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HomeKit's jump toward a connected home

Home automation and intelligently connected devices aren’t just a myth anymore. Now we have products from Nest, Philips, Honeywell and more that are helping bring some of the magic of smartphones and the Internet into our homes. The only thing missing was one big player to make home automation for the masses both cheap and accessible. This is where Apple is hopefully coming into play.

At their Worldwide Developer’s Conference (WWDC) in June, Apple unveiled HomeKit, a framework for communicating with and controlling devices in your home. Compared to everything else that Apple unveiled that day HomeKit flew under the radar. Everyone is much more excited about iOS 8, OSX Yosemite, continuity and the new programming language than HomeKit. I guess that makes me an outlier.



The week before I attended WWDC I, and some other developers here at Bottle Rocket, created an app that can control Philips Hue lightbulbs with your voice. In order to do so we had to learn how to use Philips’ APIs and build an entire framework to do so. But now, with HomeKit, we don’t need to do any of that.

What HomeKit does is make one central framework that can control any HomeKit enabled accessory. So instead of having to learn and build an app that can control Philips’ Hue bulbs and then one to control Honeywell’s accessories, I can just build one app that can control everything. This means developing apps for HomeKit is going to be incredibly easy, which of course means that we’ll see a lot of amazing apps. The only problem though is getting people to actually buy these devices and putting them in their homes.

But here lies the magic of Apple. So many people own and use Apple devices that people have started to just trust anything they make. When an unknown company comes out with a new way to control your thermostat, consumers are going to be wary at first. They don’t have any reason to assume that product is going to be any good. However, with the ridiculous amount of customer satisfaction and trust that Apple has, if a company releases an Apple certified and approved device that can control a part of your home, I think consumers are going to give it a second look.

With so many large companies already on board to create HomeKit devices, we know they are going to want amazing apps to control them, and we are ready to make them.

Prepared by Justin Ehlert 

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Rocketeers address Deep Linking in iOS8

With the release of iOS 8 the app ecosystem is becoming more connected than ever before.  Until now, the only mechanism for inter-app communication was by using custom URL schemes. Other apps and websites that know about the custom URL scheme for your app are able to deep-link into specific screens within your app.  In iOS 8 this technique is still a viable way to actively control user linking into your application.  The level of effort for deep linking depends on the complexity of the problem but in general is a fairly straight-forward development effort per integration point.

In iOS 8 and Mac OSX Yosemite, Apple has introduced a user-empowering feature, called Handoff, that allows people to continue/transfer an activity between devices provided the devices have Bluetooth LE support and are using the same iCloud account.  For example, you could start writing an e-mail on your iPhone and finish the e-mail on your desktop Mac.  If you code to support this new feature you can support the following scenarios: iOS device to iOS device (for example iPhone to iPad), from iOS to native mac app, from webpage in safari on your mac to your native iOS app (though this requires some extra set up), iOS device to webpage on either platform as a fallback if a supported app is not installed on that device.  In order to keep the hand off as natural as possible many hand off points should be added to the app to avoid synchronizing outdated data between devices.

In addition to the above features, Apple has added additional ways that blur the lines between apps through a new feature called extensions.  Extensions allow you to surface app content through different supported extension types such as: widgets that show up in the today view of notification center, sharing widgets, and custom keyboards (to name a few).  Extensions will allow you to start surfacing your content outside of your application and opt in to using existing app data such as the database layer and secure keychain while maintaining the secure sandbox environment and protecting your application data.  Extensions will likely continue to be the way Apple allows you to extend your application beyond your existing app experience as they add more ways to interact with users outside of your app in future versions of iOS as well.  The level of effort around supporting extensions is larger than the other 2 methods since you will want want to create a framework for your app to share common code between your app and extensions.  Currently all extensions are only allowed to be used directly by apple so it doesn’t allow direct app-to-app communication.

Prepared by 

 

  David Palmer         Tanner Oakes        Kyle McGregor 

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Rocketeer Charity: Minnie's Food Pantry

For our latest charity drawing, Rocketeers are supporting Minnie’s Food Pantry – a local non-profit that provides nutritional assistance to children and families in need.

Rocketeer Stefani Duke was inspired to enter Minnie’s Food Pantry into the drawing last October.

“I was watching The Food Network in October, and they were showing No Kid Hungry. They were talking about how many kids go without hot meals each day, and how simple it can be for them to be provided a hot meal. One of the organizations they showed was Minnie’s Food Pantry. The lady was speaking about how many families she feeds each year getting ready for the holidays. Since it’s a local organization, I decided to help close to home,” Duke said.

Minnie’s Food Pantry was founded by Cheryl Jackson in honor of her mother Minnie Ewing and is completely community funded.

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Travel Channel App featured during Google I/O Keynote

After a high-energy week at Google I/O, all of our Rocketeers are back home and sharing what they learned in California (and reluctantly sharing their 'Cardboard'). 

We're excited to see where Material Design, wearables,  and other announcements from I/O will take Android Development, but one of the biggest standouts from the keynote was our work being featured during the Android TV announcement! 

Congratulations to our friends at Travel Channel and our team of Rocketeers who worked to help with the reveal. 

We're looking forward to more awesome innovations on Google's new platforms. 

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