Thursday, 17 December 2015

MobiCloud One Year On

Site Diary website learn how construction companies are streamlining their site operations using the site diary apps from Appear Networks
It is now one year since the Mobicloud project came to an end, so we thought it fitting to share the news of the ongoing commercial developments.

Appear Networks have continued the development of the construction solution (Site Diary) to include a number of new features and enhancements aimed at teams working together, approvals and other functionality. The Site Diary now also is available for smartphones as well as tablets.

Several new videos have been produced which show how construction companies worldwide are benefiting from site diary and how to report events and approve the events that have been submitted.

To see more and watch the video clips check out the website at

The technology continues to be used in deployments as far afield as Singapore, US, Canada, Australia, South Africa as well as here in the EU. More rail companies in Sweden are now also using solutions built using Appear IQ in a number of deployments.

For inquiries please contact Appear Networks at

Monday, 17 November 2014

Construction App Challenge - End of Round 1

By Vladimir Bataev

Yesterday, Nov 17, 23:59 CET was the deadline for submitting ideas for the first European mobile app challenge in construction organized by MobiCloud.

While the submissions are en route to the expert panel that will evaluate them and determine the winner, we can look at the where the ideas came from.


Ideas arrived from 9 countries in total, where the expected Western European participants were joined by their peers in Russia, the US and Singapore.

47 ideas were submitted. After merging duplicates and politely refusing submissions from existing products to keep the competition focused as much as possible on new ideas, we ended up with 37 unique ideas. These ideas were distributed in the following way, with the UK taking responsibility for almost half of all submissions:


We aimed the competition at students (and their professors) and then at potential startups. To our surprise, contributors working for existing companies (most often, in the construction industry) were more active than their rivals from academia. 6 ideas came from freelancers and people who did not want to disclose their occupation status.


We encouraged people to submit more than one idea and we were heard - 5 participants submitted 2 ideas or more.

We know from experience that coming up with good ideas for mobile apps in construction is not easy and we were amazed with the amount of high quality submissions we received. We expected about 20 good submissions, so were pleasantly surprised to have received almost twice that amount (which means double the work for our experts, but we have already recruited new experts to evaluate all additional submissions).

We would like to thank all the participants for their efforts. We will shortly announce the precise schedule for announcement of the top rated submissions and, of course, the winner, as well as the online webinar, where our experts will discuss the best ideas.

Monday, 10 November 2014

MobiCloud ShowCase

On the 30th October MobiCloud was showcased at the COMIT/Fiatech conference which was held at the Crystal in London. This two-day event attracted 150 delegates from all over the world and focused on the use of mobile technology in the construction industry. 

The event was chaired by Phil Jackson of the Institute of Civil Engineers and included speakers such as Richard Lane from the UK Government BIM Taskgroup. More information about the conference, including photographs and all the presentations, can be found on the COMIT website.

MobiCloud had a stand at the event and Martin Wilson presented a brief overview of the MobiCloud project in the morning on the 30th. In the evening after drinks and light refreshments a longer showcase was delivered including a demonstration of the Site Diary application by Otis Burris (Appear). This generated a lot of interest, particularly among delegates from the US.

Vladimir Bataev (EsperantoXL) then described the MobiCloud App Challenge  and gave an example of some of the ideas that had already been submitted. This was also well received and led to lively discussion about other potential applications of MobiCloud to the construction industry and the shortcomings of current mobile solutions.

Monday, 27 October 2014

The business case for hybrid HTML5 mobile apps

by Martin Wilson, Appear

While the debate about Hybrid versus Native app development is traditionally centered around the performance of hybrid apps versus native apps, at Appear we have identified that this debate is actually rooted in individual developer preferences. We believe it is important that organizations identify the technology stack that can enable developers to be productive in the short-term while still supporting their long term organizational strategies.

