Strategies for Enterprise Android Deployments

By | Ideas For Your Business

As with all technology in the enterprise, uptime is critical for handheld devices.  To ensure this, mobile software deployments for thousands of devices requires careful planning, testing and attention to detail.  I’ve outlined some best practices and tips learned from assisting many companies with their rugged Android deployments via Mobile Device Management tools (MDMs). These are the key areas that I typically will provide guidance to companies on.

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NFC Android

Is An MDM Really Necessary?

By | Ideas For Your Business

When rugged devices first were deployed into the wild, the modern MDM solutions we know today did not exist. The pioneers of enterprise mobility had to create solutions for the problems they faced. Early in my career at Accenture we essentially built a platform on top of Windows CE that allowed applications to shared common components in order for us to rapidly build mobile applications. However, so many of the legacy devices that have served in warehouses, grocery stores, airports, etc., need to be replaced and so should the old way of managing rugged devices.

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staging mobile devices

Considerations for Staging Enterprise Android Devices

By | Ideas For Your Business

Each organization will have a unique approach to staging devices; however, there are overarching principles that should be considered by all organizations. Ensuring the topics below have been addressed should help shape a reliable and scalable process for provisioning ruggedized Android devices. These concepts and recommendations are based on BlueFletch’s experience of designing and piloting staging processes for many clients, from a few hundred devices to over forty thousand.

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Balancing Simple and Useful

By | Ideas For Your Business

Lots of buttons means it’s awesome… right?

I had a recent Uber ride in a Ford Explorer and was incredibly overwhelmed by the quantity of buttons on the dashboard.  It occurred to me that there must have been dozens, if not hundreds, of people in the design and review cycles for this product before it went to market.  I wondered if at any point in time someone stopped the meeting to ask: “Is this the best design for our average user”

By contrast, the picture below is of the steering wheel of a Formula one car. The design is by no means simple.  But, every one of the buttons is designed for a specific use case that the driver needs to perform during the race.  Nothing in the car is there because a designer said to themselves “I guess they might need a button to do XYZ… lets throw it in so the marketing guys stop bugging us about innovative features.”

Upon further analysis of my preferences, I realized I have a bit of crush on things that are very useful but are also simple.  The trick is to figure out how to balance these two sides of the simple/useful equation… It’s harder than you think.

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What Should be in Your Mobile Proof of Concept

By | Ideas For Your Business

Editors note: This post was originally published in February 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

With most companies focusing on mobile strategies and investing heavily in software, tools and devices, there is a natural need to kick the tires before pulling the trigger on their next mobile-related investment. A proof of concept (POC) is an excellent way to test the feasibility of an idea or demonstrate a theoretical concept in practice.

My career path to Chief Executive Officer at BlueFletch was built on years of mobile proof of concepts. Many of these POCs have been in large enterprises and governmental organizations with a key focus on replacing legacy devices. Usually these companies require devices that are ruggedized and can survive in the end-user’s workplace environment.

We are entering another era of ruggedized device replacement for enterprises. The current fleet of devices in service are well past their service lifetime and are running Microsoft Windows CE, with an operating system that is effectively 10+ years old. Others, are running terminal emulation applications that should have been replaced in the late 1990s.

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The Future of Batteries in Mobile Devices

By | Ideas For Your Business

Editors note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Are you suffering from any of the following symptoms: panic setting in when your phone’s battery is dying, frustration from not being able to find an open outlet at the airport, or being tangled in a web of charging cables? You just might be one of the billions experiencing inadequate battery life in smartphones.

Lithium-ion has dominated consumer electronics as the rechargeable battery of choice for years. These batteries are chosen by device manufactures for their high energy capacity and high cycle life, meaning they can be charged and discharged many times without degrading. However, lithium-ion technology hasn’t changed much in 20 years despite the shrinking and thinning form factor of mobile devices and the increase in complexity of software.  There have been only marginal improvements to capacity, but manufacturers leverage it to power advanced chip and graphic specs instead of increasing device uptime.  

Simply put, if you want more battery life out of a lithium-ion battery, you are going to have to purchase a larger device to house a larger battery. As long as the current materials for Li-ion batteries are used, there will not be a substantial improvement to battery life. The ceiling for battery life is only so high due to size/efficiency constraints of lithium-ion.

