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Recent Apple news grabs for attention in automotive, virtual reality fields

From the look of it, Apple wants to be a central figure in the mobile lives of its users. It all started with the iPhone, a device that exceeded expectations in many ways – namely as an enterprise tool. The iPad followed a similar path to acceptance. Soon, Apple Watches are going to be everywhere. It seems like Apple has every aspect of the mobile market cornered, but recent patents approved for the company show that their plans are just beginning.

According to ITProPortal contributor Sead Fadilpašić, Apple will soon make a jump into virtual reality with a headset meant to hold the iPhone in such a way that it becomes a VR display. Given that this patent was filed back in 2008 and only just recently approved, it would appear that these plans have been in the works for quite some time. But VR isn’t the only thing Apple is focusing its attention on – Constellation Research analyst Ray Wang stated on ZDNet that a smart car is the next ambitious move being made by Cupertino’s resident tech giant.

Businesses have already learned that Apple products have significant potential as workplace assets. The functionality of smartphones and tablets has been well-documented, and wearables have already been discussed as the next potential game-changer. But what about VR and the connected car? How will these developments alter the course of enterprise?

Apple’s newest patents and information leaks signify the beginning of even more office disruption. Virtual reality and smart​ cars, while not at all common now, will one day play a huge role for businesses. The kind of improved user experiences that will undoubtedly accompany these evolving technologies will be able to enhance life for customers and employees alike. Besides both areas receiving investment and attention from Apple, there is one other common theme between VR and connected vehicles – they will both require custom software solutions in order to be of true value to organizations.

Virtual reality, augmented reality and the trouble with headsets
Wearables have generated a considerable amount of conversation. This is primarily thanks to the promise of hands-free interfaces that can be used to provide assistance in ways that smartphones and tablets cannot. For many people, the natural conclusion for wearables is the headset. The opinion over whether or not this is a good thing, however, is hotly debated.

Google was one of the first companies to push for some form of smartglasses. Google Glass was embraced by early-adopters and tech enthusiasts, but a generally poor reception led the company to shelve the project until further notice. It is widely accepted that the failing here was in trying to replicate the usefulness of the smartphone in a hands-free device. Creating that kind of power while trying to make Glass as unobtrusive as possible ultimately proved to be too much. According to InformationWeek contributor Thomas Claburn, Sony’s recent release of the SmartEyeglass Developer Edition is likely fated for a similar failure.

While it’s not likely that Google Glass will be playing a role in the enterprise anytime soon, there is still a lot to be said about virtual and augmented reality. In the case of Apple’s option, it’s likely that VR will play a prominent role in things like customer engagement. The release of the device as an add-on to the iPhone rather than a siloed machine – like the Oculus Rift – also increases the chances of popularity and adoption.

You know that immersive experience that every consumer seems to be craving? Imagine enabling it through the use of VR. Creating interactive worlds for people to explore and connect with a brand will be powerful in terms of attracting and retaining business. Similar things can be said about employees. Enterprise communications have been going increasingly mobile, and the idea of pairing VR with company telecom assets could take video conferencing to an entirely new level.

Project Titan and the connected car
It seems as though people are making great strides in trying to connect as many things to the Internet as possible these days. One of the most interesting areas of discussion as of late is the idea of the smart​ car, a vehicle that runs apps and can connect to the Internet. Clearly, Apple is interested in this concept. While the recent patent for Apple Electric Car Inc. that’s making the news turned out to be a coincidence, it started enough of a conversation to dredge up some sparse details about the actual Apple’s automotive intentions – including the company’s rumored pursuit of electric car company Tesla Motors, according to U.S. News contributor Tom Risen.

According to Wang, this speaks volumes about how Apple views its place in the world – not to mention its future ambitions.

