Monday May 16, 2016

The rise of the mobile citizen developer & Oracle Mobile Application Accelerator

With the introduction of new mobile products & features we thought we'd take the opportunity to revive last year's mobile Q&A LinkedIn article series to interview the key staff behind the new offerings.  These articles are designed to give you a unique insight into the product by talking to the experts who actually built the product, as different from the documentation and marketing.

In the latest interview on LinkedIn we invited Denis Tyrell and Liza Broadbent, the product manager and user experience leads respectively, to talk about their new baby Oracle Mobile Application Accelerator (MAX).  

If you've not yet heard, Oracle MAX is Oracle's mobile development product aimed not at developers, but what Gartner coins citizen developers.  It's an exciting inclusion in the latest release of Oracle Mobile Cloud Service (MCS) as it follows the trend of allowing computer-savvy enterprise staff to build their own iOS & Android apps with no coding skills what so ever.

I hope you'll take the chance to read the interview, to learn from the proverbial horses mouth so to speak, about why they built the tool, what challenges did they face, what makes them proud.

Sunday May 15, 2016

Mobile Cloud Service at Manchester Airports Group

Authored by Suhas Uliyar, Oracle Vice President, Mobile Product Development


One of the benefits of constant world travel is that I often have time between flights to shop for myself and my family, as today’s airports have turned into mini brick-and-mortar malls filled with top consumer brands. In fact, I once bought a complete set of business attire at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport when my plans changed and I had to head to London for a meeting instead of making my connection home. However, I, and many other travelers, have the perception that airport shopping is expensive; even more expensive than shopping in true brick-and-mortar malls. Imagine my excitement when Manchester Airports Group (MAG) engaged with Oracle’s mobile specialists to discover how MCS 2.0 with Location Based Services (LBS) could help to locate and engage MAG travelers and give them incentives and discounts on retail goods in MAG airport stores, thus counteracting the perception of expensive airport shopping!


Manchester Airports Group is the largest UK-owned airport operator and over 48 million passengers move through its five airports each year. As MAG continues to add new routes and passengers, it has recognized that it must focus on improving the pre-flight and post-flight passenger experience. One way to accomplish this is to identify passengers within airports using LBS, and then to personalize their experiences as they make their way through MAG terminals. As Roger Westerbeek, Group Head of CRM & Loyalty, MAG puts it:

“The Manchester Airports Group (MAG) CRM strategy and subsequent customer engagement is firmly anchored in the core principles of right product to the right customer at the right time and through the right channel... We now recognise the significant shift to digital mobile and location relevancy. To address this change, MAG are now working with global leaders in location-based technology to communicate effectively with our customers on-estate.”

An Oracle Marketing Cloud customer, MAG was already using Eloqua email campaigns to promote car parking and airport fast track to passengers prior to their trips. However, MAG told us that it could identify less than 25% of the passengers who set foot on premise, and MAG had no ability to communicate with those passengers once they were in-terminal. Enter Oracle MCS 2.0, which MAG is using to provide location based services and mobile offers to its passengers on premise through the MAG mobile app. MAG’s goals are to improve passenger experience, to identify anonymous passengers, to drive penetration, and to increase incremental return and adjustable travel volume (ATV). 

How is this accomplished? First, Oracle’s MCS 2.0 can measure both passenger footfall and passenger linger time, also known as “dwell time.” Second, MCS 2.0 uses existing Oracle Marketing tools to deliver mobile offers and promotions that can be segmented by time of day, customer profile, customer footfall and desired retail target. Finally, MCS 2.0 provides push notification capabilities so that information, offers, and promotions are delivered to each targeted passenger’s mobile phone. The end result is more informed and happier travelers, higher retail sales, improved operational efficiency, and increased in-terminal visibility.

Using MAG as an example, Oracle is working with our partner Estimote to install beacons in five areas of Manchester Airport Terminal 1: at Check-In, at Security, in the Departures Lounge, at the Boarding Gates and at Baggage Claim. When passengers arrive at Check-In, they will receive a push notification on their phones containing security information and advice. Depending on how long they spend in Check-In, they might also receive a push offer for fast track through Security. As they progress through Security, MCS will measure security transit time. Then, when passengers enter the Departures Lounge, they will get an airside “retail offer of the day” linked to their customer profile. Upon arrival at the Boarding Gates they will be asked for feedback on their experience through a short survey. Finally, on the return leg back to Manchester, passengers will be identified at Baggage Claim where they will receive offers for their next trip. 

