How to Develop an App with Artificial Intelligence?

Are you thinking about developing an Artificial Intelligence (AI) app? Most successful entrepreneurs that utilized app development with AI capabilities consistently state that you shouldn’t get overpowered by implementing this complex technology just for the sake of it. Firstly, you need to pay attention to the pains of your customers that AI can help you solve. What benefits will your users get that justify AI application?

Artificial intelligence in mobile applications is a hot topic, and with every day more tech companies and investors are showing their interest in its benefits. The recent acquisition by Googles of DeepMind for nearly half a billion dollars is just one of the examples of how committed companies are.  Having AI development capabilities is among the most promising areas in tech. That is especially true for AI in mobile.

And the concept of a personal mobile assistant that is always there to help you have caught on. Tackling everyday tasks through such an AI app is very appealing. But AI apps are not limited to only this one use. Mobile AI has a number of purposes that are commonly explored right now, such as security of data and e-commerce purchase assistance. AI is generally applied in mobile apps to change the customer experience for the better.



Artificial Intelligence substituting Natural Intelligence in Apps

Fundamentally, Artificial Intelligence is a computer system that is able to substitute problem-solving by humans to some extent. Humans natural intelligence has been key in helping customers, but with AI that is no longer the case.

AI has a number of purposes and applications, but when thinking about developing a mobile app with artificial intelligence, the main use is in chatbots. This lets companies decrease the staffing-cost of their call/chat-centers and to engage with customers deeply. That is possible to the AI’s ability to leverage a large pool of data and offer the best option to users.

According to Gartner’s latest predictions, companies believe that such application of AI will be in the top of strategic efforts in 2017 and further. AI apps are actually more than chat-bot assistants, they can, for example, prioritize your email flow. Moreover, AI is likely to enter the majority of mobile enterprise apps with more than 200 large companies developing artificial intelligence apps this year alone.




Users are Demanding Personalized Experiences

Your users are like any other ones and demand personalized experiences that can be offered through AI technologies. Outsourcing AI development is beginning to take hold for small and large enterprises alike, as creating an in-house team is considered too costly and takes time. For example, Starbucks recently announced a mobile app powered by AI. With its help, coffee-lovers can tell the app by voice the drink they’d like, and the order is instantly placed. Another large company that used AI app developer services is Taco Bell. By introducing its TacoBot, the business was able to boost both customer satisfaction rates and profits, by not only taking orders by voice but by making suitably recommends on menu items. Such AI-dependent applications are now at the forefront of helping people with their routine daily tasks.


Mobile is actually the perfect platform to provide artificial intelligence app development as it offers extensive personalization capabilities. You might not notice it, but your smartphone tracks user location, for example, so an integrated AI application can use it to assist you even better in a more relevant way according to your location. Newer phones, such as iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy 8, have AI capabilities hard-wired into them, so creating an app is even easier. With a well-versed team of AI developers, these technologies can help boost your AI as it can learn from users’ behavior, purchase patterns and every single user session. This lets you increase the overall retention rates and boost your app’s abilities.



Mobile AI Impact on Businesses

Retail industry giants like Amazon have proved that AI integration on mobile apps is a success. But for smaller enterprises, the impact can be even bigger. The new advancements in AI technology require support from a partner company that can take of all AI-related research and software execution to meet the ever-shifting consumer demands. AI app development for small and medium-sized enterprises is the next big thing.

With such a help you can rest assured that creating and integrating AI algorithms into the products your business offers will lead to a strategically enhanced brand ecosystem. Amazon’s Prime delivery service is a great example as it pairs up well with AI-enabled Echo device. Forward-thinking enterprises can capitalize on personalization advantages of AI, before others and start leading the pack in the chosen niche market.



AI is Exceeding User Expectations

Presently AI solutions are just starting to roll out, and many companies have just grazed the surface with their app offers. Its true potential is far from being fully understood and implemented. Its ability to understand, decipher and categorize information coupled with its retention is important to understand and promote as they open up new horizons of your products’ abilities. But at the very start, you can expect your AI interfaces to start slow and learn, and only after some fine-tuning can it be true to the AI promise.



Summary. Impact of AI on Mobile Application Development

  • AI technology brings rich benefits when combined with great mobile app development services. This results in great ways to assist users in collecting and storing their preferences and analyzing their potential behavior when using the AI-enabled app.
  • AI utilizes gathered information: location, contacts, times of app use and other data points to serve customers in a more specific way better every time.
  • AI is considered to be among the best tools to boost the app experiences in every way. This can be achieved through recent evolution in software development and is beneficial as it’s one of the very few ways that can track and consistently analyze the change in user demand. This is particularly appreciated by retail and service industries.

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

VR app Development: Cost to Build Own Application

VR app development is one of the key areas where mobile app development will drastically evolve. Being the future of tech the market is exploding thanks to consumer-friendly prices of such VR gear as Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. The cheap old-timer - Google Cardboard launched in 2016 and from that point on the VR technology is constantly evolving price-wise solutions.

