Mesh networking, the Internet of Things, Pervasive Computing – let’s build the future now!

Mesh networking, the Internet of Things (IoT), pervasive computing – these are all threads in the fabric of our everyday (near future) lives.

gold-metal-mesh

Google provides superb machine-learning. Apple contributes gorgeous devices and (relatively) seamless user-centric experiences. Companies like Dropbox, Amazon and, intriguingly, Upthere offer unlimited, always-available storage.

But we don’t yet have the software or the infrastructure that knits everything together.

This is such a thrilling time to be working toward building interoperable, cohesive, compelling experiences for myself, my friends, my family, my community.

Let’s go!

 

Mesh networking, the Internet of Things, Pervasive Computing – let’s build the future now!

Bridge the gap between web & app: Google App Indexing & Apple Universal Links

Discoverability – by users and by search engines – frustrates anyone who aspires to make consumer products.

The bog-standard SEO consultant will point to a variety of Google-specific remedies and leave it there. And really, the best baseline SEO advice is found at Moz Blog. But if we define “search engine optimisation” broadly, there is so much more to SEO than fiddling with Google Webmaster Tools.

When evaluating the SEO-ness of a suite of products, the guiding questions to be answered first are :

  • How do customers find us?
  • Who are the gatekeepers between our public and our products?

This article explains how to knit together the three silos of web content, app content and referring links from social media for great SEO visibility and a smooth customer experience.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

Since the rise of the iPhone in 2007 and the iOS App Store in 2008, mobile handsets have come to dominate how people communicate over the internet. There’s no better, more succinct narrative of this upheaval and democratisation of access than Benedict Evans’s presentation, “Mobile is eating the world“.

The presentation captures the pervasiveness with which mobile dominates our lives and businesses, but it glosses over some of the growing pains we, as digital agencies and brands alike, have suffered in pursuit of the best way to reach the most people on the planet – apps.

It’s helpful to remember the state of the internet 8 years ago. By the end of 2008, Google dominated the major customer acquisition channels of the time – search and advertising.

One silo - web

But, with the rapid adoption of mobile, people spent an increasing percentage of time on Twitter (without mobile, Twitter would be a footnote in digital history) and, more importantly, Facebook. Freed from the constraints of desktop computing, mobile became an enabling platform for social networks – what better way to kill time or casually keep in touch? The social graph exploded and became Facebook’s most valuable asset.

Two silos - social and web

If you look at the analytics of any publisher in the world, you’ll discover that Facebook dominates “customer acquisition” – e.g., where publishers get customers, usually called “referrers” in analytics suites.

Google and their search/advertising silo on the web has been supplanted in some markets and businesses by links posted by people on Facebook and clicked on by people using Facebook.

At the same time, shifted how they accessed Facebook and Twitter – from a web browser to a native app. That pattern of usage cuts across all digital services – people spend most of their time on mobile using apps and not their web browsers. Because of privacy and security concerns, apps are designed to operate autonomously in another silo, particularly on iOS.

three silos - social, web and apps

If I email a link from a news site to my mum, how can I ensure the link opens in the app on her iPad rather than opening in Safari or in Chrome? How do we break down the walls between silos and streamline the means and methods of customer acquisition? How do we create better customer experiences? By forging links between the silos.

FACEBOOK

This isn’t a new concept. Facebook proposed a “deep links” standard in 2014 http://applinks.org.

Developer documentation – https://developers.facebook.com/docs/applinks/overview

Since I make tightly-integrated products that have breaking news, video on demand and live broadcasting components across the desktop/mobile web, mobile apps and “home devices” apps (TV, Playstation, Xbox), it’s important to clearly define the relationship between content across these platforms – and Facebook’s suggestions simply aren’t a silver bullet. This brings us to the app platform vendors, Google and Apple.

GOOGLE

Not to be outdone or outflanked, Google has a way to securely expose app data to Google Search called App Indexing : https://developers.google.com/app-indexing/ It’s a straightforward solution for Android, but it is in beta on iOS.

Android

  • Add intent filters to your app manifest
  • Connect your app to your website through the Google Play Console and Google Search Console

iOS

  • Declare support for custom URL schemes
  • Handle incoming URLs that use the custom schemes
  • Add a custom URL scheme for App Indexing
  • Add back bar support for Search deep links

Developer documentation :

APPLE

Over the past couple of years, Apple doubled down on privacy and security and so it’s not surprising that they take a dim view of third parties indexing app content.

