December 2014

ibm mobilefirst and ios

Back in July — a mere five months ago — Apple and IBM announced their partnership to create enterprise apps for iOS, which goes by the name MobileFirst. The idea was to combine Apple’s iOS, the preferred mobile operating system in the enterprise, and back it with IBM’s enterprise development expertise and cloud-based big data and analytics.  The first fruits of that collaboration were announced today: a set of apps catering to businesses in the fields of air travel, banking and financial services, insurance, retail, and telecom. The apps are designed to be customized for individual companies by IBM, and they’ve already signed on some notable customers including Air Canada, Banorte, Citi, and Sprint.

If you’re used to enterprise software looking like this…

enterprise software

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…you may be pleasantly surprised by the MobileFirst apps, which take the enterprise number-crunchery you expect, but pair it with the sort of user interface that you expect from good iOS consumer apps. Daring Fireball’s John Gruber had the same thought:

These don’t look like “enterprise” apps. They look like regular apps — really good ones, the sort of apps Apple would choose to feature in the App Store. This was a huge question I had about this deal. Great design is fundamental to what sets iOS apart, and what has enabled iOS to lead the post-PC disruption of the entire consumer computing industry. Would great UI design play a part in this IBM/Apple enterprise endeavor? Looks to me like the answer is yes.

IBM is a partner of the company I work for, GSG; they offer the GSGCloud solution for managing mobile as part of their complete mobile IT package, and from one partner to another, let me say this: Nicely done!

We’ve posted a gallery of the first 10 apps below, complete with the screenshots and official descriptions for each app. You may also want to take a look at the official galleries posted by both partners; here’s Apple’s and here’s IBM’s.

Travel and transportation apps

Plan Flight

plan flight

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“With the Plan Flight app on iPad, pilots have access to systems of record to help them estimate the fuel for their upcoming flights with even more accuracy than ever before. Prior to flight, the pilot gets a summary of airport traffic, flight, and weather information right on iPad. This intuitive app lets pilots calibrate and view different fueling scenarios in seconds, without any paper calculations or calls to air traffic control. With this powerful iOS app, pilots can make well-informed decisions that yield significant reductions in wasted fuel and its associated costs.”


passenger plus

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“With the Passenger+ app, flight attendants have a powerful tool to help them deliver a whole new level of customer service for passengers who experience delays. With iPad in hand, flight attendants can identify VIP passengers, see who’ll be missing connections, and view up-to-the-minute alternative flights to rebook passengers — all while in flight. Passengers receive a new boarding pass via email and can add the confirmed reservation to Passbook on their iPhone. This innovative app empowers flight attendants to make traveling less stressful for travelers.”

Banking and financial markets

Advise & Grow

advise and grow

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“Small-business bankers now have a powerful tool to help their clients in a big way with the Advise & Grow app on iPad. Wherever the client meeting may be, bankers have visibility into relevant account information on the spot. Client financial and credit data, customer profiles, and competitive analysis are available on tap, with all the number crunching going on behind the scenes in real time. Never before has banking been so convenient for the small business owner — with more time to discuss the bottom line.”

Trusted Advice

trusted advice

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“iPad and the Trusted Advice app are transforming personal finance with fast access to a robust set of financial data available on demand with a simple, intuitive user interface. Empowered with a sophisticated portfolio-modeling tool on iPad, wealth advisors can meet with their clients anywhere and offer informed guidance based on deep financial analysis. Visually rich graphics and charts enhance a great iOS experience. The app enables wealth advisors to build trust while clients build their portfolio.”




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“Keeping current on client policies just became easier with the Retention app made for iPhone and iPad. Insurance agents can take quick action on priority situations, including unpaid premiums, missing information in applications, and updates on claims and life events. By showing recommended actions up front, the app helps ensure that insurance policies stay up to date while transaction times are reduced — so more policies are dispositioned in less time.”


Case Advice

case advice

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“The Case Advice app made for iPad is transforming how social workers handle cases throughout the entire process. By enabling social workers with all the relevant historical records, assessment data, and industry guidelines in a simple, intuitive iOS app, they can make more informed decisions and influence better outcomes at the point of engagement. With Case Advice on iPad, social workers have the new capability to manage their clients on the go, freeing them from a traditional paper‑based process.”

Incident Aware

incident aware

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“With the Incident Aware app, police officers can know each other’s whereabouts with greater insights in emergency situations. When law enforcement officials receive an emergency call, responders can go in with a bird’s-eye view of the scene’s perimeter that includes GPS map data, the location of those involved in the incident, and live video feeds updated in real time on their iPhone devices. This powerful and intuitive app can even access police records to calculate risk, letting other law enforcement stakeholders know where and when other responders will appear. With awareness of the situation as it unfolds on iPhone, law enforcement officials can make far more informed, safety‑conscious decisions.”


Sales Assist

sales assist

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“With the Sales Assist app for iOS, sales associates can quickly become trusted fashion advisors for in-store customers. Using iBeacon technology with iPad, a shopper’s whereabouts on the store floor is easily identified so he or she can be found and helped quickly. Sales associates can look up inventory, suggest clothing based on previous purchases, and even offer accessories to complement a look. If a product is not in stock, the Sales Assist app can locate the item and confirm shipping on the spot. It’s a fresh way of enabling every sales associate to become a personal shopper for anyone who walks in the store.”

Pick and Pack

pick and pack

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“Retail stores now have a quick, easy way to streamline order fulfillment with the Pick & Pack app. Wherever they are in the store, sales associates have real-time access to the product information they need to serve their customers — including product location and availability, right on iPhone. This time-saving mobile app lets the sales associate select multiple items and find them quickly with a mapping of where the items are located within the store using iBeacon technology. Staging the items for store pickup or delivery completes the sale in no time. It’s a win-win for both retail stores and shoppers.”