This technology is already successfully adopted by healthcare, architecture, and other industries where a VR mobile app is a great way for businesses to familiarize their staff and customers with new goods and services that are in the early stage of creation. Still. Very few companies are on the market, and even fewer can offer VR app development at a reasonable price. But still, there are ways to get the right VR app development services if you approach this task wisely. To cut to the chase, how much will it cost your company to build a VR application? This thorough overview will provide you with the needed insights, such as developmental stages and product estimations that will help you calculate the costs of employing a virtual reality application development company.


The financial prospects

  • According to Statista, VR and AR will generate a $143 billion market worldwide by the year 2020.
  • VR jobs start at $75k/year and range up to $200k/year, as stated on MediaJobs.com
  • In a recent article by Forbes, the response was as follows: “One of the more vibrant, up-and-coming sectors of the tech industry these days is virtual reality.”

Regular app development has been around for a while, and the prices for their development are clear-cut according to region and types of apps required. But your financial prospects when getting an app work not on a rectangular screen, but to work in a fully immersive environment is far from clear as of now. It can seem daunting, as the VR landscape has been mostly untouched, and the situation was very similar to the usual mobile app development just several years ago.

And as with everything new, the cost barrier may be too high. But the opportunities are as extensive. You should also take into account the new developments, hardware, and solutions that are rolled out by the industry giants that simplify and ease the financial burden of VR app development. When you are among the early adopters, you can catch the wave and be among the first ones to dive in and reap rich rewards.

Just look at the revenue projection by Digi-Capital, and the market-share of VR/AR in a long-term perspective lets almost any business find a sweet spot and get a piece of the action:



Factors That Affect VR Development Cost

The main issue affecting VR development costs lays in two options you have: 1) develop a mobile VR app; 2) develop a mobile VR game. The bottom line for a non-game VR app is $40K, and the cheapest option for a mobile VR mage is $60K with time-lines of at least 6 months. These numbers are a basic reference point, and development costs, depending on various factors, can easily be in early six digit figures.

The ultimate cost and profit from VR software development are dictated by the following key factors:

Research & Development

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Most of the aspects of your app development project are generally considered “research and development.” It all starts with the research of your ides, creating user stories to things like distribution planning. And your R&D efforts have a sometimes fatal impact on the final cost of your app in a very specific way.

For every phase of your project to fall into place correctly, app developers have to pause and think of the ways this or that function or feature will fit in the general concept. That is especially true when a development phase involves some complex VR implementation techniques or more unique app capabilities. This process is far from straightforward. It requires trial and error and can cost a lot in the long run. It can actually increase your budget two-fold unless you do your best to reduce the unknowns. Only after that can you hand the project over to a professional developer and not worry about the extra time spent on it.


Content & Software

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A major part of your VR development budget will be given to content and software development. For budgeting purposes, it is correct to assume that the two are interconnected. And the more complex VR content you require, the more sophisticated software should be developed.

Do you want a simple 3D environment that boosts your users’ experiences or a multi-player interactive VR game? The decisions you make regarding the content will have a direct influence on the complexity of VR software and its cost.  Try to answer these questions before you give the project into developers’ hands: What type and how extensive your content should be? Will you provide the content to your developers or do you need to subcontract a content-creation unit on outsourcing? These are among the few vital factors you need to take care of from the onset of your project.




Platform

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Taking into the importance of content that you want to offer to your customers, you need to factor in the platform you choose to base your services on. That can add or subtract a lot of cost from your project. For Google Cardboard the cost is comparatively low, but developing a full-fledged solution for something like the Oculus Rift may cost you a fortune.

 Answer these two question to choose the platform and, ultimately, the VR development cost:

  • What does your target audience use?
  • Which platform suits best in providing the features you want to offer?


Developer Location

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You can have your VR software developed in a number of places all over the world. You can hire an in-house team or use outsourcing. Eastern Europe and Asia are considered among the cheapest regions for VR app development. On the other hand, companies based in the United States are best. But if these companies have development offices in other countries they usually provide high-quality solutions, customer service at a cheaper dollar rate. Developers’ teams in Eastern Europe have fair outsourcing rates, and you may consider Softermii that is among the best ones. The company is US-based with a development center in Ukraine. It is among the leaders in providing great quality VR app development at a fair cost.


The Bottom Line

So how much will it cost you to develop a unique VR app? Take into account our advice, and you may end up spending less and getting more profit when you start with the right mindset and thoroughly plan your VR app. Think through your app idea and come for advice to a top-notch VR app development company that can make your idea come to life on time and without breaking the budget.

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

Hot Trends in Blockchain App Development

The demand for Blockchain app development and professionals who can successfully implement it across enterprises & startups alike is growing. More businesses than ever are taking a closer look at their business efficiencies and new ways their business model can be bettered by the Blockchain technologies. At this point acceptance of bitcoins, Etheruem and other blockchain-based currencies are on the rise. They encompass both large and small companies, and this requires a creation of blockchain payment applications, as well as other solutions that use this new technology.

