Invention

iOSDEVUK Review 2016

IOSDEVUK is over for another year; our annual pilgrimage to Aberystwyth always end in a sad train journey home – all the better for the knowledge we’ve gained throughout the week.

As is tradition, here is my round up of the week and my very best bits!

Running A/B tests on your app using Firebase Remote Config and Analytics

Todd Kerpelman

Prior to iOSDEVUK I hadn’t come across Firebase. This tool is phenomenal and can do brilliant things that allow you to control detailed configuration of your app without the need to submit your app for an apple review. Watch out for a blog post tutorial soon showing how you can set it up in a basic project.
Todd was a brilliant speaker, very engaging. One of my favorite talks by far!

Diagnosing Allergies

Emily Toop

This was quite simply interesting. Emily sneezes a lot and is using iOS to track her sneezes in order to help work out what’s causing it. It’s a real world use case for how mobile technology can be used to collect high volumes of data, analyze it and then make use of it in the real world. If you get chance to listen to Emily talk about her sneezing I would highly recommend it.

I’m an Idiot

Richard Turton

Sometimes as developers it does us good to remember that we are all human, we all make mistakes, miss the blindingly obvious and ultimately we are all idiots …. Sometimes.
This talk reminded me that if we need help, we should ask for it and if we share knowledge the community is stronger for it. My take away message from the talk though was that under no circumstances should you ever try to be CLEVER! It always backfires.

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Steve Scott

Steve Scott

Scotty is a brilliant speaker! He has a habit of stating the blindingly obvious in a hilarious way. Scotty reviewed where we have come from as developers and where we are going to; the underlying tone of the talk was the fact that while iOS is a very rich place today for developers this is unlikely to remain the case forever. This changing landscape is part of evolution and even visionary entrepreneurs can’t predict the future! He also emphasised that sometimes people do get it right – can you believe that less than 40 years ago it was considered ambitious to have a computer on every desk, in every work place and in every home!
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Review of the Year

Dave Verwer

No-one knows the world of iOS like Dave Verwer, writing iOSDEVWEEKLY really does give him an insight into our world like no-other. The stats Dave is able to create showing who is reading iOSDEVWEEKLY are a portal onto the iOS Development Community that just blows you away. Brilliant speaker and in my view Dave is one of the cornerstones that makes doing what we do so interesting.

Dyson Hackathon

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This totally blew me away! I’ve been to hackathons before and they are always brilliant fun but then Dyson entered the room with 16 robotic vacuum cleaners! Words cannot describe how good this event was – I still say we were cheated as our balloon burst itself in the final battle, the stewards’ enquiry is still open in my eyes; but I’m not bitter.
Serious kudos though for a job thoroughly well done.

Conferences are an essential part of our learning as developers and have a huge impact on companies. I want to say a massive thank you to Chris, Neil, John and the team here in Aber; once again you have raised the bar and delivered a brilliant event!

So that’s it; iOSDEVUK is over for another year. If you can’t wait a whole year for another conference check out what we are doing in Chester 17th – 20th April 2017. CodeMobile is a brand new developer conference focusing on both Android and iOS Development. We need more events of this type in the community because when you bring developers together it really does create magic!

Categories: Apple, Conferences, Invention, Robots, Social, Technology | Leave a comment

Working on the move

In recent years its become much easier for people to work on the move no matter what their location. This was brought home to me when I was in Dublin recently and I received a text message from a client. With relative ease I was able to connect to a wifi network, logon to his system and make changes all without impacting upon the purpose of my overseas visit.

The Internet has opened up a world in which people expect an immediate response. This is obviously a good thing because it means that things advance quicker but it also means people are less tolerant to delay.

Before the advent of e-mail communication it was common place for a worker to send a memo via internal or external post, which might take a day or two to arrive – naturally the response may also take a day or two meaning that a relatively simple communication could span over a week or more. In today’s Internet world that interaction could be completed within minutes arguably making employees time much more productive.

It also means that people expect response within a much quicker timescale. If I send an e-mail and haven’t received a response within 24 hours I usually start to think about chasing the receipient. If its a known person I often chase if I haven’t heard back within a few hours. Does this mean that technology is making us more impatient as a society? Or are we becoming more efficient?

Regardless of your standpoint I personally believe its important now and again for us all to take stock and to become incommunicado. Switch off your iPhone / iPad, don’t respond to e-mails for a few days – nothing is ever so important that it can’t wait … Or is it?

To my mind switching off is the only way to take time out and truly recharge your batteries. If like me you’ve been known to wake up in the middle of the night and answer an e-mail or two while in bed I believe this is particularly important – does anyone else find themselves rarely switching work off? Answering e-mails on the couch? On holiday? Assuming the answer is yes I guess the key question is what long term effect that is going to have on our mental capacity. Can work become a drug like addiction?

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Traveling with Tech

This weekend I’m visiting Dublin – a city that I’ve never been to before. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the technology that I’ve used to get me here and how I’ve relied on technology to enhance my visit.

