App users were once content with static apps, single-user experiences where content changes only when a user requests a new page, clicks a button or refreshes the page. New information is presented only when a user requests it.
But times have changed. The average attention span of a human is 8 seconds, according to the National Center for Biotech Information.1 Users don’t want to wait for updates anymore; they want information in real time. As a result, we’re seeing a major shift from static apps to real-time apps, web and mobile apps that mimic real life behaviors, pushing content and information “as it happens.”
The result is the birth of applications that have created industries that wouldn’t have otherwise been possible without this real-time functionality. Real-time technology is at the core of these apps and services; its lifeblood. And these apps are just a couple examples of the exponential growth of real-time web and mobile applications.
“We’re seeing increased understanding of the benefits of real-time web tech so it’s not surprising that the number of apps using the technology is rapidly increasing. Common functionality includes simple data updates for notifications, dashboards (sports, finance, site analytics and anything that’s stat-heavy), real-time news and activity streams. Or more complex functionality for multi-user chat, collaborative applications, multiplayer games, interactive 2nd screen experiences, real-time mapping and GIS” – Phil Leggetter in 10 Real-time Web Technology Predictions for 2014
Taxi/Ridesharing Applications: A tight real-time loop
The days of standing out on the curb to hail a cab are dwindling. In fact, I’ve watched people let empty cabs drive right by them. Why would somebody do this? It’s the real-time user experience. Users prefer to hail, track, and pay for their fare seamlessly, all in one mobile app.
Real-time maps have become a staple feature of taxi and ridesharing applications. Users expect to be able to watch their car on a live updating map, giving them an ETA and assuring them that a car is really coming. But there are also other real-time features in these apps that are vital to the overall user experience. The apps are able to dispatch drivers in under a quarter of a second with the click of a button. They’re able to monitor and track fleets of vehicles, accurately dispatching vehicles without ever double booking or dropping rides. And most of all, they’re able to create one smooth ride experience, from hailing to payment, and everything in between.
This tight information loop, fast and efficient communication between themselves, the driver, and dispatch is the reason these ride sharing and taxi apps are so popular. And that tight information loop requires real-time technology to make it all possible.
Examples: Lyft, Sidecar, Uber, GetTaxi, Flywheel
Sports Score Applications: Updates as they happen
Static or slow sport applications can’t emulate the fast-paced action of actually viewing a live sporting event. To create this user experience, there’s needs to be information pushed to the user as quickly and often as possible. A simple clock and score board that updates every 10-20 seconds doesn’t have the real life feel and speed it needs to capture the attention of its users.
Real-time technology has changed that. Information is now pushed as it happens, to thousands of users simultaneously, anywhere in the world. These apps no longer just update the score and time, but rather are fully featured applications for out-of-stadium audience interaction. This includes collaborative features like polls and trivia, social feeds, live blogging, and live statistics. The app obviously won’t completely emulate the feeling of watching a live sporting event in the flesh, but it is changing the way that somebody out of stadium can experience a live sporting event entirely from their phone.
Examples: Manchester City FC Match Day Centre, ScoreCenter
Online marketplaces: Emulating a real life auction house
If you remember the early days of eBay, you probably pulled your hair out with the frustrations of the last 5 minutes of a heated bid war, repeatedly tapping ‘refresh’ to see if you were still the highest bidder. Then you refresh again, the auction is over, and you’ve been outbid. A static bidding application doesn’t mimic the excitement of a real life auction, and more importantly doesn’t enable users to bid rapidly with one another for an item.
“Behavioral emails are one of best ways to capitalize on in-app activity,” said Dane Lyons, Founder and CTO of Knowtify.io, the smart email engagement platform. “People really appreciate a brand that provides the information they really need when they need it.”
Today, online auction houses need to push high volumes of data as quickly as possible. They may have hundreds or even thousands of buyers watching and bidding on a single item. Data stream networks can power this, no matter where each bidder is located across the globe. This creates a reliable, low latency connection between all the bidders, the auctioneer, and auction application, ensuring a smooth and solid bidding platform.
Examples: TopHatter, Catawiki
Home Automation: Reliable and secure real-time signaling
When a user presses a button on their phone to turn on a light, they expect that light to turn on as if they’re flipping a switch. Or when you cross over a certain geographical location in your vehicle, you expect your garage door to open and your house’s heater to turn on.
It seems as though every home appliance these days has an IP address. Home automation solutions are becoming increasingly popular, and our houses are getting smarter and smarter. To provide and power a full home automation product, speed, reliability and especially security are paramount requirements.
This is where real-time device signaling comes into play, a key component of any home automation product. Device signaling requires a system that is bidirectional, where updates are sent through a dedicated channel that can trigger events (such as a light turning on). This signaling is needed on both the send side and the receive side. Though low latency is key for this signaling, security and reliability are just as important. When the security of your home rests in an home automation solution, encryption and additional security features need to be a core feature of the application. This ensures that unauthorized users can’t access the home automation application.
When you lock the door from your smartphone, you want that door to lock every time, and you definitely don’t want somebody else to be able to unlock it.
For more on real-time and home automation solutions, check out our blog post Why Home Automation Needs a Real-time Service Provider.
Examples: Revolv, Insteon
These are just a couple different types of web and mobile apps that reflect the exponential growth and reliance of real-time technology. We want information as it happens. And real-time technology delivers that.
Inspired by any of these? Want to get started on an app yourself? Sign up for a free PubNub account for your keys, and take a look at some of our tutorials below:
- Connected Car Solution Kit: Provides the core building blocks for any dispatch and real-time map application
- Intro to PubNub Data Streams: Stream and sync data in under a 1/4. Essential for live auction and sports score apps
- PubNub Arduino SDK: A great SDK to get your home automation app started