Tag Archives: Application

Cloud-Powered Microdroid Expands Possibilities for Android App Developers

Android developers have a lot to look forward to in 2021, 2022, and beyond. Blockchain may decentralize how Android apps are developed, Flutter will see increased adoption for cross-platform development, and we expect big strides in AR and VR for the platform. Among the top trends in Android development, one potential innovation has caught the attention of savvy app developers: Microdroid.

Android developers and blogs were astir earlier this year when Google engineer Jiyong Park announced via the Android Open Source Project that they are working on a new, minimal Android-based Linux image called Microdroid.

Details about the project are scant, but it’s widely believed that Microdroid will essentially be a lighter version of the Android system image designed to function on virtual machines. Google is preparing for a world in which even smartphone OS’s require a stripped-down version that can be run through the cloud.

Working from a truncated Linux, Microdroid will pull the system image from the device (tablet or phone), creating a simulated environment accessible from any remote device. It has the ability to enable a world in which users can access Google Play and any Android app using any device.

What does this mean for developers?

Microdroid will open up new possibilities for Android apps in embedded and IoT spaces which require potentially automated management and a contained virtual machine which can mitigate security risks. Cloud gaming, cloud computing—even smartphones with all features stored in the cloudare possible. Although we will have to wait and see what big plans Google has for Microdroid and how Android developers capitalize on it, at this juncture, it’s looking like the shift to the cloud may entail major changes in how we interact with our devices. App developers are keen to keep their eyes and heads in the cloud.

Although no timeline for release has been revealed yet, we expect more on Microdroid with the announcement of Android 12.

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.

LiDAR: The Next Revolutionary Technology and What You Need to Know

In an era of rapid technological growth, certain technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the internet of things, have received mass adoption and become household names. One up-and-coming technology that has the potential to reach that level of adoption is LiDAR.

WHAT IS LIDAR?

LiDAR, or light detection and ranging, is a popular remote sensing method for measuring the exact distance of an object on the earth’s surface. Initially used in the 1960s, LiDAR has gradually received increasing adoption, particularly after the creation of GPS in the 1980s. It became a common technology for deriving precise geospatial measurements.

LiDAR requires three components: the scanner, laser, and GPS receiver. The scanner sends a pulsed laser to the GPS receiver to calculate an object’s variable distances from the earth surface. The laser emits light which travels to the ground and reflects off things like buildings, tree branches and more. The reflected light energy then returns to the LiDAR sensor where the associated information is recorded. In combination with photodetector and optics, it allows for an ultra-precise distance detection and topographical data.

WHY IS LIDAR IMPORTANT?

As we covered in our rundown of the iPhone 12, new iOS devices come equipped with a brand new LiDAR scanner. LiDAR now enters the hands of consumers who have Apple’s new generation of devices, enabling enhanced functionality and major opportunities for app developers. The proliferation of LiDAR signals toward the technology finding mass adoption and household name status.

There are two different types of LiDAR systems: Terrestrial and Airborne. Airborne LiDAR are installed on drones or helicopters for deriving an exact measurement of distance, while Terrestrial LiDAR systems are installed on moving vehicles to collect pinpoints. Terrestrial LiDAR systems are often used to monitor highways and have been employed by autonomous cars for years, while airborne LiDAR are commonly used in environmental applications and gathering topographical data.

With the future in mind, here are the top LiDAR trends to look out for moving forward:

SUPERCHARGING APPLE DEVICES

LiDAR enhances the camera on Apple devices significantly. Auto-focus is quicker and more effective on those devices. Moreover, it supercharges AR applications by greatly enhancing the speed and quality of a camera’s ability to track the location of people as well as place objects.

One of the major apps that received a functionality boost from LiDAR is Apple’s free Measure app, which can measure distance, dimensions, and even whether an object is level. The measurements determined by the app are significantly more accurate with the new LiDAR scanner, capable of replacing physical rulers, tape measures, and spirit levels.

Microsoft’s Seeing AI application is designed for the visually impaired to navigate their environment, however, LiDAR takes it to the next level. In conjunction with artificial intelligence, LiDAR enables the application to read text, identify products and colors, and describe people, scenes, and objects that appear in the viewfinder.

BIG INVESTMENTS BY AUTOMOTIVE COMPANIES

LiDAR plays a major role in autonomous vehicles, relying on a terrestrial LiDAR system to help them self-navigate. In 2018, reports suggest that the automotive segment acquired a business share of 90 percent. With self-driving cars inching toward mass adoption, expect to see major investments in LiDAR by automotive companies in 2021 and beyond.

As automotive companies look to make major investments in LiDAR, including Volkswagen’s recent investment in Aeva, many LiDAR companies are competing to create the go-to LiDAR system for automotive companies. Check out this great article by Wired detailing the potential for this bubble to burst.