“The focus on continuity of experience is at the heart and soul of Apple,” Wang wrote. “This is the foundation behind Health Kit, Home Kit, Watch Kit, and Car Play. Apple is focused on delivering its ubiquitous experience from walking outside, checking your wrist, to hopping in the car, making a payment, to the in-home experience. The car puts Apple’s OS in the proverbial driver’s seat.”

While the attention is there, it could be several years before an Apple car appears on the road – if at all. But the fact that the project is in motion tells a lot about the potential for an electric smart car. Industries like shipping and transportation stand to gain a significant amount of functionality from this sort of technology, even if the “self-driving car” never comes into fruition. Being able to treat a vehicle as a device has an untold number of applications. From integrating GPS features with the car itself for improved positioning to the control of media via a smart dashboard, there is potential here.

The importance of programs
At the end of the day, the device is not the center of the equation. Machines serve as the catalysts for change, certainly, but they are not going to be of much use without the right programs in place. No matter if it’s a phone, headset or car, smart devices and wearables must be supported by custom software development.

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The future – and present – of retail is mobile

Online shopping is still a relatively new concept in the grand scheme of things. Chances are that a great deal of people who buy goods and services on the Internet these days have some sort of memory from a time when this wasn’t viable, let alone possible. But as the capabilities of mobile devices have improved over the years, shoppers are finding themselves interacting over smartphones more often than not – even when they are in a store’s physical location.

Smartphones and tablets are more than just mobile devices. They are tools that can help to improve a user’s experience. It’s not just about being able to make calls while on the go anymore – it’s about possessing an asset that is used to streamline activities and tasks while ultimately providing a stronger outcome in any given situation. The retail industry is one area in particular that’s seen the potential for mobile engagement, and the companies that understand how to unlock it will help to drive device trends through the next couple of years, at least.

There is one thing to remember when attempting to improve customer engagement through mobile devices – it can’t be done without custom software solutions. Retailers need to get serious about providing their clients with specialized applications meant to enhance their existing experiences. It is getting to the point where if a business does not enable this sort of functionality, consumers are likely to move on to a competitor that does.

Making clients part of the process
Patrons of any given enterprise like to feel connected to the organizations they support. According to Constellation Research principal analyst and vice president Guy Courtin, more companies are seeing the value in making customers feel more involved. There has to be more effort made to foster business relationships with consumers.

“These trends all revolve around the continuing amplification of the consumer voice in the retail supply chain,” Courtin wrote for ZDNet. “As consumers gain more influence within the retail supply chain, retailers will continue to focus on areas that allow for greater cooperation among all entities. Savvy retailers realize they can no longer expect to dominate the relationship but instead should allow for an atmosphere of cooperation.”

Generally, the kind of actions described by Courtin are not possible to obtain through the use of a mobile website. These interfaces are often clunky and poorly executed, leaving much to be desired and often failing to meet basic expectations. It’s this sort of thing that drives customers away, and the biggest reason why custom mobile app development is the way to go when trying to engage smartphone and tablet users. Not only are these apps normally much easier to operate than their website counterparts, but they are more focused in their engagement – users are not able to navigate away from the brand without leaving the app. Additionally, mobile software is able to tap into the abilities of the device itself. GPS positioning, for example, can show a shopper where the closest physical stores are from where they are standing at any given moment.

Getting serious about the mobile experience
While there has been incredible demand from consumers for improved engagement, there are still a great number of companies that have not optimized their mobile experiences. Protecting the brand is important, and in the present day, that means optimizing consumer-facing applications, according to TMCnet contributor Steve Anderson. Anderson wrote that one of the biggest reasons mobile software falls off the priority list has to do with budgeting.

It’s possible that this has to do with one of two things: Either a company is behind on the times or it believes that an existing solution is cutting it as-is and further investments aren’t needed. But the only thing worse than not having a mobile app is possessing one that doesn’t work. Mobile development is an ongoing process. Even when custom software solutions are cleared for release, there will always be changes or fixes to make as merited. To beat an old phrase to death, making sure that customers are actually satisfied with the interfaces they are provided with is not a destination, but a journey.

