Tag Archives: Apple

Learn More About Triggering Augmented Reality Experiences with AR Markers

learns an markers-area and play it-chrome

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.

1_0RtFp6lxeJWxcg5EE_wYCg

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

5fc9da7d2761437fecd89875_1_gXPr_vwBWmgTN5Ial7Uwhg

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

?????????

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.

AugementedRealityMarkerAnymotionFeatures

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

ImEinsatz

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

image1-7

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

image4-1

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.

Learn How Apple Tightened Their Hold on the AR Market with the Release of ARKit 4

arkit-og

Since the explosive launch of Pokemon Go, AR technologies have vastly improved. Our review of the iPhone 12 concluded that as Apple continues to optimize its hardware, AR will become more prominent in both applications and marketing.

At the 2020 WWDC in June, Apple announced ARKit 4, their latest iteration of the famed augmented reality platform. ARKit 4 features some vast improvements that help Apple tighten their hold on the AR market.

LOCATION ANCHORS

ARKit 4 introduces location anchors, which allow developers to set virtual content in specific geographic coordinates (latitude, longitude, and altitude). When rebuilding the data backend for Apple Maps, Apple collected camera and 3D LiDAR data from city streets across the globe. ARKit downloads the virtual map surrounding your device from the cloud and matches it with the device’s feed to determine your location. The kicker is: all processing happens using machine learning within the device, so your camera feed stays put.

36431-67814-ARKit-xl

Devices with an A12 chip or later, can run Geo-tracking; however, location anchors require Apple to have mapped the area previously. As of now, they are supported in over 50 cities in the U.S. As the availability of compatible devices increases and Apple continues to expand its mapping project, location anchors will find increased usage.

DEPTH API

ARKit’s new Depth API harnesses the LiDAR scanner available on iPad Pro and iPhone 12 devices to introduce advanced scene understanding and enhanced pixel depth information in AR applications. When combined with 3D mesh data derived from Scene Geometry, which creates a 3D matrix of readings of the environment, the Depth API vastly improves virtual object occlusion features. The result is the instant placement of digital objects and seamless blending with their physical surroundings.

FACE TRACKING

1_tm5vrdVDr2DAulgPvDMRow

Face tracking has found an exceptional application in Memojis, which enables fun AR experiences for devices with a TrueDepth camera. ARKit 4 expands support to devices without a camera that has at least an A12. TrueDepth cameras can now leverage ARKit 4 to track up to three faces at once, providing many fun potential applications for Memojis.

VIDEO MATERIALS WITH REALITYKIT

b3b1c224-5db5-4e38-97de-76f90c32b53a

ARKit 4 also brings with it RealityKit, which adds support for applying video textures and materials to AR experiences. For example, developers will be able to place a virtual television on a wall, complete with realistic attributes, including light emission, texture roughness, and even audio. Consequentially, AR developers can develop even more immersive and realistic experiences for their users.

CONCLUSION

iOS and Android are competing for supremacy when it comes to AR development. While the two companies’ goals and research overlap, Apple has a major leg up on Google in its massive base of high-end devices and its ability to imbue them with the necessary structure sensors like TrueDepth and LiDAR.

ARKit has been the biggest AR development platform since it hit the market in 2017. ARKit 4 provides the technical capabilities tools for innovators and creative thinkers to build a new world of virtual integration.

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.

iOS 14 Revamps the OS While Android 11 Offers Minor Improvements

ios 14

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:

imessage-ios14

  • 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.

applibrary-1280x720

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:

Apple_ios14-incoming-call-screen_06222020_inline.jpg.large

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.

picture in picture

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.

Integration with Siri and iMessage: Everything Your App Can Do

Siri-1480x831

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.

Everything You Need to Know About Machine Learning

toptal-blog-image-1407508081138

A calculator can solve complex problems which would take even the most savvy mathematicians an incomparable amount of time. Artificial intelligence has become one of the most hotly debated and highly funded aspects of technology because the speed at which machines can process information yields innumerable possibilities and applications which can and will benefit humanity. One of the first popular incarnations of AI is Machine Learning.

Machine Learning is the ability for a computer to learn without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning focuses on computer programs which can identify patterns and create its own algorithms when exposed to new data. It is used in self-driving cars, in newsfeed algorithms on social media, in evaluating job candidates, in recognizing faces on your phone, and more.

