In case IT managers needed a little reminding, Gartner made sure to place it near the top of its “Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2013” — mobile application development and HTML5. As the report suggests, “For the next few years, no single tool will be optimal for all types of mobile application… However, there will be a long term shift away from native apps to Web apps as HTML5 becomes more capable.”
HTML5 — most likely you’ve heard about it, but might not know a great deal, or why it matters. Though mostly discussed in regards to consumer devices, such as the latest mobile app to be written in HTML5, it presents interesting and promising uses for the enterprise and, in particular, field service.
Simply put, HTML5 is the latest (fifth) version of the HyperText Markup Language — the computer language that’s the backbone of just about everything on the Web — websites, apps, pages, and just about anything you see online. Though it’s still under development — still years away from becoming an official standard — the vast majority of developers agree it’s the “revolution the Web needed,” as it brings a powerful array of new features and capabilities that significantly improve (and speed up) how people can access, organize, and browse content and data.
Many of the features HTML5 boasts for the general consumer apply to service industry as well. Here’s a rundown of the top benefits that service organization can expect by adopting the HTML5 platform:
Mobile-Ready: Any Device, Any Platform
Not all service firms equip their technicians with the same mobile device for field work. And we’re not just talking the iPad vs. the iPad 2. Techs from the same firm are often using any combination of Android, iOS, BlackBerry or rugged devices. This makes for an efficient deployment — often these are the mobile devices techs bring from home — but it can become a nightmare when attempting to sync all these techs to the same software.
Software written in HTML5 is device-agnostic and already supported by mobile browsers, meaning it works the same on any operating system on any device, including the desktop back at the office. With it, companies can both accomodate the BYOD movement and unify strategy across the workforce.
No More Plug-Ins: Instant Multimedia
Today’s technician is inextricably tied to the office at all times. Equipped with tablets and smartphones with cameras built in, techs in the field are using multimedia (videos, graphics, images, etc.) to more efficiently and effectively diagnose and fix problems on-site, reducing the number of trips needed. HTML5 makes it much easier to integrate multimedia into software without having to use third-party plug-ins like Silverlight and Flash, which is notoriously buggy. And HTML5 allows for much higher quality multimedia. What’s this mean for the tech? Mobile apps used in the field can come chock full of high-quality charts, 3D models, equipment schematics, videos, animations and anything else they might need to more effectively do their job.
Faster, More Accessible
HTML5 promises across-the-board improvements as well. It’s easy to deploy, lets developers take advantage of geeky stuff like faster processing and memory and it’s exceptionally flexible and configurable. It also has offline capabilities, which allows that tech working underground or within a shielded hospital room to access a mobile app, and the critical data within it, without a 3G connection. This is key; it means that techs can still capture all necessary information and respond to service calls regardless of their environment.
This all sounds great, sure, but there are some cautions worth noting. Because it’s still under development, there are still a number of browser versions that do not yet support it. And though it is device/platform agnostic, it isn’t yet supported by all devices. For techs running older browsers on older devices, this could be a problem. HTML5 also presents some weaknesses when it comes to integrating with devices’ hardware like push notifications, cameras and files, and there have been some concerns around HTML5 and security.
Drawbacks aside, all signs point towards HTML5 becoming the web standard of the future. The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), the body in charge of pushing it through, has announced a completion date of 2014, and countless apps have already been written in the language. Expect this momentum to continue, and get yourself and your company ready.