The blockchain application is now considered to be at the forefront of fast, transparent and secure financial operations. When the blockchain was initiated, it was equaled with Bitcoin by many, but the blockchain technology has outgrown the first decentralized digital currency legs and became a master of its own. 

The blockchain software development is on the rise and growing, and various opportunities in blockchain technology are exploding. In this article, we discuss the current blockchain applications and trends in blockchain app development:


Ethereum

When we talk about blockchain development post-bitcoin, Ethereum is leading the pack of blockchain platforms. It got a firm footing last year and offers faster, more mature and up-to-date solutions compared to Bitcoin. Ethereum technology is the next level complexity, but it’s worth the effort as it has more to offer. In its essence, it is a cryptographic ledger that can store financial and other types of information that is 100% tamper-proof. Such data stored using blockchain cannot be changed historically.

Key benefits of Ethereum:

  • encompasses the use of all cryptocurrencies, making it a prime place for blockchain financial transactions.
  • fully supports smart contracts and applies them extensively.
  • has its own programming language, Solidity that was designed for developers that need to write secure, error-free and robust code for the platform.


Smart Contracts

The term “smart contract’’ may confuse you if you take it literally as it does not involve making or signing contracts per se. Basically, a usual smart contract is a program based on the blockchain. To understand why you need to have it on the blockchain, we must dive in deeper into the blockchain benefits: security and resilience of the distributed system and fast execution are among the top priorities.

Smart contracts are usually programmed to controls digital assets and release them when all pre-set conditions are met. Below are the most common examples of how smart contracts operate:

  • They can release funds gathered on crowdsourcing platforms only when a minimum number of contributions have been made by a pre-set date. If not the money is returned to investors.
  • With their help, you can create and send legal contracts for attorneys only when the signatory submitted the required digital credentials and attached a payment confirmation.

Smart contracts are at the forefront of blockchain trends, although we’ve only scratched the surface of the ways they can be used and how they can benefit your digital business. Such security, resilience, and ability execute numerous programs and release assets on blockchain (financial being among the key ones) offer a world of opportunities in this new age.


Decentralized applications

At the core of Ethereum is the concept of decentralization of all things. Its advocates feel electrified by the applications that can be built on this computing platform. The decentralized apps can be subdivided into two major categories: 

  • apps that help users manage money and its flow
  • apps of the “other” type, like voting systems

The most widely known is the first app type, where users can hold or exchange funds, settle contracts and employ the network's distributed computer nodes to distribute this data.


Emerging Markets for Blockchain App Development

Blockchain technology is a powerful and exciting force. When developing apps on blockchain you should think through the niches where they would be highly requested.  As mentioned before, the key advantages of blockchain are speed, security, and flexibility. And according to these markers, we should consider the following markets:


Healthcare

Securing data is of paramount importance in the healthcare industry, and this is where app development on blockchain is of the essence. Considering that multiple parties require having instant access to large swathes of data blockchain becomes invaluable. Presently only a few companies offer app development on blockchain for healthcare, and professionals that can deliver such solutions are in high demand. This niche is still wide open, and the first healthcare companies to enter it will get all the rewards. 


Gaming

Gaming is not something that clearly relates in people’s mind to the blockchain, but it should be. Many gaming companies launched ICOs on the basis of building an app using blockchain technology to support their business. It makes easier to share, sell and incorporate game-based asset-sharing. This can be even done across games and platforms! The emergence of blockchain to support gaming is in the early onset, but developers are already making use of it to give certain gaming platforms an edge over competitors. On top of that gamers love new technological advances and enjoy testing new tools in their favorite games.


Fintech

Fintech was on the books when the blockchain technology was created. Indeed, the fintech disruption caused a tidal wave of blockchain implementations. Many financial institutions thought that the fintech disruption would pass them by, but the wide use of blockchain left these ideas unrealistic nor self-preserving. Actually fintech blockchain offers very interesting ideas to regular financial institutions that can improve their operations.


Summary

The blockchain is no longer a simply buzzword, as applications based on it gain traction and gather millions in funding. This decentralized and disruptive force will take over the usual ways of doing business. Many companies that get on board soon enough and request the services of blockchain app developers will make a name for themselves and reap rich rewards. Your company may be the leader in your industry in a matter of years, much of it determined by the ways you approach the question “how to build blockchain applications that improve the services you offer?”. It will be determined by your commitment and your competence in building applications using blockchain technology.

With is a leading outsource provider of technology solutions like Softermii, getting the right blockchain app developers is made easy through the required skills and experience offered by their team. If you need a custom blockchain development solution, reach out for a no-cost consultation.

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

THE STORY BEHIND JIBJAB APP SUCCESS

JibJab is “the Greatest GIF messaging app ever,” according to Gizmodo. PandoDaily illustrated it as a “chock full of... gems.” That’s what people say about JibJab these days. It didn’t all begin with a mobile app that is integrated with the Facebook iMessage and has millions of users. It all started over 18 years ago very differently, and the company had to evolve to reach the point where it is associated almost entirely with its mobile app.

