Welcome!

Mobile IoT Authors: Liz McMillan, Shelly Palmer, Elizabeth White, Janakiram MSV, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Mobile IoT

Mobile IoT: Article

Which Wireless Way?

Which Wireless Way?

Wireless Business & Technology welcomes veteran writer and technologist Charles Arehart as our newly appointed "Wireless Journeyman" columnist. Serving as "the developer's developer" he'll be examining wireless technologies and techniques, sometimes praising and sometimes challenging them. He may even change sides on a topic as things develop, but he'll always tell you why.

As you make your way into, or through, the world of wireless application development, you're going to face a lot of alternatives. You have to be careful to choose a solution that best fits your needs. The question is: Which wireless way?

The problem is that there are many interpretations of what a wireless application is all about: WAP? Java? Voice-XML? Palm apps? Pocket PCs? Bluetooth? The savvy among you will argue that these are apples and oranges - they're not the same. Bound in each are details of protocols, platforms, languages, and inherent hardware capability. But that's my very point. It's rarely an easy or obvious decision, considering all the alternatives.

I'd like to offer some insight into the underlying issues that should be considered as you debate which wireless horse to ride, whether it's:

  • WAP, i-mode, Java, or some other platform
  • Based on phones, palmtop devices, pocket PCs, or some other device
  • Supporting content retrieval, messages, e-mail, or some other data
    Do you see that, already, we're moving the debate from any particular platform, device, or application? There's no clear choice in any of these matters, though for some applications there may be a stronger argument for one over another.
The Matter of Opinion
Still, you're going to see a lot of information and be presented with a plethora of opinions: "X is great," "X stinks," "X works there but not here." It can be really confusing, and not just for newcomers. I'd like to take some of these "sacred cows" and look at them more closely. I'll lean a little heavily on WAP as a context for the discussion, simply because it's something that a lot of people are at least familiar with. Whether you're a WAP proponent or prejudiced against it, considering the arguments more carefully can be valuable.

You're going to be relying on information from a variety of resources: articles, books, seminars, ads, sales calls, mailing lists, portal Web sites, and colleagues' opinions. Authors may or may not clearly distinguish the reasons behind their preferred approach. They may have a vested interest in the given technology, or they may sincerely be sharing what they've found to be a useful solution - or one they think makes no sense.

In the latter case, they may presume that you already understand the dilemma of why "X" is flawed. If you don't have that knowledge, you may be led to form an incomplete opinion. It may also be that you really don't share the concern that  drives them, in which case you have to be careful about making conclusions from their statements.

As an example, there's a lot of talk about WAP being crap. This isn't really an article intending to defend WAP, though in the interest of full disclosure I'll admit I am a coauthor of Professional WAP (Wrox Press), and I do still think the approach has its place. Still, there are those who will see that and immediately drop interest (in my opinion and in this article). It's almost like talk of religion or politics. People take strong positions. For many, WAP is a nonstarter. The question I think we should all ask is why.

When reading about WAP's doom, for instance, be sure to look carefully into the statements being made. The problem may not be with WAP at all.

Of course, it's now apparent that some of the slam against WAP is simple backlash from the overhyped assertions that it would provide access to the "wireless Web," with some taking from that that it would be a simple matter of using your phone to browse any Web site at all. Naturally, that was a mistake made by several parties in the industry.

Other similar "issues" include typically poor site design, "walled gardens" in phones, little use of Web customization for phone menus and registrations, and more. The bottom line is that none of these are inherent problems with WAP, but are instead a simple consequence of early adoption and the slow spread of best practices.

Even among those who see WAP services for what they're best suited to (access to targeted data anytime anywhere, possibly with location services mixed in on a wide scale someday), there's still broad argument against it. I wonder if it's always a fair attack. If we look closely, we can learn from this regardless of your favored platform.

The Network Is the Computer
Some of the most vocal arguments against WAP have been directed at the user experience. The connections are slow. It's expensive. There's broad incompatibility among the devices. Each is a valid point, but are they really WAP's fault?

When you read that people feel the networks are too slow, where is the author referring to? Europe? North America? Somewhere else? The situation is by no means uniform. Then there's the whole 3G debate, and the promise of still faster networks. Or is it that service is costly? Some phone providers offer unlimited service, while some charge very high rates. That's an issue of service provider differences. We can't really lump all phone-based wireless services into the same bin.

In some countries, wireless phones provide a far better experience than land line connections (because of costs to lay lines, unreliable service, etc.). And PCs may be very expensive. In those environments, it's suggested that people will take to wireless Web access much more readily because they have no desktop alternative to compare it to.

