A rising class of apps called smart apps promise to make users' lives easier by essentially acting as personal assistants. Yet, users may be uncomfortable with the amount of personal information required to make them work.
Smart apps learn a user's behavior by collecting data from other applications on a person's phone. Because the smart apps have so much access to data they become contextually aware and create a very personal experience. They can also be proactive, predicting what the user would want to do and then perform the appropriate task.
For example, the Android app Agent can sense when a person is driving. It will read text messages aloud and even send an auto reply to the sender letting them know the driver is busy.
"Eventually, all successful apps will be smart apps," said Mikael Berner, the CEO of EasilyDo, a smart assistant app. "A person needs at least one smart app to bring everything together. We are heading into a world where a person almost can't function productively without an app to help them manage everything that's going on."
Yet, while it's true that virtual assistant apps can be very useful, consumers need to be cautious about what information they are handing over, said Erich Stuntebeck, director of mobility research at AirWatch, a mobile security and device management firm.
"These apps might have access to your email, calendar, contacts, Twitter and Facebook account and so on, meaning attackers now only have to find a way to exploit this single app to gain access to all the data," Stuntebeck said. "Worse yet, a malicious app could masquerade as a legitimate smart app, leading you to hand over your account credentials to the services you use directly to attackers."