Last week Apple hosted its annual developers conference, WWDC, in San Francisco. This was also Malauzai’s fourth year attending the conference. At the first conference we attended, Apple was excitedly announcing changes to its latest mobile operating system, iOS 5. This year, a lot was announced including:
- Latest iteration of the Mac OS X operating system, called “Mac OS X Yosemite.”
- Interoperability between the Mac OS and its mobile counterparts was a main theme of the new operating system
- Apple is making extensive use of its growing cloud based technology, known as iCloud, to further that cause
- Major new update to the mobile operating system, iOS 8
- While visually very similar to iOS 7, iOS 8 contains important new updates aimed squarely at the developer community
This week, I want to focus on two of their announcements.
Historically, Apple has not allowed applications within iOS to inter-operate, or share data and functionality. Because of the sandboxed nature of the applications, which adds significant security benefit, applications were effectively silos of functionality and information. In iOS 8, developers will now be able to register specific components of their application for other apps to consume. Maintaining the same level of control over the sandbox of the application, a specific functional piece of another application can now effectively be “shared”, and dismissed when no longer needed, all without leaving the host application. Apple’s specific implementation of this functionality is very clever, and appears to not compromise the sandbox security. One way in which Apple is evidently using this extension capability is by allowing applications to add specific data and actionable items, which appear in the device’s notification center. Quickly glance-able data can be viewed, and a specific action potentially taken, all without having to open the app.
Touch ID API
Apple’s highly touted fingerprint scanning technology, made available on iPhone 5s, and possibly coming soon to iPads, has been a huge success. I use mine multiple times a day, and much prefer it to entering my passcode, every time I need to unlock my device. The passcode still has to be enabled, but the Touch ID, which is read off the devices home button, authenticates me, and allows me to enter from the lock screen. I even have it set up to allow me to purchase content in iTunes and the App Store, by authenticating me without the need to enter a passcode. As convenient as this feature is, the technology behind how Apple maintains its security is impressive. At no time is an actual image of a fingerprint captured. Rather, the sensor collects data points from the fingerprint being scanned, and compared those data points against a saved set of fingerprint data to determine a match. That saved set of data is not stored within the iPhone’s general device memory location, but rather in a secure portion of the actual A7 Chip, used to computationally power the device, called the Secure Enclave. The secure enclave is physically inaccessible from any other application running on the device. Until iOS 8, Apple was the only user of the Touch ID functionality. Now, Apple has created API access to this technology, which enables an application developer to include fingerprint biometric authentication in their application. Potential uses for this include a biometric replacement for user names, PINs, or passwords, or a biometric second validation for high-risk transactions. As biometric authentication becomes more easily accessible, application providers will be able to more easily add increased layers of authentication to their sensitive applications.
At Malauzai, we’re excited about iOS 8, and are already actively working on incorporating some of its new features into our suite of applications. Look for iOS 8 to be made officially available by Apple in the fall.