmed and programmable, if there's sufficient development and profitability.

In addition to these developments, these "smart" devices are also becoming "user-friendly". They are more intuitive and simple to operate and some, like Siri, are so interactive that it speaks with the user.

Conclusion? We are watching the end of the time in which it was necessary a great amount of knowledge to fulfil small jobs. Now, we only need better equipment and more accurate and developed apps.

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