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 (firstname.lastname@example.org). And in the meantime, stay tuned for other interviews!