Intro about the company

JibJab is a company that specializes in digital media content. Its primary goal is to create funny pictures, GIFs and short clips that gain viral traction and get shared thousands of times online. Being a true pioneer in producing and distributing online entertainment for over 18 years.

Recently the company decided to go mobile heads-on and ordered an advanced mobile app developed by Softermii. This app lets users add their photos to the cloud GIF creation system and get some of the funniest Internet’s memes starring themselves.

As stated in the company’s profile, JibJab works only with the best developers, designers, technologists, and business people to produce world-class original entertainment on the Internet.

How it all started

JibJab had humble beginnings when two brothers decided to start producing animated projects for media giants like Disney. Gregg, one of the brothers, recently said that it all almost crashed in 2001, when the need for such services and economic hardship in the US factored in.

The breakthrough unwittingly happened in 2004. JibJab’s presidential electoral animation parody "This Land" amassed millions of viewers. The initial way to start making money was by charging customers per video download on their website, or for a DVD shipment.

From website to mobile app

JibJab initially used only its website to provide fun ways to interact with your friends. But that changed and more and more users embracing their smartphones, it became evident that a great mobile app will open new options for them compared to a mere web version. That’s where they employed Softermii to work together with the in-house team to offer customers the real JibJab experience on mobile. By updating their product, we were able to push the company’s public image, and the app was written about in the USA Today and on TechCrunch. The more important thing is that the app has an average 4.5-star rating on App Store and Play Market with 3500+ reviews on each.

JibJab’s functionality and intuitive design in the mobile app

A key part of JibJab’s strategy is boosting mobile app functionality and providing an intuitive design that increases the time consumers spend in their apps. The major challenge was in envisaging and developing such a unique app that beats the competition and enables users to seamlessly create funny content on their smartphones and share it with their friends and family in a blink of an eye.

JibJab already had a great mobile website for its users. The goal was to convert users from the web to a mobile platform to boost retention rates and achieve high mobile app downloads for iOS and Android. They required professional mobile software development services that Softermii could offer.

Preserving complete access to all of JibJab features while designing and creating a cleaner and updated look that is resilient in the future is a challenge of its own.

“Softermii made it incredibly easy to use the app and create fun pics. I love how you can choose between various GIFs and eCards while preserving great usability and speed of the web version.”

– Marketing Manager at JibJab

Features behind app’s success

JibJab needed to provide its users with a pioneering and premium content, so Softermii added the following new features and updated the old ones:

- Easily connect the app with all major social media or email

- Instant selfie snap to use in funny GIFs and videos

- Straightforward access to the pictures of your friends' faces to easily create animation

- Provide proper levels of synchronization when creating new animations

- One-click sharing of JibJab app with friends to install on their mobile devices, and more.

iMessage integration as a way to further gains

On September 12, 2016, Apple launched its iMessage App Store during, and JibJab was among the first ones on the marketplace. Such a move is statically confirmed to be of benefit, as all the entertainment app publishers that enabled and embedded their core functionality into iMessage have an average boost in downloads of at least 39%. With this new update, users can launch JibJab app from within the iMessage that was pretty much turned it into an app platform that boosts communication in its various textual forms.

Such cooperation led to a tremendous growth for JibJab that was an early mover and got featured in the new App Store. And such growth happened within just a few days after launch. JibJab grew 1583% in a week! If you are interested in how such successful mobile app development is possible, then visit our dedicated web page.

“The level and amount of work done by Softermii is just outstanding. They literally changed the mobile look of JibJab.”

– Chief Designer at JibJab

Summary

Not many users remember JibJab as the first viral video production company. The company’s mission has always been to influence people on a daily basis and let them have pure fun, not just on special occasions like birthdays or holidays. Through a new mobile app, JibJab realized this dream and became handy and simple for all to use.

Gregg Spiridellis, JibJab Co-Founder, recently said to a group of young entrepreneurs that they should understand and appreciate what’s been done in the past. But they shouldn’t get stuck in the old ways, as the only way to go forward is to reinvent yourself. That was the only way how JibJab survived for 16 years.

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

WHAT IS MOBILE UX AND HOW IT CAN MAKE OR BREAK YOUR APP

Your business customers conduct a large portion of their day-to-day business online. With the advances in technology, users are critical as to the services offered. They require a digital user experience that is seamless and frictionless. Getting an optimal UX is a basic requirement these days, and without it, even the best app ideas won’t make it into the users’ smartphones.

Creating and implementing a UX strategy across all supported mobile devices requires a clear-cut understanding of what your customers need and why they want to use your app. The end goal of having a well-balanced mobile UX is to provide brands’ customers with the best experience to make them come back to buy or use your services in the future.

Offering such an experience requires you to count in an extensive number of factors to ensure an optimal UX. Many companies understand that UX design is the face of their business, but they may need a fresh perspective from outside UX professionals to provide clarification on the latest trends, as well as some hard facts to update the digital environment they are offering.

Making The Case

Is UX that important? What is the real cost/benefit of UX? How can we measure its ROI? Many similar questions can come to your mind when UX designers push their message to you. UX can actually prove beneficial when you compare before-and-after results and take into account the key mobile app performance indicators.

