Apple's operating system upgrade to spur mobile apps

Home automation seen as one potential market where HK developers can work with hi-tech giant's HomeKit platform to launch apps

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 5:08am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 5:30am

Mobile applications developers in Hong Kong expect to generate fresh business opportunities after Apple took the wraps off its new and improved mobile operating system, iOS 8.

Technology giant Apple announced on Monday in the United States the release of the iOS 8 software development kit to its global developer community before the company's much-anticipated launch of new products, including upgrades of the popular iPhone, iPad and MacBook, in the second half of this year.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook described the new mobile operating platform roll-out as "the mother of all releases", providing developers with more tools to create innovative new apps.

The iOS 8 SDK released to developers delivers more than 4,000 application programming interfaces including HealthKit, HomeKit and Family Sharing, the advanced graphics technology called Metal, expanded security and productivity features, and Swift, a new programming language.

Nick Murray, the co-founder and chief technology officer at Hong Kong-based mobile apps developer PassKit, told the South China Morning Post: "We will see iOS apps released faster and with higher-quality in general than those on the Android operating system."

"For start-ups and entrepreneurs in Hong Kong, there is no better time to get into the iOS development business," Murray said. There are currently 1.2 million apps in Apple's App Store.

Murray cited HomeKit, Apple's bold new bid to become a major player in the nascent home automation market, as a new feature that may held expand the developers' business.

HomeKit delivers a common protocol that lets home accessories, such as lights and temperature sensors, connect seamlessly and securely over the internet, also called "the cloud". It can also work with Siri, Apple's voice-command digital assistant.

"Home automation is huge," said Keith Rumjahn, the chief executive at rapidly growing mobile sports app developer Coachbase. "I see a lot of Hong Kong developers participating in this market segment because the city has plenty of hardware and software expertise."

"There are already a lot of companies, such as Amazon in the US and Xiaomi on the mainland, fighting to become the No1 remote control provider for the home. But it's not hard to see the iPhone becoming the central remote for all things in the house," Rumjahn said.

Technology research firm IHS has forecast the number of globally installed, "cloud-based" remotely controlled home management systems to reach 44.6 million in 2018, up from 5.6 million last year.

HealthKit, which allows health and fitness apps to communicate with each other, will encourage developers to get each app to use specific data from other apps to provide a way for a person to manage such information.

"We believe Apple's HealthKit will revolutionise how the health industry interacts with people," said John Noseworthy, the president and chief executive at Mayo Clinic, a well-known US non-profit medical practice and research group.

IHS predicted sales of home health care devices and services will rise to US$12.6 billion in 2018, up from US$5.7 billion last year.