The most powerful form of machine learning currently active is called “deep learning”. “Deep learning” builds a complex mathematical structure known as a neural network out of vast quantities of data. Machine learning’s ability to handle mass amounts of data makes it crucial to the advancement of IoT. The IoT collects enormous amounts of data which require computers with machine learning to recognize patterns and create algorithms.  In self-driving cars, IoT cameras and sensors in each autonomous vehicle absorb their surroundings and turn them into huge amounts of data. The data is then sent to the cloud where it is accessible to all autonomous vehicles on the road. Thus, when one self-driving car makes a mistake, all of them learn. In conjunction with the Internet of Things, machine learning will be vital to the building of a smartworld.

TOP PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES

Machine learning requires a great deal of statistical analysis; it demands an intelligent programming language which can process a number of complex issues and general paradigms.

R: Considered a statistical workhorse, R has emerged as one of the top programming languages for machine learning. R is intended for advanced users because of its complex nature and wide learning curve.

Python: A rising star for machine learning, Python is a data science book which has been in use in the manufacturing industry for awhile. Python gives users direct access to predictive analytics, making it the foremost data science language. Developers turn to Python when they are looking to frame better questions or expand the capabilities of their existing machine learning systems.

MATLAB/Octave: Millions of engineers are already using MATLAB, a matrix-based language, to analyze and develop cutting edge systems. MATLAB has emerged as the simplest way to demonstrate computational mathematics.

MACHINE LEARNING AND iOS 10

Machine learning laid much of the groundwork for the biggest upgrade in iOS 10. It is very difficult for computers to comprehend the intricacies of the human language. Machine learning has enabled iPhones to sense contextual clues with increasing confidence, improving iMessage’s ability to autocorrect and for Siri to understand the particulars of your vernacular. In the iPhone 7 camera, machine learning allows the device to separate the background from the foreground to achieve amazing portraits once possible only with DSLR cameras.

MACHINE LEARNING AND ANDROID

Google is among the dominant forces in machine learning. Much of Google Search’s prominence is owed to advances in the machine learning field. In November 2015, Google released TensorFlow, an open-source software library for machine intelligence. TensorFlow effectively simulates “deep learning” neural networks across different computer hardware and offers a straightforward way for users to train computers to perform tasks by feeding them large amounts of data.

Google uses Tensorflow in many of their internal processes, including RankBrain for information retrieval, image classification, SmartReply, and more.

MAXIMIZING MACHINE LEARNING IN MOBILE APPS

Now that mobile devices have the high productive capacity level to perform tasks to the same degree as a traditional computer, the question of what machine learning can offer apps has arisen. Large retailers like Amazon and eBay use machine learning in their mobile apps to improve customer experience with smarter product search and recommendation features, along with the ability to forecast buying trends with analytics.

While Machine Learning algorithms require a high level of programming experience and a ton of data to be effective, integrating apps with Siri & iMessage for iOS 10 allows developers to take advantage of the vast deep learning neural networks embedded into Apple’s 1st-party apps.

While the future of machine learning  on a commercial level remains to be seen outside of tech titans like Facebook, machine learning algorithms will be crucial in conjunction with the IoT in building a new SmartWorld with unparalleled predictive capabilities.

Securing Your IoT Devices Must Become a Top Priority

The Internet of Things has seen unprecedented growth the past few years. With an explosion of commercial products arriving on the marketplace, the Internet of Things has entered the public lexicon. However,  companies rushing to provide IoT devices to consumers often cut corners with regard to security, causing major IoT security issues nationwide.

In 2015, hackers proved to Wired they could remotely hack a smartcar on the highway, kill the engine and control key functions. Dick Cheney’s cardiologist disabled WiFi capabilities on his pacemaker, fearing an attack by a hacker.  Most recently, the October 21st cyber attack on Dyn brought internet browsing to a halt for hours while Dyn struggled to restore service.

Although the attack on Dyn seems to be independent of a nation-state, it has caused a ruckus in the tech community. A millions-strong army of IoT devices, including webcams and DVRs, were conscripted with a botnet which launched the historically large denial-of-service attack. Little effort has been made to make common consumers aware of the security threats posed by IoT devices. A toy Barbie can become the back door to the home network, providing access to PCs, televisions, refrigerators and more. Given the disturbing frequency of hacks in the past year, IoT security has come to the forefront of top concerns for IoT developers.

