Commission: Design, Build and Launch Bespoke Application
We have a good working relationship with the UK branch of Bridgestone, the world’s largest tyre manufacturer. They know that we can be relied upon to produce quality software on time and on budget. So, when they needed a bespoke application for use on Android smartphones they came straight to us.
The Android app had to be compatible with mobile phones and tablets, to allow Bridgestone’s partner dealers to easily log inspections on Bridgestone Fleet Vehicles. As ever with an organisation of this size, time was of the essence: we were able to turn the project around in seven weeks from design and build, to testing and launch.
The application would provide a portal that allowed the user to upload their completed inspections to Bridgestone’s Total Tyre Manager platform. Essential features of the app included:
- The ability to send the user a PDF copy of the inspection for their own records.
- Full security so that only authorised users can use the app (understandably, the client doesn't want any old person downloading it and uploading junk Inspections).
- User-friendly interface that would guide the user to input the inspection data as efficiently as possible.
- The capability to work "offline" so that a person only needed to be connected via 4G/Wi-Fi when transferring the data.
How We Implemented the Brief
We made the app inaccessible without having an account set up by Bridgestone. While, in theory, anyone can still download the app from the Google Play Store, they would not be able to access the app and cause mischief.
To help guide the user many fields are pre-filled or have an auto-complete feature. To achieve this, when the user logs in, the app downloads useful information from the Total Tyre Manager server and stores it on the device's memory; this can then be retrieved to help autofill information such as vehicle registrations, fleet and operating centre data and common tyre sizes.
The upload is very simple: the completed inspection data is sent when the user presses ‘Upload’ or ‘Upload All’. The back-end server takes this data and adds it to the Total Tyre Manager databases and generates a PDF copy for the user.
The only time that a 4G/Wi-Fi connection is needed is when communicating with the back-end Total Tyre Manager server. The user only needs an active connection when logging in, downloading the key information and uploading an Inspection to Total Tyre Manager. The user can create and log inspections without any kind of connection. Inspections can be queued up then sent at a later time when a connection is available.
No development project is ever completed without encountering and overcoming some problem that was unforeseen at the outset. In this instance, we found we needed to make the download data-size as small as possible. We had to compress and reduce the data being returned to the app as much as we could. This meant using compression/encoding techniques like gzip to make the response smaller and making the data-key names small to save space. Initially we were looking at about 15MB for the response size and we managed to cut it to around 3MB.
For storing the data, originally we were going to use the phone's local storage but, even after the compression, we ran into issues with the amount of data you can put in local storage (it's tiny: around 2MB). We developed a workaround that involved storing and retrieving data to the phone's own memory (internal in-built storage or memory card).
If you think that a purpose-built business information system, or related application, could be the solution to managing your data, then get in touch. You can call us on 01603 632552 or email firstname.lastname@example.org