Kinvey Launches Xamarin 3.0 SDK Early Adopter Program

Our Xamarin 3.0 SDK Early Adopter Program is now open for registration. This new version of the SDK features enhanced offline operation and new flexible and granular data sync policies to support field service and other app use cases that lack good network connectivity for extended periods of time.

Less than 30% of the U.S. workforce sits at a desk. Field workforce mobilization is a hot use case for many industries including logistics, facilities management, manufacturing, pharma, food service, and others. More than just accessing the right data at the right time, mobile features allow field workers to optimize their schedule, receive on-site instructions, capture data, take pictures, use dictation, and complete transactions while on the road in real-time. Contextualizing the user experience increases both field service and back office operational efficiency while improving overall customer service.

Kinvey’s Xamarin SDK allows developers to build cross-platform apps that can work with data completely offline, and synchronize that data on-demand with their backend systems once good connectivity is restored.

Our Xamarin SDK has supported caching and offline data storage since the beginning in v1.0. The v3.0 SDK enhances these capabilities by providing more granular options with simplified APIs that provide streamlined setup to support a richer user experience with little to no effort. To support caching and offline data storage in your app, all you need to do is select the type of data store (shown below) you wish to use based on your app’s use case. The SDK will handle the configuration of your storage, policies, etc.

DataStoreType(s) options:

  • You want a copy of some (or all) the data from your backend to be available locally on the device and you’d like to sync it periodically with the backend: use DataStoreType.Sync
  • You want data stored on the device to optimize your app’s performance and/or provide offline support for short periods of network loss: use DataStoreType.Cache
  • You want the data in your backend to never be stored locally on the device, even if it means that the app cannot support offline usage: use DataStoreType.Network

Should your app use case require more control over how data is managed, we have even more granular and flexible configuration options provided in the 3.0 SDK.

Synchronization

The sync and push APIs allow you to to synchronize the data on the device with the backend.

Calling the sync API on a datastore kicks off a bi-directional synchronization of data between the SDK and the backend. First, the SDK pushes local changes to the backend. Subsequently, the SDK pulls data in the collection from the backend and stores it on the device. You can provide a query as a parameter to the sync API, to restrict the data that is pulled from the backend.

The push API initiates a uni-directional push of changes from the device to the backend. It differs from sync since it does not retrieve any data from the backend. You can call push on a Sync or a Cache datastore. You can also retrieve a count of entities modified locally and pending a push to the backend.

Delta Set Caching

The SDK implements a mechanism to optimize the amount of data retrieved from the backend. When you use a Sync or Cache datastore, data requests to the backend only fetch data that changed since the previous update. We call this mechanism “Delta Set Caching”.

Delta set caching is enabled by default on all Sync and Cache datastores for improved data delivery performance.

Get started today

Securely mobilizing corporate data for field workers is no longer an option – it’s a requirement to compete. Supporting mobile use cases that require offline operation and data sync is hard. Why waste your time developing the caching and sync plumbing? By using Kinvey, you can focus on designing your app experience and be assured that the mobile platform is there to support your needs.

Our Xamarin 2.0 SDK is available in our Dev Center today. Contact us to enroll in the Xamarin 3.0 SDK Early Adopter Program.

High Expectations, Impossible Deadlines: Building a Mobile Prototype…In One Month

NS-screensThis article was originally posted on the Venado Technologies blog.

The Challenge

A customer came to us in the middle of November and told us about an opportunity to show one of their business units how current mobile technologies could be used to solve a business problem quickly and efficiently. “No problem”, we said. “How fast do they need it?”, we asked. “Before the end of the year”, was the response!

As we went through the usual excuses of; “what about Thanksgiving and Christmas”, “our developers are busy on other projects”, “we don’t have a design document”, “we don’t have a database”, services, etc., etc., etc. The customer said they need it by the end of the year and wanted to know if we were up for the challenge, or not. Of course we are up for the challenge! Sign the agreement and let’s get started.

The Objectives

Visibility was the key. The business unit had contractors and employees who were getting work done the old fashion way, with paper and e-mail. However, the dispatchers had no visibility into the activities of the techs once the work orders were sent out. In some cases they were finding out about problems that were preventing the tech from accomplishing the work long after the due date. The nature of this client’s business was such that if their technician’s job isn’t done on time, it could cause catastrophic results.

