Category Archives: mobile-application-development

A smartphone app for a Smarter City: Parker by Streetline

Have you ever struggled to find a parking spot in a big city? And whilst driving around in circles have you ever dreamt of a service that lets you know where the free parking spaces are? In this era where our smartphones can tell us when the next subway train is coming and where there’s traffic congestion, is this really too much to ask?

Apparently not according to Streetline.

Earlier this year the San Francisco-based tech firm launched the free Parker app which not only shows you where the parking meters are located, but also shows you which meters are available. Forget circling a five-block radius waiting for a spot to appear. With this app (currently available for iPhone and Android) you can pinpoint and snag that elusive space.

Not only does this save you gray hairs: you also cut down on emissions and congestion. The Parker app fits neatly into IBM’s Smarter City vision: one that fully utilizes technology to help us humans live more efficiently in urban spaces where close proximity. So it’s no wonder that Streetline won IBM Global Entrepreneurship Program’s SmartCamp 2010.

What are the key tenets of a Smarter Planet? These solutions should be Instrumented, Interconnected and Intelligent.

The Parker app demonstrates this wonderfully:

Instrumented

Streetline captures data using self-powered sensors mounted in the ground at each parking space which can detect whether or not a space is vacant. The Parker app uses your smartphone’s location sensors to know where you are and highlight local parking spots. It also uses the large screen to display a dynamic map of the nearest spots (rather than just display a list of street addresses).

Interconnected

The parking meter data from the sensors is transmitted across ultra-low power mesh networks to Streetline servers which build a real-time picture of which parking meters are vacant. This information can be shared with drivers through the Parker app, and also with city officials, operators and policy managers.

Intelligent

The Parker app is a perfect example of turning data into insight. Plotting vacant parking spots on a map helps you find a spot faster, with the added benefit of reducing congestion and emissions in busy metropolitan areas. The app even goes further: once you park, the app uses this information to provide walking directions back to your vehicle and can record how much time you have on the meter and alert you when time is getting short.

Download Parker now to see this app in action for yourself (currently available in a limited number of metropolitan centers around the US).

What’s the hottest topic covered in developerWorks articles? HTML5

OK, so I dropped the spoiler in the title. Mind you, you could argue that this is hardly surprising given the importance of mobile development at this point in time. Still, no less than 3 of the top 10 articles in the developerWorks newsletter for the month of May (where we showcase our latest content on a weekly basis) covers mobile web app development.

Also, we weren’t seeing this level of interest in HTML5 even a year ago. True, there was a lot of interest in mobile: but at that time the larger focus was around mobile platform development (led by iPhone and Android).

Full list:

>> HTML5 fundamentals, Part 1, Zone: Web development
Functional thinking Thinking functionally, Part 1, Zone: Java
Building CouchApps, Zone: Open source
On-demand demos, Zone: N/A
>> HTML5, CSS3, and related technologies, Zone: Web development
Just what is Node.js?, Zone: Open source
Application virtualization, past and future, Zone:  Linux
>> Improve web application security with jQuery Mobile, Zone:  XML
Use Node.js as a full cloud environment development stack, Zone:  Cloud computing
Taming big data, Zone:  Information Management

If you are a WebSphere application developer looking to go mobile, check out the Web 2.0 and Mobile Feature Pack.

WebSphere to Application developers: use HTML5 to build once, deploy anywhere

There’s a lot of talk these days in the enterprise space around mobile development.

In a series of short interviews, watch the infectiously energetic Jerry Cuomo (WebSphere CTO) explain that for many customers mobile is not an option. They need to have a roadmap to mobile deployment, and they need it now. Drawing parallels to the growth of the web over a decade ago, Jerry talks of the current ‘frenzied excitement’ which he believes will lead to an environment of better choice, architecture and the design moving forward.

And choice is something we’re not short of in the mobile development space. Should you develop web-based mobile apps? Should you develop native apps to cover the whole gamut of platforms (which still includes Blackberry if you’re talking B2B development).

Whilst now developers are faced with a number of mobile architectures on which to develop, the Holy Grail is to leverage existing skills, whether they be around the web, open standards, Java, etc. to write an application once and deploy to many devices.

