Modern Mobility

SMB mobile strategies hit roadblocks

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Take apps to the next level with mobile device features

To build more advanced business apps, IT should incorporate the latest mobile device features, such as geolocation data, integrated communications and specialized sensors.

Many companies are beginning to think about how they can go beyond basics like mobile email and off-the-shelf apps and move to more advanced mobile app strategies. A key part of this process is to consider the features -- such as cameras, location data and more -- that are unique to mobile devices and apps.

By making existing processes and applications accessible on small, portable devices, companies can realize significant productivity gains and open up entirely new uses. Of course, creating even basic apps requires significant effort. Companies have to figure out how to support new operating systems, decide what development frameworks to use, and make new connections to back-end infrastructure.

They also have to decide what mobile device features to incorporate. If companies convert legacy desktop apps into mobile apps, they must reimagine the user interface in a smaller, touch-friendly way. Desktop apps can also have dozens or even hundreds of features that developers need to cull to create focused, task-specific mobile apps.

Mobile has more to offer

Mobile devices have all sorts of new, unique attributes, such as the following:

IT can combine mobile device features and create apps that would be impossible or impractical on a desktop.
  • Frameworks for Push notifications;
  • Instant access to many types of data, such as location-based information, contact lists, calendars, reminders and account credentials;
  • Integrated communications, including phone calling, messaging, VoIP and email;
  • Integrated audio, video and camera capabilities; and
  • The ability to collect data from specialized sensors, such as ambient light, barometric pressure and different types of motion.

Any mobile device user is already familiar with these features, but in the context of enterprise applications, they can be quite valuable. They provide new capabilities that were often not available to older enterprise applications.

Apps have all the answers

There's a well-known computer science concept that an application should not ask the user any question it could find the answer to on its own. Thanks to all their unique attributes, mobile devices can provide applications with more answers than PCs can, either automatically or with minimal user interaction. These features could be a matter of convenience and efficiency; for example, an app can use a device's location services to fill in an address field on a form instead of requiring the user to type it manually.

IT can take this concept much further to combine mobile device features and create apps that would be impossible or impractical on a desktop. One consumer example is ride-hailing apps, which combine geolocation APIs, user accounts, cameras (for scanning credit card information with optical character recognition), call capabilities and push notifications. Businesses can take advantage of those same features. For instance, a company could provide a mobile app for salespeople that maps customers' locations and uses their phones' cameras to take snapshots of signed contracts.

Organizations simply have to be aware of all the new, unique things that mobile devices can offer beyond their small size and portability.

This article originally appeared in the September issue of the Modern Mobility e-zine.

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