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Apple Introducing Google Now Competitor, Proactive Assistant

June 8, 2015 - Written By David Steele

It’s back to 2012 in Apple’s WWDC, the worldwide developers’ conference. You see, Apple have unveiled their “Proactive Assistant,” following Google’s introduction of “Google Now” with Android Jelly Bean, version 4.1. Jelly Bean was introduced in the summer of 2012 and was initially available for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and brand new Asus-built Nexus 7 tablet. Google Now is an interactive, proactive artificially intelligent assistant designed to provide the customer with information as they want it rather than when they want it. It is a subtle but important difference and best illustrated with an example: Google Now figures out where you live and work and establishes if you have a regular, semi-regular or variable commute. If you have a regular commute, it will display a card before your commute home to advise you of any traffic delays. You do need to tell it if you get around by car, bike or public transport and it will take care of the rest. If there is a significant delay, it alerts you to this. This is only one example, but there are a great many, such as parcel tracking and appointment reminders.

And now, three years late to the party, Apple has invented what it calls the “Proactive Assistant,” which is to be released with Apple iOS 9 for the iPhone and iPad. iOS 9 will be available as a public beta in next month and will be released in the fall, presumably with the next generation of iPhone. Siri will also be gaining better artificial intelligence and will support requests such as, “show me photos from the California trip last April.” The Proactive Assistant aims to anticipate what users need based on location, time, the diary, messages and running applications. The system will learn a user’s habits and suggest certain applications at different times of the day. It’ll also check traffic conditions and it can sift through your emails to cross reference incoming numbers, for example.

It’ll be interesting to see how Apple’s software balances device battery life and functionality with their stated ambition to maintain their privacy promise. Because the data is kept on the device, this means that it must be manipulated and cross-referenced at the device side, which means chewing through processor cycles, memory and network activity.  On a different note, Apple also showcased the streaming music service, called Apple Music, formed from Apple’s $3 billion purchase of Beats Electronics last year. There will be a $15 a month family plan together with a $10 normal plan. Apple also announced that Apple Pay is coming to the UK in July and will work with the London public transport system plus HSBC, Santander, Natwest, Nationwide, Lloyd’s Bank, First Direct and other UK banks. Apple Maps has also gained public transit directions. Again this is a few years after Google, which launched public transit directions in 2007.