Native vs. Hybrid – Which Approach to Use?

With the widespread use of mobile devices, mobile application development is on the rise and becoming more and more advanced. While developing a mobile application can be exciting, it can be a bit confusing if you’re trying to decide which type of application development approach – native or hybrid –  is better.

What are the differences between a native and hybrid app?

When we talk about developing native applications, it means developing an application using native platform languages like Java for Android,  Objective-C for Apple iOS, or Visual C++ for Microsoft Windows.

The main advantage of native applications is that they offer their own standardized SDK, development tools and interface elements which make them fast, reliable and user-friendly. These apps give the best performance when compiled into machine code (Dalvik Bytecode under Android –the basic language that mobile OS understands). Also, native applications offer a variety of functionalities that include multi-touch support, full access to phone hardware, fast and fluid animations, and the latest APIs.

In sum, the native applications approach helps develop an application that is customizable.

Hybrid applications can best be described as web applications (or web pages) that are hosted inside the native application browser, such as WebView in Android and UIWebView in iOS.

Hybrid apps are developed using cross-compatible web technologies such as HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript, then wrapped in a native application using a framework like Apache Cordova.  Apache Cordova provides built-in plugins that allow you build an application for more than one platform by just adding a small native code. The native code lets you use the functionality of device hardware such as the camera, Bluetooth, GPS and more.

Hybrid application development is faster, simpler, and more rapid. These applications are easier to maintain and the platforms can be changed anytime.

Native and Hybrid App differentiators

So what is the answer?

Native and hybrid application frameworks fulfill developer and user needs and preferences, though none of them can be thought of as a perfect solution.

Native applications provide many options for each platform (Android or iOS) has their own unique classes and functions. While designing something as simple as a header you can go through hundreds of changes which increase user interaction with the application. The native application offers fast, reliable and responsive experience.

While developing a hybrid application is just like developing a web page. You only have to create HTML pages, design with CSS, script local files using JavaScript, wrap them in a native web view with Cordova and finally test them in your browser.  Now this simple, effective, user-friendly, and secure hybrid application is ready.

Choice generally depends on budget, timescale, and requirements.

At Sofbang, we prefer the hybrid application development approach because the native application development can be time-consuming. For each platform, the same code has to be rewritten and cannot be shared easily. This process can be relatively long for complex applications. On the other hand, you can customize and add functionality from time to time and all these changes will automatically reflect on every platform, hybrid applications are built on one single base.

PaaS for IoT

Internet of things concept image with technology icons and copyspace

Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming mainstream in business practices. Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a key technology for the movement since it offers several advantages when working with IoT. Gartner says that by 2020, more than half of new applications developed on PaaS will be IoT-centric. Some of the PaaS features that offer advantages for use with IoT-centric business applications are related to the following:

  • Storage – Keep the data in the Cloud for low cost storage
  • Filter – Use PaaS to filter out unnecessary data and anomaly detection
  • Integration – Control interfaces between IoT systems and Critical Applications
  • Security – Isolate IoT systems for critical applications with PaaS security

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Storage: As more and more information is pulled from the internet and smart sensors/devices are deployed that connect to the internet, they are creating  an explosion of data being generated. This data is being captured in databases for use with business applications. The sheer volume of data from these IoT resources is increasing the storage requirements exponentially. PaaS technology provides an economically sound solution for storing this data and can also readily expand as the data storage requirements expand without having to invest in new infrastructure.

Filter: Usually with IoT, more data than what is actually needed at the time is captured through the interfaces. Using the PaaS technology, filters can be created to sort out the data based on business parameters so that only the required information at the desired frequency of time is captured. This can minimize the data storage requirements and facilitate quicker analysis of the data being consumed by decision making applications. In addition, PaaS technology can be used to perform more intelligent filtering using anomaly detection where data is monitored and quickly analyzed at the IoT system level. By doing this, anomalies can be quickly detected and raised as alerts to higher level applications while passing on a limited set of data related to the anomaly minimizing Internet traffic.

Integration: The use of PaaS technology is an effective way to interface and integrate the IoT systems with the business critical applications. It’s at the integration layer that diverse interfaces can be managed to exchange data between the IoT system and those critical business applications. The PaaS technology can be utilized to normalize the format of the data from one type of format to another as data is share between various applications.

Security: One of the most critical features performed by the PaaS technology is that of security. More often than not, the IoT systems are external to the direct control of the end user. Devices such as smart sensors and IoT systems that run on their original equipment code often use embedded code with limited thought to security and could be readily compromised. Since the main transfer of data from these IoT systems is through the use of the Internet the security of the IoT system may introduce some vulnerabilities to the receiving business network allowing for intrusion by hackers. Using the PaaS technology to manage that security interface and provide a buffer between the IoT and critical applications is a major feature. Oracle PaaS technology has world class security technology that can manage such vulnerabilities to protect the critical applications.

