Mobile IoT Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Yeshim Deniz, Pat Romanski, Kevin Benedict

Related Topics: Mobile IoT

Mobile IoT: Article

M x N The geometric challenge of wireless application deployment

M x N The geometric challenge of wireless application deployment

nteroperability is currently the hottest topic in the wireless application space, and rightly so: many of the early promises and exciting ambitions of the industry have been frustrated by reality.

More and more developers are realizing that the true challenge of deployment is in making applications work - and work well - across the wide range of devices and gateway platforms available.

M - The Devices
The challenge of adapting applications for different client devices is an obvious one. Wireless devices have a wide variation in characteristics:

  1. Physical (such as screen sizes, navigation keys)
  2. Cosmetic (such as browser image and formatting support)
  3. Usability (navigation mapings, input mechanism)
  4. Compliance (protocol version, optional standards supported, proprietary extensions)
Add to these the fact that many devices still feature immature browser software, and that there are more than a few "undocumented features" on most phones that experienced developers certainly have to get to know and love...

One final, and not insignificant challenge for developers is that of simply keeping up with the huge number of devices that are being released by a variety of manufacturers. For example, in the UK alone there are now at least 20 WAP devices (some with critical sub versions), but most developers would be hard pushed to name more than 12, and even fewer will have directly experienced more than, say, six of those. And of course, new devices are being released at an increasingly rapid rate.

The Gateways
Often overlooked is the impact that different gateway platforms have on the performance and stability of a wireless application. In a crowded gateway product marketplace, manufacturers have tended to differentiate their products with features and characteristics that often provide unpredictability for the developer.

These include, in a WAP context:

  1. Parsing and validating - some gateways interpret XML and WML rules strictly; others intelligently tolerate developer errors.
  2. Compilation - certain gateways compile well at the expense of performance, while others compile less efficiently. This causes problems on devices with page size limits. Our studies show a 40% difference in compilation efficiency on widely available gateway products.
  3. HTTP header manipulation - gateways act on behalf of WAP devices to retrieve content from the WAP Server. Often, the headers used to do so vary greatly from the device's original request, making the predictability of what will arrive at the developer's application fairly low.
  4. Translation and transcoding - high-end WAP gateways are able to convert various non-WAP content types (such as HTML and HDML) in order to get the content to the device. Applications also need to be developed, however, to cater to the cases when such gateway features are not available.
Solution: Solving the M x N challenge
In theory, a developer has to be confident that an application works across all devices and gateways - an awesome deployment and test surface of M x N.

Additionally, developers new to the wireless world are often bringing previous Web experience. This is a help and a hindrance: while an understanding of the client/server Web model is certainly very useful, WAP deployment is far more unforgiving. Both at the development and testing stage, a well-prepared and realistic approach is vital.

Successful wireless developers will use a variety of proactive approaches to solve these problems. These include:

  • A micro-channel approach to development - while macro-channel development (Web, WAP, iTV) is a well-known application requirement, developers can reuse some of those techniques to implement WAP "microchannels," the fine-tuning of content for different device and gateway combinations. Developers can use such tools as XML and XSLT, or may even choose to develop different presentation logic for generic groups of devices.
  • Reliance on transcoding - brave developers may choose to leave the device-specific tuning of content to a transcoding entity that is able to take generic content and adapt it for the known target device. Transcoding may occur in or on either side of the gateway, or even on the application server itself. While often not appropriate for complex content, this approach provides a rapid solution.
  • Increased focus on testing - developers are beginning to realize that WAP application testing is not a challenge to take lightly. Developers and IT managers need to factor increased testing into their wireless development plans as compared to the "Web application" testing phases. We have noted successful developers devoting over 30% of their development projects to device testing, and turning to outsourced solutions provides a cost-effective alternative. Manual testing on physical devices also provides a vital analysis of the sites' usability.
  • Capability and Preference Information (CPI) - WAP 1.2 features a mechanism that allows devices and gateways to announce their own capabilities and characteristics to the application via the UAPROF (User Agent Profile) structure. While this allows developers to proactively adapt content for devices, it relies on an assumption that the UAPROF information from the device is itself reliable. In the early days of WAP 1.2, this will take some time to stabilize.
Our mantra at my own company, Encerca, is that "WML is easy; deploying a mobile Internet service is hard." The success of the industry relies on consumers and enterprises being able to use compelling, stable applications - and it's partly through developers and application providers learning the challenges of interoperability that those promises made will be delivered upon.

More Stories By James Pearce

James Pearce is VP Technology, Argogroup (Guildford, UK)

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

IoT & Smart Cities Stories
Poor data quality and analytics drive down business value. In fact, Gartner estimated that the average financial impact of poor data quality on organizations is $9.7 million per year. But bad data is much more than a cost center. By eroding trust in information, analytics and the business decisions based on these, it is a serious impediment to digital transformation.
In an era of historic innovation fueled by unprecedented access to data and technology, the low cost and risk of entering new markets has leveled the playing field for business. Today, any ambitious innovator can easily introduce a new application or product that can reinvent business models and transform the client experience. In their Day 2 Keynote at 19th Cloud Expo, Mercer Rowe, IBM Vice President of Strategic Alliances, and Raejeanne Skillern, Intel Vice President of Data Center Group and G...
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true ...
The current age of digital transformation means that IT organizations must adapt their toolset to cover all digital experiences, beyond just the end users’. Today’s businesses can no longer focus solely on the digital interactions they manage with employees or customers; they must now contend with non-traditional factors. Whether it's the power of brand to make or break a company, the need to monitor across all locations 24/7, or the ability to proactively resolve issues, companies must adapt to...
We are seeing a major migration of enterprises applications to the cloud. As cloud and business use of real time applications accelerate, legacy networks are no longer able to architecturally support cloud adoption and deliver the performance and security required by highly distributed enterprises. These outdated solutions have become more costly and complicated to implement, install, manage, and maintain.SD-WAN offers unlimited capabilities for accessing the benefits of the cloud and Internet. ...
Business professionals no longer wonder if they'll migrate to the cloud; it's now a matter of when. The cloud environment has proved to be a major force in transitioning to an agile business model that enables quick decisions and fast implementation that solidify customer relationships. And when the cloud is combined with the power of cognitive computing, it drives innovation and transformation that achieves astounding competitive advantage.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that "IoT Now" was named media sponsor of CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO 2018 New York, which will take place on November 11-13, 2018 in New York City, NY. IoT Now explores the evolving opportunities and challenges facing CSPs, and it passes on some lessons learned from those who have taken the first steps in next-gen IoT services.
Founded in 2000, Chetu Inc. is a global provider of customized software development solutions and IT staff augmentation services for software technology providers. By providing clients with unparalleled niche technology expertise and industry experience, Chetu has become the premiere long-term, back-end software development partner for start-ups, SMBs, and Fortune 500 companies. Chetu is headquartered in Plantation, Florida, with thirteen offices throughout the U.S. and abroad.
DXWorldEXPO LLC announced today that ICC-USA, a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances, will exhibit at the 22nd International CloudEXPO | DXWorldEXPO. DXWordEXPO New York 2018, colocated with CloudEXPO New York 2018 will be held November 11-13, 2018, in New York City. ICC is a computer systems integrator and server manufacturing company focused on developing products and product appliances to meet a wide range of ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that DatacenterDynamics has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. DatacenterDynamics is a brand of DCD Group, a global B2B media and publishing company that develops products to help senior professionals in the world's most ICT dependent organizations make risk-based infrastructure and capacity decisions.