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At WWDC, continuity across devices is the theme

Ryan Faas | June 4, 2014
Apple's "Continuity" initiative is all about using the right device for the right task at the right moment and shifting between those devices seamlessly. Columnist Ryan Faas explains.

This integrated experience doesn't stop at the individual level. Apple also announced family-sharing capabilities that create a seamless experience across multiple devices and Apple IDs, in part based on the credit card associated with those accounts and devices. The feature allows sharing of iTunes purchases, photos and photo streams, reminders and calendars. It also appears to be Apple's effort to put the in-app purchases scandal — in which kids spent hundreds or thousands of dollars without their parents' — behind it. Purchases made by minors now require parental approval and parents will get a request alert on their devices asking for just that.

Crafting new platforms

While a major theme was Apple as the platform, the company is also building out new platforms with third-party partners as well. These include the anticipated home automation and health tracking platforms as well as some unexpected additions.

HomeKit

HomeKit is the name for Apple's new home automation platform. To be clear, Apple isn't getting into the home automation game itself. Instead, it's working with a range of companies already building iOS-compatible smart-home devices. What HomeKit offers is secure pairing and control of various devices as well as the ability to group these devices into collections of devices called scenes. Scenes are designed as a way to automate several devices with a single command like locking the house and turning out all the lights when going to bed.

One of the advantages of this approach is that consumers can dip their toe in the home automation waters one device at a time. Another is that some device commands and scenes can be invoked verbally through Siri, which in iOS 8 gains an always-listening option such as that available on Android devices.

Computerworld's Ken Mingis and IDG Enterprise's Keith Shaw discuss what they liked (and didn't) at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference keynote.

HealthKit

Despite some big expectations about a new Health platform, the announcements about HealthKit APIs and Apple's Health app were buried in the middle of the two-hour-long keynote. That makes it easy to dismiss, especially since Apple didn't unveil, or even talk about, a sensor-laden watch to go with it. But HealthKit is likely a bigger deal than Apple let on.

The keynote focused on discussing the practical values of its Health app and those APIs — the ability to record a range of metrics from varying devices including activity, weight, blood pressure, sleep and data associated with chronic diseases. That's useful information and it shows that Apple is building support for a broad health data platform.

Yesterday's demo also touched on the possibility that health data can be communicated to a physician or another healthcare professional if key metrics fall out of a specified range. That really capitalizes on the power of a mobile health platform. Apple's presentation left the impression that we should expect this capability someday, but not too soon, which I think was strategic on Apple's part. That's particularly true in light of Samsung's much flashier announcement of a — the Simband — and the SAMI cloud-based health aggregating service, which won't ship for several months.

 

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