I'm sure by now you are all enjoying EROAD Inspect, our new mobile app that makes it easy to inspect your vehicles, trailers and assets for defects. Although it's been a lot of hard work from the EROAD mobile team over the last few months building such an exceptional product we're not ready to rest on our laurels. Instead we are already looking to see what the future will bring to not only improve our offering, but to help keep our customers safe - something that is always at the forefront of our minds.
One very exciting thing that is coming soon is iOS 11, the next iteration of Apple's software for iPads and iPhones. This was announced at its WWDC conference back in June, is currently available as a public beta (bugs and all) for those who are itching to get their hands on the latest goodies, and will be released to the public probably sometime around September. We've been looking at some of the upcoming features of this release to see what we can add to our apps, or what our customers can use to help with their day to day, and there are a few interesting things coming that I thought are worth talking about.
Do not disturb while driving
For a while now iOS has had a 'Do not disturb' mode, a mode that disables all calls and notifications, and this could be turned on manually or on and off at fixed times each day - a feature I use a lot to stop my phone buzzing with notifications whilst I'm asleep. The next obvious incarnation of this is to turn off notifications whilst driving; after all the use of a phone whilst driving has been the root cause of tens of preventable deaths and hundreds of preventable injuries in New Zealand over the past few years. It's all too tempting to pick up your phone when you get a notification - we all suffer to varying degrees from a condition known as fear of missing out, or FOMO, which drives us to respond to notifications as we are afraid of missing something important (and one that is taken advantage of by a lot of large app companies such as the developers behind Candy Crush).
iOS 11 has a new 'Do not disturb while driving' mode that blacks out the screen to reduce distractions, blocks incoming calls and messages, and stops all notifications whilst you are driving. Your phone can also be set up to send an automatic response to everyone or a select group of contacts telling them you are driving.
One thing that makes this an amazing feature is how you turn it on. You can turn it on manually, but this is something that's easy to forget to do so Apple decided to make it automatic. You can set it to turn on automatically when you connect your phone to a Bluetooth car audio system, and this in itself is pretty cool. What's even cooler is that your phone will be able detect when you are driving (based on speed, location and motion) and automatically turn on do not disturb. This means it's a no-brainer to use - just enable it, hop in your vehicle and drive safe in the knowledge that you won't be distracted by notifications or calls.
Augmented reality is one of the biggest and most popular new kids on the block in the technology space. It is where you take the real world and augment it with digital content, such as overlaying text, images or videos on top of locations the real world, content that can remain in the same place in the real world as you move your phone. Who can forget the impact Pokemon Go had recently where the real world was augmented with Pokemons to catch?
iOS 11 has a whole new set of augmented reality capabilities, including the ability to recognise the 3D world using existing hardware. These capabilities can be used to mark up real world objects - imagine drawing on the surface of your truck to mark up a photo you want to attach to an inspection and as you move the phone around the markup appears to stay in the same place, fixed to your truck so you can photograph it from different angles. You can even get reasonable accurate distance measurements so could measure how long a crack in a windscreen is. See the video below for an example.
Improved Siri support
Siri is Apple's virtual assistant and provides a limited set of capabilities to interact with apps on your phone (and some bad jokes). With iOS 11 these capabilities have been extended to allow the control of apps like Inspect using Siri. Imagine being able to just say 'Hey Siri, start an inspection for Truck P42 and trailer S17', or even 'Hey Siri, submit an inspection for Van 17 with no defects'. You or your drivers could start or complete an inspection without having to touch anything, just by talking to a phone sitting in a cradle on the dashboard (configured to use do not disturb while driving of course!).
These are just some of the upcoming iOS features our world-class team of mobile developers are looking at (yup - we're proud at EROAD to actually have a world-class team of mobile developers who all speak at international conferences and events, and we even have a published technical author). If any of this is of interest to you then get in touch! If you think that Siri integration is something you would love to have, or have ideas about how we can add augmented reality to make your day to day easier, let us know. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Bennett is a mobile developer at EROAD, as well as an internationally recognised thought leader in the mobile developer space. He is a Microsoft MVP, Xamarin MVP, technology blogger, author of Xamarin In Action from Manning publications, and is a regular speaker at meet-ups and technology conferences around the world such as Xamarin Evolve, Microsoft Ignite and NDC. You can find him online at https://jimbobbennett.io or on twitter at @JimBobBennett.