wwdcApple’s announcements at its WorldWide Developers’ Conference today had the crowd responding enthusiastically (of course, it was an Apple’s Developers Conference, so that just comes with the territory).

Much of the applause came in response to the new iOS 8 and its enhanced capabilities. As had been expected, as part of this, virtual assistant Siri got a bit of a facelift.

In the new iOS 8 for iPhones and iPads, due in the fall, there’s no need to touch your iPhone if it’s plugged in and you’ve got a question that needs answering and no hands to touch the mike. Apple also has partnered with music recognition service Shazam so that Siri now can recognize songs playing around them, and purchase them too; Shazam creates digital fingerprints of the audio it hears and matches it against its database of millions of tracks. Its natural language processing is fluent in 22 languages now, and streaming voice recognition means you can see what you’re saying as you are saying it.

Siri is also an important part of Apple’s connected home venture (which we pondered earlier today here) in iOS 8, dubbed HomeKit. “There are a lot of great home automation devices coming on the market these days,” said senior VP, software engineering, Craig Federighi, but each has its own app, and defines its own network protocols, security mechanisms and so on. “We thought we could bring some rationality to this space.”

Working with brands such as Honeywell, August, iHome and TI, it developed a common network protocol with security built in to keep any iPhone other than your own from unlocking your door. With Siri integration, users can control their automated home devices by voice – and, if they’ve taken advantage of HomeKit’s ability to group their devices into scenes, they can tell Siri to get ready for bed, which can set into motion front and garage door locking, lights turning off or being dimmed, and themostats turning down.

Health on the Horizon

While the iWatch did not make its appearance yet for our Internet of Things-filled world, fitness hub HealthKit, another iOS 8 companion, did. In its own way, it’s Apple’s attempt to rationalize the splintered smart health device and app field; developers can build bridges from these gadgets to take in their fitness and health metrics and they will appear in a single dashboard for consumers, the Health app. Any app can contribute to what Federighi said will be a corresponding profile of your activity and health. “Right now, the information gathered by these apps lives in silos,” Federighi said. “You can’t get a single comprehensive picture of your health situation.”

The Mayo Clinic is also one of the first healthcare providers to partner with Apple on this. Now, when a patient takes a blood pressure reading, for example, the Health app can notify the Mayo Clinic’s health applications about whether that reading is within that patient’s personalized threshold, and doctors can be proactively notified if it’s necessary to take action.   “We think this is going to be realy import for healthcare,” he said.