Tag Archives: App

How App Developers Can Leverage the iPhone 12 to Maximize Their Apps

iPhone 12

On October 23rd, four brand new iPhone 12 models were released to retailers. As the manufacturer of the most popular smartphone model in the world, whenever Apple delivers a new device its front-page news. Mobile app developers looking to capitalize on new devices must stay abreast of the latest technologies, how they empower applications, and what they signal about where the future of app development is headed.

With that in mind, here is everything app developers need to know about the latest iPhone models.

BIG DEVELOPMENTS FOR AUGMENTED REALITY

LiDAR is a method for measuring distances (ranging) by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflection with a sensor

LiDAR is a method for measuring distances (ranging) by illuminating the target with laser light and measuring the reflection with a sensor

On a camera level, the iPhone 12 includes significant advancements. It is the first phone to record and edit Dolby Vision with HDR. What’s more, Apple has enhanced the iPhone’s LiDAR sensor capabilities with a third telephoto lens.

The opportunities for app developers are significant. For AR developers, this is a breakthrough—enhanced LiDAR on the iPhone 12 means a broad market will have access to enhanced depth perception, enabling smoother AR object placement. The LIDAR sensor produces a 6x increase in autofocus speed in low light settings.

The potential use cases are vast. An enterprise-level application could leverage the enhanced camera to show the inner workings of a complex machine and provide solutions. Dimly lit rooms can now house AR objects, such as Christmas decorations. The iPhone 12 provides a platform for AR developers to count on a growing market of app users to do much more with less light, and scan rooms with more detail.

The iPhone 12’s enhanced LiDAR Scanner will enable iOS app developers to employ Apple’s ARKit 4 to attain enhanced depth information through a brand-new Depth API. ARKit 4 also introduces location anchors, which enable developers to place AR experiences at a specific point in the world in their iPhone and iPad apps.

With iPhone 12, Apple sends a clear message to app developers: AR is on the rise.

ALL IPHONE 12 MODELS SUPPORT 5G

5G 2

The entire iPhone 12 family of devices supports 5G with both sub-6GHz and mmWave networks. When iPhone 12 devices leverage 5G with the Apple A14 bionic chip, it enables them to integrate with IoT devices, and perform on ML algorithms at a much higher level.

5G poses an endless array of possibilities for app developers—from enhanced UX, more accurate GPS, improved video apps, and more. 5G will reduce dependency on hardware as app data is stored in the cloud with faster transfer speeds. In addition, it will enable even more potential innovation for AR applications.

5G represents a new frontier for app developers, IoT, and much more. Major carriers have been rolling out 5G networks over the past few years, but access points remain primarily in major cities. Regardless, 5G will gradually become the norm over the course of the next few years and this will expand the playing field for app developers.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Beyond the bells and whistles, the iPhone 12 sends a very clear message about what app developers can anticipate will have the biggest impact on the future of app development: AR and 5G. Applications employing these technologies will have massive potential to evolve as the iPhone 12 and its successors become the norm and older devices are phased out.

How to Leverage AR to Boost Sales and Enhance the Retail Experience

AR REtail Cover Image

The global market for VR and AR in retail will reach $1.6 billion by 2025 according to research conducted by Goldman Sachs. Even after years of growing popularity, effectively employed Augmented Reality experiences feel to the end-user about as explicitly futuristic as any experience created by popular technology.

We have covered the many applications for AR as an indoor positioning mechanism on the Mystic MediaTM blog, but when it comes to retail, applications for AR are providing real revenue boosts and increased conversion rates.

Augmented Reality (AR) History

Ivan Sutherland 1

While working as an associate professor at Harvard University, computer scientist Ivan Sutherland, aka the “Father of Computer Graphics”, created an AR head-mounted display system which constituted the first AR technology in 1968. In the proceeding decades, AR visual displays gained traction in universities, companies, and national agencies as a way to superimpose vital information on physical environments, showing great promise for applications for aviation, military, and industrial purposes.

Fast forward to 2016, the sensational launch of Pokemon GO changed the game for AR. Within one month, Pokemon GO reached 45 million users, showing there is mainstream demand for original and compelling AR experiences.