In order to achieve the goal of better visibility, the customer needed to have a mobile application that could deliver work orders, in priority sequence, to the field workforce and collect the necessary data, in real time, about the work activities in the field. Visibility is a two-way street; the users needed improved insights into the work so they could be more effective. Therefore, the application would need to provide them the ability to view locations on a large map, view site details on a detailed map view, and report back to the office any details or problems about the job. Further, all of this would have to be done while tracking the status of the work order, viewable by a manager in an office in real time, on a web based dashboard.

work-order-template

The Team

We immediately brought our team together including:

One experienced mobile application developer focused on building screens
One experienced mobile application developer focused on functionality and application processes
One UI/UX designer
One database/services expert to work with our mBaaS partner and handle database set up
One web developer to build the web dashboard and widgets

The Tools

The Backend

We selected Kinvey as our mBaaS platform, allowing us to utilize their data store for the database and pre-existing services for user administration, location services and more. Kinvey also provided us with a solution engineer to help with the project and stood up an instance of the platform within 24 hours. A testament to Kinvey’s ease of use is that we had a successful implementation with limited preparation time, insufficient resource availability and a team lacking experience with the product,. Kinvey also allowed us to build the mobile application, first connected to Kinvey, with the ability to easily connect to production data sources and services in the future if the application were to be migrated to a production environment.

NSdashboard

The Front-end

Xamarin.Forms was used on the mobile side to build the app, which the client requested on iOS. Using Xamarin.Forms allows us to quickly build the app while mitigating any risk of mobile platform changes throughout the app’s lifecycle. If the client ever needed the application to work on Android or Windows Phone, we can protect their investment with up to 99% of the code being shared among all three platforms.

NS-screens

The Solution

The solution was built in thirty-one calendar days, through December! This included a fully functional, native iOS mobile app, a web-based management dashboard for dispatchers, and a high performance backend to pull it all together in real time.

Wrap up

The expectations for mobile are greater than any enterprise technology in our time. Business leaders, customers and end users alike have an insatiable appetite for business productivity improvement through mobile. To accomplish the goals of today, we can’t use the methods of the past. We must take advantage of every tool in our bag with the latest methods and strategies.

Venado employs our Enterprise Mobile Stack which is a collection of tools, combined with our methodology, aimed at giving large enterprises better results for their investments in mobile. Creating this “app factory”, capable of producing enterprise-grade applications in less time, provides the agility and supportability modern IT teams need to keep up with their business customers.

Leveraging this approach to mobile app development is what allows us to achieve extraordinary results for our clients. It’s not about just building an app…it’s about having a strategy to build apps at scale. Venado Technologies and our global team of mobile experts can help you achieve outstanding results in your organization as well.

Digital Transformation in Energy Management: Congratulations to Deepinder Singh

On April 14th, Deepinder Singh, CEO of 75F, received the Technology Inventor award at the Titans of Technology ceremony hosted by the The Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal.

We congratulate Deepinder for this achievement. 75F has been customer of Kinvey’s since the beginning and we are proud to back such a Technology Titan driving digital transformation in the energy and utility field.

75F is an innovative building automation system that makes light commercial buildings more comfortable and energy efficient. 75F harnesses the Internet of Things to make smart HVAC devices that are self-optimizing to make people more comfortable while dramatically increasing energy efficiency.

75F transforms the thermostat’s status from a ‘dumb device on the wall’ to a smart control system that goes beyond simply regulating temperature and provides comfort in every room using dynamic airflow balancing via smart vents.

75F overview

At the heart of the 75F system are its Smart Algorithms and the Kinvey Mobile Backend as a Service (MBaaS) solution. Dynamic Airflow Balancing™ is achieved with three Internet-connected devices that work in harmony to sense, analyze, and control airflow. As a result, air flows only where and when it is needed so temperatures are comfortable and energy is saved. Online data portals enable facility managers and contractors to access remote controls, data, and diagnostic tools.

Visit the 75F website for more information on this innovative IoT solution: http://www.75f.io/.

Announcing the HIPAA Compliant mBaaS on Google Cloud Platform

kinvey-hipaa-graphic-textToday we are excited to announce a HIPAA compliant instance of Kinvey on Google Cloud Platform. With dramatic increase in mobile app usage by patients, physicians, and consumers, intense pressure for healthcare organizations to reduce costs while improving outcomes, and increased HIPAA regulatory oversight and fines, we’re seeing increasing demand for cloud-based mobile solutions. Our HIPAA compliant mBaaS was created to address these needs.

Our new solution provides healthcare providers, payers and pharmaceutical and life sciences companies with a secure, compliant and complete platform for all of their mobile and responsive web apps. Given that it’s delivered as a fully-managed service, running on Google Cloud Platform, customers can focus on delivering their apps instead of building, managing, securing, and patching infrastructure – significantly reducing IT CAPEX and OPEX costs and dramatically reducing app time to market. Kinvey ensures adherence to all aspects of the HIPAA Security Rules, and will sign a Business Associate Agreement with customers to cover the Kinvey service and underlying infrastructure.