In order to best satisfy the modern consumer, there has to be an investment made in custom software development. Prepackaged solutions often lack the personalized touch of a customer portal that is constructed with the user in mind and don’t do much in the way of brand awareness. Retail organizations, especially, have to make sure that mobile engagement is occurring both in and out of the actual store. The only way to ensure this is to build an app that meets their specific needs as well as the expectations held by patrons.

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What role will fashion play in wearable adoption?

Will wearables be successful? This is not an easy question to answer. While there are a number of different people out there who are both for and against wearable technology, its ultimate place in society can’t be assured. One of the biggest arguments against smartwatches, visors and even fitness trackers is that they’re generally lacking in aesthetic appeal. But how true is this statement? Right now, there are various companies involved with wearables, and many of them are likely trying to find the right balance between fashion and function.

Wearables are likely to be embraced in significant ways as more devices of this caliber are made available to the general public. While the look of a machine is generally going to be important, a device’s value as a fashion accessory is ultimately going to depend on where and how it will be used. What is certain, however, is that in order for enterprises to best connect with the users of these devices, there will have to be an investment made in custom software development. Being able to have a specialized portal for employees or customers will increase the value of the relationships these apps foster.

Apple Watch now the center of discussion
Detractors of wearable technology have frequently turned to the physical appeal of a device as a make-or-break factor in its eventual adoption rates. This is most likely one of the reasons that Apple Watch has been designed in the way that it has. Swappable bands and a gold “Luxury” edition mean that Apple recognizes the importance of aethetics in its wearable offerings.

So if a tech company is making a watch, why can’t a watch company make a piece of tech? This is most likely the rationale behind the announcement that longtime watch company Swatch will be coming out with a competing device at the same time Apple releases its watch, according to PC Magazine.

Use will outweigh looks – in some cases
There are plenty of devices out there that we use every day, but only some of them are meant to be taken everywhere. Smartphones and laptops, for example, are meant to allow people freedom while computing. They have the same goals as many wearables, but there’s a big social difference between sitting on the train across from someone on a laptop versus someone with Google Glass strapped to their head. Part of the public’s problem with Glass was that it was too obtrusive. This was despite being designed to be as discrete as possible without sacrificing functionality. The Glass project has since been shelved for these reasons.

The uneven reception to Glass left some people wondering why Microsoft would move forward with a headset of their own that promises many of the same uses. HoloLens is decidedly bulkier than Glass and covers both eyes with a visor, which in theory would make it less likely than Glass to succeed. But the secret to Microsoft’s strategy lies in how frequently one is supposed to wear the HoloLens. Promotional material has show people walking through 3D environments in their homes and offices and taking the device off when it’s not in use.

Wearables like HoloLens, which are not designed to be constant personal assistants, have a strong likelihood of succeeding. It could be that HoloLens will be what ultimately warms the general public up to the idea of a device like Glass, but functionality is likely to be more important than how a device looks and how frequently it is worn when it comes to a headset – at least for the time being.

The ultimate purpose of fashion in wearable tech
Few people want to walk around looking like they are strapped to a computer. While wearable devices serve incredible purposes, they are not likely to experience significant adoption if they actually look like wearables. This is the idea behind both Apple and Swatch’s smartwatch strategies – rather than build something totally new, take a look at what works and figure out how to add functionality.

Essentially, wearables have to be invisible in order to be of the most value. Devices must blend with and, in a way, become part of the user. A broader acceptance of this truth will lead to less-visible devices that do not interfere in the experiences they are trying to improve.

“Whether smart watches, smart glasses or some other device becomes the indispensable wearable over the next five years, eventually the technology behind wearables will be integrated into so many objects that people will no longer think of products as smart or not,” wrote TechRepublic contributor Bill Detwiler. “Many objects and clothes will be smart in some way.”