We are just beginning to scratch the surface in terms of this solution’s possibilities. Oracle and Estimote can imagine additional use cases where location services are used to assist airport staff in further improving operational efficiencies, and in identifying security risks before passengers reach Security. We also can imagine sharing the beacon infrastructure with third party mobile apps such as airlines or retailers in order to provide an even more robust passenger experience. The possibilities are endless, and through the use of Oracle’s Mobile Cloud Service and the Estimote Cloud, MAG will continue to grow while improving the passenger experience. I also finally can buy relevant retail products at cheaper prices, thanks to the new pushed offers at Manchester Airport!

Watch Suhas Uliyar and Chris Marsh (451 Research) discuss the New Imperatives in Enterprise Mobility. And don't forget to follow the latest @OracleMobile.

Sunday May 08, 2016

Mobile Cloud Service 2.0 is Here!

Authored by Suhas Uliyar, Oracle Vice President, Mobile Product Development

Blogging about the 2nd major release of Oracle Mobile Cloud Service is personally very exciting! Not too long ago a few of us with many years of mobile experience amongst us, sat in a room and drew up the plans for building – from the ground up – a cloud based enterprise mobile platform, Oracle’s Mobile Cloud Service (MCS).

Our goal was to simplify enterprise mobility and help mobile developer build Better Apps Faster. With these goals in mind, we released MCS in July 2015 and in a short 10 months, we are thrilled to see its success and momentum in the marketplace. Our design goals to be open, agnostic and built on open standards, are being adopted by customers of all sizes, across all industries from around the world. With Oracle MCS, organizations deliver modern experiences to their employees and drive modern engagement with their customers. One of our fundamental principles was to be open and agnostic to mobile client development tools so that developers could develop in their tool of choice and make it simple to consume enterprise services from a Mobile API catalog without requiring them to understand the complexities of enterprise data and security policies. We have customers using native tools from Apple, Google, Xamarin, Sencha, Ionic along with Oracle client development tools, Mobile Application Framework (MAF) & JET, to build engaging experiences integrated with a variety of backend systems.

We have continued to innovate with quick and agile releases of MCS and today I am very excited to share with you the big strides we have BETTER apps with MCS Location Based Services and help enterprises build apps FASTER with Oracle’s Rapid Mobile Application Development (RMAD) capabilities, called Mobile Application Accelerator (MAX). These capabilities are targeted at what Gartner refers to as “citizen developers.”

Before I tell you more about MAX, let’s first take a look at what we’ve delivered with Location Based Services..

About Oracle MCS and Location Based Services

Many enterprises like retailers, event organizers, transit systems, financial services, hospitality and educational institutions are engaging with consumers and have invested significantly in enabling seamless user experiences across mobile applications and the online world. They are able to get insights related to app downloads and in some cases user behavior across multiple channels. However, many of them have neglected a key value that mobile provides that the online world does not - the consumer’s physical location! When you consider that 93% of US retail sales still occur in store, enterprises are missing a key connection between the physical and online world.

The challenge with GPS is that indoor spaces often block cell signals and make it difficult to get an accurate location. This is where Beacons become a viable solution. Beacons, a low-cost piece of hardware — small enough to attach to a wall or countertop, use battery-friendly, low-energy Bluetooth connections to transmit or prompt directly to mobile devices. Companies like Estimote are poised to transform and reinvent a contextually rich mobile experience.

“It’s a no-brainer. Beacons increase the granularity of information that Oracle MCS can use to help businesses provide a contextually rich experience to their customers”  Steve Cheney Co-Founder of Estimote.

In-store retail and offline payments are in the first wave of beacon applications. Retail outlets are adopting beacons to provide customers with product information, flash sales or deals, and speed up the checkout process with a completely contactless payments system. Consumers seem receptive to beacons as a way to enhance their in-store shopping experience. Half of American adults already utilize their mobile devices in stores. Consumers could also use them to inexpensively automate their homes. For example, beacons could turn on lights in a room as soon as someone with a smartphone has entered them, or open doors or window shades.

Mobile represents the bridge between the digital and physical world and is becoming the most valuable tool yet for marketers, allowing them to be contextual, relevant and useful. To help build BETTER apps that take advantage of location services, we made it easy by providing a 360 degree view of contextual location information for the app developer to enable better decision support and engagement on the mobile app. MCS 2.0 provides a declarative framework with an easy to use  Admin UI, for the definition of Places, Devices such as Beacons, and Assets as first class entities along with the ability to query interesting information about these entities and the association between them from the mobile app via Platform API’s.

