Gartner thinks the Facebook data panic will subside as people start to realise the value of their information.
Predicting an eventual upturn in the sagging smartphone market, research director Ranjit Atwal told The Reg that while artificial intelligence has proven key to making phones more useful by removing friction from transactions, AI required more permissive use of data to deliver. An example he cited was Uber "knowing" from your calendar that you needed a lift from the airport.
"Today there are no good use cases for AI - it's just an enhancement of what we do on a phone. We're thinking ahead a few years, when AI can start to remove friction between us and the phone." This can be done by automating mundane tasks - such as ordering an Uber - but that will require users to share data with services they trust.
Another example Atwal cited was renewing house and car insurance.
"If you haven't changed your car insurance there should be easier and more effective ways of doing that. But that only happens if you share your data."
That seems a tall order today. Since news broke that Cambridge Analytica used Facebook data it should not have been able to access, Facebook has been criticized for its permissive data sharing. And not just Facebook. Gay hookup service Grindr was found to be sharing medical information - including their HIV status - with third parties.
"People will start to use data as a currency," Atwal predicts.
"Take out the repetition. A lot of AI is about that - portrayed as ... all about removing friction. Installing automation - taking out redundancies - then the middle ground is data and analysis and more effective service. People are trying to rush through the service part without doing both ends of the equation."
"By 2020, AI capabilities on smartphones will offer a more intelligent digital persona on the device. Machine learning, biometrics and user behaviour will improve the ease of use, self-service and frictionless authentications. This will allow smartphones to be more trusted than other credentials, such as credit cards, passports, IDs or keys," Atwal concludes.
Putting the pieces together, then: if AI is to transform efficiency, and this transformation requires plenty of consumer data, and the data is valuable, then there are some interesting sums to be done. How much is your calendar worth? Will it be profitable for the likes of Uber to pay you for that data in order to get your business?
One thing is for sure: if consumers start to realise the value of their data then companies which counted on getting it for nothing - most of Silicon Valley - will have some serious thinking to do. ®
We were also curious about whether phones that can act like PCs once you add a monitor, keyboard and pointing device – for example, Samsung's DeX capability or Huawei's multimode phones – will change buying patterns and see punters substitute PCs for phones.
Atwal didn't think that will happen.
"You've got to make your own PC - plug in a screen, keyboard and mouse," he said. "In terms of ecosystems it's evolved or developed enough."
For the record, here are Gartner's numbers for sales of all personal computing devices: