Apple takes on Google with smart home, AI ecosystem

Article By : Rick Merritt

Developers can now tap into Apple’s Siri voice search for the first time using the latest APIs.

Apple has announced its latest software upgrades, and will extend ecosystems around its move to machine learning and the smart home. As it contends with arch-rival Google, the tech giant will push for a more visually-appealing iPhone user interface to lure Android users and release a tool that aims to turn the average user into a novice programmer.

Apple released developer versions of upgrades coming this fall for the operating systems on the iPhone, Macintosh, Apple TV and Apple Watch. The software provided no clear clues about any new hardware coming with expected device and systems announcements in the fall other than that the products will require more memory and processing, especially for graphics and machine learning.

Smarter search based on machine learning algorithms running on end user devices was a big theme in the upgrades. It’s not clear whether Apple will pack any novel chips or cores in next-generation systems to accelerate them. Last month, Google announced a custom processor for machine learning running algorithms in its data centres it made open source last year.

Developers can now tap into Apple’s Siri voice search for the first time using the latest APIs, the news that got the biggest cheers from the crowd of 5,000 attendees at the company’s latest annual developer conference in San Francisco. Siri will also be available on Sierra, the next version of the MacOS.

Third parties will now be able to build apps using Siri for everything from smarter keyboards to safer interactions in cars. Separately, Apple is using visual recognition algorithms to make it easier to search, group and display images

__Figure 1:__ *Federighi: The smart home was a mess of incompatible and insecure protocols and apps to control each accessory.*

The iPhone iOS 10 will make up to “11 billion computations per photo for object and scene ID to better search photos on a device,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of software engineering. “Analysts of data is done on the devices [rather than the cloud] to keep data under personal control,” he said in a dig to rival Google.

The company will still increasingly rely on its iCloud service to make desktop documents and other data available across its various platforms.

Apple also is integrating Siri more deeply into its Apple TV software. The move is an expansion both of its machine learning work and part of an effort to ease integration between what are now separate Apple software platforms for PCs, TVs, handsets and watches.

The company showed a variety of ways it will let the otherwise distinct platforms collaborate. For example, presence of an Apple Watch can eliminate the need to type in a password on a Mac. Data saved on a Mac clipboard can be pasted into an iPhone app and vice versa. And the company is making its mobile Apple Pay service available on the Web as a potential rival to PayPal.

Homekit expands, everyone's a programmer

Apple released a new app for iOS called Home. It is intended as a simple user interface to control locks, lights and any other home control gear using its Homekit API.

“The smart home was a mess of incompatible and insecure protocols and apps to control each accessory,” said Federighi. “We’ve been changing all that making home automation products work together securely, and every major maker of home accessories is shipping or announced support for Homekit,” he added.

The Home app can be controlled by Siri. The move essentially makes an iPhone or iPad the equivalent of the kind of voice-activated smart home controller Google announced last month and Amazon has been shipping for some time. The Home app can also be controlled via an Apple Watch.
Apple and Google are approaching the smart home from different directions. Apple is providing software to unify third-party devices controlled by iPhones and iPads; Google has a beachhead with the Nest thermostat and Web cameras in the home but lacks a unified software base for third parties with separate Thread/Weave and Brillo environments. And Google recently re-orged Nest after the departure of its founder.

Separately, Apple packed lots of bells and whistles into the iPhone’s text messaging app, its most widely used application, and gave developer’s access to its API. It now supports rich Web links, video, animations and a variety of full screen effects, enabling fun and lively interactions. The moves aim to help the iPhone stand out again from a hoard of increasingly sophisticated Android handsets.
Finally, Apple announced an application aimed to help end users learn how to program using Apple’s Swift language. Swift Playground is “absolutely the best way for anyone to learn to program,” said Apple chief executive Tim Cook.

The two-year-old language is now used in some 100,000 apps, Cook said.

Cook said Apple now has 13 million registered developers, two million added in the past year. A hundred of the attendees at the event were less than 18 years old, including one none-year old Cook said he met before his keynote

Apple’s App Store is now home to two million apps that have been downloaded a total of 130 billion times, generating nearly $50 billion in revenues paid to developers, he added.

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