Presenting on stage at the TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco hackathon this afternoon was the team from an iOS app called Blitz, which aims to offer Notification Screen shortcuts to specific pages and functions within your iOS apps. For example, you could save a shortcut that, when tapped, would launch Google Maps with directions to your home already routed for you. Or you could tap a shortcut to the Uber app that would show you the current price for an Uber from your location to another, and call the black car service for you with just one tap.
The Blitz app works by utilizing both APIs and deep linking technology, the latter which is now an increasingly common feature in today’s mobile applications. With deep links, you can link directly to a specific page within an application, rather than just to the app itself.
The idea to use the iOS 8 Notification Center to display deep-linked app shortcuts was something team member Nick Lauer, a Facebook engineer by day, had wanted to experiment with while at the hackathon this weekend, explaining that the feature wasn’t currently well-documented. He built Blitz along with fellow Facebook employees Jamie Karraker, Shayna Lauer, and Josh Lauer – yes, this hack was a family affair!
Although the shortcut to Uber was still a little buggy by demo time, the Blitz app already supports a number of shortcuts to popular iOS applications, including Yelp, Rdio, Venmo, Yo, and to SMS (via the Messages app), for example.
The iOS 8 Notification screen will only support up to 8 of these shortcuts, the team tells TechCrunch – enough to fill the iPhone’s screen. The shortcuts themselves are not “ephemeral” – that is, they don’t disappear after you tap on them the way normal iOS notifications do. Instead, they stay put so you can easily access them at any time without having to flip through your numerous iPhone screens, and then tap your way through the app’s screens to get to the information you wanted.
Having gotten a somewhat functional prototype built over the weekend, the team says they’re now going to work on Blitz in their spare time so they can later publish the app to the iTunes App Store. Stay tuned.