A refreshing take on Mobile conferences

Mobile Refresh 2017

I can count the number of tech conferences I’ve attended on one hand. Make that one finger, I’m a bonafide newbie. So of course, walking into Mobile Refresh had me thinking, “Will I find any tasty and relevant pieces of information in this sea of content?” The answer — most definitely.

Mobile Refresh had a plethora of content available from the iOS/Android communities and beyond and it started strong right from the keynote.

Opening Keynote

Ask yourself, “How do you feel about your phone?” and “How does it fit into your life?” Two questions I’m sure you’ve never thought to address but Julie and her team at Trademe have. They’ve looked to identify the various relationships that users have with their devices.

There was insight galore here as I had never considered a user’s emotional and physical relationship with their device and how it all relates. Julie’s knowledge was a blessing and a curse as I will now be forever considering how our apps cater to:

  1. users whose phones are a forever extension to their body
  2. users who interact with their phones for few but very deliberate purposes.

Do they hold the attention of the user living, breathing and doing everything on their phone? Do they provide a service that a more deliberate user will feel they have to return to?

What’s New in Push Notifications?

While the keynote provided some high level thinking we were always destined to dive into the nitty gritty. Sam took us right there with a knowledgeable look at what’s new in push notifications.

The one surprising bit from this one: “71% of App uninstalls are triggered by Push Notifications”. Best get them right, huh?!

On top of that, iOS notifications that can collapse themselves sound like a blessing to me. The sporting example Sam used rang very true. Every weekend I’m bombarded with live score notifications as the Warriors inevitably fall apart. It would ease the heartache if the notifications also collapsed and I had just the final score to glance at instead of the entire demise.

I also like Apple’s move to open up hidden notification content to developers. We all know privacy is paramount moving forward.

Machine Learning

Finally a topic that went well over my head, but one I was excited to hear more about. Lester from Trademe did a really nice job of leaving us all with some well rounded base knowledge on a topic that is both dense and complex.

It was great being introduced to the current uses of the various types of machine learning, several of which I was unaware of.

  • Supervised

You train algorithms to infer meaning from examples you provide. Uses include image classification, facial and speech recognition.

  • Unsupervised

The computer — which you could deem self-improving — finds hidden structure in the data. Uses include item recommendation, text segmentation and interpretation.

  • Reinforcement & Adversarial

An agent makes decisions and performs actions based on maximizing a potential reward with results fed back to it via a feedback loop. Uses include driverless cars, gaming AI and self-navigating cleaners.

My favourite part of this one was the brief dive into artificial neural networks (ANNs) and the part they play. They do all the heavy lifting when it comes to machine learning and output all the juicy information.

Inspired by biological neural networks that make up the animal brain (in this case the ganglion cell of a frog’s retina), they are groups of layered nodes (algorithms) that perform various transformations of data. The data traverses across multiple layers and nodes as it travels through the network from input to informed output. These ANNs learn how to handle the data as this process is performed over and over and more examples are considered.

Interconnected nodes — each circle represents one artificial neuron

Get there next year — it’ll surprise you!

Overall Mobile Refresh was a pleasant surprise for me. A day well spent learning in depth about a wider range of topics than I could have expected.

If you are interested in any form of tech, any type of platform or a bit of development in general, sign yourself up next year when it comes along. You won’t be disappointed!

Shout out to Kate and Nick for grinding it out and putting on an awesome event and PaperKite for sending me along. Until next year.

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