5 New iOS 8 Features Travel Companies Need to Know About

Glenn Gruber | July 31, 2014 | In the News

Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in June introduced a plethora of new platform and device features in iOS 8. With over 4,000 new APIs, it’s hard to get your head around all the capabilities available. And that doesn’t even take into consideration some of the new foundational pieces for developers like the Swift programming language, the enhanced graphics engine (Metal, SpriteKit and SceneKit), nor the new Cloud, Health and Home automation components.

But with so many possibilities (along with real-world budget and resource constraints), let’s run down the top 5 new iOS 8 features travel companies should be aware of:

  • Changes in CoreLocation
    This is a pretty big one; perhaps most important given how location typically factors into travel. Travel companies need to familiarize themselves with three main changes:

    1. Changes in Location Authorization: Up until now, location authorization has been pretty straighforward. If your app wanted to access the user’s location, it had to ask. And while it was recommended, you didn’t actually need to tell the user why you wanted the information. Now Apple has instituted some changes that improve battery life while enhancing user-privacy.
      Apple has created two new location authorization methods. The “Always” authorization is essentially the same as existing methods in iOS7. But Apple introduced a new “WhenInUse” authorization, which only requests user location when the application is actively being used, rather than simply running in the background. This creates a large energy savings for apps that provide local content upon request (e.g. if you’re at an amusement park: which rides near me have the shortest lines?), but is less useful if you’re running a navigation app. Another small but important change is that access to location settings is now in app settings. No longer will users be forced to clumsily have to exit an app and go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services and then return back to the app.

      From a privacy perspective, Apple now requires apps to explicitly state the purpose for accessing the user’s location when making a location-authorization request. Further, if the app requests an “Always” authorization, users are sent a second location-authorization request a few days later to help ensure users fully understand what they’re agreeing to.

      Another nice privacy change is that Apple will now randomize a MAC address used while scanning for WiFi networks, making it harder for companies and government organization to track who is walking around the airport, hotel, or other facility.

    2. Indoor Mapping: This is a very important change for airports and hotels as well as for other public venues. Wayfinding is often an important use case for large public areas, particularly when trying to quickly get from point A to point B (like when you have a 40 minute connection time!). Traditional location technologies like cell tower triangulation and GPS don’t work well indoors (if at all) and Wi-Fi-based triangulation is imperfect at best. And while iBeacons are the talk of the town, they’re not designed to help with this challenge either. Enter: Indoor Positioning.

      Basically, Indoor Positioning is comprised of two components:

      • Apple’s secret sauce uses cell towers, GPS, Wi-Fi, and Motion Detection to come up with an accurate location fix.
      • The piece that converts X-Y GPS coordinates to two-dimensional floor plans (since the Earth is round and maps are flat), and translates Z coordinates to actual floors.

      Combining Indoor Positioning (to enable accurate indoor location and navigation) with iBeacons (to trigger proximity-based notification) provides an opportunity for solving some major pain points—not just for passengers and guests—but also for the employees of airports, hotels, and elsewhere.

    3. Visit Monitoring: Visit Monitoring is a completely different take on location. As discussed in a previous post, it is less about getting from Point A to Point B, and more about A and B. Visit Monitoring uses an algorithm to monitor when you reach a destination (“destination” being a place deemed important because you’ve previously spent time there).
      Finding the right use-case for visit monitoring will be the tricky part. Not because the ideas aren’t there, but because I wonder if forward-thinking/early-adopter types might use beacons to achieve similar outcomes. Automating check-ins are interesting, but not overly exciting.
  • Extensibility should be greeted with much interest by travel companies, if only because there are so many styles to choose from. Three stand out:

      • Widgets: Little mini-apps that display content within the Notification Center. Perfect for quick glances at your itinerary, able to perform minor tasks (e.g. flight check-in) or other contextually-sensitive information.
      • Share: one tap to quickly share content from within other apps. Most references have been to posting pictures to social sites, but the first idea that came to my mind was that I hope TripIt creates an “Add to Itinerary” button so I don’t have to forward emails to plans@tripit.com anymore. Darren Kahan & Daniel Hoffer, make this happen! I want to see it in October! ☺
      • Action: Most of these will be invoked within a travel app (not necessarily built by travel companies), but the example hailed at WWDC—using Bing Translate to translate emails or other content—can certainly come in handy for the international traveler.
  • TouchID API: This one is really juicy. Not quite a year after its release, 83% percent of iPhone 5S owners use a Touch ID/Passcode to secure their devices, which is up more than 50% from when the alternative was putting in a 4-digit code. Like me, some were hoping Apple would open up TouchID to do more. Our prayers have finally been answered.
    From an mCommerce perspective, this will be a boon to secure transactions while at the same time reducing friction. I just read a post from Forrester’s Julie Ask who says she doesn’t use Auto-Reload on her Starbuck’s app because she’s worried about fraud should her phone be stolen. With your fingerprint as authentication, fear and friction issues melt away, changing consumer attitudes and driving more frequent transactions.
    But it’s not all about purchases. Another use case is Smart Hotel Keys. Starwood and Hilton are already introducing them to hotels as part of simplifying the check-in process. But the important part is making sure I’m the only one who can open my door. Using a fingerprint for 2-factor authentication is a huge enhancement to guest security.
  • Handoff makes transitioning between devices absolutely seamless. And for travel bookings, that’s going to be pretty damn important. Today, where many travelers have at least a PC and a smartphone (many have a tablet too) more than half of travel searches begin on one device and end on another. Handoff lets users pick up an activity immediately as they switch from one device to another.
  • Last but not least is Battery Usage Monitoring. The bane of any smartphone user is the constant search to find available outlets in public areas when their battery begins to die. This is because many apps are careless in how they consume energy. Think about how many times you’ve randomly closed different apps to preserve your battery, because you had no idea what was draining it. Many travel apps are often the culprit because of their use of location information, which is very expensive from a power perspective. Now Apple has shone a light on those offending apps by providing users visibility into Battery Usage by app, much in the same way they currently provide information on app-data use. This is certainly a list you won’t want to be on as offending apps will be likely to see reduced usage or—worse yet—deletion by travelers.

What other new features are you excited about? Let me know in the comments.

Glenn Gruber

Glenn Gruber is a Sr. Mobile Strategist at Propelics. He leads enterprise mobile strategy engagements to help companies determine the best way to integrate mobile into their business -- both from a consumer-facing perspective, but also how to leverage mobile to empower employees to be more productive and improve service delivery through the intelligent use of mobile devices and contextual intelligence. Glenn has helped a wide range of enterprises on how to leverage mobile within their business including Bank of Montreal, Dubai Airports, Carnival Cruise Line and Merck. He is a leading voice in the travel sector as a contributing Node to Tnooz where he writes about how mobile and other emerging technologies are impacting the travel sector and a frequent speaker at industry events.

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