Apple refer to their scheme as Universal Linkshttps://developer.apple.com/library/prerelease/ios/releasenotes/General/WhatsNewIniOS/Articles/iOS9.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/TP40016198-DontLinkElementID_2

  • com.apple.developer.associated-domains entitlement to one’s app
  • apple-app-site-association post JSON file to one’s website
  • use Apple-specific (and Schema.org standard) markup to make content mirrored in an app and on the web visible

Great WWDC2015 video on the topic : https://developer.apple.com/videos/wwdc/2015/?id=70

Silos connected with deep link schemes from Google and Apple

Adopting both Google’s App Indexing and Apple’s Universal Links will ensure maximum discoverability across web search and on-device search and guarantee a great app experience for customers on mobile.

Bridge the gap between web & app: Google App Indexing & Apple Universal Links

You know we’re constantly taking. We don’t make most of the food we eat, we don’t grow it, anyway. We wear clothes other people make, we speak a language other people developed, we use a mathematics other people evolved and spent their lives building. I mean we’re constantly taking things. It’s a wonderful ecstatic feeling to create something and put it into the pool of human experience and knowledge.

Steve Jobs in an interview from 1983
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Early Apple computer designs

Love these frog design Apple prototypes using the old “Snow White” design language. Some of these have been kicking around for a long time, but I don’t think I’ve seen some of the iMac models before. Fascinating stuff.

early iMac design

Early Apple computer designs

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Using iOS 6 Maps in the real world: when your solution is the problem

After a week using the new Apple Maps app in iOS 6 around London and on my business trips to Paris, I find it perfectly capable of finding specific addresses, but the information one sees on load lacks context.

Where is Belsize Park tube station? I see Chalk Farm, but not Belsize Park … until one taps in closer. Very odd behaviour, indeed.

Did anyone at Apple use this to navigate through areas with which they were unfamiliar? What does one do when lost or simply in a new place? Look for transportation links, points of interest, a place to eat, have coffee, quaff a cold gin and tonic …

I suspect the fury that greeted the move from a Google-powered dataset to Apple Maps has little to do with aesthetics, but rather the lack of a quick, accurate answer to the question: “where is the [tube/railway station, hotel, Starbucks, Ye Olde Pub] that I think is around here somewhere, but I’m not entirely sure about how to find it]?”

Nice to see there’s a place for coffee, but where’s my hotel – and which metro is that?

Just the other weekend I was going to Paddington for a day out in the Buckinghamshire countryside. I took the 46 bus from Hampstead, but it skirted around the station in a way with which I wasn’t wholly familiar. I opened Maps on my iPhone and … had no idea where Paddington was in relation to my bright blue blip despite being no more than a two-minute walk away.

This highlights precisely why one takes a hell of a lot of care in the creation of user stories and exploring use cases: if your product doesn’t solve a real-world problem for your user, that really is a problem.

Using iOS 6 Maps in the real world: when your solution is the problem

Why we need to blow the article up in order to save it

Every business has its basic building block. For news-oriented products, the article forms the core of the thing one creates: articules categorised, linked together, aggregated on a page. Flow the articles through a CMS or blend different feeds of articles together, it’s still an exercise in arranging these atoms into ever more complex molecules.

Mathew Ingram’s piece at Gigom suggests deconstructing the article down into even smaller parts:

If the disaggregation of the traditional story format was taken to its logical conclusion, Jarvis argues that we could end up with “news organizations that specialize not just in beats and topics but in kinds of assets,” with one being just the news nugget (like a wire service), another the explainer (like The Economist), another the data related to the story, etc. Then links between those component parts would help the reader follow as much of the story as they wish, and in whatever order they want. Sean Blanda of the consulting firm Technically Media has also written about how the article needs to evolve, and how the “atomic unit of journalism is the fact.” 

It’s clear that in financial news, sport and other data-driven topics, there is much profit to be made in supplying the various pieces – images, words, statistics, computations, schedules, calendars – that comprise a complete and well-rounded product. One only has to look at Apple’s Siri and its connection to Wolfram Alpha to see how these bespoke data integrations add immense value to a given service.

Why we need to blow the article up in order to save it

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Facebook SDK 3.0 Beta for iOS – Facebook Developers

It’s been clear for several years now, but apps developed for specific devices using OS-specific hooks offer the best user experience. I test so many apps made with seeming contempt for the user – Facebook’s iOS app at the top of the list – and have had so many depressing conversations about developing apps that are little more than UIWebView containers that this announcement from Facebook is a welcome validation of the native app dev strategy.

Facebook SDK 3.0 Beta for iOS – Facebook Developers

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