Mobile software developers have to make a decision before they even get started, as to which mobile platform they will use - native apps or HTML5 apps. A native application is one that is actually downloaded to the mobile device. Native apps generally run faster than HTML5 apps because the program and the data actually reside on the device and are written for the device’s native platform. One of the biggest disadvantages to native apps is that the initial program and each subsequent upgrade must be downloaded to each device. This can lead to situations where different devices are running different version of the software. In addition, a separate version of the software has to be written and supported for each platform, i.e. iOS, Android, Windows Phone, etc. Obviously, for a developer with customers employing BYOD (bring your own device) policies, maintaining the same version of the software for the different mobile operating systems requires a lot of resources and can become quite complicated. As I mentioned earlier, native applications reside on the device, so even if there is no internet connection, the program continues to work. However, without connectivity, there is no way to sync the data from the field to the office. In addition, there is no way to get new information – employees, jobs, cost codes, etc. – from the office to the field.
HTML5 applications, or web apps, are meant to run on most of the latest smartphones and tablets. The same application can generally run on the different mobile operating systems and do not require any kind of download. However, web apps require a constant internet connection.
When connectivity becomes spotty or non-existent, the program ceases to work. That is, unless an offline version has been added to the code. Offline applications utilize application caching and offline storage (client-side storage) to save the program’s user interface and data respectively when the connection is lost. When the connection is regained, the server is updated from offline storage, and the online application regains control.
Why is this important?
Obviously, construction contractors can face many situations where they don’t have Wi-Fi or they are out of cell range:
- Remote areas
- Oil rigs
- Refineries or other mobile regulated areas
- Construction sites
It may be for just one job, one crew, or even one employee, but without the ability to work offline, the affected party is down and unable to capture time data with regards to employees, jobs, phases, cost codes, etc. This could result in slower billing, the inability to document or even fix a problem, and even time theft where employees do not work all the hours that are eventually posted. In situations where some or all of your employees are approaching overtime conditions, it could cost you money by not being able to shift work loads.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”