Click here to close now.

Welcome!

API Journal Authors: Pat Romanski, John Wetherill, Hovhannes Avoyan, Carmen Gonzalez, Liz McMillan

Blog Feed Post

In Defense of Mobile Platforms - Guest Blogger David Akka

In several past articles published here, the ever opinionated mobile expert Peter Roger's shared his belief that the age of traditional mobile platforms had passed.  In this article however, guest blogger and mobile expert David Akka shares a different opinion.
***

Over the last six months I met with a wide range of customers and prospects in order to understand how they understand enterprise mobility, and especially to learn whether they see it as a business opportunity or just another piece of technology. It’s no secret that the past few years have seen a debate between two paradigms: whether to write specific code for different devices, or to take a wider approach. The rapid advances in mobile technology have led to a world where there is no single accepted approach, but history looks to be repeating itself from the desktop world, and I believe that application development platforms are the way forward.

In general, the company I work for has two types of customer: ISVs, who develop solutions and typically have some investment in a certain paradigm or technology; and end users across industries from financial services in banking and insurance, through logistics, leisure and more, who may have a preference for one internal environment but who have usually ended up with a mix of technologies. This range makes their perspectives on mobile technologies varied and fascinating.

I have written a lot on the application technologies war, mostly focusing on HTML5. What I’m seeing in the market is that people who have been convinced to develop specific code for each device are sticking with this route, as are those who have chosen to use HTML5 web apps. However neither of these approaches is completely issue-free.

Regardless of whether you choose to code natively or use HTML5, there are both pros and cons. Organisations using HTML5 for mission-critical applications find that they suffer from delays caused by the need to deploy patches; while custom code has proved to be very expensive in terms of time and effort needed to support the multiple versions needed for different mobile ecosystems and device types and keep them all up to date. Just take a look at the iOS and Android Facebook clients for an example of this. The question is, how to move forward?

Once upon a time…

I have long been an advocate of using a mobile business platform in order to build applications with true multi-platform and multi-channel capability, and this is not a choice between developing HTML5 or native applications. Platforms can do both, and which you choose is a deployment, not a development, question. This is not about generating code, rather, it is about pre-packaged functionality that can be configured through a development process and activated across any platform, whether native or HTML5.

Handy component pieces

The real advantage of using platforms is that they provide a uniform approach to develop, deploy and manage applications. From collecting data and processes from multiple sources, whether these are located on premise or in the cloud, traditional enterprise systems or social media, and reusing it in an auditable and governable way, to consumption of data services and user interface across multiple devices. For example, you can set policies to ensure that certain data or applications can only be accessed in certain countries, or only when an employee is working from home, via geofencing.

Platforms have the ability to encode auditability and governance automatically into your applications, going beyond the user interface. You can determine policies for how the application should handle data when there is no connectivity, such as underground or on trains. Offline access needs to be built in, as does security. Today’s enterprise mobile users are carrying out tasks that would previously only have been available behind the firewall, so it’s increasingly important that security is built in at the device, application and user levels. Platforms enable all of this, not as a patch-based solution but as a single-stack solution to enable features to be easily built in.

I have written many times about the benefits of platforms, but I find that their benefits are often misunderstood. Especially in organisations where there is a strong understanding of HTML5, mobility experts fall into the trap of believing that just because they can make HTML do what they want that this is all their solution needs. For example, just because you can fire a HTML wrapper at a problem doesn’t mean that this is the easiest solution to maintain, upgrade or deploy to multiple devices.

The real benefits of platforms lie in the ways they enable you to predictably develop, manage and experience your applications, such as allowing you to concentrate on service consumption and provisioning at all levels and across all your applications. Rapid development is also a benefit, as the pre-packaged functionality in the platform allows you to reduce your development time by up to 80%, thus reducing your time to market as well as costs. Likewise, this rapid, agile development allows end users to participate in all stages of development, ensuring that the resulting applications are better adapted to user requirements and market needs. As most platform vendors incorporate the latest mobile technology into their platform via updates, allowing you to use it without researching the technologies in great detail, it becomes easy to keep your applications up to date. This has always been a benefit of using platforms, but it is especially noticeable with mobile due to the rapid evolution of the technology, especially when it comes to security, data standards, and ecosystems.

