Mobile backend as a Service (MBaaS) – Why do we need it?

Today we live in a society that is dominated by mobile devices and is shaping the way people interact with the world around them. Mobility is creating new challenges for enterprises while opening new doors to engage with employees and customers. In 2014, mobile phones outnumbered people. If we add tablets and the growing number of smart wearable’s to the number, it becomes obvious why business are struggling to develop applications to meet the growing demand of their employees and customers. People are interacting with applications like never before, accessing them via web, desktop, tablet, smartphones and smart watches and creating engaging user experiences across hundreds of different devices is no easy task.

MBaaS significantly reduces the amount of time and energy required to launch enterprise mobile initiatives by simplifying the process of backend integration. With MBaaS, developers can easily connect to multiple data sources and focus more on front-end creativity, giving them a flexibility that allows for true innovation. Also known as Mobile Backend as a Service, BaaS or MBaaS, Backend as a Service is a way for developers to link to back-end cloud-based storage, most often for push notifications, data storage, file storage, messaging queues, monitoring and configuration, and social integration. BaaS as an alternative to traditional development, bringing more services to your customers in a quick mobile format.

MBaaS

 

Key Considerations

  • Enterprise Integration – Mobile strategy requires you to develop “composite” apps that are connected to several existing IT systems, databases and other enterprise applications.
  • Push Notifications – Also there are needs to augment the apps with service capabilities such as Push Notifications, SMS, or perhaps trigger a custom web service, MBaaS platform should provide a powerful extension framework that can optionally be added to your app and configured for multi-channel notifications.
  • Social Integration – A platform to integrate with Social communication channels like Twitter, Google and LinkedIn.
  • Mobile Analytics – Mobile analytics to provide an insights app performance metrics and everything your users are doing. It helps track your user behavior campaigns and tie them back to analytics to maximize ROI.
  • Management – A mobile administrator to provide a way to manage and administer the mobile apps. It focusses on which focus on device activation, enrollment and provisioning, mobile application managers focus on software delivery, licensing, configuration, maintenance, usage tracking and policy enforcement.
  • Mobile Security – It is a must have requirement these days considering the enterprise data and apps gets used. You need a way to leverage the same identity of the employee on the provision identity of the user on the mobile app platform. MBaaS platform should allow the way to control and protect the identity of users and mobile devices, apps, and data, locate the devices in case if it’s stolen. It also provides the capability to wipe the secure data / apps in case of theft.

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Building Integrated Mobile Apps using Oracle Mobile Cloud Service (MCS)

The evolution of enterprise mobile applications has exploded over the last few years; mobility and cloud computing is also transforming the way of working with bring your own device (BYOD). Most mobile applications need to connect with a backend systems to provide employees with the most up-to-date information anytime from anywhere. When you connect with these backend systems it requires sensitive and confidential data to be transferred between mobile app and multiple backend systems for different operations such as user authentication and integration with ERP system. Keeping this in mind enterprises need to consider mobile solutions with complete management capabilities such as analytics, uniform integration platform for various cross-platform products, user management, and push notifications ensuring all security compliance.

Oracle Mobile Cloud Service (MCS) is a cloud based MBaaS platform that can provide these capabilities with easy to adopt SDKs and utility classes. They can easily be integrated with any mobile client which support RESTful APIs. It comes with several built in APIs such as Push Notifications, Data Offline / Sync, Mobile User Management, Analytics, Mobile Storage, and Device Management.  To integrate with backend systems, it comes with connector API which can connect with any backend systems using SOAP/REST APIs.

Sofbang has used Oracle MCS services with our recent mobile applications developed on Oracle Mobile Application Framework (MAF). With Oracle MCS we are able integrate with Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) using REST connectors for creating and managing service request and work orders. With Oracle MAF we have used Java utility classes to connect with the Mobile Backend that we have created with MCS. Personally, I like the Mobile Backends concept because:

  • We can configure and manage the API that will be used by the mobile applications, and can define what API should be used by which mobile backend and which mobile application.
  • We can easily monitor and diagnose API calls and other activities within a single console. Sending and monitoring notifications is one of the great features of the mobile backend.
  • Deploying to production and staging is very easy, we can create different version of backend for development.
  • We can define user management for that mobile backend etc.
  • Utilize built-in security features such as Basic Auth, SAML 2.0, and UserName Token profiles.

