Tag Archives: Android

Learn How Google Bests ARKit with Android’s ARCore

Previously, we covered the strengths of ARKit 4 in our blog Learn How Apple Tightened Their Grip on the AR Market with the Release of ARKit 4. This week, we will explore all that Android’s ARCore has to offer.

All signs point toward continued growth in the Augmented Reality space. As the latest generations of devices are equipped with enhanced hardware and camera features, applications employing AR have seen increasing adoption. While ARCore represents a breakthrough for the Android platform, it is not Google’s first endeavor into building an AR platform.

HISTORY OF GOOGLE AR

In summer 2014, Google launched their first AR platform Project Tango.

Project Tango received consistent updates, but never achieved mass adoption. Tango’s functionality was limited to three devices which could run it, including the Lenovo Phab 2 Pro which ultimately suffered from numerous issues. While it was ahead of its time, it didn’t receive the level of hype ARKit did. In March 2018, Google announced that it will no longer support Project Tango and that the tech titan will be continuing AR Development with ARCore.

ARCORE

ARCore uses three main technologies to integrate virtual content with the world through the camera:

  • Motion tracking
  • Environmental understanding
  • Light estimation

It tracks the position of the device as it moves and gradually builds its own understanding of the real world. As of now, ARCore is available for development on the following devices:

ARCORE VS. ARKIT

ARCore and ARKit have quite a bit in common. They are both compatible with Unity. They both feature a similar level of capability for sensing changes in lighting and accessing motion sensors. When it comes to mapping, ARCore is ahead of ARKit. ARCore has access to a larger dataset which boosts both the speed and quality of mapping achieved through the collection of 3D environmental information. ARKit cannot store as much local condition data and information. ARCore can also support cross-platform development—meaning you can build ARCore applications for iOS devices, while ARKit is exclusively compatible with iOS devices.

The main cons of ARCore in relation to ARKit mainly have to do with their adoption. In 2019, ARKit was on 650 million devices while there were only 400 million ARCore-enabled devices. ARKit yields 4,000+ results on GitHub while ARCore only contains 1,400+. Ultimately, iOS devices are superior to software-driven Android devices—particularly given the TrueDepth Camera—meaning that AR applications will run better on iOS devices regardless of what platform they are on.

OVERALL

It is safe to say that ARCore is the more robust platform for AR development; however, ARKit is the most popular and most widely usable AR platform. We recommend spending time determining the exact level of usability you need, as well as the demographics of your target audience.

For supplementary reading, check out this great rundown of the best ARCore apps of 2021 from Tom’s Guide.

Learn More About Triggering Augmented Reality Experiences with AR Markers

We expect a continued increase in the utilization of AR in 2021. The iPhone 12 contains LiDAR technology, which enables the use of ARKit 4, greatly enhancing the possibilities for developers. When creating an AR application, developers must consider a variety of methods for triggering the experience and answer several questions before determining what approach will best facilitate the creation of a digital world for their users. For example, what content will be displayed? Where will this content be placed, and in what context will the user see it?

Markerless AR can best be used when the user needs to control the placement of the AR object. For example, the IKEA Place app allows the user to place furniture in their home to see how it fits.

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Location-based AR roots an AR experience to a physical space in the world, as we explored previously in our blog Learn How Apple Tightened Their Hold on the AR Market with the Release of ARKit 4. ARKit 4 introduces Location Anchors, which enable developers to set virtual content in specific geographic coordinates (latitude, longitude, and altitude). To provide more accuracy than location alone, location anchors also use the device’s camera to capture landmarks and match them with a localization map downloaded from Apple Maps. Location anchors greatly enhance the potential for location-based AR; however, the possibilities are limited within the 50 cities which Apple has enabled them.

Marker-based AR remains the most popular method among app developers. When an application needs to know precisely what the user is looking at, accept no substitute. In marker-based AR, 3D AR models are generated using a specific marker, which triggers the display of virtual information. There are a variety of AR markers that can trigger this information, each with its own pros and cons. Below, please find our rundown of the most popular types of AR markers.

FRAMEMARKERS

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The most popular AR marker is a framemarker, or border marker. It’s usually a 2D image printed on a piece of paper with a prominent border. During the tracking phase, the device will search for the exterior border in order to determine the real marker within.

