The Wattl iOS App

Hello, my name is Dr. Matthew Ryan, I am the CTO and developer of the Wattl platform.  In the coming weeks and months I’ll be posting regularly on our progress in the development of Wattl.  It has been an exciting time so far, with highs and lows – long nights, hard work and finally a working product!

The Wattl platform is made up from a number of components, comprising the client which is a native iOS app, and the server side.  I’ll start on the first blog post by talking about the iOS app, and will cover the other aspects in later blogs. Be sure to sign up to the newsletter so that we can let you know when new blogs are posted.

iOS App

The iOS app is  a native app written in  Objective-C using XCode. The app has 3 main  sections, namely the wall, feed and profile.  To navigate between the pages, we developed a prism navigator.

Prism navigator

To navigate between sections you drag from the edge of the screen, which rotates the prism. This is implemented as a 3D prism with 3 sides – each side being a page. As you rotate it, the prism has perspective, and you can see behind it.  We also model the lighting to give a realistic shadow to sides as they turn away.

To navigate between pages, drag from the edge of the screen

The prism has inertia, so just for fun, you can ‘flick’ the prism and it will keep spinning for short time.

We stop video playback of the wall while the prism is being rotated to ensure it rotates smoothly, but actually the iOS views are still being updated. You can see this yourself if you go to a profile page with many images, and then rotate the prism slightly while the images are still loading.

Walls

The wall section is where you can create and view the walls. The first screen you see is a list of the walls, containing the public Wattl wall, and a list of the private walls you have access to.

wall list page
In wattl the first page you see lists your public and private walls

You can select the wall you want to view by tapping on the row. Each wall is a zoomable grid where anyone with access to the wall can upload images or videos.

Close up of cells on the public wattl wall

 

The wall has by far been the most difficult and complex part of wattl to develop. There are many challenges to make it work, with many (sometimes conflicting!) goals.

The wall uses many different technologies to work, and includes:

  • Database to store the information about the cells
  • Cloud storage to store the media
  • Virtual servers to maintain and update the media
  • Micro-services to implement an API for the app

More details about the technologies involved will follow in future posts, so let me know in the comments what you’d like to know about.

Feed

In wattl you receive a notification when things happen you might be interested in. For example, when you get invited to a private wall or someone posts a comment on your cell. All these feed items are listed on the feed page, which shows the relevant cell, the user and other info such as the comment.

Feed shows notifications of things like new cells, or comments

We use push notifications which are triggered when certain events happen. So for example when a user uploads a new cell, we send a push notification to all the people who follow that user.  If the followers have not enabled push notifications, they will just see a new item in their feed when they open the app.

There are a number of improvements we will be making to the feed page, the first being a badge to show the number of unread items.

Profile

Each user has a profile page, which shows things like username, bio, profile picture and public cells they’ve upload.

Profile page in wattl shows details on each user

On this page you can follow /unfollow and see who as pulsed your cells. There is also a settings cog at the top to open the settings page.

 

I hope you’ve found this first post interesting, which was just a very brief overview of the main sections in the iOS app.  The coming posts will talk more about the app, the server and our day-to-day experiences, challenges and successes!

Life at a Start Up

Featured Video Play Icon

According to new research by British psychologists, we spend an average of 5 hours a day glaring at the bright lights of our smartphones. Thats nearly two thirds of the working day. The habitual nature of checking our smartphone has become so indoctrinated into our minds that the very making of the things we spend so much of our lives on is never given much thought.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram run flawlessly and without interruption. These multi-billion dollar companies have a dedicated team in the thousands constantly patching bugs and adding new features monthly. Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerburg has an estimated worth of 56 billion dollars, making him the 4th Richest man in America.

An app is a business and just like in the real world, starting one is immensly difficult. So how does an app go from an idea in someones head to a downloadable piece of code on your smartphone?

I spent a month at Wattl, A video sharing platform that is currently in development. Developed by a husband and wife team that are based in Manchester ready and willing to take on the technological giants.

The Idea

Every great business model starts with a great idea. A gap in the market or niche that allows a company to provide something that is not currently available is an invaluable asset.

The idea of Wattl is to revolutionise the way users discover new content. Videos and other images can be discovered using a grid which can be explored with a pinch and zoom mechanic.

The sporadic nature of a grid differentiates Wattl from other video discovery applications because of the ability to access thousands of videos in multiple directions, with no buffering or loading time.

Wattl operates under a reward system in regards to the longevity of videos on the grid. A video that has been interacted with through “pulses” will be available to view for longer. All videos will eventually cycle out, keeping the content on the grid ever changing. This keeps the grid current and changes with the users who use it.

The Working day

Just like many other business across the country, Wattl is run from an office. The Mi-IDEA startup accelerator, funded by tech powerhouse CISCO is the current home of the App. These offices however are not your standard magnolia wall, shirt and tie, grey stone building.

The Mi-IDEA offices are filled with innovation and light. The open plan floors are home to several different business, all of which communicate freely with each other, and often lend expertise to others when needed.

The team is small. One business and one technical. PhD Matthew Ryan is the apps programmer and the majority of his day is adhering to the app. Fixing bugs, making changes to the interface. As a consumer, when an app crashes we have no input to resolving the issue. As a creator, Matthew has to ensure that any problems are resolved working through different problems every day.

Emma Ryan, CEO of Wattl has a more conventional role that is inline with the workings of a small but growing business. Promotion, brand awareness and a structured marketing strategy are all part and parcell of a days work, whilst simultaniously looking for new opportunities to expose the app to as many people as possible. Emma is also responsible for connecting with businesses and people of interest that can accelerate growth of the brand.

Can anyone make an App?

In theory, yes. In practical terms, categorically not. Hard work and an idea will carry you far in many forms of business, but creating an app takes expertise and countless hours. There are many “App creator” programmes that run with an easy to follow graphical user interface (GUI) which do provide limited but nevertheless simple app creations. To create an original app that does not follow a basic structure made by others is something very few can do.

Taking the technical side away, marketing an app is just as difficult. Appealing directly to the consumer may sound like a time saver, cutting out any “middle men’ but the challenges lie in selling a product that is nearly impossible to visually demonstrate other than screen grabs and videos.

Analyst house Gartner projected that the percentage of apps that can be deemed a financial success in 2018 will be around 0.04% due to the hyperactivity in the market place. A small increase of 0.03% from last year, however still a sign that app creation is a labour of time and money that does not always bare fruit.

The rewards that come with creating a successful app are obvious. Despite the risks, this groundbreaking app may just have the legs to run with the industry leaders that came before.