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A Mobile Business Solution Is Not Just a Mobile Application

These days we have a mobile workforce, mobile clientele and mobile business partners. Everyone is looking for a mobile application. As a business manager, what I want are mobile business solutions. Yes, maybe mobile applications are a part of the solution, but they may not meet the needs of a mobile business solution. When it comes to mobile, a total business solution needs to address these key questions:

  • Is my solution simple and easy to use on my mobile device?
  • Does it use my mobile limited screen view efficiently?
  • Is it structured to take me from beginning to end of the workflow without going from one application to another?
  • Are data fields pre-populated to minimize data entry?
  • Can I use my mobile business solution when I am not connected to the Internet?
  • Does it allow me to use the native capability of my mobile device (Camera, GPS, etc.)?
  • Is the data secure both on my mobile device and during data exchange?

To address these questions consistently for all of my mobile business solutions, my organization needs to have an enterprise mobile strategy. It is not enough to simply take my enterprise applications and expose them on a mobile web browser using responsive design. In some cases, this may be okay, but in many cases it falls short of the total mobile business solution needs. Here is what an enterprise mobile strategy should answer from the previous questions:

  • Keep it simple, to the point, with only information needed, when it is needed.
  • Use mobile design techniques that optimize screen viewing real estate.
  • Design for enterprise integration to seamlessly flow between the main business applications.
  • Prepopulate data fields to minimize data entry.
  • Use native memory storage to keep key information and allow for data synchronization.
  • Take advantage of mobile capabilities such as camera and GPS.
  • Use a mobile platform that has the inherent security built in and know how to configure it properly.

As an Oracle Platinum Partner, Sofbang knows how to address each of these areas and can help you in devising an enterprise mobile strategy that can meet your mobile business solution needs. Check out the Sofbang Mobile Needs Assessment to help you put in place an enterprise mobile strategy that will meet the needs of your mobile business solutions.

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IoT and Behavioral Billing to Optimize Use of Energy

With energy producers, distributers and consumers focused on optimizing the use of energy whether it be electric, oil or gas, technology can make a difference through the use of behavioral billing. Behavioral billing uses methods of billing that can alter the behavior of end consumers to optimize their use of energy to reduce their cost. When you throw into the mix the use of Internet of Things (IoT), real time behavioral monitoring plays a role in optimizing energy usage.

The benefits of behavioral billing utilizing IoT technology are highlighted in the following hypothetical use case. Several energy producing companies have a coalition that provides electric power distribution to a wide area of a state that includes cities of significant size as well as rural population. The power generation comes from several sources that are best optimized by having a steady consumption of electricity. The coalition utilizes smart meters that allows real time access to energy consumption and is set up with a robust billing system to monitor electrical usage on a near real time basis. Several cities in the service area have negotiated consolidated rates for the residences and businesses within their city. They use the same intelligent utility billing system as the power coalition such that it is an integrated billing system. In addition to electrical power, these cities consolidate the gas, water and waste treatment usage into one bill for their constituents where the constituent can elect to have a flat rate monthly payment that is trued up and reset each year for estimated usage. These cities also have a progressive energy conservation program where the use of Internet of Things is prevalent to make the communities be smart cities. Not only are smart sensors being used to detect power usage, but they also have smart Internet controlled system allowing the systems to be turned on and off through the Internet. High power usage industrial complexes have implemented such controls. As part of the power optimization program, the power coalition can turn non-critical system on and off during peak usage times to best balance and maintain energy production optimizing their power production resources. The cost savings for the optimization of energy production is passed on to the end users through the use of real time intelligent billing provided by the technology. Those consumers that participate in the energy optimization program gain the benefits of the cost savings. Continue reading…

Sofbang recognized by CIO Review as one of the 20 Most Promising Campus Technology Providers of 2014

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Selected by a panel of experts and members of CIO Review’s editorial board to recognize and promote technology entrepreneurship in education, Sofbang has been named one of the 20 Most Promising Campus Technology Providers. Featured in the Campus Technology Special Edition of CIO Review, Sofbang was recognized for its innovative solutions addressing the need of a platform that facilitates a seamless digital exchange of information across different departments and users.

The education industry is rapidly making technological advancements transforming the way students, faculty and administration interact, increasing the need for the conventional systems to integrate with a unified digital solution. As an Oracle Platinum Partner, Sofbang provides digital, mobile and cloud-based solutions tailored to meet the growing needs within the education industry. Sofbang’s understands the everyday challenges of various lines of businesses having to exchange information and streamline processes within the education domain. Sofbang’s Designed for Change methodology breaks down large complex ERPs and Student Information Systems (SIS) into a simplified integrated user experience that adjust and grow as the needs grow.

With 15 years of experience in Oracle Fusion Middleware, Mobile and Cloud implementations, Sofbang has been enriching the standards of the education system, becoming the preferred partner of choice for providing a unified digital experience for the education industry. Building its solutions around a unified digital experience, providing secure portals, integrated mobility and on-premise with cloud integration solutions, enables staff, users, partners and suppliers to stay connected throughout an organization’s network.

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