LIDAR DRIVING ENVIRONMENTAL APPLICATIONS

Beyond commercial applications and the automotive industry, LiDAR is gradually seeing increased adoption for geoscience applications. The environmental segment of the LiDAR market is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 32% through 2025. LiDAR is vital to geoscience applications for creating accurate and high-quality 3D data to study ecosystems of various wildlife species.

One of the main environmental uses of LiDAR is for soliciting topographic information on landscapes. Topographic LiDAR is expected to see a growth rate of over 25% over the coming years. These systems can see through forest canopy to produce accurate 3D models of landscapes necessary to create contours, digital terrain models, digital surface models and more.

CONCLUSION

In March 2020, after the first LiDAR scanner became available in the iPad Pro, The Verge put it perfectly when they said that the new LiDAR sensor is an AR hardware solution in search of software. While LiDAR has gradually found increasing usage, it is still a powerful new technology with burgeoning commercial usage. Enterprising app developers are looking for new ways to use it to empower consumers and businesses alike.

For supplementary viewing on the inner workings of the technology, check out this great introduction below, courtesy of Neon Science.

AIoT: How the Intersection of AI and IoT Will Drive Innovation for Decades to Come

We have covered the evolution of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) over the years as they have gained prominence. IoT devices collect a massive amount of data. Cisco projects by the end of 2021, IoT devices will collect over 800 zettabytes of data per year. Meanwhile, AI algorithms can parse through big data and teach themselves to analyze and identify patterns to make predictions. Both technologies enable a seemingly endless amount of applications retained a massive impact on many industry verticals.

What happens when you merge them? The result is aptly named the AIoT (Artificial Intelligence of Things) and it will take IoT devices to the next level.

WHAT IS AIOT?

AIoT is any system that integrates AI technologies with IoT infrastructure, enhancing efficiency, human-machine interactions, data management and analytics.

IoT enables devices to collect, store, and analyze big data. Device operators and field engineers typically control devices. AI enhances IoT’s existing systems, enabling them to take the next step to determine and take the appropriate action based on the analysis of the data.

By embedding AI into infrastructure components, including programs, chipsets, and edge computing, AIoT enables intelligent, connected systems to learn, self-correct and self-diagnose potential issues.

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One common example comes in the surveillance field. Surveillance camera can be used as an image sensor, sending every frame to an IoT system which analyzes the feed for certain objects. AI can analyze the frame and only send frames when it detects a specific object—significantly speeding up the process while reducing the amount of data generated since irrelevant frames are excluded.

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While AIoT will no doubt find a variety of applications across industries, the three segments we expect to see the most impact on are wearables, smart cities, and retail.

WEARABLES

Wearable-IoT-Devices

The global wearable device market is estimated to hit more than $87 billion by 2022. AI applications on wearable devices such as smartwatches pose a number of potential applications, particularly in the healthtech sector.

Researchers in Taiwan have been studying the potential for an AIoT wearable system for electrocardiogram (ECG) analysis and cardiac disease detection. The system would integrate a wearable IoT-based system with an AI platform for cardiac disease detection. The wearable collects real-time health data and stores it in a cloud where an AI algorithm detects disease with an average of 94% accuracy. Currently, Apple Watch Series 4 or later includes an ECG app which captures symptoms of irregular, rapid or skipped heartbeats.

Although this device is still in development, we expect to see more coming out of the wearables segment as 5G enables more robust cloud-based processing power, taking the pressure off the devices themselves.

SMART CITIES

We’ve previously explored the future of smart cities in our blog series A Smarter World. With cities eager to invest in improving public safety, transport, and energy efficiency, AIoT will drive innovation in the smart city space.

There are a number of potential applications for AIoT in smart cities. AIoT’s ability to analyze data and act opens up a number of possibilities for optimizing energy consumption for IoT systems. Smart streetlights and energy grids can analyze data to reduce wasted energy without inconveniencing citizens.

Some smart cities have already adopted AIoT applications in the transportation space. New Delhi, which boasts some of the worst traffic in the world, features an Intelligent Transport Management System (ITMS) which makes real-time dynamic decisions on traffic flows to accelerate traffic.

RETAIL

AIoT has the potential to enhance the retail shopping experience with digital augmentation. The same smart cameras we referenced earlier are being used to detect shoplifters. Walmart recently confirmed it has installed smart security cameras in over 1,000 stores.

smart-shopping-cart

One of the big innovations for AIoT involves smart shopping carts. Grocery stores in both Canada and the United States are experimenting with high-tech shopping carts, including one from Caper which uses image recognition and built-in sensors to determine what a person puts into the shopping cart.

