Apple updates signal new ‘openness’ to working with brands

Apple’s launch of health tracking software HealthKit and a new smart home platform, HomeKit, signal a new “openness” from the company – which has often been accused of operating within a strict “walled garden” – to working with brands, according to industry observers.

Apple HomeKit
HomeKit was one of the new platforms announced at Apple’s 2014 Worldwide Developers Conference.

Apple used its Worldwide Developers Conference last night (2 June) to unveil not only the expected update to its Mac (Yosemite), iPhone and iPad software (iOS8) but also the launch of two new apps that put the spotlight on the company’s vision for the internet of things.

The company first introduced HealthKit, which pools data such as weight and blood pressure that its collected from a number of health apps on the iPhone and iPad.

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, said at the event: “Developers have created a lot of apps for monitoring your health, but up to now the information gathered by those applications lives in silos. But now you can with HealthKit: a single place where applications can gather the data.”

Alongside HealthKit, Apple unveiled “Health”, an app that will form a key part of the iOS 8 software upgrade. Apple also announced it is to work with Nike and The Mayo Clinic to optimise the Health app for users.

HomeKit was also introduced at the conference: a platform that will allow users to control connected items in their home, such as their doors, Honeywell thermostats and Philips Hue lights, with their iPhone. Other partners include Osram, Texas Instruments and Broadcom.

The slew of partnerships announced last night (2 June) signals a new “openness” from Apple, which will offer brands more opportunities than before to work with the company to develop key applications, rather than the company sticking to its previous strategy of trying to develop everything itself, according to industry observers.

Lea Simpson, strategy director at digital marketing agency TH_NK, says: “For marketers this openness changes the opportunity quite significantly. We should shift out thinking from working with the Apple ecosystem to working with Apple.”

The launch of HealthKit and HomeKit in particular will provide marketers with more opportunities to target consumers at relevant moments, according to Matthew Knight, head of innovation at media agency Carat.

He adds: “As marketers – we’re always looking for opportunities to provide better experiences to consumers at more meaningful and relevant moments, not to be intrusive, but to be intelligent, subtle, useful and valuable. The more opportunities we have to use data to help reach the right person at the right time, means our services can be better targeted and not frustrate our audience – and the connected ecosystem or platform strategy which was outlined last night (2 June) gives us better tools to connect with people intelligently, rather than bluntly.”

Apple’s announcements last night now throw open the gauntlet in the realm of the internet of things to Google, which holds its own developer conference later this month, according to CCS Insight’s vice president of research for the Americas Geoff Blaber.

“The arms race with Google for control of contextual services, the home, automotive, healthcare and the engagement of developers has never been more evident and is set to drive significant near-term investment,” Blaber says.

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