Be they good, bad or ugly, tablets are everywhere. Toddlers play with them while parents enjoy a well-deserved coffee break. On public transport, people sit in silence while flicking through their private digital worlds. Tablets have also made their way into maintenance and field services and are well represented in the medical and hospitality sectors.
For the last three years ADG have been deploying IETP’s from the R4i CSDB System to Android tablets. When we started developing our R4i MobieTP (Mobile IETP) app for Android Tablets, we found ourselves in a post-apocalyptic world of tablet technology mayhem. Only a Clint Eastwood performance from the fantastic ADG development team (regulators, mount up!) pulled us through to our first release. That was three years ago and the gun smoke is still in the air.
Here’s why! Unlike Mac or Windows, there are many application, networking and device variables that are simply beyond the application developer’s control. For the end user, they simply expect to tap, flick and slide their way through the IETP. The woes of the vendor or content are none of their concern. That’s a job for the Sheriff!
The first consideration for the technology Sheriff is – do they take the safer path of the controlled Tablet experience, or do they lock and load and let the Tablets run free on the wild open plains of the internet?
In a controlled world, the organisation will test, select and deploy one tablet model over its own, known data network. This is the safest path of IETP deployment. However when external bodies (customers, suppliers etc.) find out that mobile content is available to you on the inside of your business, they will expect you to provide them access to the same content from the outside. Once that happens, the Sheriff needs to head to the uncontrolled bad-lands and take on random devices, one at a time.
The MobieTP IETP Viewer application for Android is listed by Google to run on 10,347 different combinations of Android device. This should be a good thing, but it’s actually a double edged sword. In the uncontrolled world, MobieTP can be downloaded to a fast, high quality Samsung Galaxy Tablet which will provide an excellent user experience. Across the globe, downloading the app onto a nasty $59 eBay unknown brand device will make the end user crazy.
So let’s talk about device quality, as it’s the main issue when deploying IETP’s into the wild where you don’t know what the customer’s device will be.
While screen size is always high on people’s device selection list, tablet touch screen technology plays a bigger part in the user experience. High end devices use “capacitive screens”, electronically sensitive to the smallest finger movement. At the other end of the stable are cheap devices utilizing the “resistive” screen technology. These screens require the user to press down on the screen, forcing two charged surfaces together to tell the tablet where the users finger is. It’s best to avoid these screens in devices…
When you release an IETP, to be practical for field service it needs to be stored locally on the device for off-line use. Two conditions now come into play, storage capacity and read/write speed of the storage on that device. Most devices, including the nasty ones; will include an expansion slot for an external memory card. However some tablets will come from the factory with a fixed internal memory capacity. While 16GB of storage sounds like a lot, between the operation system, apps, RAM and ten 2GB IETP’s stored locally, things can get tight. Devices use USB type memory as “hard disks”. Good devices use fast memory, whilst cheaper [devices] use slow memory. When browsing the web or using a weather app, slow memory is not a big issue. However, when you try to tap through a 2GB IETP with PDF and SVG images being called on demand, you’re on a slow horse to nowhere!
Then there is the actual viewing of content in the IETP. While the internet is awash with free or developer licensed free to distribute 3rd party plug-ins for Windows, things get much harder in the tablet world. The customer expects the content owner to “take care” of 3D images and AutoCad files opening in the Tablet. Some devices ship pre-configured to handle these file types, other don’t.
So you have put away your six gun and conquered the above bad guys. People can now download your IETP’s and view them. Before you hang up your spurs, what happens when that content is superseded or worse, incorrect? If you’re a content owner that sends content out, you need to be able to get it back, update it, or kill it off at high noon.
I may have painted a bleak desert landscape of deploying IETP’s to tablets, but have no fear; the ADG posse rode into town a while back and addressed most of the issues involved with IETP table deployment to Android. Rather than letting IETP’s roam free, we control their deployment via the R4i Content Distribution and Management Server (R4i CDMS). Integrated with the R4i CSDB Server, IETP’s are delivering to suitable tablets for online and offline access. IETP’s can be remotely deleted from devices and new versions offered. R4i CDMS also stages content on remote nodes, placing content as close to the user for the fastest downloads as possible.
The online/offline IETP MobieTP application is also smart. Once installed, the application tests the device for its capabilities, including storage limitations.
So if you need to deploy interactive IETP’s to android devices, shine your badge, holster that Colt Peacemaker and use the R4i product Suite with R4i CDMS and own the mobile content bad-lands!
Mike “Winchester” Halter
VP Product Development