The great reference to measuring UX can be found in a Software Engineering: A Practitioner’s Approach book by Robert Pressman that is hard to argue with. He says that every dollar not spent on resolving design issues during product design will cost you tenfold during development. You can multiply that by ten once again if the problem with UX is found and resolve after the app release.

The best way to proceed with mobile UX design is to stick to the best industry practices and take note of the current trends so that your UX feels up-to-date in years to come. Applying for help with UX design with a respected company will let positively guide your app user behavior.

UI design as a starting point

A major thing you have to factor in your application’s user experience is the user interface. UI is an essential part of UX, and it takes care of screen sizes, device compatibility, keyboards and pop ups, and so on.

Regarding UI, your business has to account for mobile platforms. Both iOS and Android release updates and upgraded versions of their software on a constant basis. They can dramatically change your UI design, and accounting for the previous versions is even more burdensome. Your mobile UI developers should follow the latest platform changes very closely to be among the first ones to take advantage of new features and have the app that is still operating, when, for example, iOS 11 is released. So the UI support is as essential as proper UI design to keep competitive and have a killer app.

Don’t customize but rather personalize UX

Before we could access the world wide and have apps on handy devices, the only option was using desktop sites that customized user experience based on cookies. In the early days this customization went on to continue on mobile, but the hassle was too much to handle. So a UX personalization came about, where the personal user data is recorded by an app. Using such large swathes of Big Data, you have a lot of options to improve the mobile UX. Your app can boost your revenue by offering your users unique and up-to-the-point personalized offers.

A great example of a great UX personalization strategy is a Starbucks mobile app. The primary goal of its UX is to engage with their customers to a greater extent. Another point is to record and remind about customer rewards and incentives as well as to push promotions. Have a look at the chart below to see how a great mobile UX strategy is helping Starbucks improve their revenue.


As you can see the personalization strategy pays off as a quarter of Starbucks customers, use mobile to order and pay for their coffee. An app with a great UX can bring you an endless revenue stream if done correctly.

Measure your mobile UX through qualitative data

Success should be measured. Your app’s UX should be monitored from the start. Having data is not enough though. You should employ UX professionals that understand the underlying results of a good UX and the key metrics behind it. The insights you can gain from analyzing your app’s UX will let you better position and improve your app, to stay one step ahead of your competition in UX optimization.

For instance, having analyzed data on your new UX, you are faced with a sharp decline in the registration on the very first screen. This shouldn’t happen in the first place, but you have to understand what is the cause for it. Through proper data analysis, you may come to know of a bug that does not let users create an account through Facebook, which is one of the most popular options on mobile these days. This way you can easily change the drop off rate by mending a basic flaw in the UX of your app.

Employ push notifications only when needed

You should think twice before sending a push message

Bombarding your app users with useless notifications is one of the worst things you can do to kill your retention rate. Creating distractions from daily activities and work process is annoying. And such notifications are the main reason 71% of your customers will uninstall your app with a single click.


Mobile is all about making every message count. 

The rule of thumb is “Don’t constantly send push notifications just to try and engage people without a clear cut strategy.” Push notifications can be used only from time to time and only if you are offering good value or vital information that your users would be grateful for. Look at the chart below where we have made a clear separation of message types and channels that are best suited for them depending on urgency and content.

Conclusion

Your app’s success is based on a number of factors, like the idea behind it, your marketing and development efforts, but the importance of mobile UX, we believe, is the most important one. When your app’s design stands out thanks to a flawless design and great usability, your customers are satisfied. Simple as that.

Finally, creating a great UX is just a first step. There are many strategies and ways to boost your UX and provide the best UX experience. Refining and updating your mobile app’s UX is vital to retain your edge and provide quality experiences to your customers.

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

Can You Use WebRTC for Developing Mobile and Web Apps?

The internet is removing more and more boundaries between users. It started as a content sharing system, evolved to Web 2.0, and made the first steps towards chats that connect people regardless of distance. However, ubiquitous little enemies still stand in the way of a smooth user experience. These pics with sad faces are familiar to billions.

Those are the crashed plugins. They are not altogether bad, but they have one common downside: to work well, they require most user actions to be in the pre-set acceptable range. 

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(data source: Kranky Geek WebRTC 2016)

The complex of technologies that enable us to talk online is called RTC, or real-time communications. The RTC solutions like Skype, Facebook video calling system and Hangouts by Google either need an installation or work with plugins. This means that their users are constantly engaged in the frustrating process of downloading, installing, and updating. The developers are not content, either: they have to spend too much corporate time and money on expensive audio and video tech.

In 2011, Google developers first implemented the standard that had to take live streaming and video chat environments to the next level. The point of WebRTC is that it enables users to make real time calls and streams without leaving the browser. It’s an open source solution that connects two browsers directly so that they can exchange audio, video, and other data. The P2P, or peer-to-peer, connection lets file transfer work without saving files to a server, which is a great opportunity to cut costs. 