Kinvey on Google Cloud Platform is available today! Sign up here.

Google also has a blog post with some more information about this new collaboration between Kinvey and Google — check it out.

We’re Addressing the Missing Link in App Analytics with Operational Intelligence

This week we announced the launch of our Operational Intelligence service for mobile apps, giving IT teams the actionable insights they need to deliver end-user support and report on end-to-end app performance and compliance. We’re extremely excited about this new addition to our platform – it provides a valuable service to our customers, but is also an industry first. No other mBaaS can support the entire app lifecycle from development to post-launch, and Operational Intelligence plugs critical holes in today’s mobile app support tools.

Without any further ado, here is a live demo of the Operational Intelligence service in action:

 

Most app analytics tools available today focus on marketing analytics. These are important, but don’t provide the type of detailed insight regarding error codes, latency, and access policies required by IT operations teams for compliance and helpdesk organizations for support. Our customers can now discover data and events, create sophisticated filters and correlations for individual apps and users, visualize data with a rich set of tools for charts, tables and graphs, and create customizable dashboards to provide specific app insights.

And in case you’re curious about the behind-the-scenes stuff, our engineering team built the Operational Intelligence service on Elasticsearch, Logstash and Kibana (the ELK stack), all best in class tools when DevOps teams need to build this sort of capability themselves.

Shadow IT in 2016: It’s not a Problem, It’s a Reality

shadow-itI often see articles and hear customers talking about “shadow IT.” These conversations usually come in two flavors (sometimes both): bemoaning its existence, and figuring out ways to “cope” with it. I think that’s the wrong approach. There’s clearly something compelling, even necessary, about shadow IT if it’s such a widespread problem.

To get to the root of the issue, let’s take a look at the problem from the eyes of a business owner, specifically one who needs to launch a mobile app and do it quickly. If you’re this person, your thinking probably goes something like this:


You could ask your IT department to provision you some infrastructure or APIs and wait for ages as they sort out security, scalability, and access control concerns before you can even get started prototyping with real data.

Or you could configure some (third party) cloud infrastructure and go, taking your first development steps in hours instead of months.

You could accept that your app will be handicapped by slow load times because of legacy infrastructure, or resign to waiting around for the next, mobile-enabled generation of your backend systems to be enterprise-ready, and then wait some more as your IT organization rolls it out (at which point it will be out of date already).

Or you could configure some cloud infrastructure and go, knowing that you’ll get sub-second performance and that the technology will change at the speed of mobile innovation.

You could force your young mobile developers to spend cycles learning and understanding proprietary, arcane languages in order to connect your mobile app to critical systems of record, and probably end up with a less-than-stellar result because they don’t care about and don’t want to learn SQL Server.

Or you could configure some cloud infrastructure and go, arming your developers with the tools they want to use, allowing them to use the skills they already have, and guaranteeing a better outcome as a result.

You could give up on your offline capability requirement, because the legacy auth system you’re forced to use was built for the web world when connectivity was a given, and can’t handle offline use cases.

Or you could configure some cloud infrastructure and go, free to use modern standards like OAuth 2.0 that allow you to grant access for a specified amount of time even in the absence of a connection.

You could risk a heart attack during your app’s launch, knowing that barring the unlikely event you guessed exactly right, you’ll either suffer performance problems or be stuck with a ton of expensive hardware you don’t need.

Or you could configure some cloud infrastructure and go, secure in the knowledge that it can instantly scale up or down as needed.


If we’re thinking like an IT organization, it’s easy to write off shadow IT as 100% negative. But given the decisions faced above, doesn’t it make at least a little sense?

That’s not to say allowing this approach is the right way for an enterprise to solve the mobility challenge — far from it. It does, however, highlight exactly what enterprise IT needs to do in order to rein in business units and prevent a dangerously fragmented IT landscape. Namely, IT needs to:

  1. Give mobile developers self-service, instantaneous access to enterprise systems via service catalogs
  2. Provide abstraction for data access so that mobile developers don’t need to have backend system knowledge
  3. Enable mobile developers to use whatever tools are most appropriate for the project and avoid lock-in to specific vendors and toolsets across the organization
  4. Create a cloud caching layer that provides sub-second data access and offline capability to those systems that can’t provide it as-is
  5. Ensure that the backend can scale for and support mobile use cases, such as massive adoption and rapid changes in backend demands
  6. Extend access to on-premise systems in a manner that is secure and compliant with business requirements

A common theme across all of these requirements is that IT needs to do them right now. The demand for mobility is here and it’s only accelerating. Waiting for vendors to release new, mobile-first versions of legacy systems, and going through the lengthy process of procuring, vetting, and rolling out those new versions, will leave organizations in the dust as competitors out-pace and out-innovate them.

