Data Access in Offline Applications and the Overlooked Benefits of Offline Apps

Forrester Research recently released a report saying that offline capabilities are mobile apps’ “most important and difficult feature.”

Important, yes. Difficult? Not necessarily, with Alpha Anywhere’s offline capabilities. Here’s how two Alpha Anywhere customers have been making use of Alpha Anywhere 3.0′s built-in features for offline mobile (and web) app development. Support for caching data offline as well as data synchronization when an offline app connects to a network make creating mobile offline applications easier with Alpha Anywhere.

Bureau Veritas Needs Offline Access

Bureau Veritas is a world leader in testing, inspection and certification services for a wide variety of industries and technologies, from boilers and pressure vessel inspection to health, safety, and environmental, marine services, and well beyond. It has a global workforce of more than 60,600 employees.

Bureau Veritas’s inspectors must always have access to critical business data when they’re out in the field, even when there’s no Internet access. The company has built a mobile app to do just that, for its team of elevator inspectors in the Netherlands, who have to capture on-site asset information even when no signal is available. Rohan Shenoy, ISM North West Europe, IS Lead Developer says of the project, “We are excited to implement Alpha Anywhere’s offline capabilities, which will provide many benefits across our business…Our mobile app built using Alpha Anywhere and PhoneGap  enables inspectors to record data in real-time for later synchronization with our primary systems, allowing us to improve efficiency and provide the best possible service to our customers.”

Dwellpoint and Offline Support

Dwellpoint is a SaaS business that keeps real estate agents and brokers in touch and up to date with their clients by informing them about the status of their house listing, scheduled open houses, and upcoming appointments. Scott Moore built the service using Alpha Anywhere 3.0 and Alpha’s SaaS Jumpstart Framework.

The first generation of the service has been a hit, and he’s constantly adding new capabilities to it. Offline access will be next because “It’s not uncommon for agents to be in areas where a mobile connection is unavailable or weak. With the offline capabilities built into Alpha Anywhere 3.0, agents will still be able to be productive.”

Many other customers have been already been using, or  shortly will be using  Alpha Anywhere 3.0 for offering offline access in their mobile apps. Here’s how P&A Group and Avis are doing it.

The Overlooked Benefits of Offline Applications

Note: The most often discussed benefit of offline capability in a mobile business app is that it allows the person in the field to keep on working without having to worry about the presence of a decent signal. There are however two other important benefits that are sometimes overlooked.

1) COST.

Sometimes the field work does not have to constantly be connected to the back-end data on the server. They only need to occasionally be connected to load up and to refresh data. This is something  which can be done from home in the morning or from a coffee shop or public place with Wifi during the course of the day.  In this case, the field worker does not have to have a data plan on their mobile device. The implication of this is that companies could then save  $40 or $50 per field worker per month. If you do the arithmetic, for a field force of 100 or 1000 workers, the savings would be in $4000-$5000 to $40,000-$50,000 per month range!

2) PERFORMANCE.

If all the data that is being worked on is available on the mobile device, you eliminate the latency of the data moving back and forth from the server across 3G/4G  - which results in faster performance.