(See the whole series)

WebSphere Application Server has taken this approach for its mobile strategy with the launch of the Web 2.0 and Mobile Feature Pack. Built on the popular Dojo Toolkit, the Feature Pack gives developers access to HTML5 mobile themes (to develop web apps that look like native applications), mobile widgets, diagrams and improved gauges and charting. 

As IBM’s Chris Mitchell explains in this video, for the clear majority of developers of enterprise applications, the user interface (UI) is simple enough to not require all the full-blown features of a native app. Displaying an XML feed of first-quarter product sales is a substantially different proposition to rendering a realistic 3D racing game. Having said that, mobile frameworks like Dojo are becoming richer and really stretching the paradigm of what can be displayed on the web.

For instance, Eric Durocher over on the Web 2.0 and Mobile Development Blog shows how a complex diagram like an organizational chart can be rendered for a mobile device:

 

What are the best practices for developing these applications?

Chris Mitchell suggests an architecture that decouples the server from the client. Data from the server side can be exposed using REST or web services. These can be accessed from the client side, whether the client be a web application or a mobile one. In this way you only build one core application with only minimal work on the front-end to cover any web-enabled device.

If you want to take this a step further and offer native apps (say, if there is a requirement for the app to appear in an App store like Apple’s or Android’s), you can create a hybrid application with a tool like PhoneGap. You effectively build a web-based mobile app and let PhoneGap provide a wrapper so from a user perspective it looks and runs like a native app.

Ready to get started with mobile app development? The Web 2.0 and Mobile Feature Pack is a no-charge product extension to WebSphere Application Server (version 8.0 now available for download)

Social Business webcast series kicks off next week

Want to understand more about social business and IBM’s role in this emerging space? Some of the major practioners will be presenting latest thoughts, concepts and applications in a webinar series that kicks off next week.

From May 17 to June 14, topics covered will include a definition of social business (a hot topic given the latest round of presentations by Deloitte’s @ChrisHeuer), the implications of taking applications into the Cloud, and producing applications that can be deployed across mobile and other platforms.

Taking into account the fast-paced nature of the social business world, each of these webcasts will delivered in a punchy 20 minutes:

Date: May 17, 11am EDT
Title: IBM Social Business Overview
Presenter: Charlie Hill
Abstract: IBM’s Distinguished Engineer and CTO, Charlie Hill will define what it means to be a Social Business and the benefits organizations can gain with successfully transforming into a Social Business. Charlie will talk about how to build social applications and embed social capabilities into existing business processes and applications. After attending this webcast, you’ll be ready to get started in building the social applications that will drive businesses for years to come.
Check out the recording

Date: May 24, 11am EDT
Title: The IBM Social Business Toolkit
Presenter: Philippe Riand
Abstract: Adding social functionality to business applications brings productivity to a whole new level.  Learn how to use the IBM Social Business Toolkit to bring your applications to a whole new level.  Social business applications leverage the collective wisdom and discover a wealth of relevant information in the context of the current task.  Learn how to make your applications do that!
Check out the recording

Date:
June 7, 11am EDT
Title: Lifting Applications to the Cloud
Presenter: Mike Masterson
Abstract: Everyone is talking about the cloud.  Customers want to know if your application runs in the cloud.  Find out how IBM can help you to answer "yes" by integrating with IBM’s premier cloud solution, LotusLive.
Check out the recording

Date: June 14, 11am EDT
Title: Social Applications Go Mobile
Presenter: Tyler Tribe
Abstract: People need to access your application from anywhere, and it’s no different for social business applications.  Learn how IBM’s strategy allows you to write once and run everywhere, whether on a PC, smart phone, or iPad.  Find out how to build Websphere Portal applications that can be accessed from your favorite mobile device.
Check out the recording

We’ll use crowdsourcing to come up with future subjects to provide insights from subject matter experts.

Follow IBM Impact on mobile web app

IBM Impact Mobile Web App

If you have started packing your bags for IBM Impact, don’t forget your toothbrush. Equally important is your mobile phone.

This year there are more opportunities than ever to use your smart little plastic brick as a networking device.

The developerWorks team has put together a trial mobile web application to pull together conversations and information from across the conference. From this one handy reference point, you can follow the latest updates on Twitter, get the official word from the Impact blog, immerse yourself in Flickr and YouTube and even figure out what session you should attend next using the agenda builder.

This mobile website will work on any device with a Javascript-enabled browser (that covers most modern smartphones), and we recommend saving a bookmark to your phone’s homepage to make it easy to access throughout the conference.

