The shocking truth about Proactive intelligence in iOS 9

Isn't it shocking that Proactive can give you a digital assistant that isn't interested in collecting and selling data about what you do?

Apple Now

Working alongside Siri, Apple’s iOS 9 flagship feature, Proactive tries to work out what you want to do next and then help you get that done.

Proactive will do things like:

  • If you call a contact at a regular time on a regular basis, Proactive will start placing the contact’s icon in your Search screen at around the time it thinks you might make that call.
  • If you visit the gym regularly and like to play music there, you’ll see a Now Playing dialog appear in the lock screen (or when you connect your headphones) when you get to the gum.
  • If a call comes in from an unknown number that is contained within an email you have received, iOS 9 lets you know who might be calling.
  • If a call comes from an unknown landline number that isn’t included in any email, Proactive will tell you where that number originates.
  • If you receive an email containing reservation information (flight, restaurant, event) iOS 9 will create a suggested Calendar event for you.
  • If you begin to write an email to multiple recipients iOS 9 will suggest other people you usually include in similar groups.
  • Proactive will learn to display relevant real-time traffic updates and an estimate of how long it will take you to reach your destination.
  • Use your iPhone in your car? When you connect up to your vehicle Siri will ask if you want to continue listening to the thing you were listening to last time you drove.
How to use it

Accessed when you swipe to the left on the iOS home screen, or by tappin the shortcut logo at the bottom left corner of your Apple device, (where Handoff also sits), the Proactive screen contains:

  • A series of suggested contacts (based on those you most regularly speak with);
  • A list of apps based on those you most frequently use;
  • Tools to find nearby services such as restaurants or gas stations;
  • News items based on those trending in your area.
As the software learns your habits it will offer you shortcuts to do those things too, and  third party apps will also offer Proactive tools as developers  build support for the feature into their software.

In future Proactive will also share other information, upcoming flights, local weather, traffic warnings, and other relevant items of information – all it needs to do is (1) have features enabled and (2) learn about you.

Training

Proactive bases its information on what you do. This means that when you first install it the things it provides will be limited, contact recommendations will be skewed, app recommendations faulty – the more you use it the better it should become.

To make this a little easier, Siri in iOS 9 has developed understanding of concepts like “today”, “tomorrow”, “when”. This means you can ask Siri to “Remind me to buy milk on the way home today”. Siri will then try to identify where you work and drop you a reminder as you leave.

Shocking truth

So, with all this information inside of iOS 9, what about privacy? Do you really want Apple knowing where you go, who you know, where you work and what you do? The shocking truth is that Apple wants you to keep your private lives private. This is why (unlike competitors who want to make money from insights into your private lives) it has engineered Proactive to process its data directly on your device, rather than in the cloud. This means your life does not become some Alphabetized telephone book for surveillance, sale or sociopathic snooping. The shock being that Apple's execution of the feature proves there’s no real need to sacrifice privacy for convenience.

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