Framemarkers are similar to QR Codes in that they are codes printed on images that require handheld devices to scan, however, they trigger AR experiences, whereas QR codes redirect the user to a web page. Framemarkers are a straightforward and effective solution.

absolut-truths

Framemarkers are particularly popular in advertising applications. Absolut Vodka’s Absolute Truth application enabled users to scan a framemarker on a label of their bottle to generate a slew of more information, including recipes and ads.

GameDevDad on Youtube offers a full tutorial of how to create framemarkers from scratch using Vuforia Augmented Reality SDK below.

 

NFT MARKERS

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NFT, or Natural Feature Tracking, enable camera’s to trigger an AR experience without borders. The camera will take an image, such as the one above, and distill down it’s visual properties as below.

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The result of processing the features can generate AR, as below.

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The quality and stability of these can oscillate based on the framework employed. For this reason, they are less frequently used than border markers, but function as a more visually subtle alternative. A scavenger hunt or a game employing AR might hide key information in NFT markers.

Treasury Wine Estates Living Wine Labels app, displayed above, tracks the natural features of the labels of wine bottles to create an AR experience which tells the story of their products.

OBJECT MARKERS

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The  toy car above has been converted into an object data field using Vuforia Object Scanner.

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Advancements in technology have enabled mobile devices to solve the issue of SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping). The device camera can extract information in-real time, and use it to place a virtual object in it. In some frameworks, objects can become 3D-markers. Vuforia Object Scanner is one such framework, creating object data files that can be used in applications for targets. Virtual Reality Pop offers a great rundown on the best object recognition frameworks for AR.

RFID TAGS

Although RFID Tags are primarily used for short distance wireless communication and contact free payment, they can be used to trigger local-based virtual information.

While RFID Tags are not  widely employed, several researchers have written articles about the potential usages for RFID and AR. Researchers at the ARATLab at the National University of Singapore have combined augmented reality and RFID for the assembly of objects with embedded RFID tags, showing people how to properly assemble the parts, as demonstrated in the video below.

SPEECH MARKERS

Speech can also be used as a non-visual AR marker. The most common application for this would be for AR glasses or a smart windshield that displays information through the screen requested by the user via vocal commands.

CONCLUSION

Think like a user—it’s a staple coda for app developers and no less relevant in crafting AR experiences. Each AR trigger offers unique pros and cons. We hope this has helped you decide what is best equipped for your application.

In our next article, we will explore the innovation at the heart of AIoT, the intersection of AI and the Internet of Things.

iOS 14 Revamps the OS While Android 11 Offers Minor Improvements

Every time Apple announces a new device or OS, it is a cultural event for both consumers and app developers. When Apple announced iOS 14 in June 2020 during the WWDC 2020 keynote, few anticipated it would be one of the biggest iOS updates to date. With a host of new features and UI enhancements, the release of iOS 14  has become one of the most hotly anticipated moments of this year in technology.

On the other side of the OS war, Android has released four developer previews in 2020 of their latest OS offering: Android 11. Currently, Android 11 is currently available in a beta release ahead of its target launch in August/September.

The two biggest OS titans have effectively upped the ante on their rivalry. Here is a summary everything you need to know on how they stack up against one another:

iOS 14

iOS 14 is a larger step forward for iOS than Android 11 is for Android. In relation to iOS 13, it revamps the iOS to become smarter and more user-friendly while streamlining group conversations.

While iMessage remains the most popular messaging platform on the market, competitors like WhatsApp, Discord and Signal include a variety of features previously unavailable on iOS devices. iOS 14 closes the gap with its competitors, offering a host of UI enhancements specifically targeting group conversations—one of the most popular features on iMessage:

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  • Pinned Conversations: Pin the most important conversations to the top of your profile to make them easier to access.
  • Group Photos: iOS 14 enhances group conversations by allowing users to give group conversations a visual identity using a photo, Memoji, or emoji.
  • Mentions: Users can now directly tag users in their messages within group conversations. When a user is mentioned, their name will be highlighted in the text and users can customize notifications so that they only receive notifications when they are mentioned.
  • Inline Replies: Within group conversations, users can select a specific message and reply directly to it.

One of the major upgrades in iOS 14 is the inclusion of Widgets on the home screen. Widgets on the home screen have been redesigned to offer more information at a glance. They are also customizable to give the user more flexibility in how they arrange their home screen.