MCS 2.0 can help drive B2C & B2E use cases like:

  • Obtaining contextual information for Places & Things of interest (to drive mobile app logic):
    • Return all Places with the label ‘Parts_Warehouse’ that are within a specified GPS circle, and route me to the nearest one with parts in stock for Acme washers.
    • Return all active iBeacon devices where the device's name or description contains the text ‘LAX_Terminal1’. Set my app to range for the Beacon ID’s that were returned since I checked in for my flight.
  • Personalized mobile user targeting based on geofence or beacon proximity
    • Send Ana a complementary Molly Moon’s ice-cream voucher when she checks in at the new Forever21 store in the Uvillage Mall (where Uvillage Mall is denoted by a GPS and has ‘child’ Places within it for Stores id’d by Beacons associated with their location)
    • When a Platinum Member enters the Delta lounge (id’d by a Beacon), send them a NewCo promotion.
  • High-value Asset Tracking
    • Update the last known location of a fork-lift (id’d by a Beacon) to be ‘North Yard’
    • Give me the last known location of a hospital bed (id’d by a beacon). If it’s not in the quarantine area of the hospital (also id’d by a beacon), send an SMS alert to the floor nurse on duty.

About Oracle MAX

Investment in mobility solutions is expected to continue to grow through 2016. But the increased investment in mobility solutions is promising amid growing concern that demand for mobile app development services is happening much faster than organizations are able to deliver. Businesses are finding it challenging and costly to develop, deploy, and maintain mobile apps as rapidly as demand dictates, according to Gartner. Gartner says using rapid mobile app development (RMAD) tools that can produce apps quickly, are crucial for enterprises to help bridge the gap between mobile app demand and supply. Significant innovation is driving this market and replacing traditional coding approaches, such as native development tools, with more effective RMAD tools. MCS 2.0 introduces the notion of no code rapid mobile application development (RMAD) with Mobile Application Accelerator (MAX). MAX is key to helping build better mobile apps FASTER allowing professionals with no programming background, to rapidly assemble mobile apps and continuously iterate on their designs. MAX is a highly visual tool and seeing is believing. To get a great overview, watch the following video recording for an Oracle MAX overview and see Oracle MAX in action.


For more information and to test drive Oracle MCS 2.0 at cloud.oracle.com/mobile

Hungry for more? Watch Suhas Uliyar and Chris Marsh (451 Research) discuss the New Imperatives in Enterprise Mobility. And don't forget to follow the latest @OracleMobile.

Monday May 02, 2016

MAF 2.3.0.1 Released

MAF 2.3.0.1 is a minor update that contains a couple of critical bug fixes related to application deployment. These deployment issues affected customers using iOS for development.

Fixes delivered in this patch:

  1. Intermittent failures when deploying application to iOS simulator.  Application deployment failed with CopyStringsFile errors in the log.
  2. Deployment errors when iOS Simulator target is changed in deployment profile

A new extension is now available in JDev update center with the above fixes. There is no migration impact of this patch on existing applications using MAF 2.3. If you are directly picking up this extension from earlier versions of MAF, please follow the migration instructions provided in MAF 2.3 migration guide and other important 2.3 uptake information available here.

This patch uptake should be seamless and customers should be able update the extension from JDev update center, restart JDev and get going. Of course, be sure to do clean all after the extension installation on all your existing applications.


Tuesday Apr 19, 2016

Secure Oracle MAF applications with MobileIron, AirWatch


Overview :

Oracle Mobile Applications Framework (MAF) 2.3 release offers a new feature which supports integration with 3rd party EMM vendors. This integration is focused on leveraging the native capabilities in mobile operating systems,to enable a more consistent, open, and simple way to configure and secure mobile applications. These native capabilities are commonly referred as App Configurations For Enterprise , and are supported by popular EMM vendors like AirWatch, and MobileIron. The supported vendors at this point are AirWatch, and MobileIron, but we expect the solutions from other EMM vendors, who are listed on App Config Community also to work with MAF 2.3. To learn more about the best practices around native MDM / MAM capabilities offered by iOS , and Android, visit the AppConfig Community . The App Config Community is supported and maintained by EMM vendors like AirWatch, MobileIron. It provides recommendations for enterprise mobile app developers to secure their applications in an EMM vendor neutral approach, by leveraging the native capabilities in the operating systems.

