Tag Archive for Mobile

Intelligent Apps Are Friendly Apps

Whether you are a human or a computer, it pays to be friendly. When you buy something, are you more likely to buy from friendly or unfriendly salespeople? I like to spend time with people, but only if they are friendly. I am more apt to be generous with people who are friendly and am more easily persuaded by friendly people.

With technology, I love to interact with friendly software, or should I say “intelligent apps”. What makes for an intelligent app? Well, they are apps which exhibit a kind of machine intelligence which we associate with human intelligence. Not “super computers,” but computers and software which exhibit the same qualities I enjoy in friendly people. Let me get a little more specific:

  • People whom I have met before usually recognize the sound of my voice. Those who listen to what I say are ones which I admit to my inner circle. My friends may disagree with what I say, but I know that they listen and understand me.
  • People whom I have just met make some guesses about my mood and interact with me accordingly. My friends recognize my mood pretty quickly when they converse with me. My close friends always seem to respond to me in ways that are intended to bring me back to a positive frame of mind.
  • Most humans I come across recognize that, when I get to the “heart of the matter,” I am not performing surgery, or dealing with organs in any way. Only a literal minded person, or a super-computer, would come to that conclusion.
  • Finally, I often come across humans who do a great job of sharing knowledge with me. When I ask questions, they provide me with a lot of great information. I enjoy spending time with people who are knowledgeable, yet humble, and try to maintain contact with them professionally.

Of course, computers and software have historically not done any of these things well! It’s no wonder many people may find them infuriating. Our computers and software just haven’t conformed to our perceptions of intelligence – therefore, we don’t perceive them as friendly. But, longstanding ideas about what artificial intelligence (AI) looks like have inspired what are called “Cloud-Based Cognitive Services.” In other words, scientists and engineers have figured out that cloud computing, big data and data sciences have enabled the technologies needed to deliver AI.

Meet Your New Best Friends

I think the thing which is so attractive about “intelligent apps” is that I perceive them as being friendly.  Take Windows Hello, the facial recognition software in Windows 10 which recognizes your face as your login. I much prefer logging onto my Surface Pro 4 at home (which has Windows Hello) than my work laptop (which does not). My face never expires, does not need to be reset, and doesn’t need to be remembered! This is just a fabulous experience; it’s almost as though my tablet “knows me.”

Here is another example of intelligence which makes life easier- natural language processing in Power BI. Before natural language processing, I had to apply filters to my data, click around to find the thing I was looking for and format the graphs and charts on my report. With Power BI, I can simply type “Show Me Last Year’s Sales by Territory” and the data appears. This is simply one example. Power BI dashboard authors do not even have to have created a report in order for this intelligent app to suggest it as a possible solution. When paired with the voice recognition capabilities of Cortana, it may seem that you have a digital assistant with limitless access to the dashboard, reports and data you need to run your business.

Cloud-Based Cognitive Services

Today’s modern applications are intelligent apps, and the hallmark of an intelligent app is human-like artificial intelligence. Most application developers do not have access to the AI algorithms needed to be truly effective. However, the giants of cloud computing have made these capabilities easy to acquire and integrate into your next product, service or business systems.

Microsoft Cognitive Services are a set of Cloud Application Programming Interface’s (API’s) which application developers can embed into their modern apps to make them intelligent. There are API’s for visual recognition, speech recognition, text analytics, recommendations and much more. Perhaps you want to create an app which recognizes a face, or a user’s voice. Perhaps you want to create an app which interacts with users differently based upon the user’s perceived mood. Perhaps you want to make recommendations to customers on your website. It’s all possible, and in fact, a lot easier than you might imagine.

BlumShapiro Consulting is a Microsoft Advanced Analytics partner, with expertise in building modern intelligent apps. And we are extremely friendly.

Berry_Brian-240About Brian: Brian Berry leads the Microsoft Business Intelligence and Data Analytics practice at BlumShapiro. He has over 15 years of experience with information technology (IT), software design and consulting. Brian specializes in identifying business intelligence (BI) and data management solutions for upper mid-market manufacturing, distribution and retail firms in New England. He focuses on technologies which drive value in analytics: data integration, self-service BI, cloud computing and predictive analytics. 

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Testing: The Key to a Successful Mobile Application

Can you believe it has been over 10 years since the smartphone revolution came into full effect? Along with the devices themselves, we have seen an increase in the number of applications created, now reaching over two million apps and spanning a wide range of categories. These apps not only address a multitude of user needs—but are able to be used with ease on a variety of devices and operating systems. So, how do they do it? How can these mobile applications operate across different platforms and still perform brilliantly for the end user? Well, there is really no secret to it—it is all about testing. If you are developing an app which will likely be used by millions across varying platforms, then you must have a solid testing solution to ensure a positive user experience—no matter what the device or platform is. How do you test your new application? Well, there’s an app for that!

