Friday, October 02, 2009

Mobile Application Integration Platform - For Data Collection and Cloud Computing Services

An increasingly large amount of data is being consumed by mobile handheld computers and Smart phones. This data can come from a wide variety of sources and be in many different formats including GPS, LBS (location based services), SMS, voice, Email, Video, digital photos, barcode scanning, RFID, voice memos, documents and Bluetooth data connectivity to a large variety of data collection tools and equipment. The data can come from many different ERPs, database applications and SaaS (software as a service) offerings in a cloud computing environment.

The demand for mobile applications and mobile devices to be able to consume all of these various data sources and formats creates a need for an mobile data aggregation platform for mobile data feeds. This data often needs to be integrated into a mobile application somehow so the data can be used by the mobile worker. Some of this data can be aggregated on the database server side and downloaded or streamed to the mobile device, but data collection equipment and some applications are connected directly to the mobile device. For example, a voice memo application, GPS reader and a barcode scanner may be directly connected to the mobile device. The results of the barcode scan and the GPS data may be synchronized with the ERP to identify an asset that is located at a particular location. A data collection form that helps document the condition of the asset needs to be integrated with a digital photo, GPS data, voice memo, barcode scan and the asset data downloaded from the ERP. All of this data once aggregated, can be updated and synchronized back with the ERP.

There are some data sources such as weather conditions, shipment tracking and currency exchange rates that may be available as web services. This data also may be required on the mobile device, and even incorporated into the mobile asset management application. How do you bring all of this data together from the server and from the data collected on the mobile device so it can be used by the mobile worker in the field? That is the challenge. It can always be done in a custom manner, but how can this be solved in a reusable manner?

Mobile applications need:

  • GUIs or mobile application forms that have an integrated data validation and business rules engine
  • GUIs or mobile application forms that include a mobile workflow engine associated with the screens
  • Mobile database and synchronization technology
  • Mobile data aggregation platform (this article)
  • Mobile business process platform and ERP integration so the mobile worker can be part of the enterprise business processes in the ERP even outside the four walls of the enterprise

There needs to be a design and development strategy and a solution that can aggregate all of the various web services with the feeds from data collection equipment on the server side and on the mobile device side. This will become increasingly important as additional LBS (location based services) and consumable web services become available.

A mobile application on a Smart Phone or ruggedized handheld has access to a great deal of data. The value of the data comes from aggregating it in a standard way that can be used to make good business decisions. Today this takes a great deal of custom software development for each application. It is time for some good mobile software developers to solve these problems.

If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail please contact or hire me :-)

Author Kevin Benedict
Mobile Computing, EDI and B2B Evangelist and Consultant