Looking towards the future, I will highlight emerging battery and charging advancements that will revolutionize battery efficiency.

Battery Technology

Lithium-Sulfur

Source: Oxis Energy

Sulfur has long been used as an electrolyte in batteries due to its natural abundance on earth, but sulfur is not a great conductor and deteriorates easily.  Researchers at both UT-Dallas and Penn State are now experimenting with adding molybdenum to the sulfur, which has shown to increase stability and conductivity to a point where it could be commercially viable.

These advanced compounds overcome the capacity ceiling of lithium-ion and are less expensive to make, weigh less, and are better for the environment.  Initial testing has demonstrated 3x to 5x improvement in capacity as compared to Li-ion, and therefore 3x to 5x battery life in your smartphone.  Coin batteries have been used for lab testing, however the compounds could be applied to smartphone batteries in the same manner.

Currently, issues with stability over many charge cycles need to be proven but the rising cost of materials to create traditional lithium-ion batteries and the high environmental impact will push for the advancement of Lithium-Sulfur (Li-S) sooner than later.

Graphene

Source: Samsung

Researchers at Samsung’s Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) have created a battery made of graphene “balls”.  The synthesized graphene and silica, in the shape of spherical structures, are used as the anode and cathode in lithium-ion batteries.  Lab testing has shown these batteries can be fully charged in as little as 12 minutes (5x faster) without risk of overheating.

While recharging batteries quicker is desired by consumers, this material does not yet increase the capacity of the Li-Ion battery and therefore does not affect battery life.  Samsung has filed for a patent in both the US and Korea and we could see this rapid charging tech added to their consumer devices first.

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The Intern Experience – Jeffrey Wongo

By | Android, Ideas For Your Business

Jeffrey Wongo – Android Developer

Relaxed but Professional

As an intern at BlueFletch, I could not have asked for a better environment to gain professional exposure and hone my skills as a software developer. The days leading up to to my first day on job were hopeful and nerve wracking; however, upon starting I quickly came to realize that what little nerves I had were completely negated by the combination of my friendly, approachable coworkers and a work environment that promotes open communication and collaboration. With weekly company-wide standups, frequent code reviews, and lunch-and-learn presentations, BlueFletch makes it clear that learning and open interaction are key foundations to a successful organization.

The Work

BlueFletch Enterprise LauncherThe first project I worked on was the Enterprise Launcher for BlueFletch’s Enterprise Mobility System (EMS). Similar in function to the home screen on a regular Android device, the Enterprise Launcher, designed for rugged devices, adds a layer of control and meets the needs of any organization with multiple shared android devices. Specifically, I was tasked with updating and consolidating the different ways an associate could log into the Launcher (currently LDAP, Google Sign In, and Office 365). The end result would be that an organization would have the ability to select from these options without any external support. While working on this project some of the things I learned about included oAuth2 authentication, API calls using Retrofit, android navigation control, and much more.

After wrapping up the previous project I was tasked with replacing the backing local database for the Support Analytics android app. This app, also part of the EMS system, was responsible for displaying and sending information about the device (battery percentage, network status, temperature, etc) to a server. The issue was that the local database it used to store the data was not only difficult to test, but also unnecessarily inflated the app’s file size. While migrating the database to a different, more lightweight implementation, I had a first-hand experience of how external libraries interact and sometimes conflict with each other. I was also introduced to the idea of mocking when testing an application.

For the remainder of my internship I worked on two projects as part of an agile-driven team. I worked on bug fixes and implemented new features on several android apps. Unlike EMS, these projects involved active sprints and high client interaction. In addition to improving my skills and knowledge of android development, working on these projects gave me the valuable experience of collaborating with a team where each person had a specific role.  From daily team standups to tracking progress with task management software, I was able to witness the SCRUM methodology in a real world context.

Having the opportunity to work on multiple relevant products was an invaluable aspect of this experience. I was able to witness the different design patterns and architectures I learned and heard of in school being implemented in projects with actual value. As someone kicking off their career as a developer, BlueFletch was the perfect environment to advance my knowledge while working on interesting, challenging problems.