How To Break Down Data Silos In Mobile Apps

Consumers use different apps for a variety of reasons. One app might help them search and book airline flight reservations, and another app might help them book a reservation for a hotel room. Microsoft engineers have published a paper on the ways to connect data in siloed apps. It disrupts the natural flow of information -- not only for marketers, but consumers too.

Since the data generated today by app users on their smartphones remain in silos within the application, Microsoft researchers created technology they call Insider, allowing users to take control of their data contained in apps and share it with other apps that they authorize. This includes data generated from browsing reviews or doing searches, as well as booking reservation or airline flights.

Researchers make the argument that it gives users more choice and create new experiences that would not be possible otherwise. They say the information about an airline flight the user paid for is data the user owns. Yet data silos make it difficult for users to take control of their own data and share it with other apps.

Most modern OS platforms support accessibility application program interfaces to enable features such as audio narration of on-screen content, so researchers leveraged these APIs to tap on-screen content from unmodified third-party apps.

This paper details three design challenges that researchers encountered in creating the Insider user data platform. They look at ways that users can extract the data with no effort on the developer's or user's part, the ability to share user data across apps, and keep the data in the apps even as they are updated.

The paper argues for breaking down data silos within the apps to "liberate" user data to share across apps for the user's benefit, but it also could help marketers by transforming the raw data feed from the presentation layer into structured and semantically meaningful information.

While the research shows the effectiveness of Insider across a variety of app categories and apps, it also presents new applications that take advantage of the breaking down the silos of in-app information to create unique user experiences.

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