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Predictive Apps: The Next Big Thing in Customer Engagement?

If the NSA knows where you are and who you’re talking to, your apps might as well know too, right? If companies are going to harvest your digital fingerprints to serve you ads tailored to your search terms, then shouldn’t you have the same power to leverage your own information to power apps that help you by anticipating your needs and serving them up to you?

That’s the thinking for a new wave of apps trying to fill a niche in the post-Siri world. The standard doom-and-gloom warning about sacrificing privacy can be applied here, but the good news for marketers? Frugaling, a .org designed to help consumers budget their resources, is concerned about the “budgetary consequences of targeting advertising that is only getting better,” and Forrester Research is calling predictive apps “the next big thing” in customer engagement.

Here’s a look at the current crop of predictive apps looking to make your life easier by using your data to serve you before you know you need serving.

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By keeping track of your geolocation in the background, Osito knows that you are about to leave for work, or for an appointment in your calendar. It can let you know if there’s traffic ahead of you, what the weather is going to be in the city you’re about to fly to.

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Google Now

With Google Now, the engineers at Google are betting that Apple has over-promised with Siri’s approximation of humanity. So Google Now skips the pretension of being a virtual butler or an automated assistant and just works as good as a little app can. Google is taking this seriously, so much so that Now integrates with “almost every back-end system at Google,” including the Knowledge Graph, Google’s “new brain.”

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Here’s an app that’s hit an SEO sweet spot: despite its common-sounding name, the home page for Tempo is the second Google result after Wikipedia tells us that tempo is Italian for “time.” Calling itself a “smart calendar,” Tempo lets you: send “running late” emails or texts; handles conference call pass codes; cues up emails related to the meeting at hand; and works with Siri, not against her.

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Dark Sky

If you’re a weather nerd or terrified of thunderstorms, Dark Sky is the predictive app for you. It is a weather app that predicts weather down to the minute at your exact location with the best radar visualizations out there.

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Begun in 2010 by a team of former Facebookers, Quora has set out to be a better Q&A site: ask a question, get relevant answers. So it’s a natural fit that recent updates of the Quora app have included predictive algorithms to help the system better identify duplicate questions and lead to better answers.

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Grokr (NEXT)

Formerly Grokr, the app went dark in June and is in the process of relaunching as NEXT. NEXT promises many similar features as Osito and Google Now: including learning about your meetings and sending you information about the companies you are meeting with. At some point, predictive apps will turn into your virtual nosy neighbor.

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The developers of Donna took the opposite track of Google Now, and plunged head-first into a Siri knock-off named Donna. Like other predictive apps, “she” will tell you how long it will take to drive to your next meeting depending on traffic (and parking time); and she will dial you into your conference calls, including the access code, which seems like a handy feature.

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Cue features your day at a glance, claims to keep your contact information fresh and up-to-date, and is the only predictive app to highlight user control of privacy and information sharing - so that’s one big plus.

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The Fleksy app began as a predictive typing app for blind people. It’s based on a QWERTY keyboard, but it knows what you’re trying to type even if you miss every single letter. So while it was designed for the blind, it might be perfect for your ham-fisted boss or anyone else whose messages look like they were typed with gloves on.

Is there a predictive app we missed?

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