Here are my top 3 cloud-based application testing platforms and tools to help your app be as successful as possible:

Xamarin Test Cloud

My first recommendation is Xamarin Test Cloud. Xamarin provides access to over 2,000 real mobile devices in the cloud. This testing platform provides remote capabilities to the devices in the cloud, allowing you to deal with issues in real time. In Xamarin, your mobile app is tested using scripts that you create. These test scripts are built using a framework called Calabash, which runs on both iOS and Android. Upon completion of your test, results and performance analysis are displayed in dashboards and even include a recording of the test. What sets Xamarin Test Cloud apart from other testing platforms comes from the thoroughness of the program:

  • Number of cloud devices available
  • Native integration of automation capabilities to perform user interactions
  • Ability to capture performance
  • Ability to integrate with other testing tools (TFS, Jenkins, TeamCity, etc.)

If your team uses automation scripts and targets a large set of mobile devices, then Xamarin will be the best testing platform to meet your needs.

Xamarin

SauceLabs

SauceLabs provides native, hybrid and web testing combinations of emulators and simulators for the most popular devices. These capabilities are provided instantly, no waiting! SauceLabs also provides access to the device using a remote desktop session for debugging and analysis. Some of the key features of SauceLabs is that it can integrate with most CI platforms and that test scripts can be written in multiple of languages (Ruby, Python, Node.js, or C# using Appium automation framework). The key differentiator between SauceLabs and Xamarin revolves around the pricing structure. Using SauceLabs, packages start as low as $19 a month for manual testing, including the use of the Appium framework, the leading mobile testing framework out there.

 

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Perfecto

My final recommendation for mobile app testing is Perfecto. What sets Perfecto apart from the above testing platforms is that they provide a private cloud to build your mobile app. This enhances the security and allows you to test against a wide range of conditions. This feature makes Perfecto a strong fit for dedicated enterprise apps, banks and financial service applications.

Perfecto

 

When it comes to mobile app testing, there are plenty of resources available. The three listed above are just a few of my favorites, but there are certainly plenty of options to suit all of your needs. It is now time for you to go out and start building and testing your own mobile application!

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The Business Value of Microsoft Azure – Part 5 – Notification Hubs

This article is part 5 of a series of articles that focus on the Business Value of Microsoft Azure. Microsoft Azure provides a variety of cloud based technologies that can enable organizations in a number of ways. Rather than focusing on the technical aspects of Microsoft Azure (there’s plenty of that content out there) this series will focus on business situations and how Microsoft Azure services can benefit.

In our last article we focused on virtualization and the use of virtual machines as part of an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) solution. While this is a great approach for traditional server workloads, there has been a significant shift in the way individuals interact with and consume information suggesting the need for something different. Specifically, a mobile device has overtaken the PC in terms of unit sales/year and this presents a scenario that many municipalities can tap into.

Let’s think back to our fictional town of Gamehendge. A hurricane is approaching and Mayor Wilson needs to warn its citizens. To handle the scale required to communicate in this fashion would require a significant notification infrastructure. Why pay for this type of scale when it’s only needed on occasion? Microsoft Azure Notification Hubs is a massively scalable mobile push notification engine for quickly sending millions of messages to iOS, Android, Windows, or Kindle devices. It’s possible to tailor notifications to specific citizens or entire groups with just a few lines of code, and do it across any platform.

Further, in Gamehendge there is a population that doesn’t speak English as their native language. Traditional communications can often go without understanding. The templates feature of Notification Hubs provide a handy way to send localized push notifications so you’re speaking to citizens in their language. Templates also eliminates the hassle of storing the localization settings for each group.

Combining the scalability and configurability of the Notification Hubs solution, along with its ability to work with either on-premise or cloud based systems, your municipality gains the ability to notify your citizens of any information that can prepare and inform them of upcoming events in the event of an emergency or as part of a more generalized community awareness system. While the Notification Hubs feature is just one small component of the Azure platform, it can have a significant impact in your community.

As a partner with BlumShapiro Consulting, Michael Pelletier leads our Technology Consulting Practice. He consults with a range of businesses and industries on issues related to technology strategy and direction, enterprise and solution architecture, service oriented architecture and solution delivery.

 

SharePoint Mobile App Development with Xamarin and VS2013

I will be presenting at the Connecticut SharePoint User Group this Thursday September 18th at 6PM-8PM.  The presentation will be held on the new Microsoft Office located at 280 Trumbull Street, 21st Floor, Hartford CT.  RSVP at http://www.meetup.com/ctspug/events/203033462/

Description

SharePoint 2013 + Xamarin for Visual Studio 2013 provides the ability to build great mobile business apps using C# as the main programming language. It can be used to build apps for iOS, Android, Kindle Fire and more. Apps are built using the target platform API, and native user interface controls.  Apps not only look the way the end user expects, but they also behave as expected.   Xamarin Studio provides an integration with Visual Studio, IDE for Mac as well as Windows IDE for Android development.  Apps are build using familiar language(C#) and namespace based on the .Net framework which we all have come to love.  Your users will love using Apps that are targeted to their personal device, which in turn will increase productivity and business value.

Session Abstract

1. Introduction
2. Quick view on Today’s Mobile Dev Landscape
3. Intro into Xamarin IDE
4. Demo C# IPhone App for SharePoint/Office 365
5. Demo Universal UI App Development for SharePoint /Office 365

Hector Luciano Jr is a manager with BlumShapiro’s Technology Consulting Group, Hector has over 14 years of experience with Microsoft .Net software application development, including architecting and designing solutions for web, client/server and mobile platforms.