Apple’s plans to be a major force in the emerging ‘internet of things’ was evident at WWDC today where it previewed its forthcoming mobile operating system iOS 8 which includes HomeKit for managing technology in the home as well as HealthKit for wearable devices and healthcare.
Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed that over 800m iOS devices have been sold to date, including over 100m iPod touch devices, 200m iPads and 500m iPhones.
Cook said that iOS 8 is the biggest release of the platform since the launch of the App Store.
He said that more than 130m customers who bought an iOS device in the last 12 months were buying an Apple device for the very first time.
Cook also threw a few jabs at Google’s Android operating system, pointing out that over 90pc of iOS users are on the most recent iOS 7 release compared with only 10pc of Android users who have updated to Android 4.4. He also helpfully pointed out that Android currently dominates the malware market.
iOS 8 comes with a refined Notifications Center that just like with the new Mac OS X Yosemite gathers everything in one place and provides interactive notifications that even allow you to reply within apps.
Mail on iOS 8 comes with some elegant new features to better manage the email mountain such as the ability to flag or delete messages by simply swiping left.
Just like with OS X Yosemite Spotlight on iOS includes added suggestions from third party apps like Wikipedia as well as Google.
iOS 8 also comes with a new predictive typing feature called QuickType that includes context sensitive word completion, for example if you’re messaging a friend about dinner or going to see a movie.
“QuickType learns how you type,” Apple software chief Craig Federighi said.
Watch out SnapChat, Apple’s coming to get you
Federighi revealed some new unified communications features that could pose a threat for players like Facebook and SnapChat, particularly surrounding group messaging.
Users can choose to stay or leave conversation threads and a new “tap to talk” feature allows users to insert voice or video messages into the conversation threads. Users can also just send voice messages to conversation threads by simply raising their iPhone to their ear.
The new OS will also have significant implications for enterprise users in terms of greater security.
“iOS 8 is a huge in in the enterprise and 98pc of Fortune 500 companies use iOS,” Federighi said, citing greater faith in the security if iPhone devices.
The latest iOS 8 will provide enterprise customers with automatic enterprise configuration out of the box as well as expanded data protection. For example users will be able to set up VIP conversation threads and IT managers will be able to define managed books and PDFs for workers to use.
Apple and the internet of things
Apple’s foray into the internet of things begins in the healthcare space with a new HealthKit space on iOS devices for managing activity, fitness and health apps.
It also revealed a new Health app that monitors all the metrics that matter most to users such as heart rate, sleep patterns and fitness and takes in data from third party apps like Nike+.
Cook described the iOS 8 SDK as the biggest developer release ever with more than 4,000 new APIs.
Cook also revealed that Apple is working with world renowned Mayo Clinic to reveal an app that allows users to interact directly with their doctors to provide better insight or if there is any discrepancy in their wellbeing.
For example, your blood pressure app could share its data with a physician app, such as the Mayo Clinic app, so your doctor can provide high-quality guidance and care.
“We believe Apple’s HealthKit will revolutionise how the health industry interacts with people,” said John Noseworthy, M.D., Mayo Clinic president and CEO. “We are proud to be at the forefront of this innovative technology with the Mayo Clinic app.”
The all-new iOS 8, which will be available this Autumn, will come with a new Family Sharing function that can link together a family’s entire retinue of iOS devices to allow families to share media, calendars, find devices as well as manage online purchases. For example, if family members are using the same credit card to make transactions from iTunes, for example, a message will pop up on the parent’s iPhone to give permission to allow a family member to buy something.
iPhoto will feature greater iCloud back-up as well as a new smart suggestions capability to find photos stored on devices and in iCloud.
A new feature in iPhoto will also include a suggestions capability to help users edit and improve photos rather than get caught up in the technicalities of improving photos.
Federighi said that Apple is working on a new iPhoto app for the Mac built with iCloud and better editing capabilities built-in.
Returning to the stage Tim Cook revealed that the App Store now has 1.2m apps and 300m people visit the App Store every week. To date, he revealed that some 75bn apps have been downloaded so far.
New features coming to iTunes include a new explore bar, trending searches, related searches and the ability to buy app bundles in one go.
Cook revealed a new beta test service for developers called TestFlight which enables developers to invite users to test apps.
Another capability coming with iOS 8 is the ability to create extensions that allow apps to reach out to other apps and create custom keyboards to suit specific apps.
In terms of fingerprint security Touch ID, which debuted with the iPhone 5s last year, will allow third party apps to accept fingerprint security while all the time the fingerprint data stays securely locked within the A7 processor.
It had been rumoured in recent weeks that Apple may have been creating a new OS for consumers to manage their devices in the home such as thermostats, garage doors and lights. Well it appears this is going to be a function primarily for the iPhone.
Cook said that the new HomeKit technology will give users to manage their home with their iPhone devices.
“Apple is working with the leaders in home automation to create a common network protocol to ensure that only your iPhone can unlock your door. You can say to Siri ‘get ready for bed’ and your lights dim, your garage locks and the thermostat switches off.”
Ultimately Cook said Apple is working to a vision to unite all its devices and services seamlessly.
“We are getting all our devices and services to work together in harmony – to create a continuous and integrated experience across products.
“Developers can create powerful apps faster and more easily than they’ve ever been able.
“Our devices, platforms and services will all come together to give a seamless experience for users that is unparalleled in the industry. This is something only Apple can do.”