MAF’s integration with AirWatch, and MobileIron does not support their respective SDKs , or wrapping solutions. Instead, the integration is focussed around their ability to use a standard approach offered by iOS, and Android, to manage applications, and application configurations. 

From recent versions of iOS , and Android , Apple, and Google have rolled out a standard approach to manage applications, and application configurations, through native operating system capabilities. These native OS capabilities remove the need for containers, and dual workspaces, that frustrate users and hinder productivity.  Also, by leveraging the native OS capabilities, mobile developers can build applications which are EMM vendor neutral.

AirWatch, and MobileIron's support for standards based application management, and application configuration, offers various advantages for Oracle MAF developers, and enterprises.

  • Building enterprise-ready applications can now be faster, as the most common use cases do not require the need of an SDK, or a wrapping solution.
  • Developers can build applications which are EMM vendor neutral, as they are built on native standards supported by mobile operating systems.
  • Various organizations within an enterprise can provide a better on boarding experience to their users, by leveraging the native application level configurations.
  • Faster turn around time to build enterprise-ready mobile applications, provides an ability for the enterprises to rollout greater selection of business apps for their users.

MAF integration with AirWatch, and MobileIron, supports the following use cases on Apple iOS, and Google's Android for Work platforms.

1. Application Security :
  • Encryption : Offline content stored within the sandbox of a MAF application, can now be encrypted using the native device level encryption provided by the mobile operating system. This can be done by enforcing a passcode on the device. Encryption within MAF applications can be enabled by enforcing a device passcode by pushing down a policy through the EMM console. 
  • Managed Open-In : Control end-user’s ability to open managed documents stored offline within a MAF application, into unmanaged personal applications like Box.net, Dropbox .etc. 
  • Disable Screen Capture : Control end-user’s ability to take screen shots.
  • Remotely Wipe Application : Remotely wipe the application.
  • Disable Copy / Paste : Control end-user’s ability to copy and paste content between managed and unmanaged applications. Since iOS does not provide a native restriction to control this capability, leveraging this feature within an iOS app might involve some custom work in MAF application. There is no development work involved in leveraging this capability within Android apps which are published within in Android for Work environment.
  • Disable Camera :Control end-user’s ability to use camera within managed applications.

AirWatch Mobile Device Management Guide for iOS ,and MobileIron CORE Device Management Guide for iOS can provide you detailed information on how to create security restrictions on iOS.
AirWatch Integration with Android for Work Guide and MobileIron CORE Device Management for Android for Work can provide you detailed information on how to create security restrictions on Android for Work.

2. Application Tunneling : MAF applications which may require access to web services residing behind a corporate firewall, can leverage a secure app tunnel connection between the app on the device, and the backend services. This can be done by distributing, and enabling a Per-App VPN configuration on a device.

Per-App VPN configuration is a native capability provided by the mobile operating system to enable VPN on an application level . A Per-App VPN configuration comprises of information about the VPN server, or tunneling server , to which the network calls from the applications get routed. Per-App VPN configurations can be provisioned on devices through an Agent application, and can be applied to specific MAF applications. Once the Per-App VPN configurations are applied to specific MAF applications, all the network requests initiated from these applications are routed through the VPN server, or the tunneling / proxy server specified in the configuration. 

AirWatch, and MobileIron currently support a long list of commercial VPN providers like Cisco AnyConnect, Juniper ,Check Point , Palo Alto Networks, F5 Networks, Pulse Secure etc and more. To configure Per-App VPN, enterprises can either use one of the supported VPN providers , or they can use the tunneling server provided by the EMM vendors. AirWatch provides a tunneling server called AirWatch Tunnel, and MobileIron provides a tunneling server called MobileIron SENTRY.

You can find more details about the Per-App VPN support on the App Tunnel section on AppConfig Community. Also, for more details on AirWatch, and MobileIron tunneling setup, refer to AirWatch Tunneling Guide , and MobileIron SENTRY Guide respectively.


3. Single - Sign On:

The single sign-on capability documented by the AppConfig community specifies the best practice for how an app developer should invoke the IDP from the app in order to facilitate a single sign-on experience.  Most Single Sign-On scenarios will be handled by the MAF framework, and developers might not have to do much of changes to their application. The native OS capabilities on iOS, and Android, support certificate based authentication, and username / password based authentication. The Single Sign-On capabilities listed on AppConfig community are expected to work with MAF 2.3 release.

3rd Party EMM Certification :
From MAF 2.3 release onwards, all the future releases of MAF shall publish information on certified EMM vendors as part of the certification matrix.

