At Business2Mobile, we build custom web applications to help businesses manage their data and facilitate efficient business process implementation. Our clients need their field staff to have the ability to reliably collect and manipulate data in remote locations with little to no internet connection. We have developed proprietary technology that gives businesses the ability to collect data in an offline environment while seamlessly updating the main datastores once an internet connection is re-established. This Offline First Mobile Web Application is a game-changer in heavy industry in Northern BC.
In this article, we will discuss some features of our application and the business value it provides.
You may be asking why a web application? Why not a native iPhone or Android app?
We chose to focus on web application development over platform-specific applications because we felt they provide the most value to our clients. When we develop a web application, it works equally across all types of phones, tablets, and desktop computers. In comparison, a native iPhone application would be useless to field workers with an Android phone and vice versa, and office staff would have no access using their desktop or laptop computers. Web applications are more flexible and support multiple platforms without extra development time and cost.
A standard web app is only accessible through a web browser by navigating to the website that hosts the application while connected to the internet. In contrast, when first navigating to our Offline First Mobile App, you will be given the option to install the application. Once installed, you can launch the application from an icon on your home screen or desktop, just like a native app – whether connected to the internet or not. Your device browser implements the installation, not an app store. And as such, your application is not subject to app store rules and approval processes which speeds up development times.
Our Offline First Mobile App maintains a local datastore that holds a slice of data from the last time it was network connected – accessible to the user – that gives them the ability to modify while offline. Users can create, modify, and delete existing data that is no longer relevant – all while being offline. Our app gives field staff the unique ability to collect valuable business data remotely, without the need for an internet connection.
Once they have entered the data or modified a record, they can close the application and put their device away and not think about it again. Once their device re-establishes a connection to the internet or camp router, their updates are automatically synced to the server and are available to all other users. The offline app saves staff entering data twice (once on paper and again on the computer) or forgetting to sync the device manually when back in service.
Giving users the ability to create and edit data while offline has strategic advantages for remote mobile workforces, but it also comes with some unique challenges.
Once you let users modify data offline, it becomes possible for two people to edit the same record concurrently, without the knowledge of one another’s updates. Determining which update contains the most up-to-date and correct information is the challenge we needed to solve. So we built in an automatic conflict detection system that uses predefined rules to make the best guess at the correct update and flags the record as having a conflict. At a later time, these conflicts can be resolved by indicating which is the correct record, or you can replace the record entirely.
Do your staff need to access and enter information in your application with a bad network connection or no network connection at all? Our application provides reliable data access, and the ability to enter data in any network environment. For example, if your operators/field staff are out on a block 2 hours from cell service, they can enter their data and be confident it will sync automatically when they return to cell service. Are your technicians working on the shop floor or mill site with unreliable wi-fi full of dead zones? Our Offline First Mobile App ensures your techs can access the data they need no matter the strength of their wi-fi signal. They can enter data in a dead zone with the confidence it won’t get lost.