Expert Tech

expert tech

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“iPad and the easy-to-use Expert Tech app are putting game-changing efficiency in the hands of field service technicians. At daybreak, technicians can select a service vehicle and the inventory they need to best complete their work orders, right on iPad. En route to jobs, maps and traffic data help service technicians plan and reach their destinations faster. And onsite with customers, they can view tech specs, diagnostics, and video tutorials. If technicians need real-time support, an experienced colleague is a tap away with FaceTime. The Expert Tech app on iPad brings collaborative tools, location-based services, and online knowledge to an entire workforce of field service technicians.”

this article also appears in the GSG blog


mobile trends 2015

The London-based IT/telecom analyst firm Ovum have highlighted five trends for the coming year based on their 2015 Trends to Watch: Enterprise Mobility report. They expect that enterprise mobility will continue to be one of the hottest IT topics, and that these trends — which we’ve summarized below — will have the biggest impact on businesses in 2015:

mobile mismatch

Many IT departments still operate as if we’re still in the 1990s, when technology options were “trickle-down”, and people’s work technology options were wholly determined by IT. They’re still wrapping their heads around consumerization, the rapid changes in mobile technology, shrinking budgets, and employees who want more say in the technology they use to get their jobs done. Ovum predict that this situation — a mismatch between what companies are providing and what their employees want in mobile technologies and their use — will continue for some time.

byod - more managed

According to Ovum’s report, BYOD will start its evolution from informal and unmanaged to taking a more formal, managed approach. This change will be helped along by improvements in device management solutions and better support models and policies for the use of employee-liable devices for work. Companies with special security needs — financial organizations are one example — may choose to adopt a hybrid corporate-liable/employee-liable approach, where employees who access highly sensitive data and corporate resources on their mobiles do so on corporate-liable devices, while those who don’t are free to use their personal devices for work (with the requisite security measures in place, of course).

emm become strategy

As a relatively new addition to most companies’ technology portfolios, mobile has been treated as an add-on rather than as a mainstay technology. At the start of the smartphone era, this approach made sense, but as we close in on the 8th year since the introduction of the iPhone, it’s time to treat mobile as a technology that’s just as essential to getting work done as desktops, laptops and servers. Ovum predict that many companies will treat enterprise mobility management (EMM) as part of a wider “workspace” strategy, with the goal of enabling employees to get their work done any time, anywhere, and on any device.

senior execs get involved

Mobile devices found their way into the workplace the same way that PCs did: through eager early adopters bringing personal technology that they loved to work. Senior execs eventually saw the benefits of these “toy machines” and got more involved in their proliferation in the workplace. Ovum believe that the same thing will happen with mobile in the workplace: once driven by passionate technology fans, its more formal adoption and deployment in the office will be increasingly influenced by bosses.

more mobile-centric

SMEs — small-and-medium-sized enterprises — and the vendors that sell to them should expect 2015 to be more mobile-centric, Ovum say. They see a “long tail” of demand for mobile devices and services from SMEs, but it’ll be tricky: SMEs generally don’t trust service providers when it comes to delivering IT services.

putting it all together

Taken together, the practical take-aways from these trends according to Ovum senior analyst Richard Absalom are:

  • Just as companies stepped in and developed IT policies and practices for PCs after they grew from early-adopter rarities to office mainstays, they need to start to do the same for mobile devices if they haven’t done so already.
  • Companies need to look for ways that mobile devices, apps, and services can efficiently and securely connect to corporate “endpoints”, ranging from email, contacts, and calendar to line of business applications, all in the service of enabling “any time, anywhere, and on any device” work.
  • Mobile management providers will need to:
    • Grow their selection of features and services. As mobile devices and apps become more sophisticated, carrier data offerings improve, mobile computing needs increase, and the trend towards outsourcing non-core competencies such as mobile IT continues, demand for mobile services will grow, and mobile service providers who capitalize on this trend early by having a wide array of offerings will reap the rewards.
    • Build effective partnerships. Large global organizations are feeling the pain from all the changes that mobile technologies bring, but they won’t bring their problems to just anyone — they also need service that’s delivered continuously, consistently, and globally. One way for service providers to do this is to form partnerships that allow them to focus on their own strengths, while expanding their offering by capitalizing on their partners’ strengths.

this article also appears in the GSG blog


fancy algorithms

I made this poster after seeing (and retweeting) this from @CompSciFact, whom you should be following:

It’s the most amusing of Rob Pike’s 5 Rules of Programming, which are listed below:

  1. You can’t tell where a program is going to spend its time. Bottlenecks occur in surprising places, so don’t try to second guess and put in a speed hack until you’ve proven that’s where the bottleneck is.
  2. Measure. Don’t tune for speed until you’ve measured, and even then don’t unless one part of the code overwhelms the rest.
  3. Fancy algorithms are slow when n is small, and n is usually small. Fancy algorithms have big constants. Until you know that n is frequently going to be big, don’t get fancy. (Even if n does get big, use Rule 2 first.)
  4. Fancy algorithms are buggier than simple ones, and they’re much harder to implement. Use simple algorithms as well as simple data structures.
  5. Data dominates. If you’ve chosen the right data structures and organized things well, the algorithms will almost always be self-evident. Data structures, not algorithms, are central to programming.

It’s a good set of general rules to keep in mind.


“Cyber Monday” programming book deals

by Joey deVilla on December 1, 2014


If you’re looking for programming books, these publishers have some deals that you might want to check out today (Monday, December 1, 2014):

Get some programming books, save some money, and sharpen your skills!