My journey to Dublin actually started when I booked my flights. In this day and age everything can obviously be done online – my booking confirmation was e-mailed to me and the day before flying I simply checked in and printed my boarding pass from the comfort of my sofa. (Everything going good so far).

Once at the airport my boarding pass is scanned, again everything seems to be working although it’s a little disconcerting to think that I’m now entirely reliant upon the Ryan air booking system to recognise that I have a flight that I’ve paid for.

We could obviously spend a lot of time discussing the technology of the plane and computer systems in the airport …..

So now I’m in Dublin does my reliance on technology stop? Well I guess it could ….. But I have been rather lazy using my iPhone to help me navigate, booking tickets for the Guinness Storehouse online to receive my 10% discount and even writing this blog post while grabbing a coffee.

So lets take stock for a moment. Is technology taking the fun out of traveling? Obviously there is technology that is now essential to travel, the booking of the flights and the systems that actually get me here ….. But now I’m here wouldn’t it be more interesting to see the city without my technology leading the way? To navigate using a traditional map, or by speaking to people and asking directions …..

If that we’re the case its’s unlikely I’d have found the costa coffee shop that I’m now sat in …. And I wouldn’t have been able to check reviews of restaurants before choosing one for lunch. But is that actually important? If the restaurant had been dreadful it would have made for an interesting story to tell when I get home.

Maybe i should try traveling the old fashioned way and see how i get on ….. not on this trip (obviously) Maybe that’s an experiment for another time. Or maybe it’s something you’ve done, or do? Does traveling without tech create more adventure?

Categories: Apple, Invention, Social, Technology | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

APP REVIEW: Chirp

Chirp Screen ShotChirp is a brand new app, developed by University College London (UCL) explores the concept of using sound to transmit data between phones. In many ways it seems ludicrous that this is such a new innovation given that humans have been communicating via sound for millenia.

Chirp works by associating a short high pitched noise with every photo, url or note which is to be shared. When the app hear’s a chirp it looks up the noise in its database and returns the item that the user wants to share.

So what’s all the excitement about? We love it because of the possibilities of sharing information with a wide range of people at the same time. Imagine a conference speaker playing a “chirp” as part of his talk in order to allow everyone in the room to access some exclusive content simultaneously – or what about the possibilities of using it as part of interactive TV.

It’s important not to get bogged down by the fact that currently you can only send certain data types. It doesn’t take much to imagine a whole host of data being sent including audio files, video and documents.

For more information check out this article on the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18927928

Chirp is a free app and is available in the Apple App Store.

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Automation

Bill Gates Once Said

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

Over recent years automation has become a feature of day to day life and our lives are now often assisted or even controlled by technology.

A prime example of this is an automatic toilet found on many high streets. After each use the toilet is programmed to clean itself saving thousands of pounds on maintenance and is arguably more hygienic because it is cleaned after every use.

It occurs to me that automated systems are no longer reserved for the world of the production line and that the general public are now the largest consumer base for automated systems – how many things are automated, for example in your house? Central Heating? Oven Timer? Lights? ….. if you think about it you can probably compile quite a long list.

My favourite example is Auto Cleaner – the automatic vacuum cleaner (iTorchless 2009). The robot can be placed in a room and periodically will detach itself from the base unit, vacuum the floor taking care to go round corners and avoid obstacles. When the task is complete the machine will re-dock and perform the task again a few hours later.

The question that I think we must ask ourselves is what would happen if some of this technology went wrong? I guess an automated light failing to switch on wouldn’t be particularly drastic, but what if your heating failed to switch on in the middle of winter leading to a burst pipe?

This begs the question ….. are we becoming too reliant on technology to assist with our every day lives? What do you think?

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The Invention of the Car in Modern Society

CarIn this day and age it is almost inconceivable to imagine a world without “the car” or other motorised transport. It is hard to believe that the car was only invented in the late 1880’s and even harder to accept that motorised transport has only been common place for the last 80 years.

During this time, society has moved at a tremendous pace, which has led to the introduction of health and safety legislation that now controls all aspects of our day to day lives. It is therefore interesting to ponder what would happen if the car had been invented today.

Let’s imagine that the automobile did not exist and that an inventor puts forward a proposal, suggesting that it would be a good idea to create a machine that has four wheels, controlled manually by someone, who for the purposes of this article will be referred to as the driver.

In order for the machine to work a large (typically 40 litre) tank of highly flammable liquid would be strapped to the underside of the vehicle and this liquid would then be ignited and pumped through an engine placed in front of the driver, in order to propel the machine forward.

The proposal would need to suggest that the flow of flammable liquid would be controlled at the whim of the driver via a pedal mechanism allowing the speed of the vehicle to be increased or decreased as required.

In order to mitigate the risks associated with the idea the proposal would suggest that rules would be put in place stating that the maximum speed that the machine would be permitted to travel and guidelines would need to be developed stating safe speed limits on each stretch of tarmac (roads) that the vehicle used.

In reality, however, nothing but the power of the engine would prevent the vehicle going far faster potentially reaching speeds of over 130 miles per hour in standard automobiles, but potentially far faster in some models.