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iOS 14 introduces the App Library, a program which automatically organizes applications into categories offering a simple, easy-to-navigate view. App Library helps make all of a user’s applications visible at once and allow users to customize how they’d like their applications to be categorized.

In addition to incorporating a variety of UI enhancements, iOS 14 is significantly smarter. Siri is equipped with 20x more facts than it had three years ago. iOS 14 improves language translation, offering 11 different languages. Users can download the languages based on what they will need to keep translations private without requiring an internet connection.

Apple has also introduced a number of UI enhancements to help make the most of screen real estate:

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Compact Calls condense the amount of screen real estate occupied by phone calls from iPhone, FaceTime, and third-party apps, allowing users to continue viewing information on their screen both when a call comes in and when they are on a call.

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Picture in Picture mode similarly allows users to condense their video display so that it doesn’t take up their entire screen, allowing the user to navigate their device without pausing their video call or missing part of a video that they are watching.

ANDROID 11

In comparison to iOS 14, Android 11 is not a major visual overhaul of the platform. However, it does offer an array of new features which enhance UI.

  • Android 11 introduces native screen recording, allowing users to record their screen. It is a useful feature already included in iOS, particularly helpful when demonstrating how applications work.
  • While recording videos, Android allows users to mute notifications which would otherwise cause the recording to stop.
  • Users can now modify the touch sensitivity of their screen, increasing or decreasing sensitivity to their liking.
  • Android 11 makes viewing a history of past notifications as easy as it has ever been using the Notification History button.
  • When users grant an Android app access to a permission, in the current OS, the decision is written in stone for all future usage. Based on this decision, the application will have permanent access, access during usage, or will be blocked. Android 11 introduces one-time permissions, allowing users to grant an application access to a permission once and requiring the question to be posed again the next time they open it.

IOS 14 VS. ANDROID 11

While Android offers a variety of small improvements, iOS 14 provides the iOS platform with a major visual overhaul. This year, it is safe to say that iOS 14 wins the battle for the superior upgrade. With both Android and iOS slated for a fall release, how users respond to the new OS’s remains to be seen.

How to Invest Wisely in an Application Development Project

All well-designed apps begin with an efficient app development process. An inefficient app development process will result in succumbing to pitfalls that will not only prove costly, but also lead to sub-par functionality. Here are our top tips on how to invest wisely in an application development project:

COME PREPARED

When developing your app, you need to know all of the ins and outs of what you want out of your product. During the course of the development process, you will be asked every applicable question and you will need to be able to answer them and to communicate your vision to the app development team so that they are inside your head and know it almost as well as you do.

Rather than waiting for the question to come up, get ahead of it with thorough preparation.

App development starts with the creation of a specifications document elucidating all aspects of the app to be built to ensure a thorough understanding of the idea. Create your own specifications in advance of reaching out to teams and make sure it’s comprehensive. Review the app specifications document thoroughly with prospective partners, make sure they have a comprehensive understanding and it accounts for everything you need your app to do.

Preparation is absolutely vital to staying on the same page with your application development team and avoiding costly hiccups and rebuilds down the line.

FIND THE RIGHT TEAM

Every client has different needs and every app development company has different strengths and weaknesses. Finding the right team is crucial for building the product that will get your business to the next level.

Some clients only need app development specialists, while others look for companies that can take a more holistic approach to their projects and provide input or services on marketing, web development, design and more. Ruminate on your unique needs, research and understand prospective companies strengths and weaknesses, and ensure it is a good match before committing to a long-term partnership with a company.

We recommend seeking a collaborative team with experts in app development as well as project management and the ability to expedite development by putting more programmers on projects. The best app development teams have experienced programmers that have built many apps before and can walk you through the process with ease.

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WIREFRAMES

The use of wireframes will save time and money in the app development process. A wireframe is a visual schematic or blueprint that outlines the design for an application without programming the core functions. Mobile app wireframes can take the form of downloadable apps or as websites. Wireframes replicate how the app will work and the flow of screens without incorporating core programming.

Wireframes save time and money because they help app developers get on the same page with their clients without requiring a hefty amount of programming. After reviewing the wireframes, clients can request modifications or approve the designs. The app development team then commences core programming.

The creation of wireframes before programming key functions and additions will save time, money, and headaches.

