The ARKit in Apple’s iOS 11 will completely change the user experience on iPads and iPhones.

by Nick Elia | 09/08/2017

This Fall Apple will be releasing iOS 11 and have been updating their public beta versions over the past month. Given that their annual iPhone event is taking place on September 12th, expect the update to be available sometime following this date. iOS has been around for about 10 years but this version is of particular interest to many people due to the unique added capabilities that are going to be available, one of which is the new AR framework that they have implemented into iOS 11.  With this update Apple has transformed the user experience completely and has put a big emphasis on people multitasking and being able to utilize applications simultaneously.
Key Features of iOS 11:

  • Control Center – Apple has redesigned the control center for iOS 11 so users can customize a wide range of settings to fit their specific needs. When the control center is open, the top panel is made up of connectivity controls and music controls, while the bottom panel consists of customizable controls for other applications. The control center is also is no longer split across multiple screens and Apple has expanded their 3D touch integration so when you press one of the panels it will display additional options and controls.
  • Lock Screen / Notification Center – These two have been merged together so pulling down on the touch screen will allow the user to access both.
  • Persistent Dock – On the iPad interface Apple has created a new dock that makes it easier to launch and switch between applications. Swiping up on the screen accesses the docking interface, and the Slide Over or Split View function allows the user to utilize multiple apps at once.
  • Drag and Drop – iPad Users have the ability to drag images and links from one application and drop them into another app. This function is particularly useful in Split View mode.
  • Files Management – The new files application mirrors the finder on macOS and brings all the files that are stored locally (iCloud Drive, Dropbox, Google Drive, other apps) into one distinct location. This will be available on the iPhone and iPad—a long overdue, but welcomed feature for business users.
  • App Store – The App store has been completely redesigned and now there is two distinct sections for applications and games. They also have added a “Today” section that features the newest content available on a daily basis.
  • Apple Pencil – Added new capabilities to the Apple Pencil like Instant markup for PDFs, instant notes, inline drawing, and document scanning / signing.
  • Siri – Siri has been updated in iOS 11 to adopt more natural voice options and use on-device learning to comprehend specific preferences of the user. They have also introduced cross-device Siri Syncing which will speed up Siri’s response time and use end-to-end encryption to protect sensitive data.
  • Quick type Keyboard – On the iPad, the new keyboard displays both numbers / symbols and swiping down can switch between both instead of using a shift key.

Introduction of new APIs in iOS 11:
While there were many updates and changes to iOS 11, the most notable update we have seen is the implementation of an ARKit that will let developers build AR features into applications. Developers have been busy creating apps using the ARKit; we will be keeping a close eye on enterprise use cases.

  • Core ML – Core ML is Apple’s machine learning framework that allows developers to create applications with features such as face tracking / detection, text detection, barcode detection, object tracking, and image registration. Developers can use this framework to integrate machine learning models into their apps and leverage the CPU and GPU to achieve the highest level of efficiency and performance. 
  • ARKit – This is a framework that gives developers the ability to build complex augmented reality features into applications using visual inertial odometry (VIO).  Using an iPhone / iPad’s camera and motion sensors, the kit finds specific points within an environment, and pins objects to these specific points changing the landscape and perspective of the environment you’re in. VIO integrates this camera sensor data with CoreMotion data and allows the device to detect how it moves within a room using advanced accuracy and no additional calibration.

Notable consumer applications being created by developers using APIs:

  • Ikea Place – This application will allow users to preview actual size furniture options in their home before they purchase it. The app is very customizable in that you can let users choose the size, material, and texture of the product, and there will be over 2,000 different items available on the launch date.
  • Food Network App – The food network is developing an app that will allow users to create digital desserts and then get access to the custom recipe for that said customized dessert.
  • GIPHY World – Giphy is introducing tools that will allow GIFs to be placed into any 3d space. Users can share videos, pictures, and scenes with other people using the app. The scenes aspect is particularly unique in the fact that every scene gets a URL that can be added to or changed by the people you share it with, essentially creating a shared gif space between users.
  • Arise – This is an augmented reality puzzle game that you play by tilting your iPhone in order to move your character through different levels. There is no on-screen controls for this app and requires the user to physically move around in order to complete the levels.