The Oracle PaaS technology also offers other features that can be advantageous to an effective IoT strategy for any business. Some of these other features such as IoT system monitoring, simple work flows, and dashboard presentation of IoT data and is worth considering as a part of your future strategy for your business.

“IoT adoption will drive additional use of PaaS to implement IoT-centric business applications built around event-driven architecture and IoT data, instead of business applications built around traditional master data,” said Benoit Lheureux, research vice president at Gartner. “New IoT-centric business applications will drive a transformation in application design practices that focus on real-time contextually rich decisions, event-analysis, lightweight workflow, and broad access to Web-scale data.”

As an Oracle Platinum Partner Sofbang has a strong focus on Oracle’s PaaS technology. To learn more or for assistance with your IoT PaaS strategy, contact our team of experts at info@sofbang.com, www.sofbang.com

Sofbang Tech Team Tips Series: How Oracle POS Communicates with a Centralized Balance System

What is POS?

A point-of-sale (POS) system is a computerized replacement for a cash register. Much more complex than the cash registers of even just a few years ago, the POS system can include the ability to record and track customer orders, process credit and debit cards, connect to other systems in a network, and manage inventory.

Oracle Retail POS Suite

An important part of the in-store experience, for both the customer and the store associate, is the delivery of the retailer’s brand. Designed with the highest degree of flexibility on the market, Oracle Retail Point-of-Service provides retailers with a user interface that can be easily modified to reflect an individual brands look and feel. Oracle Retail Point-of-Service can be configured to present a retailers branding, from the colour schemes, icons and text of the global and local navigation buttons, to the orientation of the prompt, response and status regions, the use of images, logos and colour schemes in the work area, though the support of technology such as touch screen. This same flexibility allows overall solution to support multiple brands

Today I am going to share my experience that how I integrated the Oracle POS with a client’s outdated Legacy Balance System.

Legacy Balance System

It was the centralized system to calculate the data about sold items for a brand/store in a day. It was a file based system with XML format (Extensible Markup Language) as well as maintained physical directories for each store with a dedicated Store ID to consume the incoming/transformed files from middleware side.

In the solution, three Oracle products were leveraged.  I have listed below what was used to provide the solution for integration between Oracle POS and Legacy Balance System:

  • Oracle SOA Suite
  • Oracle Service Bus
  • Oracle Data Integrator

Let’s begin with the roles of the Oracle Products that were used to deliver the solution and then take a deeper dive to technical architecture.

Oracle Service Bus

This product was majorly used for pickup and delivery of files to third party/remote locations which we call FTP (File Transfer Protocol) in technical term. It was also used for data transformation and data merging of small size files using XQuery.

Oracle SOA Suite

The reason behind using this Oracle Product was dealing with complex transformation rules which can be implemented in XSLT (Extensible Stylesheet Language Transformation). XSLT is a language for transforming the XML documents to other XML document or other formats such as plain text.

Oracle Data Integrator

This tool covers all of the data integration requirement even if we talk about high volume data, high-performance batch loads, event-driven and communicating with SOA Services. The reason behind using this tool was to deal with transformation of big volume data.

 

POS Integration Architecture

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Business Use Case

Stores get opened up and sell their goods for whole day using Oracle POS system on each register. At the end of the day, when stores get closed and perform end of the day activity by closing each register. The data about the sold items get collected/wrapped up in the form of RTLog (Retail Transaction Log) and pushed to JMS Topic which is configured on Middleware’s WebLogic Server.

 

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Oracle SOA Service consumes the message from JMS Topic, extract the jar file and write the data in file on local box (WebLogic System) as per Store Id which is sent in JMS Message’s Header. Once RTLog file gets written by SOA Service then ODI Service will be called to transform the RTlog’s data and prepare file as per required for Target system (Legacy Balance System).

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Once the transformation part is done in ODI, the ODI Service sends a message to the OSB Service with required parameters saying that transformation is complete and file is ready to move to client’s box (FTP Location). In OSB, we get parameters with the values of file name and location of written file. OSB would perform FTP operation and move file to Legacy System’s directory as per Store ID.

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The integration took place for a popular clothing brand with more than 1800 stores in the United States and Canada.

This was just one cycle of the integration that was performed from Oracle POS to Legacy Balance System. There are are several others that I look forward to discussing in future blog posts.

7 Ideas to Help You Develop Your Mobile Strategy

Smartphones and tablets are now being sold at a higher rate than PC’s and over 50% of all internet traffic is from a handheld device. Forbes estimates that by 2017 the sales of tablet/smartphones will outsell PCs by a 9 to 1 rate. Developing a mobile strategy is becoming more important than ever and, is no easy feat. It’s something you want to get right the first time-as missteps will cost you time, money and potential customers.

Here are some ideas on how to do it right the first time:

Determine Your Mobile Goals

Ask yourself the most important question of all: What do you want from your mobile strategy? The most important question is understanding what you want from your mobile strategy. Are you trying to increase customer awareness, generate revenue, or increase loyalty? How does this mesh with your social media strategy? Make sure you have defined very specific goals for the applications. But answering this you will have an understanding of what you want and expect from your mobile strategy.

