Supporting Too Many Devices in the Field? Here’s One Way to Minimize the Pain

Enterprise mobile computing deployments have grown more complex, encompassing a mix of ruggedized and consumer devices, running multiple operating systems and applications, and affecting every employee from the CEO to the delivery truck driver. This cross-platform world has proven challenging for IT departments and application developers, who are tasked with creating and managing different versions of the same app for different devices. 

HTML5, the latest iteration of the HTML standard, is one possible solution to the complexity problem, providing a way to make applications available on multiple platforms without creating development and support headaches.

“We’re seeing a massive shift from on-premise, legacy systems into the cloud due to undeniable benefits when it comes to mobility, IT requirements, and cost,” says Dave Yarnold, CEO of ServiceMax. “This shift means more and more cloud-based field service organizations and therefore a much wider adoption of HTML5-based technologies. This shift is already well underway, and I expect to see it accelerate quite a bit in the next few years.”

Gaining Speed & Flexibility

The BYOD (bring your own device) movement has also helped accelerate interest in HTML5. In some industries, field service organizations are moving away from homogeneous, rugged device deployments and instead are using a mix of phones, tablets, and laptops, both corporate and employee-owned. “BYOD decreases deployment costs but increases support costs due to the proliferation of devices and operating systems,” says Mark Duffin, CEO of ServicePower. “Distribution and management of apps can prove difficult.”

That’s the problem many developers hope HTML5 can address. However, the specification is still in development, and not all segments are advancing at the same pace. Offline support, real-time communication, and 3D graphics elements, for example, aren’t mature. “The technology is already very popular and has the attention of quite a few developers, but at the moment only part of it is actually used by websites or mobile apps,” says Gil Bouhnick, associate VP of mobility at ClickSoftware. “Today we can find portions of widgets, panels, etc. running HTML5 but not so much for full solutions or apps which are all built with HTML5.”

The advantages to HTML5 primarily are development speed and flexibility. “We are in an environment where change happens often, and these changes can often be drastic when we are talking about the intricacies of field service workflow,” Yarnold says. “With HTML5, these changes can happen instantly — you just have to build once then deploy everywhere, keeping your field service organization nimble and agile.”

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Field Technologies Online provides is a resource for the optimization of field workers, service and assets. The publication's goal is to provide companies in the field service, transportation/distribution, government, public works and utilities industries with information on mobile technologies that can be used to improve productivity and drive efficiency.