Some will argue that i-mode is far better than WAP. Sure, everyone knows it's got better graphics, and to some, C-HTML seems better than WML, but is that the real basis for its success? When you learn that in Japan the network is packet-switched, so the connection is always on and they don't pay per minute charges, no wonder it's taking off. That's more about the network, isn't it? If WAP phones used an "always on" network with no cost per minute, I think its success would be a very different story.

Further, what about the devices? In Europe, there was by and large mass adoption of a very limited number of phones early on, so mass opinion was formed to a great degree by that experience. Now that more devices are coming along, old opinions must be challenged.

In the U.S., there has been such a plethora of networks and standards that there are a ridiculous number of phones that may visit a site. A developer faces significant challenges supporting visitors from all possible phones. Yet in Japan there's much tighter control by NTT DoCoMo over those specifications. Again, isn't that about something other than WAP, itself?

It's the Device, Stupid
Some will argue that WAP is fundamentally flawed because of its reliance on a mobile phone as its delivery vehicle. They bemoan the miniscule display, the atrocity of entering data via a numeric keypad, and the lack of processing power to name a few. Is that a problem of WAP? No, not really. WAP's a protocol for the transmission of data. It doesn't care about the device. It's just that early devices have tended to be phones.

Naturally, those who would promote Palm apps or Java-based devices will be able to point to much more "intelligence" in their applications, and indeed in the ability to provide a local database in the client device. Will that make a tremendous difference? Indeed!

Could the WAP model, which works nearly identically to HTTP as a protocol, be used to create more powerful applications if the application could store and retrieve data from the device? You can see the foundation for such a possibility with the ability in some phones to dial or integrate with the phone book via the WTAI interface. Certainly it could be possible for an interface to be defined to allow integration with a local database.

But that may not happen anytime soon. In that case, you could argue very strongly that an approach that leverages a device like a Palm organizer, or even newer phones supporting the Java platform, will be inherently more capable. Then again, phones are morphing into PDAs and PDAs into phones.

This leads to a more significant question: What's the intended use of the device/application?

Why Are We Here?
Further dividing our camp of wireless development compatriots is the matter of intended use of the devices and platforms. Who is your audience, and what do they want to do? What kind of information do they want to get? Or provide?

That's a fundamental issue, and one that I don't think is looked at carefully to evaluate alternative solutions. If we're talking about creating a solution where the main goal is to read and respond to e-mail, I'd agree a WAP phone is a challenged choice. It's just so hard to type a response (a phone with predictive input helps, but only a little).

For that requirement, a RIM BlackBerry device (a dedicated wireless e-mail device with a full keyboard) makes a lot more sense. But that device isn't particularly well suited to running applications locally on the device. It's pretty much dedicated (albeit very effectively) to its intended purpose.

If you want to run real programs on your device, you need something with more processing power and possibly even a local data store. Again, a phone may not be the best choice (today).

That leads many to consider the Pocket PC platform, which of course leverages the tremendous ubiquity of Microsoft Windows and related applications. You know that Microsoft is working very hard to be a player in the wireless space. Indeed, their upcoming .NET initiative is wrapped entirely around ubiquitous networking and pervasive computing. Sounds like a natural fit for wireless.

Still others, wanting to fight off the Goliath, prefer a Java solution. Sun's JMEE platform speaks directly to the mobile device platform, and brings with it all the characteristics (pro and con) of an "open" architecture. Also, Symbian on the Epoch OS offers similar extensive programmability on the device.

But do you need all that power to enable simple content retrieval? A WAP phone, for all its detractors, can still be used very effectively for accessing targeted content. It works even better with effective interface design and a Web-based interface for customizing the retrieval and presentation.

Then there's the whole area of messaging, both one way ("there's an accident on your route to work") and two way (responding with a single click to a query about "are you on your way home?"), not to mention integrating messaging into business applications, and of course the ever-popular instant messaging that's taken off (to the wonder of many) among the younger crowd.

The Bottom Line
We've covered a fair bit of ground here, showing how the "commonly held conceptions" about wireless devices really do require much deeper consideration than is often the case in many resources (my article has surely left out some valuable points).

Remember, when reading the opinions of others - even in books, articles, and seminars purporting to state fact - there may be bias. More important, there may be a tendency to presume commonality that may not be there.

Experience with different networks, devices, and applications will have a major impact on the perception of the user community, the press, and the development community.

As you consider the alternatives, keep an open mind, ask questions, probe for insights, and question even popular opinions. There's often more to the story than meets the eye.