Cross-Promotions

Several big brands took advantage of Pokemon GO’s success through cross-promotions. McDonald’s paid for Niantic to turn 3,000 Japan locations into gyms and PokeStops, a partnership that has recently endedStarbucks took advantage of Pokemon GO’s success as well by enabling certain locations to function as PokeStops and gyms, and offering a special Pokemon GO Frappucino.

One of the ways retailers can enter into the AR game without investing heavily in technology is to cross-promote with an existing application.

In 2018, Walmart launched a partnership with Jurassic World’s AR game: Jurassic World Alive. The game is similar to Pokemon GO, using a newly accessible Google Maps API to let players search for virtual dinosaurs and items on a map, as well as battle other players. Players can enter select Walmart locations to access exclusive items.

Digital-Physical Hybrid Experiences

The visual augmentation produced by AR transforms physical spaces by leveraging the power of computer-generated graphics, an aesthetic punch-up proven to increase foot traffic. While some retailers are capitalizing on these hybrid experiences through cross-promotions, others are creating their own hybrid experiential marketing events.

Foot Locker developed an AR app that used geolocation to create a scavenger hunt in Los Angeles, leading customers to the location where they could purchase a pair of LeBron 16 King Court Purple shoes. Within two hours of launching the app, the shoes sold out.

AR also has proven potential to help stores create hybrid experiences through indoor navigation. Users can access an augmented view of the store through their phones, which makes in-store navigation easy. Users scan visual markers, recognized by Apple’s ARKitGoogle’s ARCore, and other AR SDKs, to establish their position, and AR indoor navigation applications can offer specific directions to their desired product.

Help Consumers Make Informed Choices

Ikea Place Screenshots

AR is commonly employed to enrich consumers’ understanding of potential purchases and prompt them to buy. For example, the “IKEA Place” app allows shoppers to see IKEA products in a superimposed graphics environment. IKEA boasts the app gives shoppers 98% accuracy in buying decisions.

Converse employs a similar application, the “Converse Sampler App”, which enables users to view what a shoe will look like on their feet through their device’s camera. The application increases customer confidence, helping them make the decision to purchase.

Treasury Wines Estates enhances the consumer experience with “Living Wine Labels”: AR labels that bring the history of the vineyard to life and provide users with supplementary information, including the history of the vineyard the wine came from and tasting notes.

Conclusion

AR enables striking visuals that captivate customers. As a burgeoning tool, AR enables companies to get creative and build innovative experiences that capture their customers’ imagination. Retailers who leverage AR will seize an advantage both in the short term and in the long term as the technology continues to grow and evolve.

Maximize Profits with the Top Freemium Tactics of 2020

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The global gaming market is estimated at $152 billion, with 45% derived from mobile games. The mobile game market is constantly evolving, new tactics and even platforms, like Apple Arcade, are being introduced. As a mobile game developer, being dynamic and staying up on the latest trends is of the utmost importance. Staying on top of these trends will help make a more engaging and profitable mobile game.

Keeping this in mind, below are the top freemium tactics of 2020:

RETENTION IS (STILL) KING

Mobile game developers must remember that freemium games begin and end with a good retention strategy that keeps users engaged.

Daily Tasks: Set-up daily tasks that pass the Starbucks Test. One of them can be opening the app on a daily basis. These should be fairly simple to complete and offer a reward, encouraging users to integrate gameplay into their daily lives.

Rewards Pack on User Birthdays: Give users some kind of bonus on their birthday to enrich their personal relationship with the game.

Challenge Dormant Users: After 3 days, give users a special, temporary challenge to reengage them with the app. Temporary promotions can be an effective way to instill a sense of urgency in the call-to-action and trigger users to open the app.

Promotion Before Subscription/Free Trial Ends: Tempt the user to sign-up or to extend their subscription by offering a temporary promotion 24-48 hours before their free trial/subscription ends.

