The Future of Android and Mobile BI: An Analysis of Google I/O 2014

For those that keep abreast with the latest ongoings with Android, Google I/O is an event eagerly anticipated each year.  What new features will be announced?  And more importantly, what sort of sweet hardware will be handed out to attendees?

This year’s Google I/O represented the greatest fundamental change in Android since the platform’s inception.  Google announced (and gave away to attendees) Android Wear devices, the Android One program for emerging markets, an entirely new design language for both mobile and web called ‘Material Design’, and offered developers a preview of the next major version of Android, simply named Android L at this point (I’m pulling for Lollipop to be the next name in Android’s line of confectionary-inspired version names).

Our Android Mobile BI team has been hungrily digesting all the information put forth at the event, and the areas that we see being the most impactful to Mobile BI going forward include Android Wear, the sea change that is Material Design, and lastly, a feature of Android L that has not been officially confirmed, but exists in whisper form as something called ‘Nearby’.

Android Wear in any other year would have been the runaway star of the show.  A couple months prior, Google released its SDK for wearables, but I/O represented the first time people were able to shroud their wrists in the new devices.  What is Android Wear?  Android Wear is a slimmed down version of Android that allows notifications from your paired phone to be surfaced on your watch.  In addition, Android Wear also offers support for standalone apps present on the watch itself.  From a BI perspective, the most prescient feature is the ability to surface notifications.  We have a few new features in mind that will allow the user to be alerted of changes to data or the availability of new data via the wearable device.  The goal will be to make data come to the user in a timely fashion versus the user needing to search for it.

Material Design is something that bears special mention.  Historically, Android has been panned for its UI/UX (user interface and user experience).  This largely due to the fact that Android is open source and Google allows OEMs to customize much of the software running on the device.  This has led in many instances to a very fractured experience from device to device, OEM to OEM.  Samsung is by far the most popular Android device maker, but is also the one that strays the furthest from Google’s design guidelines, and, in many cases, create (in the author’s opinion) an inferior user experience.  With the introduction of Material Design, Google seems to be raising the design bar to such a level that they are effectively daring OEMs to do something different at the expense of looking clumsy and dated by comparison.  Our design and dev team is taking the principles of Material Design to heart and has some pretty ambitious plans for realizing them in the Mobile BI app.

In recent years, Google has released a ‘Halo’ device in the fall as the flagship for the next version of Android via the Nexus line of devices. This year,developers were treated instead to a preview of the next version of Android, simply referred to as Android L.  Android L contains many, many new features.  The feature that the Mobile BI team is most excited about has not been officially confirmed, but is known to Android sleuthers as ‘Nearby’.  In short, the Nearby feature in Android L will allow your device to be aware when it is near certain people, or rather, their devices.  The potential impact for such a feature is incredible across the entire spectrum of mobile apps, but for Mobile BI in particular, we’ve got several ideas we’re prototyping that can leverage this capability (when it surfaces, hopefully this fall).  Everything from making sharing even easier to having contextual triggers based on a certain person’s proximity to preload a certain report- the possibilities are really tremendous.

This year’s I/O has really gotten the team excited about the future of Android; stay tuned for updates to the Android Mobile BI app.  We’ve got many new features in store.

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