Mobile cloud platform Appcelerator has launched a summer release of product enhancements aimed at speeding up enterprise mobile app development. Jeff Haynie, CEO of Appcelerator, spoke with ProgrammableWeb about how the new features address the challenges in enterprise software infrastructure.
“The app explosion is pushing traditional software infrastructures to do things they simply weren’t built to do,” says Haynie. “Web architectures are perfect for a browser experience, but they can’t deliver the kind of release speed, data responsiveness and great cross-device experiences mobile users expect. The Appcelerator Platform seamlessly extends enterprise software infrastructures for the post-web world. Our latest innovations help organizations to mobilize now and to scale quickly, all while delivering five-star user experiences.”
Above: The Appcelerator Platform, as described on the Appcelerator website.
Haynie points to three new feature sets launched as part of the platform’s summer release:
Insights 2.0: “This is a beautiful tablet-based dashboard with retention and engagement-quality metrics. It now includes the ability for users to find their own metrics that suit their business model and map those into their dashboard. This allows IT to build a funnel and map that into the business process they care about. It’s all about analytics enablement.”
Above: Appcelerator’s new dashboard view for Insight 2.0. Image supplied by Appcelerator.
API Builder: "We help you access data via a web service, so we have prebuilt connectors for identity and cloud, and, of course, you can also write your own code. What we found was that a lot of customers were writing repetitive code, so we have tried to visually make that easy. We have added prebuilt security, authentication, so it’s very easy to point and click to add that on.”
Platform Native SDKs: “These are also part of this release. Customers had access to an SDK as part of using our Titanium product to build mobile applications, and now we are creating iOS and Android native SDKs. So now if you want to write an app in iOS you can drop that SDK directly into the application. It’s is a further commitment to offering an open, extensible platform.”
API Builder to Solve Crucial Enterprise Data Bottleneck
Modern enterprise app development is “becoming less and less about one data source and much more about orchestration," Haynie says.
Above: API Builder features and benefits as described on the Appcelerator website.
“What we are really doing here is letting enterprises get a good return on their investment," he says. "It is all about speeding up access to their data. It is so fast now to build a native app, now what is becoming the lag is, how do I get access to the data? If you look at all the data that lives inside the enterprise, it is not able to be accessed by an API, so our API Builder becomes the key to unlocking the data for business.”
Haynie shares an internal use case to demonstrate:
“We have a mobile application that helps us pull in data from Salesforce and other applications when we have to understand what is happening for a customer or a prospect. Sometimes, we need to tie in data from other systems, for example, bringing in data from Twitter or internally provisioning data.
Above: A view of the API Builder from the Appcelerator website.
“What you can do with our API Builder is extract that SOAP data from Salesforce, then I want to go to another RESTful API and pull some more data. With API Builder, I can point to Salesforce, suck in the data from the fields that I want, pull it into a RESTful API and then I can provide that data in a very thin JSON format for use by the mobile application. And all the underlying security happens under the covers automatically.”
What It Doesn’t Solve: Garbage Data In Still Means Garbage Data Out, Just Faster
Unfortunately, one of the most prominent use cases that Appcelerator shares demonstrates the potential of the post-web world to simply speed up the rate at which erroneous data can impact people’s lives.
Appcelerator points to the speed at which property management services company Safeguard Properties was able to quadruple adoption of one of its business apps by using the new Insights 2.0 features. One of Safeguard Properties’ key roles is to repossess foreclosed and abandoned homes and make sure they are well-maintained so that they do not cause blight in communities and can maintain their resale value for the bank owners. But there are instances where it is alleged that Safeguard Properties uses its data to identify and repossess the wrong house.
So do new tech products like Appcelerator just speed up the process by which customers like Safeguard Properties can draw on poor data in the first place? Safeguard Properties faces a lawsuit brought against it by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who contends that Safeguard is illegally evicting struggling Illinois homeowners, breaking into their homes, changing locks and turning off utility supplies. Madigan cites a list of 200 complaints her office has received against Safeguard’s erroneous use of data and describes the data process that Safeguard uses to determine whether a property is foreclosed and abandoned, including arguing that subcontractors are not provided with a clear data standard to determine whether a property is vacant. Safeguard argues that there have been just four erroneous cases brought against it, when it is managing 7,000 property preservations in Illinois each month.
The poor use of data in determining property vacancy, however, is not a new issue for Safeguard to have to defend itself against, as other news reports point to similar alleged breaches across the country.
Madigan has had a number of successes in fighting similar practices by other property foreclosure service providers and says it will be able to make a strong argument about the use of data in this case, as her office has a firm grasp of technology issues. For example, Madigan’s office was part of a group of state attorneys general who successfully settled with Google for $17 million in a case in which the search engine provider was charged with tracking web users' traffic without their permission.
Appcelerator Augments the Power of Data Itself
With powerful feature sets that come with new tech products like Appcelerator, so too comes an upsurge in the power of the data itself that is made available through such products. Perhaps enterprises taking advantage of Appcelerator and similar products will find that the bottleneck moves deeper into their data architecture. As the problems associated with the rapid creation of mobile apps are solved, the access to data in those apps becomes the bottleneck. As accessing the data speeds up, the quality of that data and its impact decisions becomes the new obstacle.