When it comes to measuring retention, check out the model retention rates below from The Tool (Performance-Based Mobile ASO):

  • Day 1 Retention – 40%
  • Day 7 Retention – 20%
  • Day 28 Retention – 10%

Retention can also be tracked hourly instead of daily where Day 1 Retention will be the percentage of users who returned within 24-48 hours from the install. Here’s how it might look in analytics systems such as devtodev (via The Tool):

Retention-Analytics

OUTSTREAM VIDEO ADS

Outstream Video is a new type of video ad unit, referred to sometimes as “native video”, designed for targeting mobile users.

Outstream Video ads do not require placement within a Youtube video. They play with the sound off on mobile screens when more than 70% of the ad is visible. The user can tap the ad to turn the sound on and restart the video from the beginning, or they can continue scrolling. When less than 70% of the ad is visible, the video pauses.

Advertisers such as the Hong Kong tourism board have had great success using Outstream Video ads, delivering 30% incremental reach with a 40% lower cost per completed video and 85% lower CPM.

REWARDED ADS PAY OFF

When it comes to monetizing a mobile game through advertising, rewarded ads remain at the top of the food chain. A recent survey of app publishers asked what their most successful monetization method was. Rewarded Video Ads won with 75% of the vote.

By offering users some kind of in-game reward, such as an extra life, a bonus item, or a new avatar, app developers can improve UI and engagement while encouraging ad views without bothering the user. Rewarded ads remain the ad unit with the highest earning potential.

LOOT BOXES

A loot box is a randomized box of in-game prizes. Users pay for an in-app purchase, but there is no guarantee of whether it will contain gold or pennies, the user has to make the decision to purchase in exchange a random reward. While this tactic is somewhat controversial in Europe where Belgium and the Netherlands have cracked down and labeled it gambling, it remains a popular tactic. Loot boxes are particularly effective for  Whales, wealthy mobile game users who will readily pay to improve their performance in the game.

SELL YOUR DATA

The collection and sale of data is a massive industry. If your app offers the technical means to collect user-generated data such as geolocation, it may be worth it to acquire user consent to license that data.

Applications like Waze & Foursquare receive community-generated data from their users and effectively leverage it to monetize their applications. Waze licenses data to businesses placing location-based ads, whereas Foursquare licenses point of interest geolocation data to Google & Apple for their first party GPS apps Apple Maps & Google Maps.

CONCLUSION

It is important to keep in mind that monetization is the icing on the cake—without an engaging game that hooks users, there will be nothing to monetize. However, making key decisions in the development process with the monetization strategy in mind will *literally* pay off in the long run.

Check out our previous blogs on Mobile Game Monetization for an overview of the fundamentals.

Protect Your Enterprise with the Top Mobile App Security Tips of 2019

Blog Cover Security

A recent study conducted by AppKnox concluded that out of 100 top E-commerce apps, 95% failed basic security testing, 68% had four or more loopholes present in them, and 68% of apps were diagnosed with high severity threats.

Some of the most popular applications, including WhatsApp, Pokemon Go, and Facebook Messenger, are among the most frequently blacklisted among top enterprises due to the security risks they pose.

As a mobile app developer, security can lead to disaster for both your business and your consumers. Here are our top security tips for 2019:

TESTING AND CODE OPTIMIZATION

The two most important processes for building a secure app are extensive testing and constant refinement of code.

Disorganized code often causes data security risks. Minify code to ensure it is clean and concise and does not burden the application. When coding, think like an attacker and address any vulnerability a hacker could use to penetrate your application. Use libraries that show coding errors to ensure you catch security risks.

By budgeting for a rigorous testing and quality assurance process from the outset of the application development process, software developers ensure their applications will be thoroughly secure. Do not allow time-constraints getting a product to market to interfere with this crucial step. Test for functionality, usability, and security. Test, test, and test some more.

SECURE YOUR APIs

Enterprise developers are relying on application programming interfaces (APIs) more than ever, posing additional security requirements. API development and mobile app development share security considerations. Any vulnerability in an API is a vulnerability in the applications that the API connects. Solve potential headaches with the following tips:

  • Ensure all APIs integrated in your app are optimized for security.
  • Monitor all add-on software carefully to ensure that they do not present any system vulnerabilities.
  • Budget time to test the security of your APIs as well.

Check out TechBeacon’s 8 essential best practices for API security for additional reading.