Identifying Target Audience and Needs

Who is your target audience? Take time to consider your specific audience, and make sure you will be providing them with what they want. Whether it’s internal users or external customers, different groups have different needs and requirements from a mobile solution. Don’t assume you know what they want- ask them.

Thoroughly brainstorm use cases

Once you have an idea of what your target audience wants, it’s time to create multiple scenarios by brainstorming with your team to capture all uses for the application. Invite and encourage others within your organization to develop their own usage for the mobile solution. In this manner, you will increase utilization and value within your organization for the mobile application(s).

Gain organizational consensus

Build a great case for the project by involving various levels of the organization: influencers, specifiers, funding managers and senior management. By being inclusive you will understand any objections and be able to work through them. This should make getting any necessary approval and funding an easier effort.

Ensure its secure

Data needs to be secured across devices, clouds and networks. Data should flow seamlessly between your corporation’s data center, cloud and mobile devices. Spend as much time ensuring the mobile applications and infrastructure is secure as you do with an other system in your organization

Define the owner

In the past, it was just assumed that IT would own total responsibility for the applications and system. Today’s more modern strategy is that IT should maintain the system and the line of business maintain the content.

Measure the Return on Investment

A mobile application should have a measurable ROI. Measure your investment and have metrics as a major component of your mobile application strategy. You should have a plan to show your company all the ways the mobile application will save money, resources and improve efficiencies.

Remember that a mobile application is not a mobile strategy. Sofbang has demonstrated an outstanding level of innovation in delivering proven, mobile solutions that can solve customer’s most critical business challenges. Contact one of our experts to learn more on how Sofbang can help your company establish a mobile strategy that can drive real business value with results.

Proximity Based Marketing Solution Accelerator – A New Trend for Marketing Your Business

Proximity based marketing is a strategy deployed within a mobile application with the help of WiFi or beacons to communicate directly with your customer in a way that is timely, relevant and tailored to them. With the built-in ability to deliver appropriate and personalized mobile experiences, proximity marketing has seen widespread adoption and growth with both business and customers. Proximity marketing enables brands to communicate better with more highly targeted and personalized information towards the consumer.

With the advancement in technology, mobile devices have become the preferred way of accessing digital content. Businesses are constantly trying to find new and creative ways to engage with their customers – especially around consumer loyalty and improving customer satisfaction. However, they find that they lack the necessary resources to dedicate an elaborate marketing strategy targeted to their customers.

To connect successfully with their mobile consumers, retailers need an advanced solution. In my opinion, proximity based marketing is a clear answer.

The automation capabilities of beacon technology used in proximity marketing can lay the foundation for creating and executing an engagement strategy that sets a business apart from its competitors.

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Sofbang has utilized its cloud experience, creating our Proximity Based Marketing solution accelerator,  to deliver a mobile experience for businesses like retailers and hotels to notify guests or consumers about on-site promotions and events, restaurants for sending daily specials or coupons, and travel hubs providing maps, relevant information or display ads, etc. It allows you to connect with customers while they are near your business and encourages them to take action. Our easy- to-use solution accelerator appeals to, tech-savvy shoppers while improving the shopper experience, growing your core shopper base, and gaining insights on store performance.

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The Proximity Based Marketing solution accelerator provides retailers the ability to enhance a customer’s shopping experience by sending them personalized messages and rewards while they are shopping in the store. A customizable notification feature welcomes customers as they enter the store – via the app in their smartphone.  Its integration capabilities efficiently and securely interface with backend systems such as Oracle Data Cloud, BlueKai, Eloqua or other marketing analytics centric platforms. With the power of the Oracle Mobile Platform and the help of WiFi or Bluetooth beacons, it incorporates robust mechanisms for accepting data collection (e.g. when the consumer is physically in the store and which department they are in) We utilize Estimote beacons, being the preferred proximity marketing beacon of choice, which broadcast radio signals through built-in antennas that communicate with a customer’s mobile device. The mobile devices interpret the data that is contained in a customer’s ID, sensor readings, or URL addresses sent by the beacons to launch notifications. The messages are shown on the notification panel and let shoppers instantly receive sale information and allow them to accept and add the offer to their cart. The solution offers a way to conduct context-aware interaction with customers and provide relevant information about the product and the brand.

Additionally, Sofbang’s Proximity Based Marketing solution accelerator enables retailers with the ability to improve the content that is sent to their customers the next time they are in the store by allowing you to identify behavioral buying habits which lead to better data of the customer.

The application delivers the following benefits:

  • Offering highly targeted on-the-spot coupons and exclusive offers
  • Connect with customers or potential customers when they are more likely making a purchase
  • Friendly and engaging ways to market and sell to your customers
  • Access to real-time analytics and insights on customer shopping behaviors that can help to better improve marketing and sales strategies.
  • Market directly to your consumer at the right place, at the right time with highly appropriate and personalized notifications.