To examine why platforms are so important, let’s take a trip to “ancient history”, or as you might know it, about 20 years ago and the early days of ecommerce on the web. When websites first became important business tools they were written directly in HTML, and while there were some very impressive efforts, overall this trend led to sites that were little more than an online version of the company’s paper catalogue or brochure. This also led to pages becoming increasingly complicated as revisions were made or new technologies adopted. Consider that in the space of a few years customers started to expect embedded media, secure payment, live stock levels, mapping and online reviews: trying to code all of this into a page by HTML was very complicated.

The solution to the ever-increasing complexity of webpages was to use platforms which allowed new technologies to be implemented as standard objects, rather than having to write everything from scratch, to the point that today webpages resemble a Lego model rather than a hand-written essay. For example, if you want to create a blog site, using platforms such as WordPress or Eblogger is an obvious choice, while Magneta, Shopify and Voluta easily handle the complexities of an e-commerce website, and for a CMS there is a plethora of choices such as Drupal, Squarespace, and Movable. Platforms can also be easily updated to cope with new requirements, thus simplifying maintenance, while custom HTML or Java is used to customise rather than create. Remember that the purpose of mobile apps is not just to present information, but to be able to reuse existing business logic behind a new user interface.

Is the past relevant to mobile?

I believe that the picture in mobile today is very similar in that while many organisations have used HTML or Java to create a mobile experience, but today they are finding that it is no longer enough to wrap these around a page to make a mobile app.

The challenge is that users are trying to do far more on mobile now. Mobile apps don’t just need to present data to a user in an attractive way: users need to be able to update that data, and the more we do, the more important it becomes to ensure the right data gets to the right people, when they want it. Today’s mobile apps need to be able to set intelligent policies regarding who can access what data, they need to have security built in, along with management tools. As users increasingly rely on mobile, offline access becomes critical, and apps need to be updated rapidly as demands change, in a world where “rapid” could mean “within 30 minutes”.

Further, as users try to complete more of their computing tasks on mobile, the mobile experience needs to grow far beyond the cut-down “mobile interfaces” we have come to expect. Mobile users are expecting to have all their workflows at their fingertips, and the logical, integrated processes that result are no less at home on desktop. This means that it makes no sense to separate mobile apps as a standalone page: because we need a template, the full business logic and workflows, mobile is moving beyond a “look and feel” issue. What we are moving towards is a world where collaborating and sharing data is enabled by seamless processes, making users quicker and more effective.

This look at the past shows that many organisations today are just dealing with a thin layer of what mobility is all about. Yes, you can easily design HTML pages yourself, but it is hard to upgrade the look and feel, maintain the applications or assign and control user rights. Learn from the dotcom era and content websites, and move toward using a platform today, to better manage your logic, processes and data in a maintainable way for the long run.

The industry has already acknowledged the key role of platforms in its mature desktop web technology: now it’s time to learn from the past, embrace platforms in mobile and avoid a future disaster.

*************************************************************
Kevin Benedict
Senior Analyst, Digital Transformation Cognizant
View my profile on LinkedIn
Learn about mobile strategies at MobileEnterpriseStrategies.com
Follow me on Twitter @krbenedict
Join the Linkedin Group Strategic Enterprise Mobility
Join the Google+ Community Mobile Enterprise Strategies