MAKE IT SCALABLE

Oftentimes when beginning the application development process, businesses elect to start by focusing on the Minimum Viable Product. While understanding what’s needed for the MVP and what’s extraneous to it, it’s vital to have an understanding of what features you may want to add in the future so that the application can be scalable to enable future iterations of the app.

While focusing on Phase 1 of the development process (building the MVP), keep a running wishlist of functions desired for Phase 2 of the development process so that as functions are added and modified, everyone remains cognizant of how current changes will support future functionality.

Mobile-app-testing

TEST, TEST, TEST

Testing doesn’t begin upon the completion of the application, it’s an ongoing process that occurs internally as new components of the app are built. It is vital not to underbudget for testing, a common mistake in the app development process.

Core functions need to be repeatedly tested, as does UI and usability. Employing dedicated testers to specialize in testing specific components like core functions, sound, design, and more will ensure a fully-functioning app.

Veteran developers use test-driven development (TDD) in which programmers create tests to define the function or improvements of a function, run tests to see if the test fails, write the code so that tests pass, run tests again, correct the code, and repeat until all tests are passed. Test-driven development guarantees code coverage with unit tests for all functions.

CONCLUSION

When hiring an app development company to build your application, hire for the long haul. An ongoing strategic relationship will help you grow and if you choose the right partner, efficiency will increase as your collaborative relationship develops. A mobile application is a major investment of time and money—invest wisely!

Contact us today to learn about how our team can efficiently build your next mobile app.

App Developers Take a Bigger Slice of the Pie with Android P

App developers looking to witness what Machine Learning can do to improve UI should take note of Android 9.0 Pie. First announced in March 2018, Android P was made public in August 2018. Android 9.0 marks a major overhaul of the Android OS focusing on UI and integrating Artificial Intelligence to optimize user experience.

AI HELPS ANDROID PIE HELP YOU

Android’s latest OS takes a big step forward integrating AI into the UI. The Android website advertises that “Android 9 Pie harnesses the power of AI for a truly intuitive experience”.

One of the major implementations of AI in Pie is called App Actions. Android 9.0 monitors your routines, processes data, and offers predicted actions directly in the phone’s app launcher when appropriate. For example, it can recommend a song to you on Spotify when you’re on your morning commute. Android has focused on quality over quantity with regard to App Actions and they are startlingly accurate—when it has enough data collected on how you use your phone, often it predicts exactly what you do next.

In addition to App Actions, Android Pie also offers Adaptive Battery and Adaptive Brightness. Android teamed up with the AI company DeepMind to create Adaptive Battery, an AI-based program that learns how you use your phone and optimizes usage so that inactive apps and services don’t drain the battery. Adaptive Brightness learns your preferred brightness settings and automatically adjusts them to your liking.

Those concerned with privacy should note that Android has stated that all machine learning is happening on the device rather than in the cloud.

ANDROID ADOPTS GESTURES OVER BUTTONS

Perhaps the biggest UI overhaul is the transition from buttons to gestures. Android P is following the  iPhone X’s lead in using gestures rather than buttons. This means UI is very home-screen button centric. The overhaul may be jarring to some. Luckily, app users can have it both ways as gesture navigation is adjustable in the phone’s settings.

Check out the video breakdown of the differences between Apple iPhone X and Android P gestures below.

THIS PIE’S GONNA HAVE SLICES

Android has announced App Slices in Android Pie, but has yet to unveil them at this time. When you search for an app on Android,  the app icon comes up. With App Slices, Android will not only pull up the icon, but will pull up actual information within apps and allow you to interact with the app directly within the search results. For example, if you search for Uber, it may bring up time & price estimates to go to commonly frequented locations and allow you to set a pick-up without having to open the app directly.

Android Slices present a great opportunity for app developers to create shortcuts to functions in their app. They also constitute the beginnings of Google’s approach to “remote content.” Learn more about Slices below:

APP LIMITS FOR ENCOURAGING HEALTHY USE

Addicted to your phone? Android P not only tracks the amount of time you spend on your phone, it allows users to set time limits for how long an app can be used for a day. App Time Limits prevent you from opening apps when you’ve gone over your limit with no option to ignore—the only way to access them again for the day is to turn the time limit off from the Settings page.

HUNGRY FOR PIE?

As with all Android OS’s, Android Pie will have a staggered release across devices. As of November 2018, it is available on Pixel phones as well as The Essential Phone.