Assuming this concept, by some miracle, was approved and allowed to go ahead, consider if you will how an inventor could sell the concept of producing 30 million of these machines and then allowing them to be used on roads travelling at these high speeds in opposite directions.

To push the boundary further is it conceivable that the idea of a motorway would be accepted; a road which is specifically designed to allow these machines to travel at high speeds and facilitate the concept of vehicles overtaking one another when a driver feels another driver isn’t travelling fast enough.

This description sounds almost farcical given that in today’s society it is necessary to do a risk assessment for the most mundane task. It seems ludicrous that such a dangerous proposition would ever be permitted to go further than planning stages, if indeed it was ever given any serious consideration.

This opens up a related debate as to whether modern health and safety principles are stifling innovation and creativity. Had the car first been proposed post millennium it is unlikely that it would have ever been allowed to go ahead; it is therefore conceivable that great inventions that could revolutionise the human race are being prevented due to bureaucracy, which, is not proportionate to the potential risks of the task, problem, or idea.

The argument can be applied in principle to many innovations that have allowed man kind to develop over the millennia, including electricity, nuclear power, and coal mining.

This article serves as a warning to society that our history is based on innovation and growth and in the modern world it would appear there is a real danger of stifling that innovation which could jeopardise progression and lead to a society that forgets how to innovate.

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Re-Revolution

Einstein's Big IdeaaSo this is the first blog post of the all new, revolutionised, WestgarthsWeb. I’ve attempted blogging a number of times in the past and have failed miserably predominantly because i’ve never given the blog a focus. I’ve simply dipped in and out of whatever I might be vaguely interested in at the time.

Well this time WestgarthsWeb is different; the concept of the site has undergone a revolution! WestgarthsWeb is now all about what i’m interested in most in the world, and, put simply that’s technology, and more importantly how technology fits into everyday life. I’ve always been fascinated by how technology is able to site at the intersection of “techie” and useful; it’s the point that Technology meets Social and impacts upon our identity; in my view it is this that causes some great ideas take off and often causes even greater ideas to fail.

We’re back to that concept of how to start a revolution ….. Consider for a moment those people in history that you would consider revolutionary. Perhaps you considered ancient philosophers – Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras? Or maybe you thought of scientists of more modern times, Einstein, Galileo or Darwin. No matter who you have chosen I would consider it a fairly safe bet that the people on your list devoted their life’s work to creating whatever mark they left on history.

So now to consider a modern revolution. Surely the word revolution means the same though? Be it modern or historic. Google ….. Define: Revolution ….. “A forcible overthrow of a government or social order for a new system.” I’m sure we would all agree that the development and growth of the internet fits this definition. What is perhaps extraordinary is that internet revolution is providing a platform for the revolution to be re-imagined, re-invented and consequently revolutionised. A good example of this is the explosion of “Social Media” over the last 10 years; arguably this has revolutionised the internet. In this context the idea of revolution certainly isn’t new; what is perhaps new is the speed with which the “internet revolution” has been “re-revolutionised”.

Back in the year 2000 internet penetration in the UK was around 26%, by the end of 2010 that figure had doubled to 52% (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm). When you consider revolution you expect change, but in history it is questionable whether anything ever changed the world so radically. To put this in context we are talking change in a 20 year period that has impacted more than 2,000,000,000 people or more accurately 1/3 of the worlds population. Revolution on this scale is much bigger than the English Civil War, arguably bigger than both the first and second world wars and has effected more people than were part of the British Empire. Am I exaggerating? I guess that’s a judgement that you need to make ….. but consider this …..

Virtually every new website changes something about the way we interact with the world around us. The internet “revolution” is not a one off event. It’s a revolution that keeps on giving “re-revolution”. Some of these mini revolutions have bean hugely publicised and attracted huge amounts of media attention, you only have to think of Google, FaceBook, and Twitter to see how mere mortals have created things for society and left an impact that has literally defined modern history.

In years to come it will be interesting to see if the impact of the likes of Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will be immortalised alongside great inventors like Einstein; but you have to admit that the impact of revolutionaries such as these individuals has been great.

To my mind this is the power of the internet …. once inventors required huge amounts of money, state backing, and years, often lifetimes of painstaking hard work. In this day and age it is possible to create a revolution that has great impact from your back bedroom; or as Zukerberg demonstrated from a dorm room at Harvard. The internet has made it possible for anyone to literally change the world on the back of new, often incredibly simple idea …..

This, however, in my view is the key – in order to change the world the masses have to like to your idea; it is at this point that Technology meets Social and it is this concept that is the new focus of WestgarthsWeb.

So over the coming weeks and months expect posts about new ideas, technologies and things that I find interesting and that I believe have the power to change the world. Maybe along this journey some of you will get in touch, drop me an e-mail and let me know about how technology has impacted upon your everyday life.

My aspiration is that in years to come I can read back over these posts and track the development of a revolution that to my mind is only just beginning, a revolution that that I believe will keep on re-revolutionising for years to come.

Categories: Invention, Social, Technology | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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