GPS, accelerometers and gyroscopes will add functions to smartphones by 2013, according to ABI Research. The analyst firm anticipates that the sensor-driven user interfaces will be a major factor in the next wave of mobile innovation. Objects, locations and people will become networked, interactive elements.

Development of gaming, location-aware, augmented-reality and motion-sensitive applications will be the hot ticket that fuels the growth and demand for sensors in smartphones. ABI senior analyst Victoria Fodale said, “The high-level operating system of a smartphone, which provides open application programming interfaces, has facilitated the use of data from cameras, sensors and GPS receivers.”

Developers are able to create applications that can sense motion on six axes: up and down, left and right, and forward and backward, as well as roll, pitch and yaw rotations when they combine an accelerometer with a gyroscope. As a result, the mobile device gains similar functionality to a game controller like Nintendo’s Wii.

Smartphone OEMs are pouring resources into UI design and development, and several OEMs, particularly those using Google’s Android OS, either have developed or are in the process of developing their own custom UI overlays.

The race is on to develop functionality and apps beyond those of the touch-screen UI. But added functionality must be balanced with ease of use, Fodale said. “There is an inherent paradox with technology: As mobile devices integrate more technology, the UI must be kept simple enough to be intuitive for the user.”

Developers can read more in ABI’s new research study, Mobile Device User Interfaces. It outlines key forecasts for the mobile market, as well as technology trends, including leading UI frameworks, touch-screens, GPS and sensors for device UIs.