Grinwalk and mobile Web applications for culture and tourism

22 03 2011

I have been conducting a series of interviews of SMEs that use Web technologies to build mobile applications, as part of our work in the MobiWebApp project to build a standardization roadmap for mobile Web applications.

For this third interview, I have been in contact with Romain Pellerin , the co-founder of Grinwalk, a young French start-up that is exploring the role mobile applications in enriching cultural and touristic experiences.

Bonjour Romain, could you describe quickly your company and its business in general?

Grinwalk is a company that aims to build interactive mobile applications in the context of culture and tourism, for example in museums. Our applications integrate serious gaming as a core concept. Thus, we’re developing a generic game engine that can be deployed on smartphones and also on the web.

Have you been using Web technologies as part of your deployment of mobile applications? if so, how?

We have recently started to port our engine to web technologies in order to bypass native mobile application development that requires a lot of work, and thus high costs, for our company.

Now our engine is built on a HTML5/JavaScript based framework. In addition, we use server-side open source and standardized web technologies like web services and OSGi framework.

What are the advantages you’ve found to using Web technologies?

Web technologies are solutions for us to work around language and device heterogeneity and to reach application portability. In addition, we plan to adopt a transmedia strategy for our future products, and these technologies enable us to build a unique code base to build our engine to be deployed on various devices.

What are the missing pieces that prevent you from using Web technologies in more products, or in a more advanced fashion?

On the client-side, mobile browsers currently seem to not perfectly support an HTML5/js framework. In particular, we have encountered problems with canvas element displaying or touch based actions handling. In my opinion, the hot topic for mobile web technologies is to reach full webapp portability from one mobile browser to another, in order to avoid portability problems.

Moreover, our engine needs to access data from smartphone embedded technologies like GPS, Bluetooth discovery, NFC, accelerometer, digital compass, camera handling etc. Mobile web technologies standardization should expose all of these features to HTML5/JS environment to enable us to keep of our existing engine functionalities.

In your experience, what are the type of situations where Web technologies are a better fit, and in what situations are they still lagging behind?

As our client application can be deployed on smartphones or in browsers, web technologies enable us to have only one generic game engine to run on various devices. Thus, we are ready now to introduce transmedia features in our applications.

On the server side, web services technologies enable us to make our engine interoperable with any other web service that shares its interfaces/APIs.

Any practical advice you would like to share with other companies that would like to take a similar approach?

I strongly recommend to companies that take a similar approach to adopt standardized web technologies in order to develop their applications. This way ensures to build sustainable, portable and interoperable services. However, it is important to select carefully the libraries implementing these standards, in order to fit application requirements.





MobiWebApp Camp @ WWW2011

16 03 2011

This year, the WWW2011 conference will be held in Hyderabad, India. The W3C organizes two camps sessions for its W3C Track, to discuss the regional and global impact of this expanding Open Web Platform for application development.WWW2011 Logo

  • Accessible an Multilingual Web camp,
    Wednesday 30 March
  • Mobile Web Applications camp,
    Thursday 31 March

In addition, Tim Berners-Lee’s, W3C Director and inventor of the Web, will deliver a keynote titled: Designing the Web for an Open Society.

The W3C track is organized with the support of the W3C India Office and the MobiWebApp EU project.

For more information, read the press release.





W3C Accelerometer and Gyroscope APIs

8 03 2011

As the W3C Geolocation Working Group is putting the last touches on the Geolocation API, the new charter of the group was officially approved yesterday.

That new charter adds two new specifications to the group roadmap:

  • a second version of the Geolocation API that includes additional information, e.g. civic addesses; an editors draft of that specification is already available;
  • a DeviceOrientation Event specification which provides information on the orientation of the device — in other words, it makes it possible to react to accelerometer and gyroscopes changes from within the Web environment; an editors draft of that API is also available, and is known to be already implemented in some mobile browsers (e.g. iOS 4.2+ Safari).

For those interested, please see how to join that group.





Arianna Mobile and mobile Web apps

8 03 2011

A month ago, I published a first of a series of interviews of SMEs that use Web technologies to build mobile applications, as part of our work in the MobiWebApp project to build a standardization roadmap for mobile Web applications.

For this second interview, I’ve contacted Pietro Ferraris, who co-founded Arianna Mobile, as part of Econoetica SRL, a young Italian SME which works in the field of mobile applications for tourists — they had already participated in the definition of e-business cases for European SMEs.

Hello Pietro, could you describe quickly your company and its business in general?

Econoetica srl was born in 2008 by 8 young entrepreneurs. Along the years we developed 2 business units, matching two different products:

  • ariannamobile.com is a web based platform for creating and distributing mobile tourist applications. In the months to come, we are spinning off ariannamobile as a new company with a different name and target — you can have a taste of it on www.maptoapp.com, the new “skin” of ariannamobile. My next answers will focus on that product.
  • noody.it (in Italian only) is a network of more than 500 wifi hotspots distributed in many italian cities.

have you been using Web technologies as part of your deployment of mobile applications? if so, how?

The core of maptoapp platform is the backoffice, i.e. a web based application that allows our customers to create their apps online. The backoffice uses different interesting technologies: cloud computing, cloud storage, NoSQL database and Single Sign-On (OpenID) for authentication. It is implemented with RESTful paradigma on top of an Object Oriented Design. We used Google App Engine and Amazon S3 for business-logic and data and ExtJS framework for the user-interface.

Regarding the clients, our customers can publish both apps and web apps, these being based on JS and HTML5. The framework used in this case is JQuery Mobile.

What are the missing pieces that prevent you from using Web technologies in more products, or in a more advanced fashion?

We found some missing pieces in the development of web-applications for mobile: HTML5 is not yet completely standard and supported from new browsers. The discussion regarding media capture API is still in an early stage: we really need these features to offer augmented-reality and device control (camera and mic) directly in HTML5 app. For these problems we had to develop native app (iPhone and Android).

Another suggestion to W3C should be to create an open store for web-apps (something similar to Apple-Store or Android Market) in order to have a centralized place where downloading/accessing web-apps.

In your experience, what are the type of situations where Web technologies are a better fit, and in what situations are they still lagging behind?

I can suggest the usage of web technologies almost for everything, except for applications where interactions with camera and microphone are critical.

Another problem with web technologies is the exchange of big amount of data and the latency introduced by the network. In these cases it is important to take into account cache or local storage solutions.

Any practical advice you would like to share with other companies that would like to take a similar approach?

There are no perfect solutions that works for everyone: study a lot and go deep in the architecture of several technology in order to choose the best for you. Furthermore select a technology with a big community behind: it is always important to look for best-practices and common-mistakes.

 

If you too are interested in sharing the experience of your company on building and deploying mobile Web applications, please let me know (dom@w3.org). And in the meantime, stay tuned for other interviews!





A glimpse of the Web of the future at ParisWeb 2010

7 03 2011

The video of the presentation made at ParisWeb 2010 on the future of Web technologies back in October is now available.

The talk, delivered in French and entitled “HTML5 and the Web of the future”, is a review of how the technologies currently in development in W3C will shape the future of the Web as a development platform, with a specific focus on mobile.

Thanks to Dominique Hazaël-Massieux, François Daoust and Robin Berjon!