Meanwhile, Android Pie is anticipated to be rolled out on many other phones by December 21st. For a comprehensive, frequently updated breakdown, check out Android Central’s list of the expected roll out dates for each phone manufacturer.

How to Optimize GPS and Background Processes for Android Oreo

As our past article Android Oreo Serves Up the Sweets will show, Android Oreo lived up to expectations upon release and gave both consumers and app developers plenty of enhancements to enjoy.

However, for app developers, enhancements to the UI aimed to conserve battery life affect GPS services and require changes to the code in order to optimize pre-existing apps for the new OS. Specifically, Android Oreo restricts apps that are running in the background with limited access to background services. Additionally, apps can no longer use their manifests to register for most implicit broadcasts. When an app is in the background, it is given several minutes to create and use services, but at the end of that time slot, the app is considered idle and the OS will stop running background services.

These changes directly affect apps with geolocation functionality. Android Oreo limits how frequently apps can gather location in the background. Background apps can only receive location updates a few times each hour. The APIs affected due to these limits include Fused Location Provider, Geofencing, Location Manager, Wifi Manager, GNSS Measurements and GNSS Navigation Messages.

Apps that currently use location services in previous Android OS’s will require an update to optimize for Android Oreo. Apps that use location services range anywhere from navigational apps like Waze and Google Maps to social media apps like Twitter, and food apps like Yelp and Seamless.

For apps that require frequent location updates, increasing the usage of the app in the foreground will ensure that the app gets frequent access to location information. In order to program this, developers must implement startServiceinForeground() instead of startService() in Activity class.

In Service class in onStartCommand(), developers can use the following code:

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Via StackOverflow

When foreground services running in the background consume high energy, Oreo fires an automatic push notification to the user informing them of the battery-consuming service. With the push notification in place, app users are more likely to uninstall apps that track location without conserving battery life, putting the onus on software developers to deliver battery-efficient apps. One of the biggest issues facing some app developers is ensuring that battery life is not sucked as a result of tracking location in apps. Check out our full rundown of how to build battery-efficient geolocation apps for supplementary reading.

The results of the limits put in place with Android O are increased battery life for the user and the necessity for app owners to consider how their apps interact with location information. Retaining a thorough understanding of how location information will be retrieved and used through out the development process ultimately benefits both software developers and consumers with better UI and more energy efficient processes.

How to Safely Encrypt Sensitive Data in Your Mobile App

In November 2014, cybercriminals perpetrated one of the biggest cybercrimes of the decade. They hacked into Sony’s computer systems, stole sensitive data, paralyzed the company’s operations, and gradually leaked embarrassing information to the media. The hackers threatened to continue until Sony agreed to pull the controversial comedy The Interview from its theatrical release.

As the headlines will tell you, the encryption of sensitive data is one of the most important investments a company can make. Facebook is currently under heat for data protection practices. The UK National Crime Agency called WannaCry a signal moment for awareness of cyberattacks and their real world impact. With the stakes higher than ever, the encryption of sensitive data in apps has never been more important.

Here are our top tips on how to safely encrypt sensitive data in your mobile app.

TIP #1: Coding and Testing

Writing secure code is fundemental to creating a secure app. Obfuscating and minifying code so that it cannot be reverse engineered is critical to keeping a secure environment. Testing and fixing bugs when they are exposed should be an ongoing investment of resources as it will pay off in the long run.

Tip #2: Scramble Data

Sometimes, the best method of encrypting data is scrambling. Software and web developers often become obsessed with storing every bit of data in databases and logs, assuming it may be useful later, but doing so can create a target for cybercriminals.

Cunning developers will only store a scrambled version of the data, making it unreadable to the outside eye, but still useful for those who know how to query it correctly.

For an in-depth dive into scrambling data, check out this awesome essay on how Amazon does it.

Tip #3: In Transit Vs. At Rest Encryption

There are two types of data to be encrypted: in transit data and at rest data. In transit data is moving data, be it in transit via email, in apps, or through browsers and other web connections. At rest data is stored in databases, the cloud, computer hard drives, or mobile devices. In transit data can be protected through the implementation of robust network security controls and firewalls. At rest data can be protected through systematically categorizing and classifying data with data protection measures in mind.

