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I'm Anthony and I'm the mobile developer for the little guy. I want to take new ideas and innovations and make them a reality. My expertise is in building iOS apps affordably and quickly, while doing laps around the other guys. Do you have an idea for a technology startup, but don't have a lot of money or tech talent to get started? I'm your guy. Do you want to grow your small business, retain more customers, and put your business in consumers pockets? I have you covered.

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Filtering by Tag: ios

The Possibilities of iBeacons

Anthony Agby

iBeacons are the latest in greatest of mobile technology. They operate off the the most recent standard in bluetooth technology, which runs on less energy, at a lower cost and is included on all recent smartphones. iBeacons are devices that send out a bluetooth signal. At their core that's it, but what you can do with that signal is the real fun part. You can configure an app on a mobile device to do any number of actions when near a particular iBeacon.

Retails stores are the most common example of an industry that can benefit from beacons. Put an iBeacon by your front door and as a potential customer walks by they get a notification on your current sale. Automatically check them into your store, when they come in. Have an iBeacon under a few of your counters? You can tell what your customers are checking out and interested in and what they aren't. You can even use iBeacons to confirm payment, based on proximity. You even have the ability to transform a mobile device, such as an iPad you use as a register, into an iBeacon. This alleviates the extra cost of getting and maintaining a separate devices. All of those are more than enough reason to incorporate beacons into your brick-and-mortar establishment. What else could you do with this new technology?

Well you can make your apps very location aware and contextual. Say you manage a restaurant and a potential customer has your app. When they are away from your establishment, they want to find your location, contact you, and peruse your menu. When they come to your restaurant and get within beacon range, the app can do so much more. It can welcome them, ask how many are in their party, allow them to order from their phone, and even pay while they are there. This simple change makes the app more relevant to your customers, not to mention its ability to speed up service times and alleviate pressure on your waitstaff.

iBeacons are also great for navigation. A series of beacons can be a highly accurate network that can guide users to where they want to go, especially indoors where GPS and cell service aren't as reliable. Want to get around a museum, airport, or college campus? iBeacons know exactly where you are and where you want to go. Do you want to know more about the the sculpture you're looking at? Your phone knows which one you're standing in front of and can pull up the relevant info. Your airline will know that you're stuck in security and hold the plane until you reach the terminal. With the tap of a button, you could alert campus police to a dangerous incident and they can lock in on your location.

The proximity awareness of iBeacons makes them perfect for unlocking doors and automating home systems. Devices are already coming out now that will unlock your door, when you get within just a few feet. Great for when your hands are full. Hotels are also jumping on this technology. Fewer keys are always great. There is even potential to "lend" your key to others. Allowing guests, repair personal, and your current partner to access your home. Beyond your door, an iBeacon hub can automate your house. Turn on and off lights as you move between rooms, transfer music to different speakers, and much more. They can even be context aware. Coming home late on a Friday night? Play that smooth jazz you love when you walk in the door. That would be nice.

For those politically minded, beacons have amazing uses at rallies, protests, and conventions. Beacons can broadcast information to attendees, prompting them to share a slogan, sign a petition, or pledge a donation. In countries that crack down on internet access, you could use beacon technology to create a mesh network. A mesh network in this context would allow protestors phones to be there own network, relaying messages and information around to each other without an internet connection. Even conventions can benefit from iBeacons, with the ability to check in, navigate, and learn more in all the chaos.

iBeacons can transform an app from something pretty standard into a context aware powerhouse. Users can find what they want swifter and with more ease. App creators can get their message to the right users at the right time, while alleviating the workload of their employees. iBeacon technology is transforming many industries and everyone is benefitting from it. Why not jump in and be ahead of the curve?

Location Tracking in an App

Anthony Agby

This past year, location services have come into their own. The hardware and software have aligned to allow for tracking users location, without killing their phone's battery. As this technology becomes more refined, so do the sensibilities of your users. They are more savvy about being tracked and need to be showed the benefit of location tracking.

As an app creator, you now have to balance grabbing a user's location to provide benefit against their wariness of giving it to you. The first question you have to ask yourself, does my app need to grab their location? What benefit is it to you? What benefit is it to your users? Do I require their location when the app is in the background or only while they are using the app?

The majority of apps do not require a user's location. At best it only helps or enhances the experience. Note taking apps, calendar apps, social media apps, news apps, and general information apps usually fall into this category. The addition of location is not critical to them, but it may help or enhance the experience a little, such as seeing the notes you created at that location or checking out local news. Only ask for location when it seems necessary and useful. Be prepared for it to be rejected.

Other apps require location, but can function without a user's exact point. Uber and Yelp are great examples of this. They put location at their core, so when you go into the app content is relevant to where you are at right now. What if a user decided not to give one of these apps access to their location? This can be negated by a search bar of locations or an exact address input.  These are also effective methods to get an exact location when indoors or the phone has poor signal strength. 

Certain apps require a user's exact location to provide the most beneficial results. They are essentially crippled without the ability to track a location. Any transit app like Google maps falls into this category, as does the new social-local apps like Yik-Yak (an anonymous, local messaging app). Google maps needs to know where you're at or it just can not do it's job. The user should know about this upfront and be expecting the location requirement. Make sure you explain the benefit of your service to your user, before asking for location permissions. You really only get one chance at this.

Some of these apps require location data, while the app is in the background. This could be for navigation purposes, relevant push notifications, or pre-load local content in the background. Google Maps constantly tracks your location, once you setup a route and start navigating. This allows it to give you turn-by-turn directions. The downside is it'll drain your battery much more quickly than normal. It takes power to run all the antennas required to get a location fix. Apple has one work-around for this, Significant Location Change. It allows the app to only ping a user's location when they transfer cell towers. There is no exact distance or timing for this (it depends on the user's movements), but it significantly reduces the battery drain of an app and with some fancy calculations can be quite useful. This is one way apps like Foursquare are able to give you relevant suggestions based on where you are.

iBeacons are another way to deal with location tracking. They are great for indoors, where GPS and cellular tracking are less accurate, and can be utilized to even more relevancy. But that's a whole different post.

TL;DR: Making your app relevant to where a user is at that moment and providing them with the information they need are the crux of location tracking. If a user's current location is not necessary, make it optional. Make sure the benefits are apparent to the user or they may not allow location tracking. Battery life and user-willingness are your biggest constraints when dealing with location.