Backend system integration the new mobile development challenge

While developing a fun UI was once the biggest hurdle facing mobile development teams, the new challenge is going one step further and performing backend system integration properly.

The new challenges in the world of mobile development are less about how to develop a compelling UI, but instead, how to connect and ingetrate mobile applications with backend resources, public APIs and a generally disperate set of systems. More and more teams are getting a handle on how to do mobilization well, while plenty of niche providers have mobile app development down to a science. It is in the areas around and between the apps themselves that challenges aries and interesting approaches are beginning to unfold.

"I would say with Android and iOS right now, there’s not a lot of innovation happening. The fun stuff is figuring out how to integrate your deployment variables, your edge devices, and actually derive meaningful information from it," said Arun Gupta, Java Champion and VP of Developer Relations at Couchbase. According to Arun, connecting devices directly to each other without relying on a centralized communication system is one of the up and coming trends for mobile. "The newest area of interest is how to do peer to peer communication. Right now, we are working with a customer who would like P2P communication with data stored locally on the device."

The fun stuff is figuring out how to integrate your deployment variables, your edge devices, and actually derive meaningful information from it.

Arun Gupta,
Java Champion

Smart devices originally untethered workers from their desk. But today, users expect much more. They want to be decoupled from the traditional server backend, without sacrificing too much functionality. "Your cell phone is becoming the most powerful device in your life to provide information. You may not be connected to the internet or WiFi all the time, which makes processing data locally that much more important."

Besides processing information, sharing is the other obvious activity that users want to be able to accomplish offline. This holds true in classroom settings, in business environments, and in the gaming community. Open source frameworks such as AllJoyn offer a starting place to build such solutions. This middleware has an architectural topology that acts like a virtual bus, connecting the various daemons and links to enable direct sharing without the use of a server. The framework’s object-oriented approach enables development for apps that require device-to-device communication. A faster, seamless user experience is the underlying goal of such technology. P2P has the potential to bypass the connectivity issues and server latency involved with a traditional network.

Mobile and progressive development

Christopher Willis, Perfecto Mobile CMO, made an even bolder statement than Mr. Gupta. "In a very real sense, omni-channel is the new mobile. We’re not seeing as many companies doing mobile for mobile’s sake. The focus is on a consistent, high-quality user experience across all platforms." It’s a good example of how consumer driven development is continuing to impact the way big business structures its technological advancement. The consumer is king, and their experience is the most critical measure of success for applications.

In fact, a new position is being created within the organizational hierarchy to address this reality: Head of Digital. According to Willis, this freshly developed role spans mobile, digital, and social, all the elements that encompass the end user experience. An individual filling this position must understand the company brand, user experience, and available technology in order to be responsible for that touch point with the customer. Along with the development of user personae to drive app testing, the Head of Digital role is a prime example of how marketing and IT must come together with a single purpose to marry technology and profitability. But what does this omnichannel direction mean for mobile development?

Firms that have already carved out a niche in the app mobilization space are now looking for ways to go beyond mobile. Perfecto Mobile is embracing this trend by expanding its own service offerings. "Our primary addition this year is web. We provide the ability to add a single script for your multi-channel app that runs across all devices, tablets, and web."

"What pushed us was watching companies trying to cobble together a solution as they moved toward this less mobile, more digital approach. They need a solution that features real devices, real browsers, and an overlay of user conditions that can’t be found anywhere else. We deliver one digital lab that lets you build one script and run it across all your points, run the Wind Tunnel on top of it, and come up with this user experience that’s been tested from every angle."

For the enterprise, this increasingly interconnected approach to delivering a cohesive user experience should come as no surprise. The more technology expands, the greater role integration must play. As long as businesses keep their eye on the experience rather than a specific application, platform, or a device, they will be set to develop and deliver a winning brand.

How is your organization integrating backend systems with mobile? Let us know.

This was last published in April 2016

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