We are confident that hybrid apps offer unlimited possibilities for our partners to create best-of-breed user experiences. Existing partner apps built using AppearIQ are a great example and can testify to this. However, some developers have a preference for native technologies. As such, we take a pragmatic view of this and intend, as part of our road map in 2015, to support this preference and provide native developers with a secure and efficient communication stack that would help deliver true enterprise ready solutions. This will also allow organizations to combine native and hybrid apps within a single environment.

Hybrid Apps Business Case Factor #1: Performance of Hybrid vs native apps

Native apps have a slightly quicker response time than Hybrid apps. This is a fact. Depending on the app use case, the differences in response time can be undetectable to the user. As an interpreted language, JavaScript (the technology behind hybrid apps) is slower than compiled languages like objective-c (used for development of Apple native apps). This performance metric (speed) is at the cost of one of the key benefits of the hybrid approach: app portability. Unlike machine-specific code, JavaScript is meant to be compatible with many different platforms. This overarching ambition requires the JavaScript engines to break down and parse the JavaScript code into instructions that can then be executed by the underlying platform. These are additional steps, hence additional computation, etc.
In recent years, JavaScript engines like WebKit (Android and iOS) and Chakra (Windows Phone) have significantly improved speed through optimizations like JIT compilation. Each new OS release significantly improves web performance (ie. HTML5 support, DOM querying, DOM modification, JavaScript execution, CSS execution, etc.). See Sencha’s recent post on iOS8 improved performance.
In addition, speed has been greatly improved via the continuous improvements in processor performance. For instance, the A8 CPU and GPU used in the iPhone 6 are respectively 25% and 50% faster than the A7 ones in the iPhone 5. This enables huge performance gains for mobile users. These software and hardware developments are continuously narrowing the gap between JavaScript and native speeds.
However,  the key question is not whether native code is faster than JavaScript code, but whether users will notice the difference. The performance hit usually comes from access to the local database, manipulation of images, etc. Appear IQ includes a Native bridge that optimizes access to local data stored on the device.
At Appear, we recommend using the right tool for the right job. For true real-time use cases (i.e. gaming, financial transactions, etc.), we would recommend using native technologies. To enable this Appear will offer native code support in 2015. For near real-time use cases, JavaScript has long proven to be a solid alternative. Gartner, the IT analyst, echoes that statement when it anticipates 90% of enterprise apps will be hybrid or web in 2015. Evernote, CatchApp and Appear’s own reference app Site Diary (developed as part of the MobiCloud project), are perfect examples of high performing hybrid apps. And the Financial Times provides a perfect example of a pure mobile website showing what HTML5 can offer.

Hybrid Apps Business Case Factor #2: Optimized communications improves performance

Beyond the language’s execution performance, an app’s performance can be impacted by data access. Access to data, coming from IT backend systems, is dependent on the speed and availability of network access.
Appear IQ offers HTML5 apps via the Appear container an optimized communication stack that abstracts the network connectivity challenges. It ensures that the right data is securely available on the device whenever apps need it. It also guarantees that data created by apps can be queued on the device until it can be synchronized to IT backend systems. Furthermore, Appear IQ leverages push notification services provided by OS vendors like Apple and Google to efficiently trigger data synchronizations whenever required.

Hybrid Apps Business Case Factor #3: Control of the application lifecycle

Hybrid apps put the developer much more in control of when and how their new app updates are released to end users by avoiding as far as possible reliance on public app stores for the approval and release of updates.
The hybrid approach with the Appear IQ platform combines a native layer (i.e. container) and portable HTML5 web apps. Appear typically releases a new container for developers to adapt a couple of times a year. This is to (for example) take advantage of new capabilities provded by Apple or Google. Web apps may be updated on monthly basis with new features and bug fixes.
Sometimes Apple’s review and approval process can take over a month – and if this is an important new feature that you are waiting to get into the hands of end users for feedback for further improvements you can see the iterative development process could take years – clearly not acceptable in today’s terms. Luckily enough, in 98% of the cases with a hybrid approach only the mobile web apps need to be updated, and as such we bypass App Store approval processes and enable our development partners to remain in full control over their applications.
End users are also untroubled by the updating of the hybrid apps themselves, since they are included in the HTML5 code rather than requiring approval, app download, update and synchronisations.
In other words, with the hybrid approach used by Appear we have a limited exposure to Apple’s approval process while a native approach requires it for every new release.

