Alpha Software Blog

Buyer Beware: All Offline Apps are Not Created Equal

Create offline apps
Many mobile app development companies tout "offline capability" or "offline apps," but buyer beware. For modern business apps, "offline capability" is not always offline.

Merely being able to pull up records while you’re offline, is not nearly enough. An offline capable app must have the intelligence – before you go offline -- to cache associated data files that relate to those records. For example, if a record references an image filename, a pdf filename, a video filename, etc., before you go offline,  these ‘linked’ files must also be downloaded and stored on the device.

An app must also deal with data conflicts in an intelligent way once you reestablish a connection.  Aside from that, you will need a mobile app that can also access the mobile device hardware so you can use the phone, scanner, GPS and data storage.

Here’s why these capabilities are so critical…Imagine you’re a field repairman/woman starting a day of service calls in the Westchester, NY area. You logon into your field service app first thing in the morning, download your local customer visits for the day, log off and drive out of the parking lot. You’re now offline and your “offline capable” app will do everything you need, right?  Maybe not.

At your fourth customer visit of the day, the customer argues that the company paid for the “Gold level” service. They don’t want to sign off on the repair form because it indicates they’ll be billed for the part and the “Gold level” agreement includes all parts, free-of-charge. You pull up the customer record you downloaded in the app this morning, and you see that there if a field in the customer record that links to the pdf file that has the customer’s contract.  But when you click on a button to show the contract, you are out of luck because the app is trying to retrieve the contract from a server and you are now offline. On the other hand, had this file been downloaded before you went offline, your app would just work as you had expected. Alpha Anywhere has advanced features to automatically download all linked files before you go offline.

At the second customer visit of the day, you encountered a repair that has not been seen or documented before. Corporate needs to know about this and it your field app should trigger some workflow activity. You start to take some video of the damage you’re seeing, but your “offline capable” app can only store 5MG of video, which doesn’t begin to capture the damage you’re seeing.  You’re dead in the water.

At the second customer visit of the day, you encounter a machine that needs to be repaired. You don’t have experience with this type of machine, but you know that there are videos, and instruction manuals (in PDF form) on servers at the home office that document how the repair should be performed. Too bad you don’t have a connection! You can’t access these files. But with Alpha Anywhere these files could have been downloaded automatically before you went offline and would not be available to you.

The Alpha Anywhere application development and deployment environment has transformed business application development so that developers can create robust offline capable apps and offline forms with virtually no incremental effort or cost. A robust solution is one that integrates fully with transactional back-end systems of records, that can sync offline data with intelligent conflict resolution (versus simplistic "last-write wins"), and can handle any number of rich media files (images, audios, videos), limited in size only by the available storage on a device. Alpha Anywhere’s unparalleled robust offline features include:

    • Fine-grained control of write conflicts that occur in offline mode
    • Rich media storage that utilizes the file system on the mobile device, allowing users to store large video, audio and image files
    • Data persistence when the app is closed or the battery dies, including data not saved to the server.
Learn more and see a video showing how Alpha Anywhere is different from other offline capable apps.

For a case study about how one company is benefit from Alpha Anywhere’s robust offline capability to save costs, read: How One Company Will Save $300,000/Year in Mobile Data Costs with Alpha Anywhere

And for further reading, here are two whitepapers that describe some of the technical issues surrounding of the offline problem and how Alpha Anywhere solves them:

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About Author

Amy Groden-Morrison
Amy Groden-Morrison

Amy Groden-Morrison has served more than 15 years in marketing communications leadership roles at companies such as TIBCO Software, RSA Security and Ziff-Davis. Most recently she was responsible for developing marketing programs that helped achieve 30%+ annual growth rate for analytics products at a $1Bil, NASDAQ-listed business integration Software Company. Her past accomplishments include establishing the first co-branded technology program with CNN, launching an events company on the NYSE, rebranding a NASDAQ-listed company amid a crisis, and positioning and marketing a Boston-area startup for successful acquisition. Amy currently serves as a Healthbox Accelerator Program Mentor, Marketing Committee Lead for the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge Launch Smart Clinics, and on the organizing team for Boston TechJam. She holds an MBA from Northeastern University.

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The Alpha platform is the only unified mobile and web app development and deployment environment with distinct “no-code” and “low-code” components. Using the Alpha TransForm no-code product, business users and developers can take full advantage of all the capabilities of the smartphone to turn any form into a mobile app in minutes, and power users can add advanced app functionality with Alpha TransForm's built-in programming language. IT developers can use the Alpha Anywhere low-code environment to develop complex web or mobile business apps from scratch, integrate data with existing systems of record and workflows (including data collected via Alpha TransForm), and add additional security or authentication requirements to protect corporate data.