In 6 years, WebRTC market size has considerably grown. The standard is currently used in TokBox, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp.


WebRTC video app and web service examples

WebRTC data channel and voice/video calls are used in corporate communications, entertainment, healthcare, education, and gaming:

The technology can also be used by retailers (CommodiSee), agencies casting voice actors (Bodalgo), and the communities of travelers (Travefy). Some companies even offer their customers to call Santa.

WebRTC on mobile opens the road to great opportunities, but there are several factors developers need to consider before implementing these solutions. 

WebRTC app development: the web and hybrid apps

Companies create a WebRTC video app because of the considerable savings on telephony and server-side support, high-quality video and audio, open-source code, and the ability to work on a user-friendly interface. 

However, WebRTC apps for browsers are not ubiquitous yet. Safari does not support the standard, only promising to change this in the near future. Many platforms claiming that they use WebRTC in fact only use some of its components. For instance, Microsoft Edge only supports the getUserMedia API but not the PeerConnection or DataChannel. 

For a developer, this limitation means that a separate native or hybrid app needs to be built for iOS. As for Android, its support of WebRTC voice call and video streaming starts from the version 4.4. There are two workarounds for this problem:

  • third party SDKs (OpenClove, Twilio, and Telefonica Tokbox to name only a few);

  • using WebView or Crosswalk in Android and Cordova plugin for iOS.

WebRTC-3.png


Advantages

Challenges

High quality of video and audio

Potential security breaches

Savings on PSTN access fees, server bandwidth

Not supported by IE and Safari

No installation/updating required

Testing difficulties

Multi-device support

Differences in device configuration, form factor, and CPU power

Availability of APIs and SDKs

Increased battery performance

Data encryption and security

Changes in connectivity, light, and network profiling of mobile devices


Another problem arises from the differences between devices. Theoretically, you can achieve compatibility with any device. In practice, this will take a toll on developers, especially the testing part. Be prepared to deal with a variety of screen resolutions, layouts, and connectivity issues.You may need to conduct manual testing for extra reliability.

Security is a priority for WebRTC. Data encryption is mandatory, and you can only use secure protocols (which is why the services like Privatoria boast about their safety). However, there are still some vulnerabilities (covered here).

WebRTC mobile app development: native apps

Native mobile WebRTC app development is more complicated than creating a web-based service. But it is absolutely the must if you want your iOS application to be fast. Here is the list of what you will need to go native.

  1. This job requires reliable professionals, preferably specializing in the OS for which you are going to build. It has been observed that many native developers prefer to start from Apple and then code for Android. You will also need to find out how to choose reliable developers: losing one in the middle of a project could be catastrophic.

  2. There are no solutions native for the mobile platforms. Instead, you may use the documentation from the Google library (possibly with practical instructions like this).

  3. You will need the Audio Acceleration or other features to reduce the CPU usage.

  4. Another absolute necessity is a careful treatment of hardware and processor difference. A WebRTC audio chat will need microphones, Bluetooth, and speakers that are implemented differently across devices. At the same time, old Android phones and iPhones that work with 3G won’t support browser-to-browser video communication.

To sum up, building a WebRTC based mobile application involves the same complications as working on web-based apps, but to a broader extent. Hopefully, it will get easier once Apple and Google implement more native APIs. 

Common mistakes

Since WebRTC is still relatively new, there are little best practices to support your experimentation. However, some practitioners have already given their feedback.

  1. A Ninjanetic Design author described how he was able to avoid using compiled libraries. The key point was to work from the command line, first building the iOS simulator and then putting it to work.

  2. Tim Panton once warned Google developers against duplicating PSTN functionality. WebRTC is valued for its working model and convenient interface; by building telephony-like system and charging customers in the same manner as PSTN, you will likely devalue the innovation altogether. Tim’s startup that combined PSTN and WebRTC features, phonefromhere.com, turned out to be unsuccessful. 

  3. Dan Ristic has shared his experience of treating data sharing systems in a new way. He explains that a chunking mechanism is needed for working with large files.

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

Why Build a Progressive Web App?

If an app were a morning coffee cup, we’d probably prefer a PWA

We want our drink to be good enough and readily available. Homemade coffee tastes nice but takes time and money (just as native applications). Instant coffee on the go is not costly, but it is not that good and not always instant (like web apps). A progressive web app feels like a gourmet coffee served at the drive-through. The next time you pass by, you will get a cup of your favorite from Netherlands with a special discount.

With PAs, developers are able to achieve two goals at once. On the one hand, they save efforts, as progressive apps are lightweight, fast to create and more or less easy to maintain. On the other hand, they deliver a high-quality experience and engage users. PWAs live in the browser window, but later prompt people to install them.

However, had the things be just that bright, every company would create a progressive web app. In reality, the innovation has its pros and cons and does not suit everyone. So, let’s see how it works and who are the early adopters.

Progressive web app features and how they came to be

Until 2015, there was a controversy between the web and native apps. The former were fast to build and well-performing on the web, but slow to load and less compatible with the variety of devices. The latter took away extra time of hired specialists and memory of the consumers’ phones but coped with more functions in less time.