The potential for smart shopping carts is vast—these carts will be able to inform customers of deals and promotion, recommend products based on their buying decisions, enable them to view an itemized list of their current purchases, and incorporate indoor navigation to lead them to their desired items.

A smart shopping cart company called IMAGR recently raised $14 million in a pre-Series A funding round, pointing toward a bright future for smart shopping carts.

CONCLUSION

AIoT represents the intersection of AI, IoT, 5G, and big data. 5G enables the cloud processing power for IoT devices to employ AI algorithms to analyze big data to determine and enact action items. These technologies are all relatively young, and as they continue to grow, they will empower innovators to build a smarter future for our world.

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

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

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.

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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.

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.

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.

Integration with Siri and iMessage: Everything Your App Can Do

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.

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.

Generate Downloads with the Ultimate App Promotion Guide

App PromotionAs app developers, retaining an adept understanding of the marketing side of the business is of the utmost importance. An improperly promoted app, whether it’s good or not, will falter in the 6 million apps in app stores. Some larger companies can afford to outsource this work. Independent developers and companies developing apps for clients must have the knowledge to guide projects from development through release regardless of their expected level of involvement in enacting a release strategy. When developing your app, take into consideration our overview of app promotion strategies and best practices.

APP STORE OPTIMIZATION 

App Store Optimization is the bread and butter of all app marketing efforts. App stores are the largest driver of downloads for the vast majority of apps. When enacted properly, ASO will drive tens, hundreds, or even thousands of daily downloads from app stores depending on the search traffic of the keywords. Experienced developers create ASO strategies before they begin the programming process.

Selecting keywords is the first and most important process of ASO. Searches in the app store are typed out with thumbs rather than a full keyboard, thus thinking of key shorthand terms is vital to improving search rankings. Developers must evaluate the amount of search traffic for each keyword and how competitive that search traffic is. Pursuing high traffic search terms can backfire because apps can falter against the high level of competition. Developers should continually refine their keywords and have a strategy ready for when their apps improve in search rankings. Over time, apps grow stronger in app store search and can eventually rank for more competitive keywords. It’s vital for developers to constantly refine their ASO strategies and build toward more competitive search terms. Many companies create one strategy for when their apps are first entering the store and a separate strategy for when they improve in ASO strength and can compete with higher volume search terms.

ASO does not end with the release. Engagement signals like retention, number times people open the app, and length of usage increase app store rankings. Developers must constantly be working toward improving the UI of their apps, as retention will boost ASO.

PAID ADVERTISING

While paid advertising, specifically social media ads, can be a major driver of app downloads, it’s important to understand where paid advertising factors into the equation. Before enacting paid ads, developers should have established a proven revenue model and overall business model. How much revenue an app generates per download will dictate the paid advertising budget. Without a model for revenue per download, app promotion can quickly become too expensive to maintain and end up in the red.

THE BENEFITS OF A SOFT LAUNCH

A soft launch is when developers make their app available in app stores without any promotional push. The small set of users you acquire through a soft launch can act as an initial beta user group that will inform your understanding of how consumers are using your app.

App developers often come to realize a major disconnect between why they think their app is good versus the opinion of their users. Experienced developers make the most of their analytics and continuously dedicate resources to the iterative process of improving their apps.

THE DANGERS OF CROSS-PROMOTION

While cross-promotion is a popular tactic, it’s also one that can backfire. App developers find partners with relevant but separate audiences and promote traffic to one another’s pages or content. The key to cross-promotion is finding a partner with an audience that is going to give an equivalent amount of exposure. The potential pitfall is that when users redirect out of the app, it reduces retention, ultimately damaging ASO.

Rather than partner with another app or company, some developers elect to develop feeder games and alternate apps which cross-promote to one another, maximizing downloads without detracting from outside marketing efforts.

SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION

Many app developers promote their apps through their website with Google SEO, social media, content marketing & more. While some apps treat their website as a landing page with a large download button, there is much more that can be done. For example, hosting Youtube content or a blog on your site will draw users in to your brand and retain them on the web page.

Enacting SEO for your app store URL can be even more effective than for your website. App Store URLs can outrank websites in SEO because of the authoritative domain of iTunes and Google Play.

PUBLICITY AND OTHER ENTREPRENEURIAL METHODS

While effective ASO and app promotion can be done on a relatively low budget, app promotion doesn’t have to begin and end on the tech side of things. Many developers make a point of developing their public persona through social media and external publicity in order to foster an audience to whom they can later market their products.

THE ROAD TO SUCCESS

Ultimately, the road to success is not smooth, but bumpy. With the right mix of expert development, continuous maintenance, vigilance and dedication, an app can break through the sea of competition and become a profitable enterprise.