What does this ARKit mean for Apple moving forward in the enterprise?
The introduction of this ARKit by Apple is notable as it will enable the company to move beyond the traditional 2D Camera without implementing costly and complex software engineering, and generate additional opportunities not just on the consumer side but the enterprise side as well. Many software developers see AR as being a huge advantage for enterprises to improve workflows and be more efficient, and Apple’s new ARKit will likely become the biggest seller of AR devices given the large base of existing users and developers they have. While Apple does see opportunity for enterprise traction with their AR platform, Microsoft and Google still hold many technical / product related advantages and many companies are currently utilizing this technology in their operations. With this ARKit Apple can now obtain potential customers using some of the following enterprise use cases:

  • Employee training / Recruiting – Companies like Boeing, Cisco, and even Red Cross are using AR/VR solutions to cut training time of employees in complex enterprise infrastructures and recruit potential job candidates through virtual tours of the company.
  • Remote facilities management – Organizations are equipping technicians with solutions that they can use to identify issues before they go out in the field and make repairs. They can see the layout of the environment so they know which equipment is most appropriate to use.
  • Remote product support – Enterprise users can troubleshoot devices remotely and get instructions on how to repair the device without actually showing up in person to get the device repaired.

Competition with Microsoft, Facebook, and Google’s AR Platforms?
Google - This new framework also puts Apple in a better position to compete with the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, all of whom have developed AR platforms for enterprise / consumer use.  The one distinct advantage that Apple’s ARKit holds over the Tango platform is the fact that it will be available on a wide range of existing devices; Google has relied on android manufacturers to implement the Tango platform into their phones.  Google recently unveiled a developer preview of ARCore, the company's successor to Tango. ARCore currently supports Google's Pixel devices, as well as Samsung's Galaxy S8); ARCore will use surface detection technologies like Apple's ARKit.
Apple is likely to attract developer attention as they can leverage their existing device portfolio with ARKit; Google will need to convince its customers to acquire specialized devices—however, Google is expected to open up ARCore to all Android devices going forward.

Microsoft – Microsoft has established its position as a leader in the AR market leader with its HoloLens glasses that are powered through its Windows mixed reality platform. While they have seen success in the enterprise with organizations like NASA, Stryker, Lowe’s, and the U.S. Military, they have not released a consumer version of their HoloLens and most likely won’t until 2019. Although Microsoft is in development of consumer focused AR / VR solutions, they are still faced with increasing threat from the likes of Apple who are trying to penetrate the consumer market. In terms of the functional capabilities of their AR offerings Microsoft is very far ahead of Apple, but Apple holds an advantage in the fact that they have a bigger base of registered developers (16 million) and will be able to churn out more apps. Assuming just a mere 5% (800K developers) of these registered developers create AR apps for Apple this year, this will surpass Microsoft significantly who only had few thousand developers create 150 HoloLens specific apps. Moving forward, we expect Microsoft to increase its marketing initiatives and partnerships around AR apps in order to penetrate the massive consumer market opportunity.

Facebook – In April of 2017, Facebook released their Camera Effects platform which developers can use to create AR applications. Similar to Apple, Facebook has several advantages in trying to penetrate the consumer market with the primary 2 being their established monthly user base and the resources / experience they have around developers. Although these are important for generating opportunities within this market, developers using Apple’s ARKit can insert AR features directly into iOS applications which is something Facebook can’t compete with. Moving forward expect Apple and Facebook to compete heavily in the consumer market, with Apple making more progress with the release of their ARKit just 6 weeks after Facebook launched their platform.

View the 2017 Enterprise Mobility & Connected Devices Research Outline to learn more.