June 19, 2017

Top Takeaways from WWDC 2017 that Weren’t in the Keynote

While there were a lot of big announcements during this year’s WWDC Keynote, there were even more our Rocketeers learned during the sessions following it. Some of these barely made an appearance at the conference, but we think they’re some of the most exciting updates yet. If you are interested in learning more about these topics, you are also welcome to watch our webinar that aired Wednesday, June 14, 2017.  Click here to watch.

Business Chat Could Change Everything

Any business large enough to have a call center or customer support group should take note. Business Chat opens a support line directly in iMessages making it easier than ever help solve everyday customer problems with a tool that’s familiar to everyone. This interaction can begin from a button in an app, a link on your website, a CTA in an order confirmation email, or pretty much anywhere else you’d want to put it. Within the chat, you can share files, images, product images and/or videos, and much more. For example, let’s say a customer wanted to upgrade or change their seat on a flight – the airline could send them a layout of the seats available and can even charge for the upgrade through Apple Pay directly in iMessage. If you wanted to schedule a meeting, the details will be saved directly to the calendar.

Business Chat is available today and already integrates with LivePerson, Salesforce, Nuance, and Genesys.

CoreNFC Now Open to Developers

Near Field Communication (NFC) has been around for several years now, and the odds are good that you’ve used it and didn’t even know. NFC can be used for a wide range of applications, but to date it has primarily been used for mobile payment through apps such as Apple Pay. However, that may change very soon as Apple has officially opened the iPhone’s NFC functionality to developers. In true Apple style, they have taken every precaution to ensure user data remains secure. Each session must be initiated by the user and developers can only read, not write, data from an NFC tag. This means there will never be an accidental scan or possibility of someone pulling information from your phone. Brands will be able to leverage NFC for everything from presenting more information about a painting in a museum to adding items to an account in a hotel – but they will not be able to bill you directly from the interaction.

QR Reader Added to Default Camera App

In the United States, QR code sightings can be uncommon depending on where you live. In eastern markets, they are much more common. QR codes failed to reach widespread adoption in America because some didn’t know what to do with them and others didn’t see the value in downloading an app specifically for reading them. Now that Apple has integrated a QR reader into the default Camera app, that could change. However, western adoption of QR codes relies on content creators and advertisers just as much as, if not more than, users interacting with them. QR codes can be used for a wide range of applications such as sharing a playlist, opening a YouTube video, downloading an app, adding an item to a cart, and much more. The more interesting the experience, the more likely users are to give QR codes a try. To best leverage them, think guerilla marketing mixed with surprise and delight – people should feel as though they found something special rather than an advertisement, and where it takes them should almost be a reward.

CoreML Brings Machine Learning to the iPhone

The ways Google and Apple have approached artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are very different. One of the biggest differences is where the “magic” happens. Google’s approach is in the cloud while Apple’s is on-device. Processing the information on the iPhone itself not only provides a much faster experience but a much more private one. CoreML has three offerings at the moment, including Vision for image analysis, Foundation for language processing, and GameplayKit for NPC (non-player character) behavior, pathfinding, and more. While GameplayKit will mostly be used by game developers, Vision and Foundation can be used for a multitude of applications. For example, Vision can be used to recognize barcodes. You could use Vision to show more information about a product after a consumer scans the barcode or, with some training, teach Siri to recognize the product itself so that they can simply take a picture of the product to learn more.

Siri’s New Extensions

Three new extensions are now available to developers through SiriKit. For apps that allow you to make or check off items on a list, Siri can now be integrated into the app to allow users to take actions around those lists. The other two extensions, Points and Domains, can be leveraged for rewards and loyalty points. Points will allow users to ask Siri questions, such as “do I have enough points to book a flight to LA?” and Domains will allow users to scan visual codes such as loyalty points on a purchase to have them automatically added to your account in the app. With Siri’s new extensions, the customer experience in apps can be improved greatly as Siri makes it easier for consumers to keep track and add reward points to their accounts.

The App Store Gets an Overhaul

There are some big changes coming to the App Store. First off, Apple has completely redesigned the store and added several sections to improve the app discovery experience. There will be three primary sections to the store – Apps, Games, and Today. To make it even easier to decide if you want to download an app, Apple has also added the option for developers to upload up to three videos to showcase gameplay, features, and more in apps. What’s even more exciting is that Apple now allows developers to decide if they want to reset their reviews when uploading a new version of an app. Believe it or not, some developers would allow bugs to go unfixed for weeks if they had high ratings for their app to avoid having the ratings potentially drop. Now hotfixes are much less stressful for brands and developers as they can effectively push out several builds of an app and retain their ratings and reviews.

