As soon as we heard the announcement of iOS8, we were super keen to tinker with it and explore new possibilities. Some features, like keyboard customization, widget support and actionable notifications were long-hoped for, with Android having already brought some of these interactions to market. There is however a whole new range of features that will bring more radical changes for both the design community and iPhone users, so we decided to investigate these and run some experiments.
What new opportunities does iOS8 bring?
At first glance, the new development frameworks are going to help people more easily design apps for health and well-being, and bring home automation closer to a mass market proposition.
We are particularly interested in the advance towards the ‘internet of things’ lifestyle by combining data from various sources, such as health and home. These interactions are the ones that we, as makers, are most keen to explore – to make them smarter, more personalized and relevant to individuals.
With new scenarios simplifying the automation of tasks across applications, it is now possible to design for multiple touch points and let activities transition seamlessly from one device to another. One example is the optimisation of domestic heating systems based on a person’s biometric data.
On closer inspection many of the more interesting scenarios are already possible with iOS7 via applications like IFTTT, and through aggregators like myfitnesspal. The exciting thing now is how easy it will be for app developers to directly access this data using iOS8 and to build applications off the back of it.
The new family sharing feature creates a niche for under 18's without a credit card to get app purchases approved and bought by parents.
The smart automated home
There are numerous companies offering products or services related to home automation and monitoring. What we want to test in this area is the ability to mix hardware products from different suppliers in order to create a unified ecosystem. From this perspective, companies like Smarthings could still develop specific software for their products, but with the new HomeKit tool iOS8 developers would also be able to apply and adapt their own apps to third-party hardware providers.
It remains to be seen whether Apple will offer a gateway product to deal with some of the other existing wireless protocols out there (Zigbee, Z-wave, and WirelessHART, just to name a few), or whether it will be limited to gathering all the data from the different apps. The first case would be interesting as it would see Apple potentially becoming a leader in the automated home market.
From apps to widgets
With the opening up of the Notification Screen, apps can now customize a notification’s layout and promote shortcuts, so we are probably going to see a breed of new apps appearing on the App Store which will take advantage of this new feature to reach an even wider audience. This is already commonplace in other mobile markets such as Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone - take for example Flipboard’s Android app widget, which allows users to go through each story’s headlines and images directly from the home screen.
Thanks to widget interactivity, designing for behavioral change will be even easier. Apps such as Lift could become even more proactive in coaching and guiding people to meet their goals.
Something to bear in mind about this functionality is over-usage, as brands will compete to grab the user’s attention from the same space. Designers and marketeers will need to consider this carefully to ensure user’s don’t feel like they are being spammed.
Our experiments with iOS8
To reach a better understanding of what iOS8 really means for the end user, we focused our research around the application of lean principles within industries that could benefit the most from its usage – medical/wellness, energy and transportation.
Benefits for the Health & Wellness sector
As for the HealthKit aggregator, we wonder how Apple will deal with data in relation to its accuracy (for instance, you may get three different daily readings from different pedometers due to a particular app’s method of measuring). We are hoping they will identify which apps are more reliable so that their data is prioritized over other sources.
This tool can give way to a whole new range of services and we are excited about how companies in the health / well-being industry can create more powerful connections with customers. For example, we’ve been experimenting with the new app suggestion within the lock screen state, to offer personalised tips based on data coming from health levels, when users pass by specific stores on the street.
How does it affect the energy industry?
There are great opportunities with iOS8 for the energy industry to extend their digital presence. In particular, with the merging of datasets, it will be possible to get an accurate picture of someone’s activity outside of and within the home.
We conducted experiments and interviewed people about their daily consumption habits and their impact on the environment, as we suspect that there might be a rise in the number of apps that track your carbon footprint. It will be easier to read data gathered by the connected services we use everyday, so the design challenge will be to provide people with engaging ways to reduce their costs and be more environmentally friendly.
Energy suppliers’ apps could leverage the hardware that will be in the home for automating devices and to get a more accurate picture of how energy is consumed within the home.
Transport & iOS8
New opportunities may arise for transportation direction apps like Citymapper: we can foresee the proactive nudging of people to walk when it’s a sunny day and reduce their carbon footprint, and perhaps tailoring of messaging to be personalized for the reader within the new notification screen widgets.
We also investigated opportunities in the air transportation industry – such as allowing people to check in for upcoming flights with their fingerprint. This particular feature would take advantage of the touch-iD sensor which is currently embedded in the iPhone 5S and 5C and will be opened up to third-party apps in the new iOS8. This will allow the validation of information without manual input of passwords and could act as a new security layer within apps.
What do we expect?
From the consumer perspective, iOS8 will present novel behaviour – they will be asked to get used to allowing third-party apps the usage of new data sources such as fingerprint data, health levels or information from connected home solutions. These streams of data will generate new concerns about privacy and security.
As we have seen in our experiments, the new data streams (or their aggregation) represent a challenging but very exciting new playground for makers. It is an opportunity to create smarter and bolder solutions to serve new user needs and contextual enhanced lifestyles.
From now on, makers will have to keep in mind the context when creating interfaces, as it will increasingly be crucial in this new age of computing.