More Stories By Charlie Arehart

A veteran ColdFusion developer since 1997, Charlie Arehart is a long-time contributor to the community and a recognized Adobe Community Expert. He's a certified Advanced CF Developer and Instructor for CF 4/5/6/7 and served as tech editor of CFDJ until 2003. Now an independent contractor (carehart.org) living in Alpharetta, GA, Charlie provides high-level troubleshooting/tuning assistance and training/mentoring for CF teams. He helps run the Online ColdFusion Meetup (coldfusionmeetup.com, an online CF user group), is a contributor to the CF8 WACK books by Ben Forta, and is frequently invited to speak at developer conferences and user groups worldwide.

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.


@ThingsExpo Stories
In a recent survey, Sumo Logic surveyed 1,500 customers who employ cloud services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform (GCP). According to the survey, a quarter of the respondents have already deployed Docker containers and nearly as many (23 percent) are employing the AWS Lambda serverless computing framework. It’s clear: serverless is here to stay. The adoption does come with some needed changes, within both application development and operations. Tha...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, will lead you through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He'll look at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Taica will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TAZMO technology and development capabilities in the semiconductor and LCD-related manufacturing fields are among the best worldwide. For more information, visit https://www.tazmo.co.jp/en/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Avere Systems, a leading provider of hybrid cloud enablement solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Avere Systems was created by file systems experts determined to reinvent storage by changing the way enterprises thought about and bought storage resources. With decades of experience behind the company’s founders, Avere got its ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale is the leading provider of Software-Defined Servers that bring flexibility to modern data centers by right-sizing servers on the fly to fit any data set or workload. TidalScale’s award-winning inverse hypervisor technology combines multiple commodity servers (including their ass...
As hybrid cloud becomes the de-facto standard mode of operation for most enterprises, new challenges arise on how to efficiently and economically share data across environments. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Dr. Allon Cohen, VP of Product at Elastifile, will explore new techniques and best practices that help enterprise IT benefit from the advantages of hybrid cloud environments by enabling data availability for both legacy enterprise and cloud-native mission critical applications. By rev...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ryobi Systems will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ryobi Systems Co., Ltd., as an information service company, specialized in business support for local governments and medical industry. We are challenging to achive the precision farming with AI. For more information, visit http:...
Amazon is pursuing new markets and disrupting industries at an incredible pace. Almost every industry seems to be in its crosshairs. Companies and industries that once thought they were safe are now worried about being “Amazoned.”. The new watch word should be “Be afraid. Be very afraid.” In his session 21st Cloud Expo, Chris Kocher, a co-founder of Grey Heron, will address questions such as: What new areas is Amazon disrupting? How are they doing this? Where are they likely to go? What are th...
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, will discuss how by using...
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lead...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japanese Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Ruby Development Inc. builds new services in short period of time and provides a continuous support of those services based on Ruby on Rails. For more information, please visit https://github.com/RubyDevInc.
As businesses evolve, they need technology that is simple to help them succeed today and flexible enough to help them build for tomorrow. Chrome is fit for the workplace of the future — providing a secure, consistent user experience across a range of devices that can be used anywhere. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, will take a look at various options as to how ChromeOS can be leveraged to interact with people on the devices, and formats th...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Yuasa System will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Yuasa System is introducing a multi-purpose endurance testing system for flexible displays, OLED devices, flexible substrates, flat cables, and films in smartphones, wearables, automobiles, and healthcare.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Taica will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Taica manufacturers Alpha-GEL brand silicone components and materials, which maintain outstanding performance over a wide temperature range -40C to +200C. For more information, visit http://www.taica.co.jp/english/.
Organizations do not need a Big Data strategy; they need a business strategy that incorporates Big Data. Most organizations lack a road map for using Big Data to optimize key business processes, deliver a differentiated customer experience, or uncover new business opportunities. They do not understand what’s possible with respect to integrating Big Data into the business model.
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, will discuss how they b...
Enterprises have taken advantage of IoT to achieve important revenue and cost advantages. What is less apparent is how incumbent enterprises operating at scale have, following success with IoT, built analytic, operations management and software development capabilities – ranging from autonomous vehicles to manageable robotics installations. They have embraced these capabilities as if they were Silicon Valley startups. As a result, many firms employ new business models that place enormous impor...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Dasher Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Dasher Technologies, Inc. ® is a premier IT solution provider that delivers expert technical resources along with trusted account executives to architect and deliver complete IT solutions and services to help our clients execute their goals, plans and objectives. Since 1999, we'v...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
SYS-CON Events announced today that TidalScale, a leading provider of systems and services, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TidalScale has been involved in shaping the computing landscape. They've designed, developed and deployed some of the most important and successful systems and services in the history of the computing industry - internet, Ethernet, operating s...