Fortunately, there is a new breed of software designed to address these exact challenges. Regardless of the name – Forrester calls it “Mobile Infrastructure Services,” Gartner chose “Mobile Application Services Platform,” we at Kinvey use “mobile Backend as a Service” – all IT organizations should be evaluating these platforms to see if their business can gain the benefits needed for a successful mobility push. By enabling the requirements above, and by doing it quickly, enterprise IT can ensure that business units can innovate rapidly while IT maintains control over important enterprise systems.

The Right Things to Think About Before Migrating from Parse

parse-to-kinveyParse’s announcement that it is shutting down was a bitter day for all of us at Kinvey – Parse and Kinvey were the first two viable Backend as a Service platforms in 2011, and for the first two years of our existence, we fought head-to-head against them.  At the same time, there was a whole lot of mutual respect between our team and theirs. Our CEO, Sravish, summed it up pretty well:

While Parse has planned their sunset strategy the right way (the platform will be available for another year), many developers are understandably beginning to look for alternatives already.

Instead of just telling you, “Hey, migrate to Kinvey,” we felt it was far more responsible for us to tell you why you should consider Kinvey (or any other service) as an option for your Parse apps.

A product ethos you know and love

Kinvey – like Parse – was built to dramatically improve developer productivity. We have not taken any shortcuts. We spent a lot of time and effort understanding the hard problems developers encounter and don’t want to deal with while building apps — standing up and scaling data services, file services, push services, making apps work offline, storing data securely, etc. — and we provide you all this capabilities (and more) as part of our service. You can read more here.

Kinvey – like Parse – has spent an enormous amount of time delivering SDKs and documentation developers love.  Take a tour of our docs and SDKs.

Single line of code to do common tasks via our SDKs: User login/logout, changing password, moving data, storing data for offline use, encrypting data, etc. — it’s a single line of code.

A complete backend stack: You get a data store, a file store, engagement features like push notifications, email and SMS, analytics, a Node.js PaaS to run custom code, an API console to test your backend, and much more. We’ve built it, so you don’t have to.

Built-in, end-to-end security lets you focus on building your app instead of securing it.

Cloning your backends and migrating data from one to another is easy and simple. This lets you iterate on your app without having to worry about complex migrations.

Scale and a track record of powering numerous successful apps like yours

With a global developer community and 10s of 1000s of apps powered by Kinvey, whatever use case you can think of has already been built on Kinvey. Whether you’re an enterprise building internal and external apps for your digital business, an agency looking for a way to get better apps built faster for your clients, or an indie developer trying to create the next game-changing app, we’ve got you covered.

Delivered at scale — an important thing to ask your new vendor is “Can you match Parse’s scale?” As a long-time Parse user, you know that they’ve hardened their platform over time and had various uptime issues while they went through the hardening process. Well, Kinvey went through a similar journey.  No other vendor can match the scale that Parse and Kinvey can give you.

A fair and transparent pricing model (with a generous free tier!)

At Kinvey, we decided to implement a pricing model that was not API or data based. We didn’t want you to have to think about architecting your app to fit a pricing model. If you are building a chatty app, do it. Don’t let a pricing model stop you.  Instead, Kinvey has a simple app-based pricing model.  

We’ve simplified our pricing into tiers to make it simple. At a glance, our tiers are:

For developers and prototypes:

Development (FREE)

  • All core BaaS features
  • Unlimited API calls
  • Business logic
  • 1 environment
  • Up to 1,000 active users per month (MAU)

Indie ($200/month) – everything in Development PLUS

  • Up to 100k active users per month
  • 2 environments
  • Team collaboration

For business and and enterprises:

Business launch (starting at $24k/year) – everything in Indie PLUS

  • Unlimited users
  • 3 environments
  • Prebuilt connectors to Enterprise data and auth systems
  • Data backup and disaster recovery
  • Uptime SLAs
  • Standard support
  • Dedicated account manager

Enterprise (custom pricing) – everything in Business PLUS

  • Single-tenant instance
  • Unlimited apps
  • 6 environments
  • CDN acceleration
  • 24×7 support

A compatible architecture stack

Kinvey’s architecture is very similar to Parse, which allows your apps to work the same way as they did before.

  • Complete SDKs in Objective-C, Swift, Android, JavaScript, Angular.js, Backbone.js, Xamarin, Node.js, Java, etc.
  • A NoSQL based data store (powered by MongoDB)
  • A file store to store large files
  • A node.js based PaaS for you to write and run custom code on the server
  • Push, SMS, Email made easy
  • Analytics to track how your apps are used
  • and much more

At the end of the day, changing platforms is a hard pill to swallow. We get that. We think you should do take your time and do it the right way. Good luck!