The importance of effective software
Of course, the devices themselves are not the only component of effective wearable tech. Like other machines, smartwatches must have software in place that will allow them to be used at their fullest potential. While there are countless pre-designed enterprise programs out there, it is generally accepted that investing in custom mobile app development is a more preferable solution. One-size-fits-all applications may be too generalized for the companies that need them and are ultimately ignorant of the nuances that exist between companies. Custom software development ensures that both employees and customers are able to get the most out of their experience and increases the likelihood that they will continue to use a program after its initial launch on their devices.

Few things in business should be left up to chance. Allowing workers to download their own solution or failing to provide consumers with a specialized portal represents some serious missed potential. With more wearables entering offices in the relatively near future, it will be essential to both update existing applications for new integration opportunities and invest in new programs that consider the modern user experience.

Fashion appeal is a major consideration for wearable tech – one that more major players are picking up. It’s incredibly likely that the better these devices start to look, the more they will begin to appear. Businesses need to take notes and prepare ahead of their explosive arrival.

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Wearable tech will arrive for real in 2015

It is already shaping up to be an interesting year for wearable technology. By several accounts, wearable tech will make increased appearances in both personal and professional settings. According to Reuters contributor Katrina Hamlin, things like fitness trackers are “just the beginning,” especially when it comes to healthcare. Wearable devices are likely to totally revolutionize the way that many tasks are completed.

“Wearables are still mostly in the ‘pre-iPhone’ stage and to keep the momentum and support behind this new wave of computing growing it is important that everyone understands where we are going,” wrote BetaKit contributor Tom Emrich. “But what is happening is that we are hearing about wearables concepts, research projects, crowdfunding ideas and launched devices in the same breath, and this ends up confusing the consumer, and more importantly, sets unrealistic expectations for purchased devices that cannot (yet) be met.”

Part of delivering on wearable expectations will be ensuring that the applications supporting them are developed effectively. For enterprises, this means abandoning the idea that pre-designed programs are going to be capable of considering a given organizations specific nuances. Custom software solutions are already the best way to make certain that smartphones and tablets reach their fullest potential, and the same can be said about the impending rise of the wearable device.

Welcome to the wearable revolution
According to ITProPortal contributor Marco Veremis, wearables are “set to go global in 2015.” The highly-anticipated Apple Watch is set to be released in the coming months to wide adoption, meaning that offices will likely experience a surge of employee-owned devices much in the same way that the iPhone came on the scene in 2007. It’s likely that other companies will follow suit and continue to push their own similar solutions.

“[T]he opportunity is clear and with major players entering the market this year competition in these developing markets could be fierce,” Veremis wrote. “The brand that wins when it comes to wearable will be the one that is able to not only meet the technological and price needs for these markets, but also deliver services to consumer in the right way.”

Workplace use cases are expected to appear specifically in areas like medicine. Wearables are not only able to track patient information in real time and transmit it to healthcare facilities that need it, but they also offer doctors the opportunity to enjoy hands-free interfaces. Voice-controlled examination rooms will be easy to create when smartwatches provide a constant microphone connection to a custom software solution.

This will help physicians to remain more engaged and prevent the spread of disease at the same time. Machines like Google Glass will offer similar advantages – doctors will be able to maintain eye contact with their patients while calling up information on their headsets. X-rays, for instance, can be used in augmented reality scenarios and laid over the person through the display. Developments like these lead Emrich to believe that 2015 will be a huge year for wearables in healthcare.

“From a medical standpoint, we can also expect wearables to be used as tools by doctors and hospitals that are willing to experiment with them, especially devices like smart glasses that improve productivity,” Emrich wrote. “But I do not expect doctors to officially use biometric data collected by wearables of their patients for diagnosis. I do believe that the relationship between the doctor and patient will continue to change in 2015 as consumers begin to understand their body better, putting them on a different footing when they enter their doctor’s office at their next appointment.”