Hybrid Apps Business Case Factor #4: Cost & time to market – shorter development times

Mobile web development is faster than native iOS development: it is a higher level language, it does not require compilation i.e. a page reload suffices, code can be changed on the fly, in-browser testing is faster than the iOS simulator, etc. Our benchmark indicates that – assuming similar developer skills – the web development process can be 20% faster than native iOS development.
If developing one web-app is faster than developing one iOS app, the cost saving becomes tremendous when comparing with the development of multiple native apps.
In addition, Appear IQ includes a set of ready-made security and communication features which further shorten the development of hybrid apps. Depending on the complexity of the use cases, our benchmark indicates that developers can save up to 50-70% of time when leveraging our authentication and communication capabilities.

Hybrid Apps Business Case Factor #5 : Cost & performance – a high-quality user experience

Apple imposes a way of developing the mobile user experience, and provides a set of UI controls to power them. While these can be extremely powerful, you may identify a user experience that would be even better – but unfortunately that is incompatible with “Apple’s way”. This is what happened when developing the Site Diary application for the construction industry – the timeline feature provides an extremely powerful and intuitive tool for the user, but could not be easily developed using standard iOS controls.
In these cases, with a native approach you may need to develop custom controls or invest in 3rd party ones. Developing custom controls is highly time consuming, and this cost drives up when multiple platforms are involved.
On the other hand, web technologies give you greater flexibility to design and implement your custom user experience – and truly offer the best possible user experience to your customers.

Hybrid Apps Business Case Factor #6 : Cost – supporting multiple OS versions

Major releases of operating systems can change APIs, behaviors which developers have to account for. Unless updated, the apps may no longer work, or display correctly – significantly impairing the end user experience. Web technologies (incl JavaScript) on the other hand have been designed to be backwards compatible. For instance, WebKit still supports ECMAScript 3 enabling users to browse a 15 year old website with the  latest iPhone 6. The same is not always true for a 3 year old native app.
In addition, with its data access layer, Appear IQ further abstracts and avoids the complexities associated with possible API changes introduced by the OS vendors.

Hybrid Apps Business Case Factor #7 : Cost – Re-use of skills

Web technologies are used in both the mobile and backend components of the AppearIQ platform. Even though the mobile world imposes specific requirements in terms of user experience and performance management, the language is the same when developing back-office applications. On the other hand, in developing native apps objective-c is only valid on iOS and OSX environments. This requires more developers or enhanced skills in the team to cover the multiple technologies required. With AppearIQ when creating a new development team, it may be more effective and cost-efficient to invest in web technologies combined with another backend language such as i.e. Java, .NET, etc.
AppearIQ is the technology behind the MobiCloud Platform, a cloud-based environment in which to develop hybrid, cross-platform applications that leverage context awareness. For more information about MobiCloud and the current MobiCloud Construction App Challenge please see

Thursday, 16 October 2014

MobiCloud Construction App Challenge

Submit your idea for a mobile application for use in the construction industry and you could win 1,000 in our Construction App Challenge. 

If you go on to enter a team you could help develop the next must-have mobile solution for construction based on the MobiCloud platform.

All ideas submitted will be reviewed by a panel of construction experts who will give feedback and suggestions for improvements. The more notable ideas will feature at the MobiCloud showcase event which is being held at the COMIT & Fiatech IT conference at the Crystal in London on the 31st of October. The idea judged to be the best will be awarded a 1,000 prize.

We will then go on to give teams access to those ideas and provide expert help and assistance in turning them into fully-fledged business concepts using the MobiCloud platform. If any of our construction sponsors are suitably impressed they may even run trials of those solutions on site.

