Mobile applications built today utilize some of the most innovative technology available on the device – sophisticated sensors and chipsets, highly refined operating systems like Android and iOS, and powerful, fully modern programming languages like Swift and Kotlin. But look beyond the device to the technology underneath, and you’ll see something very different. The underlying stack for handling networking and data is usually a cobbled together set of technologies designed to serve the traditional web, not mobile apps.
We’re beginning to see a shift, however, as technologies and development tools are built with the mobile-first environment in mind. For example, the recently-released Core ML and ARKits from Apple deliver extremely sophisticated technology directly to the device. Core ML brings a variety of machine learning models to the device, so data never has to leave the client to be analyzed. ARKit does the same for augmented reality (AR), giving developers the power to build AR functionality on the device itself. Technologies like these typically had a hard time transitioning to the mobile environment – building this sophistication is a huge hurdle - but efforts like these give mobile developers tools to start building ever more amazing apps. And the same is now happening with mobile database technology.
The Web Stack and Its Limitations
To support the explosion of business and consumer apps on mobile devices, a technology stack has been cobbled together based on RESTful APIs, a web-based technology used to communicate from the mobile client to the server. But this comes at great expense in that it creates an awkward process where the data and information created on the mobile device must be translated into a form that the server understands and can work with – each action in the app requires a corresponding server endpoint. And then upon returning to the client, it must be translated back again to information that the app can use. This is workable in many ways, until you change the functionality of your app. Then, as you try to accommodate the same changes on the server side, you realize how hamstrung mobile developers are by the RESTful API model.
And that’s where object storage technology is making a huge difference in mobile app development. By storing data as objects, there is now a match between the language we use to develop the apps, and that used by the server in understanding and storing that data. Because ultimately, we need the objects you deal with on the mobile app to be as similar as possible to what the server handles, reducing these translation problems. This provides a host of advantages to the developer, as well as new functionality within the apps themselves.
Three Ways Mobile Database Technology Is Powering Next-Generation Apps
First, object storage allows for seamless, real-time synchronization to the data layer from the start for faster, more responsive apps. Without the impediments of translating data back and forth between the app and database, true, real-time interactions can occur. Whether that’s multiple users working on a document together, real-time chat functionality or streaming data, that translation problem has been a major hindrance for app developers. Working with data in the same form both in the app and database removes that barrier, so data can be updated across devices, servers and platforms in real time.
Next, the technology also allows that data be stored locally on the device in its own mobile database, enabling true offline functionality within apps. Because that data can be backed up locally, when your users are forced to deal with dropped connections, or the proverbial closing elevator doors, they’ll have the same experience as if they were online. And as soon as connections are re-established, that data is updated across the server and mobile environment.
Finally, object databases are the perfect foundation for enabling serverless programming. With easy-to-deploy server-side logic, the enterprise saves development time and money, while mobile developers can focus on developing apps, not managing and provisioning the back end server or database that powers those apps. The data they work with on the server syncs where you need it to, and looks just like the objects that mobile developers are used to using within apps. With this mobile-first architecture in place, developers are tapping into next-generation technology, allowing enterprises to build better apps faster with real-time, offline, immersive features that users demand, whether that’s for entertainment, or supporting their employees.
Mobile 2.0 and the Future of Mobile-First Development
We’ve pushed web-based technologies and development tools as far as we can in the mobile environment, along the way creating many innovative applications with these limited resources. But what started on the web is now finding its mobile equivalent, and today we’re witnessing a massive shift that brings us multiple technologies and development tools that put mobile needs at the center of attention. Just as Web 2.0 completely altered the user experience around the internet, this is the beginning of a Mobile 2.0 movement, with a stack of innovative mobile-native technologies, allowing us to create more responsive, engaging and cutting-edge apps and putting them in the hands of consumers and employees.