LIMIT DATA COLLECTION AND PERMISSIONS

By collecting as little data as possible and minimizing permissions, app developers limit vulnerable attack points on their app. If the app does not require access to the camera or contacts, don’t request it. The same sentiment can be applied to data: make sure  users are aware of what data your application is collecting from them and only collect user data that is vital to the application’s functionality.

INTEGRATE A SECURITY TEAM FROM DAY ONE

Incorporating a dedicated security team from the inception of the development process on will ensure that the application has a cohesive security strategy intertwined with app functionality. Bringing the security team in from day one will minimize vulnerabilities that otherwise may slip through the cracks if they are brought on later in the process.

PROTECT CONSUMER DATA

Consumer data is generally the most vulnerable element for any app. The higher the volume of consumer data, the more there is for hackers to steal. In addition to limiting data collections, app developers should look into new data encryption technologies and biometric authentication. Decentralized database technology like the blockchain cryptology are among the most high-tech data protection measures tech companies can undertake.

Learn more about the Blockchain for mobile development via Application Development Trends.

CONCLUSION

In order to maintain secure environments, app developers must stay constantly stay up-to-date on the latest security technologies. Reading tech publications and maintaining awareness of the latest trends will ensure your enterprise is ready to integrate with tomorrow’s tech.

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

Android Pie (Image Via XDA Developers)

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

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:

Screen Shot 2018-05-07 at 12.46.57 PM

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

Data Encryption

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.

Integration with Siri and iMessage: Everything Your App Can Do

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The upgrade from iOS 9 to iOS 10 was the biggest upgrade iOS has received in its 11 year history. As we covered in our blog How iOS 10′s Open Functionality Can Take Your App to the Next Level, the biggest upgrade to the operating system was the opening up of Siri and iMessage for third-party extensions.

The ability to integrate applications with iMessage and Siri creates a host of new functional possibilities for software developers. Here’s our rundown of the top ways to improve apps through Siri and iMessage integration:

SIRI INTEGRATION

As Alexa has proved, the voice assistant is burgeoning billion dollar business. With Google and Amazon leading the pack, Apple has taken many steps to improve Siri, including opening Siri up to third party integration.

However, Apple is prioritizing quality over quantity when it comes to Siri integrations.  Limiting the types of apps that can integrate with Siri enables Apple to build out robust integrations that take into account complex verbal applications. With robust integrations, Siri will be able to fulfill actions without forcing the user to alter the colloquial, natural construction of their spoken sentences. In other words: the integration is comprehensive, but it will only work with the following types of apps:

  • VoIP (Voice over IP) Calling
  • Messaging
  • Payments
  • Lists and Notes
  • Visual Codes
  • Photos
  • Workouts
  • Ride Booking
  • Car Commands
  • CarPlay
  • Restaurant Reservations

Siri integrations use “intents”. Apps that fit into the aforementioned categories describe a set of intents, or things the app can do, and Siri categorizes spoken orders by the user into intents to determine the next logical action.

Siri can pull up photos from applications like Vogue Runway through voice command. It can send money to friends through Square Cash and Monzo, and can send messages through WhatsApp and LinkedIn. Siri’s vocabulary can process complex requests like “Hey Siri, show me my best photos of idyllic sunsets taken last summer using The Roll.”

iOS 11 opened up a host of new intents. Siri can now lock smartcars and manage notes and to-do lists in productivity apps, as well as complete on-the-spot language translations.

With Siri integration, app developers can make use of one of the most extensive digital vocabularies on the planet to make life easier for users.

IMESSAGE APPS

iOS 10 not only opened iMessage up to developers, it also spawned iMessage apps: apps designed exclusively for the iMessage platform.

iMessage integration allows make it easy to pull up documents, links, and information right from iMessage and send it on the fly. Productivity apps like Evernote can integrate to allow for updates to be both sent and updated through iMessage. Travel apps like AirBNB make it easy to discuss potential travel plans. Games like Words with Friends and GamePidgeon make it easy to simultaneously play games and text. The Starbucks iMessage app allows users to send digital gift cards using Apple Pay. Dropbox and OneDrive make files stored in the cloud easily accessible and shareable.

