Will bots kill the mobile app?

You may soon buy flowers from a bot, if Facebook gets its way. You may not be able to escape annoying texts and selfies, even in the cinema, if millennials get theirs. And find out who hacked that FBI smartphone in our tech roundup for the week.

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Are we looking at a post-app mobile future? Facebook seems to think so. At its F8 developer conference this week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a new engine underpinning its Messenger platform that will allow developers to build chatbots. It will enable companies to interact automatically with Facebook’s 900 million users to perform simple tasks via an army of virtual customer service employees.

This will turn Messenger into an e-commerce hub, Zuckerberg hopes. It will also make mobile consumer apps for individual companies less appealing. Consumers already use relatively few apps, which jockey for position on those tiny screens. Could Facebook’s bot engine replace them all?

The selfie’s relentless advance continues

Facebook also showed off more concept content for its Oculus virtual-reality platform, including the ability to take virtual-reality selfies, complete with selfie-stick. Is there no escaping this narcissistic craze, even in cyberspace? Probably not, because the chance of escaping smartphones in general is fast disappearing.

Even movie theatres are giving in. Executives at AMC Entertainment, which will soon become the largest movie theatre operator in the world, are mulling the concept of making movie theatres ‘phone friendly’ to cope with the whims of millennials.

Hackers helped feds crack iPhone

If a job is worth doing, then bring in an expert. That seems to be the mantra over at the FBI. The Bureau, which reported that it had cracked the San Bernardino shooters’ iPhone after Apple refused to help, apparently used professional hackers to do it.

The Washington Post revealed that the FBI bought in pros who were able to exploit at least one zero day software flaw. That allowed the feds to create hardware that cracked the four-digit pin without triggering a security feature that would have erased all the data.

That particular drama may now be over, but another one is developing on the Hill. The White House has reportedly declined public support for a draft federal bill that would let judges force technology firms to decrypt data on their devices.

Best of expertIP

Wi-Fi devices will soon get new capabilities, allowing them to discover each other automatically without even connecting to a local area network. The feature, called Wi-Fi Aware, offers some exciting possibilities, said expert IP blogger Stefan Dubowski in his post this week, but enterprises should think strategically about how to use it.

Created by the Wi-Fi Alliance, the feature allows devices and apps to find each other and assess what capabilities they have. A Wi-Fi Aware-enabled device might be able to discover there is a printer on the network, for example. With links to appropriate backend software, it might even be possible to identify nearby individuals in the office and drag them into a meeting, which should probably strike fear into the hearts of executives everywhere.

Retailers could also use the technology so customers’ devices can identify their location in stores, Dubowski says, in what could be a viable alternative to the beacon technology already undergoing testing with some retailers.

However, any enterprise interested in this technology should think carefully about the ROI and how to roll it out to achieve specific goals.

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

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