Hybrid applications and Facebook Instant Articles have been a kind of an answer to that controversy, but they still lacked many important functions. For example, hybrid functionality does not work ideally with your phone camera, microphone, and so on. Hybrid app solutions can’t serve when the gadget is out of network, and they don’t have the technical ways to re-engage users.

In June 2015, a Google engineer Alex Russel invented the concept of progressive growth from browser tabs to app-like screen residents. The product was fast, safe, available offline and highly searchable. These progressive web app’s features help to deal with consumer traction. “First download, then use” has turned into “Let’s see how good it is, so maybe in time it can live on my home screen.”


There are more reasons why Russel’s solution is convenient for customers:

  1. It is more reliable than native apps due to offline performance and data savings. The new Google standard called “service worker” helps eliminate data waste. Konga, for example, managed to save 63% on the page load time and 8% of the first transaction time. The speed is also incredible, even out of network. 

  2. It runs on HTTPS, which results in a higher level of security.

  3. Responsive design makes for a fairly pleasant UI/UX, though a backward navigation remains a problem.

  4. No updating or refreshing is needed.

  5. Less phone memory is necessary both for online use and installation.

  6. Though there is still no access to the system settings, flashlight, telephony, browser bookmarks, and contact list, PWAs are well-integrated with most of the up-to-date mobile hardware. The ability to be linkable with other apps through intents is yet to come (see more here)


There are also reasons that make progressive web app development attractive to the industry leaders like AliExpress, AirBerlin, Flipkart Lite, and Dev.Opera (other examples are available at the special resource):

  1. Push notifications motivate users to return (according to Localytics, the average retention with push messaging is 88% compared to the one without it).

  2. Development will require less expertise, lasting (and costing) less. You don’t need Java, Swift, Objective-C, or C# experts; one or two JavaScript programmers will do just fine. 

  3. The product has a high potential to be discovered, and there is no need to pay fees to any stores. Some bloggers are optimistically calling this ‘the future of SEO.’

  4. As the interface is close to a native-like, CPA is likely to be favorable.


The table below summarizes the characteristics of native, web, native+web, and progressive web apps. Examples are given above the columns.



Native

Hybrid

Web

PWA

Costs & Resources

Cost to develop

high

moderate

low

low

Deployment and maintenance

high

moderate

low

low

Time to develop

much

less

less

less

Phone memory

yes

yes/no

no

no/yes

Revenue (CPM)

high

moderate

low

high

Separate codebase for each platform/ Version segmentation

yes

sometimes

no

no

Functionality

Hardware access

yes

yes but not ideal

yes but not ideal

yes

Cross-platform functionality

yes

limited

limited

limited

Push notifications

yes

no

no

yes

Deep linking when sharing

yes

no

no

no

User experience

Loading on homescreen

yes

no

no

yes

Working offline

yes

no

no

yes

UI/UX consistency

strong

medium

weak

medium

Responsive design

no

no

no

yes

Performance

Page speed

high

moderate

low

high

Dependence on the network

no

yes

yes

no

Cross-browser work

no

yes

yes

no

Distribution

Availability for iOS&Android

yes

yes

yes

limited

Searchability

low

low

high

high

App stores: benefits

yes

yes

no

no

App stores: restrictions

yes

yes

no

yes


Along with its benefits, the innovation has its limitations:

  1. It is not available for iOS. Thanks to the Cordova plugin, it is possible to reach a kind of a compromise with this platform. It has been suggested that the ideal way to get through this is to work on the PWA and iOS at once.

  2. Cross-browser features may be out of work. Currently, the technology is only supported by Google Chrome.

  3. The old consumption patterns will stand in the way of searching your URL on the internet.

Should you build a progressive web app?

To sum up, the answer to this question depends on how the core business needs are defined:

  • How often will the clients use mobile? If less than once a day, an adaptive or responsive website could serve better.

  • Should the audience be as wide as possible? If reaching Apple users is critical, reconsider the idea.

  • Are there any crucial features that need cross-browser compatibility or access to special hardware? If so, we’d recommend calculating the price of possible alternatives.

Before the start

jakearchibald.github.io_2017-06-17_04-44-46.png

Google has a minimum starter kit and a ‘perfectionist’s guide’ for those who are willing to experiment with the new format. In short, here is what your developers need to research to make a progressive web app:

  • HTTPS server setup;

  • registered service worker (a special registered script compatible with HTTPS only, check browser support here or on the screenshot above);

  • the additional file referred to as the Web App Manifest (more on the issue);

  • application shell, that is, the basic HTML/CSS and Javascript elements;

  • checkup for mixed page content.

It may also be useful to browse through the samples of different native/web/mixed solutions.

May the progress be with you!