Check back for more updates as these new features and tools become available. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with any other questions you may have.

October 15, 2015

Beacon Mini-Hackathon 2015 | Innovation Based on Passion

At Bottle Rocket, one of our most widely publicized internal events is our 24-hour hackathon, otherwise known as Rocket Science. It is a day where we shut down production and dedicate time to projects Rocketeers are most passionate about. During this day, Rocketeers push their limits and bring ideas to life – and it is an event that captures the very idea of our very culture.

With all the successful innovation we have seen over the past four years, we have decided to introduce mini-hackathons throughout the year.

Recently, our developers held their own mini-hackathon focusing on beacons, an intentionally conspicuous device designed to attract attention to a specific location. Traditionally, they are used for everything from navigating, tracking and more. We decided to see what other unique uses they could provide.

During the after-hours event, developers designed beacon related projects to do just that. The requirements for these projects were open-ended, meaning our Rocketeers could bring a variety of different ideas to create.

The goals of this night were:

  • Give our developers time to get comfortable with beacons
  • Facilitate quicker integration into client applications
  • Answer client questions regarding the feasibility of beacon integration

Continue reading about some of the different projects our developers created.

Rocketeer presenting demo during beacon hackathon

Team Finder

For those times you just can’t find where your coworkers are. With beacons placed in fixed locations throughout the office, can we locate a user based on the closest few beacons?

During this project, our developers determined the nearest beacon to a device and reported that device and location to a server. The most recent locations were displayed on an office map so all team members can be up to date. Although the initial testing proved to be successful, they are looking to improve in areas such as filtering beacon locations, timeout values and more. The team also noticed that this technology would be useful for tracking items and implement meeting reminders.

Watch the presentation here.


Beacon Scavenger Hunt 

Do you like hide and seek? So do we. That’s why Rocketeer Earl Gaspard created a beacon scavenger hunt app with beacons scattered around the Bottle Rocket office. The idea is that users are given a list of locations to find and as they search, they can check the status of each item.

After experimenting, Gaspard found the app to be a success. His takeaways were that although beacons were fun to work with, one must make sure the beacon signal strength is at a certain level. Otherwise, several beacons would be detected without having to be in close proximity to them.

Another Rocketeer, Jared Stockton, had another similar idea for the hackathon. He also developed a beacon hunt, but with the objective of visiting five locations around the office as fast as possible. The app was a success, but Stockton decided that further testing was needed regarding signal strength.

Watch the presentation here.



Rocketeer Bill Francis described this experiment as the “Open and Interoperable Proximity Beacon Specification.” This project defines the format of the advertisement message that Bluetooth low energy proximity beacons broadcast. It is intended to create an open, competitive market for proximity beacon implementations – access control, one tape promotional raffle, in-store ads, find others with common interests nearby, etc.

Some pros of this experiment were that our developers found it easy to code, but it unfortunately only supports later Android Devices. Also, distance algorithm requires tuning per device mfg (UNK, NEAR, INT, FAR). Our developers are eager to do more testing to combat the spotty reception problems they were having during the hackathon.

Watch the presentation here.


Other projects included:

  • Testing beacon proximity information, where signal strength depended on variables like beacon hardware, battery strength, physical environment and more.
  • Hot or Cold beacon game, similar to the beacon scavenger hunt.
  • Table location for restaurant use: can a restaurant employee locate a mobile order customer and deliver their food based on beacons sighted by the mobile customer’s phone?
  • Beacon powered car: can users start their cars, unlock their cars and other car-related tasks in conjunction with beacon proximity (as soon as they leave their home or work, for example)?
  • Crowdsource pet finding using pet tags with beacons. In the event a pet gets lost, the idea is to use these beacons and crowdsourced data to find him. If anyone with the app comes into proximity of the animal while they are lost, that user will receive an alert.

Most of the above projects required more testing to smooth out the wrinkles in development but were generally successes in what they were trying to accomplish.


Our passion for learning is very important to the Rocketeer culture. Make sure to read more about Bottle Rocket’s culture and events.

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