A More Sensitive Web Platform

Digital & Innovation | 24th June 2017

The Web was invented in 1989. Launched five years later, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has acted as steward of the Web, evolving the foundations of the Web (HTTP, HTML, CSS, XML, Web Services, etc.) towards a ubiquitous tool, essential for our society. Nowadays, W3C develops and maintains Open Web Platform, a framework where anyone has the right to implement software components widely supported by user agents and devices around the world. Industry and public bodies have become more efficient through the adoption of web technologies, and new business models reach out global markets.

Open Web Platform
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Successfulness of new products and services is only guaranteed with a solid Web ecosystem, where user experience is positive for all intended audiences. In a global environment, with millions of diverse devices spread along people under different cultures, the growth of the Web turns out to be a huge challenge. Within W3C, thousands of engineers and enthusiasts are currently developing the future of the industry, researching and standardising technologies to solve challenges that will affect our daily lives in a near future

A deep review of specifications by experts in accessibility, internationalisation, security, and interoperability fields, guarantees interoperability, robustness, and universality of standards.

Devices everywhere

The concept of Internet of Things, where everything is connected, is already a reality: domotic systems we can control remotely from our smartphone; connected electric cars receiving external information (incidents on the road ahead, weather issues, natural disaster alerts), able to communicate with our smartwatch to inform us about the level of batteries and make our wristband vibrate in case we fall asleep at the wheel; synchronized Smart-TV systems that allow us to interact with different multimodal interfaces such as a tablet synchronized with the smartTV content; and simulating or, even enhancing our feelings through the virtual and augmented reality devices. The heterogeneous IoT ecosystem is being also normalised through web standards defined at the W3, Web of Things working group.

All these devices will bring us new innovative services and products. Engineers around the world work on making the most of these technologies in terms of interoperability, but the level of success (or failure) of the technology depends on usability. This is something similar to what had happened with the mobile web. Once the web-enabled mobile devices became popular, and basic technologies worked properly, experts centred their efforts on enhancing the user experience, developing responsive-based solutions. For usability in mobile devices, context is king.

A key aspect to understand who/when/how/where is the agent behind the device, things of internet are crucial for this matter. A new generation of sensors, actuators and screens everywhere, interacts with them and with us, enabling the analysis of individuals’ behaviour. This challenge is not trivial, but the possibilities ahead are infinite.

Get fresh content about Digital Communication every month!W3C guides the industry towards the new generation of technologies that solve the challenges faced by our society using the Open Web Platform.

Dozens of groups in W3C discuss the need of different sectors, some of the hot activities are listed below.

1. Digital publishing

Recently, the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) – the creator of the current standard for eBooks (EPUB) into W3C aiming at leading the future of the Digital Publishing ecosystem. This group’s vision is that the current format and workflow separation between offline/portable and online document publishing should be diminished to zero.

ebook reader kindle

Several task forces are currently working on improving the capabilities of digital publications, making the most of devices and the Web technologies to increase the reading experience of both humans (offering annotation mechanisms, enhancing accessibility, enabling STEM –Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths – notation, allowing multilingual support, including media and interactive resources, and enrichment with external contents) and machines (easier identification and discoverability on the Web, homogeneous format, online/offline management, packaging, and content interoperability).

2. Connected cars

The automotive industry joined W3C to develop specifications for HTML5/JavaScript that enable Web connectivity through in-vehicle infotainment systems and vehicle data access protocols. This will bring developers and designers new programming opportunities on very different scenarios: entertainment for passengers; drivers without distractions; vehicle reliability and road safety, among others.

A vehicle is now considered as another kind of web-enabled device, receiving third party information, producing information (current speed, consumption, engine variables and status of tires), and interacting with external systems (sharing car systems, with gas station systems, traffic lighting, automatic toll and parking payments, etc.). Driving experience is being enhanced in connected cars, but the most important potential achievement is efficiency and the capability of vehicles to prevent collisions.

3. Virtual and augmented reality

This is another hot topic in all sectors, from academia to industry and leisure. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are already real solutions for huge challenges. Examples like mechanisms to conduct remote operations by humans in dangerous environments (nuclear power plants, inaccessible locations in rescues, gas pipeline inspections) and trainees in secure virtual environments testing expensive equipment, probed the potential of this concept.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

As observed with other early cutting edge technologies, a major problem is a fragmented devices market. Heterogeneous frameworks and features for different VR and AR systems. To solve this, WebVR proposes the Web as the platform for experiencing immersive 3D and Virtual Reality. Indeed, WebVR is experimentally implemented in 7 browsers, so it can be tested already.

4. More media and entertainment

In 2011, W3C launched a new activity called Web and TV to explore the potential convergence of these fields. Now, under the denomination of Media and Entertainment, an interest group standardizes technical solutions related to entertainment in general, including second screen management, TV Control on the Web, and other essential tools for the future of media on the Web: Timed Text for captioning and HTML Media Extensions to manage advanced media features on browsers.

Digital TV

Another interesting concept under discussion is Cloud Browser, a new web browser approach for low-end devices such as HDMI dongles and lightweight set-top boxes that may not be able to run a browser locally, shifting the browser execution to the cloud.

5. Payments on the Web

As we all observe, e-Commerce is growing as a proportion of all commerce. However, a number of challenges are limiting its potential, such as fraud losses and failed customer expectations. An alarming signal is the high cart abandonment rate, around the 70% of users leave the website without completing the checkout process.

Trust should be built on top of openness and standards. So W3C has brought together merchants, financial and credit card corporations, browser vendors, and many other stakeholders to solve the challenges of payments on the Web. Over a hundred of experts, from more than 65 organisations, work on a standard payments ecosystem on the Web. This solution will enable: users to choose their preferred payment solutions across all their devices; merchants to support a growing number of payment solutions transparently; developers to monetize applications easily; innovative payment solution providers to enter the market easily; society to decrease online fraud; and new payment models (micropayments, electronic wallets, and cryptocurrencies) to take-off.

Read more about W3C, these and other hot activities and help us to define the future we want. Participate here!

Martin Alavarez-Espinar was invited by Hi INTERACTIVE to write this article.

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