Author: Andrii Horiachko More

The greatest risk for healthcare industry technologies? Security of web and mobile apps & HIPAA compliance

The vast majority of businesses think of rolling out an app as fast as possible as the key priority. And that has a firm reason behind it, but such an approach can lead to major inaccuracies in code and holes in the web application security. For the healthcare industry attacks on their data represent one of the top risks. Having the app down or partially inoperable is a bad customer experience, but when an organization lets slip away the customers’ personal data, the end of the company’s reputation is nearing. Large budgets are allocated to ensure physical security and monitoring the perimeter. This is in part responsible for the bad guys choosing to target digital vulnerabilities in web applications.

Healthcare industry is one of the most regulated in the USA and worldwide. At the same time, it is fully embracing the digital age to improve the speed and quality of services and cut costs. The rise is healthcare apps is evident as seen in our recent article on Top 7 Healthcare Apps. Such abundance of third-party solutions is prone to data breaches, which lead to lawsuits and massive settlements. Healthcare organizations strive to integrate only the best apps in their app portfolio, but over 50% of these apps have been rated “seriously vulnerable.”

At Softermii we pride ourselves in being a leader and pioneer in the field of healthcare app security. None of our health care-related projects have ever been breached or compromised.

  • We strive to reduce costs and deploy secure applications from the start.
  • We recommend starting with an impregnable MVP and build upon it to comply with all security protocols and the need to offer immediate solutions.
  • Our security researchers are operating round the clock monitoring latest security developments and adding preemptive layers of security to guard your product.
  • We achieve such great results by combining the latest technological advances and human intelligence of our Senior Developers to deliver you with solutions in a timely manner.

Benefits of Cooperation

    Governance & Compliance

Our application security team ensures that we offer apps in strict compliance with HIPAA and PCI US government regulations through ongoing code assessments, reporting and remediation advice to healthcare companies.

   Continuous Assessment of Risks

We provide services to continually assess your web and mobile apps risks from the start of the project all the way to ongoing app support and upgrade without slowing down the development processes.

 Code Visibility for Developers

We ensure that our developers, as well as your on-site development team, has a full and constant access to the code to identify and fix malicious vulnerabilities at any point of time to safeguard your clients and the development process.

 Support of Coding Best Practices 

Rest assured that our development team ensures the use of the best industry practices in secure application design.  We are ready to provide your team with a remediation guidance and support of your ongoing projects.

All of our Work is Done in Strict HIPAA Compliance

Let’s go into detail about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). It is the top standard that takes care of all sensitive patient data and its protection. Softermii is among a limited number of companies that deal with protected health information (PHI). 

Our HIPAA Privacy Measures

Privacy measures have no hierarchy as to the HIPAA regulations. Each point of access should still fully adhere to HIPAA if you plan that your app and organization, in general, is to fully comply with HIPAA.

     

Data Protection for Healthcare Organizations 

With the ever-growing need for advanced apps with high UX and low development cost, the issue of data security is pushed to the margins. But as the electronic patient databases proliferate and grow the demand for additional security is on the rise. Provision of high-quality care in the digital age requires healthcare organizations to embrace the need for on-demand data access that is in full compliance with HIPAA standards and PHI protected. The key threats are:

  • 55% of all attacks are insider initiated by current and former employees
  • 4000 ransomware attacks a day that take patients’ data hostage
  • 56% more year-on-year third party infiltrations gaining access to private data

Benefits of .NET Framework in ensuring HIPAA compliance

We use the .NET Framework to ensure complete HIPAA compliance and data security. It is a set of class libraries and a runtime to ensure rapid creation and efficient operation of web services and apps. The .NET Framework vision is to offer simple programming coupled with the scalable free-to-use Internet protocols.

.NET advantages for HIPAA compliant applications:

  1. Compiled controlled environment. More stable and predictable behaviors.
  2. Conventional web applications provide a higher level of security compared to SPA or other types.  All vulnerable data exchanged server-side. Clients are extremely thin.
  3. High scalability with IIS farms or self-hosted applications.
  4. SQL server provides built-in TDE encryption and backups.
  5. IIS supports TLS 1 and higher out of the box. Secure transportation is always provided.

Code access security

Using the .NET Framework is a major step forward to ensure software security. Softermii uses it to provide a fine-grained and evidence-based security system around your app. It lets you provide the systems administrators and user a variety of granular permissions to ensure that they do not have access to the data they are not supposed to see. This is a step-up from the "all-or-nothing" security models that have been used in aged software technologies.

The best data protection solutions offered by Softermii

We offer solutions that recognize and protect patient data in all forms, either structured or unstructured, such as emails, documents, and scans. All of this is done through a web or mobile app that allow healthcare providers to share data securely and effectively. When patients entrust you with their healthcare, your organization needs to make it a priority to take care of their private health-related and personal information.

Talk to our experts

Once you have an idea for an app, feel free to contact us and have it checked for your target healthcare market. We will ensure that all specifications, HIPAA regulations and best practices are met. It is helpful to approach someone who knows the tricks of the trade and can ensure a safe and smooth development process that is based on strategic insights, advice, and lessons learned. We are open to discussing your budget expectations, and potential compliance pitfalls you need to avoid, and so on. Such input is valuable to stop potential issues becoming real ones that can delay or even derail app development. 

Author: Andrii Horiachko More