***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict is the Senior Analyst for Digital Transformation at Cognizant, a writer, speaker and SAP Mentor Alumnus. Follow him on Twitter @krbenedict. He is a popular speaker around the world on the topic of digital transformation and enterprise mobility. He maintains a busy schedule researching, writing and speaking at events in North America, Asia and Europe. He has over 25 years of experience working in the enterprise IT solutions industry.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Building low-cost wearable devices can enhance the quality of our lives. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Sai Yamanoor, Embedded Software Engineer at Altschool, provided an example of putting together a small keychain within a $50 budget that educates the user about the air quality in their surroundings. He also provided examples such as building a wearable device that provides transit or recreational information. He then reviewed the resources available to build wearable devices at home including open source hardware, the raw materials required and the options available to power s...
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BMC delivers software solutions that help IT transform digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive business advantage. BMC has worked with thousands of leading companies to create and deliver powerful IT management services. From mainframe to cloud to mobile, BMC pairs high-speed digital innovation with robust IT industrialization – allowing customers to provide amazing user experiences with optimized IT per...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
How do APIs and IoT relate? The answer is not as simple as merely adding an API on top of a dumb device, but rather about understanding the architectural patterns for implementing an IoT fabric. There are typically two or three trends: Exposing the device to a management framework Exposing that management framework to a business centric logic Exposing that business layer and data to end users. This last trend is the IoT stack, which involves a new shift in the separation of what stuff happens, where data lives and where the interface lies. For instance, it's a mix of architectural styles ...
Connected devices and the Internet of Things are getting significant momentum in 2014. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Hunter, Chief Scientist & Technology Evangelist at Greenwave Systems, examined three key elements that together will drive mass adoption of the IoT before the end of 2015. The first element is the recent advent of robust open source protocols (like AllJoyn and WebRTC) that facilitate M2M communication. The second is broad availability of flexible, cost-effective storage designed to handle the massive surge in back-end data in a world where timely analytics is e...
Collecting data in the field and configuring multitudes of unique devices is a time-consuming, labor-intensive process that can stretch IT resources. Horan & Bird [H&B], Australia’s fifth-largest Solar Panel Installer, wanted to automate sensor data collection and monitoring from its solar panels and integrate the data with its business and marketing systems. After data was collected and structured, two major areas needed to be addressed: improving developer workflows and extending access to a business application to multiple users (multi-tenancy). Docker, a container technology, was used to ...
The true value of the Internet of Things (IoT) lies not just in the data, but through the services that protect the data, perform the analysis and present findings in a usable way. With many IoT elements rooted in traditional IT components, Big Data and IoT isn’t just a play for enterprise. In fact, the IoT presents SMBs with the prospect of launching entirely new activities and exploring innovative areas. CompTIA research identifies several areas where IoT is expected to have the greatest impact.
2015 predictions circa 1970: houses anticipate our needs and adapt, city infrastructure is citizen and situation aware, office buildings identify and preprocess you. Today smart buildings have no such collective conscience, no shared set of fundamental services to identify, predict and synchronize around us. LiveSpace and M2Mi are changing that. LiveSpace Smart Environment devices deliver over the M2Mi IoT Platform real time presence, awareness and intent analytics as a service to local connected devices. In her session at @ThingsExpo, Sarah Cooper, VP Business of Development at M2Mi, will d...
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In this session, James Kirkland, Red Hat's Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems, will describe how to revolutionize your architecture and...
We’re entering a new era of computing technology that many are calling the Internet of Things (IoT). Machine to machine, machine to infrastructure, machine to environment, the Internet of Everything, the Internet of Intelligent Things, intelligent systems – call it what you want, but it’s happening, and its potential is huge. IoT is comprised of smart machines interacting and communicating with other machines, objects, environments and infrastructures. As a result, huge volumes of data are being generated, and that data is being processed into useful actions that can “command and control” thi...
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades. With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo, June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be
SYS-CON Events announced today that MetraTech, now part of Ericsson, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Ericsson is the driving force behind the Networked Society- a world leader in communications infrastructure, software and services. Some 40% of the world’s mobile traffic runs through networks Ericsson has supplied, serving more than 2.5 billion subscribers.
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
We are reaching the end of the beginning with WebRTC, and real systems using this technology have begun to appear. One challenge that faces every WebRTC deployment (in some form or another) is identity management. For example, if you have an existing service – possibly built on a variety of different PaaS/SaaS offerings – and you want to add real-time communications you are faced with a challenge relating to user management, authentication, authorization, and validation. Service providers will want to use their existing identities, but these will have credentials already that are (hopefully) i...
Thanks to widespread Internet adoption and more than 10 billion connected devices around the world, companies became more excited than ever about the Internet of Things in 2014. Add in the hype around Google Glass and the Nest Thermostat, and nearly every business, including those from traditionally low-tech industries, wanted in. But despite the buzz, some very real business questions emerged – mainly, not if a device can be connected, or even when, but why? Why does connecting to the cloud create greater value for the user? Why do connected features improve the overall experience? And why do...
SYS-CON Events announced today that O'Reilly Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. O'Reilly Media spreads the knowledge of innovators through its books, online services, magazines, and conferences. Since 1978, O'Reilly Media has been a chronicler and catalyst of cutting-edge development, homing in on the technology trends that really matter and spurring their adoption by amplifying "faint signals" from the alpha geeks who are creating the future. An active participa...
Imagine a world where targeting, attribution, and analytics are just as intrinsic to the physical world as they currently are to display advertising. Advances in technologies and changes in consumer behavior have opened the door to a whole new category of personalized marketing experience based on direct interactions with products. The products themselves now have a voice. What will they say? Who will control it? And what does it take for brands to win in this new world? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Zack Bennett, Vice President of Customer Success at EVRYTHNG, will answer these questions a...