Sybase Mobile Evangelist

Ian Thain

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iPhone Apps: Article

The Power of Context Sensitive Alerts in Mobile Applications

New views of data

Some Enterprise Mobility Developers think about getting desktop functionality onto mobile devices for operational convenience and efficiency, in response to the needs of the business. However there is an entirely different dimension of business mobility that should not be overlooked, one that can innovate the business and the mobile apps that will power it to the next level.

Mobile apps are quickly moving toward a level of capability that is unavailable on desktop client systems. What is differentiating mobile apps is their ability to automatically deliver context sensitive information. A simple example of this is Augmented Reality Browsers/Views. These are mobile device based browsers/views that take a camera’s eye view of the real world, in real time, and enrich it with information of interest to the user’s specific tastes, interests and location.  Embedding this sort of context sensitivity in mobile apps is fundamentally new ground, and it can be a powerful business enabler. Here’s why:

A traditional metaphor for data access looks something like this: To get information, the user queries a source like a web service or a database. Much of that stored data is static. At the very least, it is less valuable than it would be if it was given context and currency, changed into actionable information, tailored to a particular Information Worker’s immediate need and circumstances. If the nature of traditional enterprise databases is to be static, it is also fair to say that mobile apps that access static data are often sleepy in the sense they are waiting for someone to tell them to go get old data.

But why should the user have to tell an app to do something that is only a couple of steps from being completely predictable? What if mobile apps woke up in response to context based cues? For example, imagine apps that prompt mobile information workers to switch to wireless before engaging in a costly, data intensive operation over the air?   This could provide huge savings for the enterprise. How about work process reminders based on a detected proximity to a location?  This could reduce transportation costs by minimizing numbers of trips or contribute to more efficient operations in other ways.  Or how about opt-in alerts for customers? Think buying incentives like time-limited discounts when customer devices notice a nearby physical store or a ‘wish list’ item that is back in stock.

Platform based application development strategies that create mobile apps with access to all the sensors on a mobile device as well as access to rich back-end data resources make it possible for mobile devices to automate context sensitive alerts. They also make it possible to quickly retrieve context relevant data for making better operational decisions.

Hence more Innovative Apps and Proactive Decisions

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More Stories By Ian Thain

As one of the Sybase Technical Evangelists, Ian regularly addresses technical audiences all over the world and his sessions are always very well attended. He also writes education classes, whitepapers, demos and articles for various Sybase products and publishes regularly in Journals such as SYS-CON's PBDJ and International Developer Magazine. He is also the Sybase Unwired Platform & PocketBuilder Evangelist and works closely with the team in Dublin, CA and Concord, MA on new features and demonstrations for the products. In his customer-facing Evangelist role, Ian is very involved with the design, production and testing of Enterprise class Unwired Solutions, that have been implemented using Sybase's Unwired tools for Sybase customers around the globe. In addition, Ian is a dedicated technical expert continually working with Sybase's key partners and clients to enhance the capabilities of the Unwired solutions that Sybase can offer to its customers. Ian can also be found on Twitter @ithain