Tip #4: Secret Vs. Public Key Algorithms

Secret Key Algorithms are algorithms that use the same key for encryption and decryption. Public-key algorithms us two different encryption keys, one for encryption and the other for decryption. The public key is how the data is sent and the private key decodes it. Public-key algorithms are more secure, but require more computer processing power.

Tip #5: Blockchain Cryptography

We’ve covered the Blockchain in our past article on The Revolutionary Mechanics of the Blockchain. Blockchain cryptography has been on the rise because blockchain databases are distributed and thus more resilient in the face of a DOS attack.

Tip #6: Apps that Clean Up after Themselves 

Apps that collect sensitive information don’t necessarily need to store it. It is wise to delete sensitive data from mobile apps when the data is no longer in active use.

Tip #7 Choose the Right Algorithm

There are several popular pre-existing algorithms in existence that can be used to encrypt sensitive data in mobile apps. Check out UpWork’s awesome rundown:

  1. Advanced Encryption Standard (AES)
  2. RSA
  3. IDEA
  4. Signal
  5. Blowfish and Two Fish
  6. Ring Learning With Errors or Ring-LWE

Over the last 10 years, enterprise-wide use of encryption has jumped by 22 percent according to the Ponemon Institute. When building a mobile app, investing in encrypting sensitive data will pay off in the long run and haunt those that short-change it.

Secure Your Cryptocurrency with the Right Wallet

While blockchain technology ensures that cryptocurrency transactions are immutable, irreversible, and secure, where cryptocurrency is stored is a determining factor in how secure it is. Having a vulnerable cryptocurrency wallet is like storing money at a suspicious bank: it’s unsafe and it behooves the investor to do enough research to sleep at night knowing their assets are safe.

WHAT IS A CRYPTOCURRENCY WALLET?

Every transaction in the blockchain shared record is signed by a private key linked to the user’s account. As we covered in the first blog in our cryptocurrency series, the blockchain is the decentralized mechanism that prevents double spending and validates transactions. Cryptocurrency wallets store the private keys. Although cryptocurrencies are not stored within the wallet, they are protected by the address created and stored by the wallet. Deciding on the right wallet for your cryptocurrency is one of the most important decisions since it will make or break the security of your assets.

There are five different types of wallets to choose from: mobile wallets, desktop wallets, hardware wallets, paper wallets and online wallets.

PAPER WALLETS

Paper wallets are the most basic form of wallet. They are an offline wallet consisting of two QR Codes. One of the codes is the cryptocurrency address and the other is the associated encrypted private key.

The benefit of a paper wallet is that it cannot be hacked. It is essentially a piece of paper that is stored in a safe place like a safe or safety deposit box. Unfortunately, while paper wallets may be exceptionally safe since they are unhackable, they are not exceptionally nimble. If you are looking to buy and sell cryptocurrencies frequently, this may not be the option for you.

ONLINE WALLETS

If you are new to cryptocurrency and have recently invested, chances are you are currently using an online wallet like Coinbase, Blockchain, or Xapo. Online wallets are run by third-party providers, so the security of currency is dependent on the company running the show. As the hack of NiceHash proves, this is not always the best thing. CoinBase insures their client’s investments and stores the majority of their cryptocurrency offline. While Online Wallets provide an easy avenue for buying and selling cryptocurrencies, storing cryptocurrency offline is significantly safer.

MOBILE WALLETS

Mobile cryptocurrency wallets are software wallets that make cryptocurrency available through mobile devices. One of the benefits of a mobile wallet is that merchants that accept cryptocurrency can use NFC technology to sync with their apps and provide wireless payments.

The most popular mobile wallets include Copay, breadwallet, and for Android users: Bitcoin Wallet. While mobile wallets make cryptocurrencies nimble, they are only as secure as the smartphone on which they are being used. Storing large amounts of cryptocurrency on mobile devices is not recommended, but they can be a good tool for investors who are buying and selling cryptocurrency on the go.

DESKTOP WALLETS

Like mobile wallets, desktop wallets are software designed for desktop computers. They are more secure than mobile wallets, but less nimble. Still, for those who want to secure their cryptocurrency and don’t mind being limited to their computer, desktop wallets are a great option.

Bitcoin Core is the original Bitcoin wallet, but it is somewhat techy and precarious to install as it requires downloading the entire blockchain.