The Construction App Challenge is open to absolutely anybody - individuals, students, established developers or start-ups. For details and information on how to enter please visit our website at

Friday, 26 September 2014

CloudWatch concertation meeting visit report

by Vladimir Bataev, EsperantoXL

On Sep 11, 2014 CloudWatch hosted a concertation event at the EC premises in Brussels to collect feedback from experts on the upcoming work programme 2016-2017 (H2020 LEIT ICT WP2016 -2017).

Traditionally, during this day members from various EC-related projects break into committees to discuss pressing subjects in software & services and cloud computing that should be considered in the work programme. The day is completed by joint review and a series of panels.

MobiCloud project was invited to join the closing panel on how the upcoming work programme can support SMEs and startups, and give additional boost to technology innovation in Europe. I sat in the company of Dalibor Baškovč from EuroCloud Slovenia, Luc Hendrickx from UEAPME and Filip Gluszak from GridPocket. The panel was chaired by Patrice Chazerand from DIGITALEUROPE.

My presentation focused on the upcoming construction app challenge organized by MobiCloud: how it opens opportunities for startups and SMEs to validate new product ideas with experts from larger companies and increase chances of success.

Mssrs. Baškovč and Hendrickx addressed the panel subject from a different angle: they have shared and reviewed the results of a survey wherein a number of startups and SMEs commented on how they use the cloud and how it supports their innovation programmes. An unexpected debate emerged on actual definitions and compositions of a typical SME in Europe, and what needs it might have on security and privacy.

The reaction of the audience was predictable -- many experts firmly believe that software vendors should be further controlled by the government to make sure that breaches are rare and propely punished, and that the burden of enforcing privacy should not be on users.

I challenged this opinion by running a small impromptu poll with the audience. I asked two sets of questions:
  1. How many people are using GMail actively? And how many of them enabled two-step authentication and went to check if their account was compromised during the most recent leak of account passwords?
  2. How many people are using Facebook Messenger on the phone? And how many did review the end user agreement which grants this app unlimited access to camera and microphone?
In both cases, the amount of raised hands decreased with each question in the set, highlighting the most important conclusion -- the consumer behavior and attitudes to privacy in the cloud have changed. Even the experts who fully understand the risks and possible consequences of breaches, are now less strict about sharing their private information or pursuing maximum available security.

Consequently, if the awareness of the privacy risks does not rise among not-expert users, it will become more and more difficult to prevent scandals like the recent celebrity photo hijacking. More importantly, simplifying the effort needed to ensure good level cloud privacy and safety for end users is a field abound with good business opportunities.

Friday, 12 September 2014

New app development features now available

By Martin Wilson, Appear

Quicker Setup

For the developers creating an app for the first time it is now much easier, with an automated set-up of the environment and basic “Hello World” application ready to go. This enables users to quickly get to know their way around the MobiCloud platform and how to prototype and test apps quickly. 
This helps with the iterative process involved in developing apps in an agile manner - develop - demo - develop more - demo etc.

Build and demonstrate “data sharing apps”

Developers that don't already have a back end system to integrate with their apps needn't worry – the cloud based IA (Integration Adapter) allows them to create applications where the same data sets can be accessed by different apps, different users and devices. This new feature allows the creation of “diary” apps, “note” apps and other data sharing apps without the complexity of having to create a data back end.
Apps for most simple use cases can now be quickly put together and demonstrated, without needing to implement a full backend IA. This starting point can be adaopted and enhanced to create custom integration logic, using the backend integration kit (link to Appear's developer website)
Three illustrations of a ”to do list” app that use the new capabilities are available using any one of three different frameworks (link to actual code samples stored on Github):
Appear is developing more tutorials that will explain how to get the most from the new features in the coming days.

The continually evolving developer site explains in detail the AppearIQ technology behind the MobiCloud project. For the full feature list of what’s new in AppearIQ 8.1.1 click here