 Product Certified & Supported OS Minimum OS Version Server Console
AirWatch
Certified on iOS
Supported with Android For Work
iOS 9
Android 5.0
AirWatch console 8.3.0.405
MobileIron
Certified on iOS
Supported with Android For Work
iOS 9
Android 5.0
Mobile Iron Core 8.5.0.0 


Following use cases are targeted for future releases of MAF, and are currently on the roadmap:

Managed Application Configuration :

Enterprise applications require users to enter URL, port, email address, and various configurations as part of a one time setup of an application. These manual configurations can impact the adoption and success of an organization’s mobile app initiatives, increase the burden on a help desk fielding calls from users, and add the burden of maintaining documentation that needs to be updated frequently as new updates to the application are made available.

By leveraging the native APIs recommended by the AppConfig Community, these configurations can be automatically set remotely by the EMM server. This simplifies the setup process for end users, and alleviates the help desk and documentation burden. Developers can define a set of configuration keys within their apps.  An IT administrator can simply set the same keys and values in the EMM provider’s management console and they will be pushed to the app.

Apps commonly implement the following types of configurations:
Backend service configuration: server URL, port, use SSL, group/tenant code
User configuration: username, email, domain

In future releases, MAF will provide an ability to read the configurations set by the IT administrators in the EMM console. MAF developers can then read these values, and leverage them within the application lifecycle to provide a better on boarding experience for the end-users.









Monday Apr 11, 2016

Cordova updates in MAF 2.3

MAF 2.3 introduced a number of new & exciting features, as described in this blog post.  In addition to these, the embedded Cordova engines for each platform were upgraded to the following versions: 

  • Android: 4.1.1
  • iOS: 4.0.1
  • Windows: 4.0.0

So what does this mean for you, the MAF app developer? 

Plugin updates

These are significant upgrades for both Android and iOS, with a number of deprecated APIs being removed.

The core plugins contained with the MAF 2.3 release have been updated accordingly, but if you are using any 3rd party plugins, you should verify that they are compatible with each of the Cordova platform versions listed above. You may need to update to a later version of some 3rd party plugins.

If you have developed your own Cordova plugin for use in your MAF apps, you should ensure that it is compatible with these Cordova platform versions. A list of API changes in v4.0.0 of Cordova for iOS can be found here.

Android security

The Cordova for Android update contains a number of security fixes.

When uploading your MAF 2.2.2 app to the Google Play Developer Console, you may have received emails with the subject “Google Play warning: You are using a vulnerable version of Apache Cordova” that state the following:

Your app(s) listed at the end of this email utilize a version of Apache Cordova, an open-source mobile development framework, that contains one or more security vulnerabilities. If you have more than 20 affected apps in your account, please check the Developer Console for a full list.

Please migrate your app(s) to Apache Cordova v.4.1.1 or higher as soon as possible and increment the version number of the upgraded APK. Beginning May 9, 2016, Google Play will block publishing of any new apps or updates that use pre-4.1.1 versions of Apache Cordova.

The vulnerabilities were addressed in Apache Cordova 4.1.1. If you’re using a 3rd party library that bundles Apache Cordova, you’ll need to upgrade it to a version that bundles Apache Cordova 4.1.1 or later.

This has been addressed in MAF 2.3 with the upgrade to Cordova for Android. If you migrate your app to MAF 2.3 and upload it to the Google Developer Console, you should not longer receive such emails.

Windows Universal Platform support

MAF 2.3 now supports deployment to Intel-based Windows 10 tablets, laptops and desktops. In this release, MAF apps must be side loaded onto Windows 10 devices, or deployed to the Windows 10 machine on which the MAF app is being developed.

Setup instructions can be found in the MAF 2.3 Installation Guide. Deployment instructions can be found in the MAF 2.3 Developer Guide.

Whitelisting

These versions of Cordova use a new whitelisting mechanism. For iOS and Windows this is built in, but for Android you must include the cordova-plugin-whitelist plugin if you wish to maintain a whitelist.

The Cordova Whitelist Guide provides more information on the details of whitelist configuration and management.

MAF 2.3 no longer provides direct support for whitelisting, but if your MAF app makes use of a Remote URL that allows access to device services and you would like to use a whitelist, please refer to the MAF 2.3 Developer Guide for information on how to include and configure the required plugins.

About

This blog is is dedicated to announcements,tips and tricks and other items related to developing, integrating, securing, and managing mobile applications using Oracle's Mobile Platform. It is created and maintained by the Oracle Mobile product development team.

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