SECURING CURRENT DEVICES

The amount of insecure devices already in the market complicates the Internet of Things security problem. IoT hacks will continue to happen until the industry can shrink vulnerable devices. Securing current devices is a top priority for app developers. Apple has made an effort to combat this problem by creating very rigorous security requirements for HomeKit compatible apps.

The European Union is currently considering laws to force compliance with security standards. The plan would be for secure devices to have a label which ensures consumers the internet-connected device complies with security standards. The current EU labeling system which rates devices based on energy consumption could prove an effective template for this new cybersecurity rating system.

ISPs COULD BE THE KEY

Internet service providers could be a major part of the solution when it comes to IoT Security. Providers can block or filter malicious traffic driven by malware through recognizing patterns. Many ISPs use BCP38, a standard which reduces the process hackers use to transmit network packets with fake sender addresses.

ISPs can also notify customers, both corporate and individuals, if they find a device on their network sending or receiving malicious traffic. ISPs already comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act which requires internet providers to warn customers if they detect possible illegal file sharing.

With the smarthome and over 1.9 billion devices predicted to be shipped in 2019, IoT security has never been a more important issue. Cyber attacks within the US frequently claim the front page of the mainstream media. CIO describes the Dyn attacks as a wake-up call for retailers. The combination of a mass adoption of IoT and an environment fraught with security concerns means there will be big money in IoT security R & D and a potential slow-down in time-to-market pipeline for IoT products.

Will the federal government get involved in instituting security regulations on IoT devices, or will it be up to tech companies and consumers to demand security? Whatever the outcome, this past year has proved IoT security should be a major concern for developers.

Nougat OS: Everything You Need to Know Android’s Latest Treat

With all the fuss about iPhone 7, iOS 10 and the new Pixel, it’s easy to forget Android recently unveiled their latest OS: Nougat. In line with Android’s other dessert-themed software titles (Marshmallow, Lollipop, KitKat, etc.), Nougat is a treat. It’s a refined version of Marshmallow with improved UX, specs and a lot more. Both iOS fans and app developers take note, here are Android Nougat’s top features:

MULTI-WINDOW MULTITASKING

Android Nougat Multi-Window Multi-Tasking via Phone Finderr

The most notable feature of Nougat is Multi-Window Multitasking. Unlike iOS, Nougat allows users to run multiple apps on their screen at once, allowing users to watch a movie while they text, view a recipe while they keep their eyes on the timer, or use any number of applications. Multi-Window Multitasking can be utilized with three display options: Split-Screen, Picture-In-Picture and Freeform Mode.

Split-Screen mode splits the screen across the bottom when held vertically, or across the middle when held horizontally.

Picture-In-Picture mode will be optimized for Android TV and will eliminate the controls and interface elements while keeping the content portion to scale.

Freeform mode will allow users to customize the size of each application, like one can with a desktop or laptop computer.

REFINED NOTIFICATIONS SETTINGS

Notifications Settings via How To Geek

Android has always been a major advocate of customizing notifications, and Android Nougat improves their system. Users customize their quick settings to ensure they are only alerted to the top-level notifications. Users can also maintain conversations within the notifications bar to make it easier to chat without having to go back and forth into apps.

Bundled notifications allow users to see what is happening within their apps at a glance without clogging their feed. Simply tap to expand the box and view more info without going directly into the app.

FASTER PERFORMANCE, MORE BATTERY, LESS MOBILE DATA

The best improvements of Nougat OS are not flashy new features, but overall improved functionality. Google’s “Project Doze,” designed to increase phone battery length, was introduced with Marshmallow, but gets a big upgrade with Nougat. Doze shuts down CPU and network activity while the phone screen is off. Previously, Doze only worked when the device was motionless, but now it can operate whenever the screen is off.

Data overages can add up quickly. Google seeks to counter the threat of overages with Data Saver, a program which kicks in whenever the user is on a metered data connection and limits apps and background processes to a set amount of data. Rather than cutting off data usage at a  preset limit, Data Saver makes Android phones more efficient with constant refinement.