Unlike Siri, there is no limitation on what types of apps can integrate with iMessage. Due to limited functionality, enthusiasm for developing apps exclusively for the iMessage platform is fading according to Mac Rumors, but integrating with iMessage can greatly enhance the UI of existing apps.

Should My Business Consider Accepting Cryptocurrencies? An Overview

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Recently, Bitcoin has flooded the news cycle, rising in value from about 1,000 per bitcoin on January 1st 2017 to upwards of $16,000 as of December 7th 2017. Square, a prominent payment app, recently announced they will pilot a program that allows for Bitcoin trade. With Bitcoin on the rise, the all-important question becomes: Should your app or website accept cryptocurrencies?

Over the next several weeks, we will endeavor on a series of blogs to answer all of the questions necessary to make that decision, including:

  1. What cryptocurrencies are, how they work, and why they are important.
  2. The pros and cons of accepting cryptocurrencies on your app or website
  3. Choosing your cryptocurrency wallet.
  4. What Blockchain is, how it’s important to cryptocurrencies and its other revolutionary applications.
  5. An exploration of why Bitcoin is the most popular cryptocurrency and of  other prominent cryptocurrencies.

In order to explore cryptocurrencies, we must start at the beginning. The first successful cryptocurrency was Bitcoin, created in 2008 by the still unknown inventor Satoshi Nakamoto. While Nakamoto’s identity is still a mystery, the significance of their invention is not. They initially announced it as a “Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System”. Past attempts at creating digital currency involved a decentralized system, however, Nakamoto attempted to decentralize the currency by mimicking the technique of Peer-to-Peer file sharing networks.

In order for a payment network to function, there must be a ledger to prevent fraudulent double spending—forged transactions. In the physical world, banks function as the central entity which keeps records about balances. With Bitcoin, Nakamoto created an alternate system. Since the network is decentralized, every entity on the network must have a list with all transactions to check if future transactions are valid. Not only that, there must be an absolute consensus about the records in order for them to become a part of an immutable record of historical transactions known as the “Blockchain”.

Nakamoto set in place a rule that only “miners” can confirm transactions. Miners take transactions, verify them in exchange for a token of cryptocurrency, validate them, and spread them in the network so that every node adds them to the database and the transaction becomes a part of the blockchain. The only way to create a valid Bitcoin is for a miner to complete this function.

Technically, anyone can be a miner. Since there is no central authority to regulate mining and prevent a ruling party from abusing it, Nakamoto set a rule that miners need to invest some of their computing power to the solving of a cryptographic puzzle using the SHA 256 Hash algorithm, in order to verify transactions. Without getting too technical, the miner must complete a cryptographic puzzle in order to build a block and add it to the blockchain, the reward for which is a specific number of Bitcoins depending on the difficulty of the puzzle. Miners compete to solve these problems and the first to solve it and validate the transaction receives the reward. This is part of the consensus that no peer can break.

While the system is complex, the use of the currency is ultimately quite simple. As outlined in BlockGeeks overview, 5 properties separate Bitcoin transactions from other transactions:

  • Bitcoin transactions are irreversible.
  • They are not tied to real-world identities but to pseudonymous addresses. This is one of the reasons Bitcoins are frequently used on the black market.
  • Transactions are enacted instantly and are global.
  • Cryptocurrencies are secured by a cryptography, making them extremely secure.
  • Without a central authority, cryptocurrencies are permissionless to use.

Cryptocurrencies often limit the supply of tokens, which is true of Bitcoin. The token supply of Bitcoin decreases in time and will reach its final number sometime around 2140. The monetary supply is controlled by a schedule written in code—in other words, purely through mathematics.

Whereas the statement on your bank account represents a debt owed to you by the bank, Bitcoins are not indicative of debts, they are literal currency with inherent value like a diamond. And the value of that currency has skyrocketed in the past year. Only 10 years after its creation, Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are currently in an inchoate stage, making it all the more important for intelligent citizens to track their progress and global impact.

Next week, we will review the pros and cons of accepting cryptocurrencies through your app or website. Stay tuned!

The Real Power of Artificial Intelligence

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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.