Electrum is one of the most popular desktop bitcoin wallets. It’s easy to use and it can be configured for advanced features like TOR and cold storage, making it accessible to newbies with higher functionality for high-tech users.

Exodus features one of the best UIs available for a wallet. It allows users to instantly trade currencies stored within the exchange between themselves and it is partially open source.

HARDWARE WALLETS

Aside from paper wallets, hardware wallets are the most secure method of securing cryptocurrency. Hardware wallets are small computers, smartcards, or dongles created to generate private keys offline, securely signing transactions in the offline environment. Like paper wallets, hardware wallets cannot be hacked remotely and are as secure as the place in which they are stored. The only difference is that hardware wallets, like all technology, can lose functionality with age and improper upkeep.

The best hardware wallets are Ledger Nano and Trezor. Ledger Nano is a smartcard-based hardware wallet that can be used on any computer or Android phones with Mycelium or Greenbits mobile wallets. Trezor is a tiny computer, rather than a smartcard, but both upon set-up generate a random 24-word seed that backs-up the funds and can be used to recover all funds within the wallet. It is best to have a hardware wallet with its own screen, like Trezor, since hardware wallets that plug into the computer expose themselves to the security vulnerabilities of the computer.

TAKEAWAY

There are many ways to store cryptocurrency with varying levels of security. For those who are looking for the most secure method, hardware and paper wallets are the best route. For those who are looking to trade on the go, mobile and online wallets provide the best flexibility. Desktop wallets are the happy medium. So long as wallet options have been researched, cryptocurrency investors can rest easy knowing they made the informed decision.

Next week, for the next installment of our blog series on cryptocurrencies, we will explore the revolutionary mechanics of the Blockchain. Stay tuned!

The Real Power of Artificial Intelligence

Technological innovations expand the possibilities of our world, but they can also shake-up society in a disorienting manner. Periods of major technological advancement are often marked by alienation. While our generation has seen the boon of the Internet, the path to a new world may be paved with Artificial Intelligence.

WHAT IS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Artificial intelligence is defined as the development of computer systems to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, including speech recognition, visual perception, and decision-making. As recently as a decade ago, artificial intelligence evoked the image of robots, but AI is software not hardware. For app developers, the modern-day realization of artificial intelligence takes on a more amorphous form. AI is on all of your favorite platforms, matching the names and faces of your friends. It’s planning the playlist when you hit shuffle on Apple Music. It’s curating the best Twitter content from you based on data-driven logic that is often too complex even for the humans who programmed the AI to decipher.

MACHINE LEARNING

Currently, Machine Learning is the primary means of achieving artificial intelligence. Machine Learning is the ability for a machine to continuously improve its performance without humans having to explain exactly how to accomplish all of the tasks it has been given. Web and Software programmers create algorithms capable of recognizing patterns in data imperceptible to the human eye and alter their behavior based on them.

For example, Google’s autonomous cars view the road through a camera that streams the footage to a database that centralizes the information of all cars. In other words, when one car learns something—like an image or a flaw in the system—then all the cars learn it.

For the past 50 years, computer programming has focused on codifying existing knowledge and procedures and embedding them in machines. Now, computers can learn from examples to generate knowledge. Thus, Artificial Intelligence has already permanently disrupted the standard flow of knowledge from human to computer and vice versa.

PERCEPTION AND COGNITION

Machine learning has enabled the two biggest advances in artificial intelligence:  perception and cognition. Perception is the ability to sense, while cognition is the ability to reason. In a machine’s case, perception refers to the ability to detect objects without being explicitly told and cognition refers to the ability to identify patterns to form new knowledge.

Perception allows machines to understand aspects of the world in which they are situated and lays the groundwork for their ability to interact with the world. Advancements in voice recognition have been some of the most useful. In 2007, despite its incredibly limited functionality, Siri was an anomaly that immediately generated comparisons to HAL, the Artificial Intelligence in 2001: A Space Odyssey. 10 years later, the fact that iOS 11 enables Siri to translate French, German, Italian, Mandarin and Spanish is a passing story in our media lifecycle.

Image recognition has also advanced dramatically. Facebook and iOS both can recognize your friends’ faces and help you tag them appropriately. Vision systems (like the ones used in autonomous cars) formerly made a mistake when identifying a pedestrian once in every 30 frames. Today, the same systems err less than once in 30 million frames.