The evolution of wearables will take an interesting turn this year, and not just in healthcare. There is massive potential for innovation to occur in all industries thanks to mobile technology’s ability to streamline basic and complicated tasks alike. Starting now on software that will help to find a place for wearables is going to be essential for those organizations that are trying to stay ahead of the competition.

Effective applications of the utmost importance
While the devices themselves will be critical to have, they are not the only part of the equation. Custom software development is going to be the cornerstone of any mobility initiative in 2015. Regardless of if the programs in question are employee-facing or aimed at consumers, applications have to be designed with particular devices, people and uses in mind. Because there is not much precedent for wearables, however, there will need to be some serious time and dedication made toward considering possible issues that can arise down the road.

“Wearable hardware and software makers will need to communicate clearly to their users what data they are collecting, who owns it, and how it will be used in order to calm concerns,” Emrich wrote. “Those that take an opt-in first approach will win out. I expect to see the beginnings of standards and regulations be put together within enterprise and perhaps even on the regulatory level next year to tackle these concerns.”

Enterprises need to get serious about mobility in 2015. This will mean investing in custom mobile app development that considers wearable tech and how it will be used in the workplace. Avoiding the subject is not an option, as mobile devices have already proven to be popular means of productivity.

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Wearable tech to appear increasingly in healthcare

Given that some of the first wearables to take off dealt with exercise, it only makes sense that healthcare would be one of the first fields to begin enjoying success with mobile devices. As 2015 draws closer, medical professionals and companies are looking at ways in which these tools can further be used to streamline healthcare and make it easier to obtain.

“In 2014, wearable devices became the rage, many collecting data on everything from calories burned to hours slept to blood pressure,” wrote International Business Times contributor Luke Villapaz. “In 2015, technology companies and health care providers are looking to put that information to good use. With hundreds of wearable devices and connected health tools on the market, users can track almost any aspect of their health without even having to think about it. One thing the tools haven’t done: eliminate the need to visit a doctor’s office for a professional opinion. But a number of companies … are looking to change that.”

The devices are not the key to success in this area, however. There is going to be a need for those in the health industry to invest in custom software solutions that work with wearables to provide an immersive user experience. As wearable devices become more common, it will be essential to integrate health programs with them in order to provide modern care for patients.

‘Hearables’ expected to make waves
Believe it or not, there is one piece of wearable technology that has been around for a long time – headphones. According to CNBC contributor Nyshka Chandran, the earbud is expected to see some major advancements in the near future. This will help to garner a greater deal of support from those who are turned off by the appearance of wearable – or in this case, hearable – technology.

“One key advantage hearables have over other wearable peers is their discretion,” Chandran wrote. “Ear devices can be small in nature, thus giving its users greater discretion, as opposed to bulky smartwatches or the unavoidable Google Glass.”

But like other wearables, these tools are going to need the right kind of applications to be of any worth. The smartphone serves as the interface for many of the devices that people will begin to wear on their bodies. Making sure that existing custom mobile app development considers how new machines will be leveraged with them will be major. In the case of hearables and healthcare, this may mean building an app that can be used to improve hearing for millions of people while it monitors other vital signs.

mHealth becoming lucrative market
According to CIO contributor Jen Miller, a recent study from research2guidance found that mobile health is on the rise. By 2017, it is expected that the market value for this technology will be $26 billion. What started with sensors that simply tracked things like heart​ rate and the number of steps taken in a day is evolving into a new way to deliver healthcare.

“Wearables dominated the headlines last year, enabling users to track their heart rates and other aspects of their health,” Villapaz wrote. “While they’re expected to be out in full force this year, the clinical use of those technologies will also be a big focus … And as more wearables and monitoring devices become connected to the Web, doctors and health facilities are looking for new ways to remotely track their patients’ vitals.”

While the specifics may change between organizations, there is one thing that will remain constant – custom software development is going to be the key to success. Apps will need to be created that have a specific institution and patient base in mind in order to provide the best possible service and care.

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