Meetup Objective-C -> Swift: ‘Swift is our bridge to the future’

SWIFT, Objective C

Last Tuesday we gave the floor to the first mobile developer of ING: Pim Stolk. As a chapter lead he took us through the Swift journey of ING at the IT Dev Café. 

With his background as an information engineer he ended up in the mobile industry. Pim Stolk worked for Sharewire, ITmobile and he got indulged in developing a banking application for ABN Amro. Curious about in what way one phone call took his career to the next level?

Write the code, change the world

“I was contacted by ING, because this bank wanted a mobile app as well”, according to the speaker. Pim Stolk rejected ING, but the bank persisted. Eventually the iOS developer was willing to enter into dialogue with ING. He was surprised by the enormous technical disadvantage. “I had a lot of catching up to do in this area, but I could make the difference here. There was nothing yet: I became the first mobile iOS developer.”


New features ING app

Now, six years later, he still works for ING but as a chapter lead. Pim Stolk makes sure his chapter improves every single day. “In this way we are able to build the best app and create new features. For the visually impaired and elderly we created two specific sub applications. We added a voice-over, so deaf people can touch their mobile phone and it starts explaining what they touch. Thus the visually impaired can use our app too. For the elderly we created the virtual assistant Inge: If you swipe, she will help you: ‘Hello, my name is Inge, what can I do for you?’ then you can put her to work: ‘I would like to transfer ten euros to my sister’, this application helps so many people!”, he explains.


Cutting edge technology in the banking industry

“I work for ING, that is a bank and most people think banks are boring and stupid. But I disagree on that. We always think twice about what we do and technology is very important for an organisation like ING. It took us a long time to figure out how to implement Swift to our application. We do so much more than just transferring money. I try to convey that to other developers by speaking during meetups like this.

We continuously try to implement cutting edge technologies and we want to be front runners in the banking industry. The point I am trying to make here is that we work with the best people, we search for the best people and we want to build the best banking application of the Netherlands with those people.”

Objective-C -> Swift -> Swift -> Swift

For Pim Stolk the launch of the new language Swift raised many questions nine years ago. “I wanted to learn everything about it, so I started reading the book ‘The Swift Programming Language’. After reading the free 5—page manual the number of questions I had, had only been increased. I wanted to talk to someone about this new language, but talk to whom? I had no idea.” He decided to be completely serious about getting to grips with it: (try-)trial-and-error.

The speaker started to feel comfortable and familiar with Swift and he implemented the new program language in ING’s five stars application. Risky? “Without a doubt. The app counts millions of active users and Xcode was not ready for Swift. Until we came to the decisive moment we finally invested enough in Swift and we were ready. We implemented our first production ready feature in Swift.” The difference between Objective-C and Swift? “Swift is the bridge to the future when it comes to mobile and server-side development”, according to Pim Stolk.

IBM with Bluemix: developing end-to-end applications

“De combination of IBM and Bluemix is an interesting innovation if you ask me. Now we are capable to run Swift on backend. Thus developers are able to create end-to-end applications. In my opinion that is an huge technological development. I guess the future of Swift and mobile development will progress in tandem.”

Native package manager

Pim Stolk predicts: “Al our new features will be written in Swift, but we will still work with our large code base in Objective-C”. There are so many changes in Swift, so it not easy to keep up to our five stars application. But I am satisfied with the current Swift, though I miss the package manager. At the moment we only use extern ones like CocoaPods and Carthage. Apple is working on their own package manager, but unfortunately we heard it will be a protracted event. I am looking forward to a native package manager.

Be aware: The last day to take planned source-breaking changes for Swift 3 is July 27th.


Do you have any suggestions for improvement or tips for our next meetup? Please let us know!

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