Both Data Saver and Project Doze are bolstered by minor technical improvements to Project Svelte, Android’s device optimization initiative, creating a more efficient phone.

SEAMLESS UPDATES

Android isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel. Their Nougat OS functions primarily as a UX improvement over Marshmallow. Android has instilled major security improvements, including file-based encryption. Android has also taken a page out of the Chrome OS playbook by adding seamless updates, which will allow system updates to install in the background.

NEW EMOJIS

Android Nougat Emojis via Tech Hive

On the lighter side of things, Android has installed 72 new glyphs and has revamped their 1,500 emojis to appear more realistic. Nougat is also compatible with Vulkan API, which opens up a world of low-overhead graphical possibilities.

WHEN CAN I GET NOUGAT?

As with any Android update, the real question is: when is it coming to my phone? Nougat is out, but device fragmentation on the Android platform entails a staggered availability based on the hardware. While Google’s Pixel phone could soon alleviate some of these fragmentation problems, Android still cannot move at the speed of iOS—but Nougat’s improved functionality is a welcome addition for both app developers and consumers.

For a full list of Android Nougat release dates, check out this awesome article over at Pocket Lint.

Sink or Swim: Why Google Needs Andromeda to Compete with Apple

Andromeda summed up in a graphic (Via thehackernews.com)

App developers commonly cite device fragmentation as one of their biggest peeves about the Android platform. While Apple keeps a stronghold on all iOS devices, Android allows third-party developers to create hardware for the platform. With a number of different devices all with different screen sizes, tech specs and OS capabilities, developers cannot efficiently optimize the end user experience of their apps for all devices as they can with iOS. However, Google is making a major move to create a more streamlined app ecosystem with Andromeda.

Rumors of Andromeda began when multiple independent sources revealed it would be announced at Google’s October 4th announcement. When October 4th turned out to be hardware-focused, the heat died down on Andromeda. However, in the big picture, Andromeda represents a necessary move in order to prevent Google from losing potentially billions of dollars to Apple in the years and decades to come.

WHAT IS ANDROMEDA?

The idea of Andromeda is to combine Google’s laptop OS (Chrome OS) and their mobile and tablet OS (Android). Chrome OS is not Google Chrome, the web browser you may or may not use every day, but their desktop operating system which works with Chromebooks. For the skinny on Chrome, check out this awesome breakdown:

Rather than integrate Android features on Chrome OS, Andromeda will do the opposite and enable mobile devices with Chrome OS features. Mobile devices will begin to feel like an extension of one’s desktop. Rumored features include file organization, multi-modal windowing and compatibility between mobile and desktop apps. While the details have yet to be revealed, the concept behind Andromeda makes it a huge, necessary step for Google’s long-term future in the OS market.

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

Andromeda will put Google in direct competition with the Mac OS X and Windows platforms. Apple has long been focused on device Continuity, the interchangeability between iOS devices. Their mobile (iOS) & desktop (OS X) operating systems are optimized to work together. By merging Google’s mobile platform with their desktop OS, Google increases cross-device functionality  and creates a strong incentive for consumers to keep all their devices within the Google brand.

THE INTERNET OF THINGS MAKES THIS SINK OR SWIM FOR GOOGLE 

The good news for app developers is in Andromeda’s long-term potential. Andromeda will enable developers to create apps which seamlessly function across devices: smartphones, tablets and desktops. As the IoT becomes domesticated, having a unified OS will mean big bucks for software companies looking to capitalize on home automation and commercial IoT products. In 10 years, consumers will be incredulous if they can’t control their coffee machine, change the channel on their TV and lock their doors on any of their devices. They want cohesive simplicity. If Google loses the OS battle with a less cohesive strategy than Apple, they will also lose the smartphone, tablet, TV and laptop.

CONCLUSION

Dennis Jones, CEO of payments technology company Judopay, put it this way for Developer-Tech: “Andromeda will be the foundation for omnipresence for Google-powered hardware, similar to Apple’s ecosystem… Andromeda is the foundation to enable this omnichannel world.”

Without Andromeda, Google would be dead in the water against the future omnichannel world Apple has been developing over the years. Who will execute better? Until the public sees Andromeda in action, the answer remains to be seen.