In the past, software and hardware development were two separate projects with extensively different skill sets. Today, hardware typically requires some type of software to function, be it on-board code or a remote interface.
At a presentation during CEA Innovate 2014 the combination of software and hardware took center stage in a session titled “The Keys to Startup Success,” which discussed key trends for technology professionals to focus on:
Sensors and Wearables
What started as a novelty is now one of the hottest sectors in the technology space. As nations across the world struggle to cope with rising healthcare costs, healthcare providers and companies are going to turn to medical data gathered from real time sensors to inform and improve medical decisions.
For software developers, the creation of algorithms to process the troves of medical information is going to be an essential skill for many companies to succeed in the healthcare space. Additionally, coming up with effective ways to visualize this information is crucial so that users actually put it to good use.
While wearable technology and sensors are technically hardware devices, software developers are going to be vital for creating applications and services that make it possible for consumers to put the devices to good use.
You’ve probably used your phone for GPS navigation while driving, however GPS technology can be used for much more. This field has actually been around for years, but it’s only recently become socially palatable. Back when Bluetooth phones were hitting the market, advertisers were exploring sending SMS advertisements to phones as users walked past sensors. Ultimately the technology never took off due to users feeling the concept was intrusive.
Fast-forward to today and the digital landscape has completely changed. Whether it’s navigation, social media or a game – all of these apps have access to the GPS chips in mobile devices.
One of the most notable cases of mobile awareness technology in the real world is going to be retailers using iBeacons within their stores for in-store navigation and showing targeted advertisements based on the departments that a user frequents.
Aside from retail, any application that uses location as a factor to trigger features falls under this trend. Ultimately when implementing these systems, you should make them opt-in to avoid user backlash.
Although not directly covered at CEA Innovate, proper analysis is crucial for any project to succeed. As a web developer it isn’t practical to interview every single visitor to ensure your website is effective. Fortunately, advanced analytical tools can make your job much easier. While using these tools to their fullest potential is a topic for a separate article, you can hit the ground running by looking into products such as Crazy Egg, Mouseflow, or Inspectlet.
By incorporating analytical tracking into your and your clients’ websites, some of the most notable capabilities are:
Form Analytics: By measuring the time it takes for a user to fill in specific form fields, you can identify areas triggering hesitation and abandonment. Additionally you can monitor the fill rate of fields, which can indicate whether users are confused about the input or are unsure of which solution to choose.
Heatmaps: Although the exact mechanics depend on the purpose, the idea revolves around tracking clicks, mouse movement or scrolling. Typically the areas with the most activity will show as a noticeable color such as red or orange, while areas with less activity are blueish or black.
Session Tracking: Unlike heat maps which typically show averaged levels of activity on a website, session tracking allows you to view actual recordings of user activity on the website. This allows you to see exactly how users in their natural setting are using your site.
Of the previously mentioned services, Crazy Egg is the only one which doesn’t offer free versions of their services. Pricing for all the paid plans are relatively affordable considering the value of the intelligence they deliver. When these tools are used with traditional business evaluation techniques you’ll have a winning combination to help you stay ahead of the competition.
Last but not least, one of the most notable trends for developers to know is that privacy will continue to be eroded as time goes by. As with any tool, technology can be viewed as good or evil based on the context. Take Google for example – the company probably knows more about you than your friends and family, however most users accept that fact because Google uses that data to provide a quality service. On the other hand, when governments hold troves of data on citizens, it sparks a controversy.
Striking a balance between privacy and progress is always going to be a challenge, and as discussed in High Tech Realm, you can’t have both.
Younger generations are used to the concept of not having privacy, which is why many of them are comfortable handing over information to companies. The most important rule to keep in mind as a business professional is that when collecting data from users, transparency is key. Ensure that you have a legitimate need for the information and that you are clear about how it will be used. If you try to manipulate your customers or you are dishonest, it won’t end well.