Apple (NASDAQ:APPL) wants homes to be smarter and payments made with a fingerprint as the technology company announced a multitude of new initiatives at its annual worldwide developer conference (WWDC).
Apple traditionally announces new products and operating systems at WWDC and this year was no exception. CEO Tim Cook announced a series of improvements with the upcoming iOS 8 mobile operating system and OS X Yosemite that will allow functionality and access across platforms. Many of these functions are available on Google's competitive Android OS, and the changes are meant to make Apple even more dominant in the mobile market.
Several of the announcements are of particular interest to retailers.
HomeKit is Apple's official entry into the realm of home automation and the Internet of Things. HomeKit is a centralized way to control automated appliances such as the thermostat, lights and locks. It lets an iOS mobile device work as a remote control to connect third party devices.
Home automation companies have long used Apple's mobile devices as controllers via apps, but these are high-end whole home systems installed and monitored by a single purveyor. HomeKit promises to level the playing field. By combining a few iBeacon devices similar to those utilized in retail stores with a software platform that allows individual hardware manufacturers and software developers to connect disparate devices, home connectivity is open to the mass market.
Apple's new continuity across devices could also have benefits to retailers.
"Apple's continuity between Mac, iPad and iPhone demonstrates the importance of cross device communication which is a key element for advertisers," said Benny Arbel, CEO of myThings. "Advertisers need to be able to reach consumers and have 'continuity' among all devices since consumers today are on multiple devices all the time – targeting a consumer who has a full, unpurchased shopping cart on their iPad may need to be retargeted on a mobile device. This type of communication is crucial towards effective marketing."
Finally, Apple took a tiny step toward advancing mobile payments by opening up the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone to third-party app developers. Apple's Cook demonstrated the Touch ID with personal finance management tool Mint, touting biometric's improved security over manually entered passwords.
There was no mention of payments, but wider use of Touch ID could advance mobile payments, as the features had previously been limited to Apple's own App Store and iTunes downloads.
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