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.