To get started, either point your QR code reader at this:

 

or view the mobile web app here.

That’s it… no downloads or bloatware to get rid of after the event.

For those technical-minded folk out there, we have built this app using JSON and the Sencha Touch HTML5 framework to create an application that mimics the controls and navigation typically found on a native phone app.

This is a newer area for us and we definitely welcome your feedback (either in the comments or @cagedether).

See more about other mobile tools for navigating Impact through Ryan’s post on the Impact Blog.

Remember to tag your content ‘IBMImpact’ (using the ‘#IBMImpact’ hashtag on Twitter) so it can be shared across Impact’s mobile social landscape.

Twoogle: get latest coverage of #SWSX on your phone

TwoogleIt’s South by Southwest time and I’m one of the many that just couldn’t make it there.

Still, that doesn’t stop me wanting know what’s going on. And given that I do the majority of reading on my phone these days, a mobile app makes perfect sense. So that’s what we have here. Twoogle is a small mobile web app to keep up with the latest news from down there in Texas.

This is a mobile-optimized website so will run on any handheld device with a modern browser (iPhone, Android, Blackberry). If you have a 2-D barcode scanner, point it at this QR code:

It’s pretty simple: see either the latest tweets or news/blog articles. Why concentrate on only Twitter and Google? These services combined offer wonderful event coverage: dipping into Twitter occasionally gives you a sense of the general vibe and Google is great for the macro/high level coverage.

Twoogle is built on top of the HTML5 JQueryMobile framework so like any other webpage just go ahead and bookmark and, if so inclined, add a shortcut to your homepage. After the event, just delete the shortcut – no need to worry about installing any risky apps or taking up precious storage space on your phone.

Get back to me with any feedback.

IBM Pulse: mobile edition

If you use a mobile device and would like to keep up with the latest happenings at the IBM Pulse Service Management Conference, feel free to try out this new service we are trialing over the coming days of the event.

You will find all the latest updates including:

This is a mobile-optimized website so will run on any handheld device with a modern browser (iPhone, Android, Blackberry). If you have a 2-D barcode scanner, point it at this QR code:

If not just visit http://bit.ly/pulsemobile from your phone.

We are trialing this new service for the first time at IBM Pulse and welcome your feedback!

(For blogs and tweets about the event, remember to use the hashtag #IBMPulse)

Mobile and cloud computing: key growth areas for IBM business partners

In a recent article in Vertical Systems Reseller (VSR), Mike Riegel, VP IBM Developer Relations highlights the importance of mobile and cloud computing. Drawing on research in the 2010 IBM Tech Trends Survey of IT professionals, Mike points out how these technologies are critical to clients looking to optimize their IT strategies. This in turn has significant financial implications on the technology industry:

"Gartner also predicts a huge increase in both mobile and cloud computing, with $6.2 billion expected to be spent on mobile applications and $68.3 billion in cloud computing services in 2010 alone."

Amongst those capitalizing capitalizing on these growth areas are IBM business partners.

Citysourced build civic engagement by offering a platform where an individual can record an issue in a public space, such as vandalism, flooding, graffiti, broken street lighting etc., all via an update from a mobile device. Public officials can logon to the site and respond to these messages from the community. As Citysourced Founder & Chief Architect Jason A. Kiesel points out, "Mobile computing simply offers [government and businesses] something no desktop experience can – efficiency."

He likens the current growth in mobile to the emergence of the web 15 years ago: there is an inertia and cynicism in the IT industry around mobile technology, with many still questioning whether the space is being over-hyped. The difference this time is the rate of growth and user adoption:  mobile strategy is now not seen as a "nice to have, but as a must have.".

Akros TechLabs offer secure sign-in across mobile devices for applications where security is paramount, including online banking and health care. They see cloud and mobile computing as inextricably linked: "Mobile computing doesn’t work without cloud—and we’re seeing growing acceptance of both among customers across many industries." says CEO Sid Prasanna. Many apps developed for hand-held devices rely on cloud services – differing from the PC paradigm where most applications are run locally.

As our world becomes more interconnected, mobile and cloud computing applications are becoming commonplace throughout our lives. IBM business partners are playing a vital role in this evolution.

Read about more IBM partners in the Vertical Systems Reseller article.