EXPANSION

AI has already made become a staple of mainstream technology products. Across every industry, decision-making executives are looking to capitalize on what AI can do for their business. No doubt whoever answers those questions first will have a major edge on their competitors.

Next week, we will explore the impact of AI on the Digital Marketing industry in the next installment of our blog series on AI.

Android Oreo Serves Up the Sweets

Like the candy, Google’s newest delectable dessert-themed operating system Android 8.0 Oreo offers the best of both worlds: crunchy cookie goodness of versatile functionality and the creamy frosting of beautiful UI and presentation.

PROJECT TREBLE 

Project Treble is one of the major aspects of Android Oreo that makes it a full 1.0 update. Project Treble is designed to reduce device fragmentation by making it easier for hardware manufacturers to issue updates on Android devices. The architecture redesign modularizes the Android OS away from the drivers and other hardware-specific code. By making it easier for manufacturers to update Android devices, Project Treble makes accessing the latest Android OS from your devices  easier than ever.

HIGH-PERFORMANCE BLUETOOTH AUDIO

Android Oreo is loaded up with BLUETOOTH 5 and LDAC, making Oreo capable of supporting audio quality that surpasses what the vast majority of high-end audio equipment can reproduce.

LDAC is a codec that supports the transfer of 24 bit, 96kHz audio via Bluetooth. The closest competitor is Qualcomm’s aptX HD which supports 24 bit, 48kHz technology. LDAC was created by Sony, who donated the codec to Android for Oreo as a part of the core AOSP code for other OEMS to implement.

Whereas previous iterations of Bluetooth offered a range of 50m-100m outdoors and 10m-20m indoors, Bluetooth 5 can reach up to 200m outdoors and 40m indoors. Additionally, Bluetooth 5 BLE doubles Bluetooth 4.x BLE’s data transfer rate with up to 2Mbps. The kicker is: Bluetooth 5 actually utilizes up to 2.5 times less power while increasing range and speed.

BATTERY LIFE

The Android Oreo update includes multiple initiatives designed to improve battery life. Background execution limits have been enacted to limit requests to scheduled windows of activity, resulting in longer battery life and less strain on the device by inactive apps.

Android Oreo places two major limitations on what apps can do while users aren’t directly interacting with them:

  1. Background Service Limitations limit the use of background services by idle apps. This does not apply to foreground apps, which are defined as apps with visible activity, apps with a foreground service, or apps that are connected to another foreground app.​
  2. Broadcast Limitations prevent apps from using their manifest to register for implicit broadcasts. Apps can still use their manifest to register for broadcasts at runtime and for explicit broadcasts targeted specifically at their app.

For the most part, app developers can work around these limitations using JobScheduler jobs. Android has also made several improvements to JobScheduler.

Background execution limits will have a major impact on the functionality of existing and future apps, check out a full breakdown of the new functionality directly from Android.

Additionally, Android Oreo comes with Vitals. Vitals is an initiative by Google that improves system performance and stability by offering developers various tools to monitor app usage on a device. Vitals enables developers to  optimize their apps for improved battery life and performance.

UI

Google’s strategy with OS updates has become more and more minimal in recent years. The last major visual OS overhaul was enacted by Google in Android 5.0 Lollipop. Android Oreo does not change the name of the game, but offers a variety of UI improvements.

DOWNLOADABLE FONTS: Android 8.0 Oreo offers support for apps to request fonts from a “provider” application, reducing the amount of disk space spent by apps on storing font libraries individually.

NOTIFICATION CHANNELS: Notifications have always been one of the strong suits of Android Operating Systems. With Android Oreo, app notifications must be sorted by the developer into channels based on type, so that the user can then customize what types of notifications they would like to receive and how they receive them.

For example, users can modify characteristics of notification channels that apply to all notifications in that channel, including:

  • Importance
  • Sound
  • Lights
  • Vibration
  • Show on lock screen
  • Override do not disturb

PICTURE IN PICTURE MODE: Oreo ports Android’s famous “Picture-In-Picture Mode” for phones and tablets. Picture-In-Picture Mode allows users to view multiple apps at the same time. It is most handy for watching video or having a video call while using another app.

TAKEAWAY

Overall, Android 8.0 Oreo delivers the goods. It’s sleek, supports the best audio quality available, allows more UI customizability, saves battery life, and it’s a major step toward conquering device fragmentation which has plagued Android since its inception.