The New State of Mobile: If You're Not Doing Offline Right, You're Doing Mobile Wrong

Wayne Carter, Vice President of Mobile, Couchbase
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Wayne Carter, Vice President of Mobile, Couchbase

Wayne Carter, Vice President of Mobile, Couchbase

In today’s app-driven world, everything from business processes to our daily activities rely on mobile. Increasingly, people want a mobile experience from every company they interact with — and they want a good one. That means a reliable, fast mobile experience regardless of network reliability or internet connection. New digital technologies are utilizing offline capabilities and data synchronization to overcome mobile reliance on the network. This enables mobile apps to access data and execute key processes both online and offline. The companies that are doing offline mobile well are using it to create better customer experiences, more effective employees, and more efficient processes. And those that are still churning out the traditional mobile experience are falling behind.

The modern mobile experience that many people have come to expect demands access to data anytime, anywhere. Business-critical processes need to access key information and complete tasks regardless of a reliable internet connection. Data interaction needs to happen right at the point where a device is being used — whether that’s on a flight, in a retail store, in a coal mine, or even on a football field.

While innovative new technology has made offline mobile attainable, it has also created new data management concerns. In order for companies to take advantage of offline capabilities, they will need to resolve these concerns. Here’s a look at some of the groundbreaking mobile experiences companies are enabling with offline tech, the data management issues this innovation creates, and how companies can address them.

From the Store to the Sidelines: The Possibilities of Offline-First Mobile Apps

Offline access and data synchronization have enabled new mobile processes that would have never seemed possible a few years ago. Many companies have used this technology to transform their mobile capabilities and execute critical processes anytime, anywhere without relying on network connection. There are numerous scenarios where access to a strong network connection is doubtful or even impossible. For the retail world, stores and malls can be flooded with devices and signals that limit network reliability. To overcome this difficulty, Louis Vuitton is using an offline-first mobile app to bring its seasonal catalogue directly to the mobile devices of every store employee. By synchronizing catalogue data in real-time, sales reps can instantly access up-to-date information about a product. They can see whether the product is available in-store, when it will become available, and whether it’s in stock at other locations - anytime, anywhere, regardless of network connectivity. This mobile data access creates a more effective sales staff, a better customer experience and, ultimately, helps customers make the decision to buy a product.

Public utility employees also need to be able to access essential data regardless of network connectivity. This is why Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is using an offline-first mobile app to give employees access to any data or process they need while out in the field. From meter reading to emergency dispatch, employees can now access data and even transmit it to other workers’ devices without having to rely on network conditions. This allows employees to do their jobs quickly and effectively both online and offline.

Sports stadiums have notoriously spotty network connections, with thousands of fans on their devices bogging down network access. So what happened when a technology company endeavored to diagnose head injuries right from the sidelines of football stadiums? They turned to an offline-first mobile app. SyncThink uses offline capabilities to deploy its eye-tracking technology for virtual reality headsets right on the sidelines of football fields to help indicate head-related injury symptoms in real-time. When assessing possible injuries to football players during a game, SyncThink relies on access to data without a network connection. Its Eye-Sync technology can run tests, capture results and automatically sync new data with a server once a network connection is available.

With New Technology Comes New Risk

This groundbreaking technology brings with it multiple data management concerns that companies must be aware of and resolve proactively. These concerns span the functional, operational and security arenas. For example, mobile databases come with more complex security concerns, as security practices need to be managed across devices, the internet and in the cloud. Companies using mobile databases must employ comprehensive security practices that include authentication, data access control, secure data storage and secure data transport.

From a functional standpoint, mobile data access is another component that must be managed effectively. Offline mobile apps must be able to search a database effectively even while offline. They must be able to ask sophisticated questions of the database and receive relevant, accurate information. A mobile database needs to not only deliver the right information based on a search, it needs to notify a user when the data is changing in a way they are interested in — for example, when a new order comes in or when a customer reaches a new buying level. From there, synchronization is key. These mobile apps depend on their ability to sync with the cloud, and, increasingly, with other devices, both online and offline. Peer-to-peer synchronization is a growing trend, especially for internet of things technology. Devices must be able to talk to each other and exchange data without an internet connection.

Fortunately for companies looking to boost their mobile capabilities, there are plenty of expert service providers and vendors available to help manage mobile data securely and effectively. Numerous solutions from Couchbase, Google, Amazon, Microsoft and Oracle offer the essential security, synchronization and data management that allow mobile apps to work effectively both online and offline.

In order to achieve the exciting offline mobile capabilities that we’re beginning to see today, companies need to put the right tools in place to utilize their data and access it both online and offline. Partnering with a mobile sync and storage provider can allow companies to create exceptional customer experiences and mobilize critical business processes without having to rely on a network.

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