Houston App: System overview

Houston, is a mobile application replacing the radio communication system previously used by the Transports Publics Fribourgeois (TPF). Houston is a system using existing data network.

The system is spread over more than 200 busses, 30 team leaders and the operation center. It covers the needs of three types of users: the operators, the bus drivers and the team leaders (Houston: a mobile app to replace a radio communication system).

The major components

So how’s Houston working? Here is an overview of the major components. Houston is a distributed system composed of:

  • Two Mobile Apps that fulfill the specific need of bus drivers and team leaders
  • A Web Client used by the operators to create any type of call
  • A Cloud Communication Platform to establish Voice over IP (VoIP) and standard phone call over the Public Switch Telephone Network (PSTN) without having to deal with the complexity of building and maintaining a communication infrastructure. The cloud platform used in this system is Twilio (more details on that later)
  • A Public API: implemented by a backend server used as a bridge between mobile apps, web clients and Twilio. It is connected to a database that stores user identities and bus planning. The database also keeps traces of all performed calls.

A deeper look inside each component of the system and how each of them interacts together will help to understand why Houston was a huge challenge.

Continue reading about Houston App: System overview

Tags: ,

Houston: a mobile app to replace a radio communication system

Bring your company radio system to the 21st century using VoIP and mobile applications to improve communication quality while reducing costs.

With the project Houston, we took the challenge of replacing the old radio network of the Transports Publics Fribourgeois (TPF), a swiss public transportation company by a system using existing data network and running on mobile applications. This solution solved the problem of maintaining a dedicated radio network. It also improved both the global quality of the communication and the availability of the system.

Initial situation: communication based on radio system

Since decades, employees of the Transports Publics Fribourgeois (TPF) have been using standard radio to communicate between them. The radio system is meant to cover the needs of the users. It is spread over more than 200 busses, 30 team leaders and the operation center). There are three types of users, with specific needs:

  • The operators – working in the operation center – use the radio to speak to a specific bus driver, or to broadcast messages to all or part of the running busses.
  • The team leaders are dispatched at different locations. They use the radio to manage daily events – such as the replacement of a driver – or to inform many drivers of a change in the network – for example in case of an accident.
  • The bus drivers use the bus radio as the main means of communication while driving. They can call other busses, the team leaders or the operation center.

 

Logo TPF

Continue reading about Houston: a mobile app to replace a radio communication system

Tags: , , , ,

Native or Hybrid Mobile Application, Which One Should I Choose?

It is complex for non-geeks to understand the mobile application ecosystem. We often hear jargon such as mobile apps, hybrid apps, native apps, single-codebase-cross-platforms apps, etc.

Some clarification is needed.

Continue reading about Native or Hybrid Mobile Application, Which One Should I Choose?

Tags: , , , , ,

5 lessons learnt about the new SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS

The SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS was released in March and we were very excited to try it out. This toolkit allows companies to let developers build, extend, and run iOS apps based on SAP back-end data. Thus, business’ employees can access live data at any time from their iOS mobile app, and enjoy the standard SAP Fiori design language they are used to.

We booked a one-day hands-on with Noé in our ThinkSpace war room with the objective to have a demo app up and running and plugged to the SAP Cloud Platform (formerly known as SAP Hana). This may sound like an easy goal but honestly, knowing SAP, we thought that it was already ambitious.

Continue reading about 5 lessons learnt about the new SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS

Tags: , , , , ,

Do I Need a Mobile Application or a Mobile Website?

In our digital era where people’s attention is scattered between apps and websites, it’s not easy to know whether you need a mobile application, or if a responsive website (that can be accessed via your web browser) would meet your needs.

I have this discussion every week with new clients, and I thought it was time to share our reasoning here at Liip in order to give you a clear answer if you still hesitate.

Do You Want To Reach Your Users, or Bring Rich Features to Them?

When clients come with a mobile app request, I explain them that most of the time, a web application is more efficient in terms of investment, as well as in term of reach.

The second question I get after this answer is: “When would I need a mobile app, then?”
In my point of view, mobile apps are useful when they are crafted to be rich — vs. the reach that web applications can provide. Rich in terms of features that are only available on mobile devices, and that can’t be achieved via web technologies.

Continue reading about Do I Need a Mobile Application or a Mobile Website?

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Using an After Effects animation in your iOS, Android or React Native app

Animations greatly improve overall user experience! This tutorial explains how to export and use an Adobe After Effects animation in your iOS, Android or React Native project, with Bodymovin and Lottie.

Animating your logo with After Effects

The first part is creating the animation with Adobe After Effects. After Effects is a powerful tool that is used to create digital visual effects and motion graphics. Starting with After Effect is fairly easy. Animating a logo for example will take you a few hours. Read my last blog post and go for it: Adobe After Effects: how to get started?

Continue reading about Using an After Effects animation in your iOS, Android or React Native app

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Adobe After Effects: how to get started?

Adobe After Effect is an option to build animations. In this blog post, I share some of the tutorials and blogpost I have read in order to get me started with After Effect.

Animation with After Effects

Animations greatly improve the overall user experience of an app. They also bring different benefits to the user. In my last blog post about the SwiftAlps Conference, I wrote about the 12 basic principles of animations in design (see the slides in the blogpost). During the conference, we used CAEmitterLayer from Core Animation to insert a snow background effect.

Adobe After Effect is another option to build animations. After Effects is a powerful tool that is used to create digital visual effects and motion graphics. This tool is mainly used in film and television production although is also popular to create UI/UX animation among designers.

Continue reading about Adobe After Effects: how to get started?

Tags: , , ,

5 industrial challenges mobile applications can solve

How can mobile applications support industries to undertake a digital transformation? In supply chain, risk management, or information distribution, mobile applications will make tasks easier for your employees, thus increasing efficiency. Read about 5 industrial challenges that mobile apps can solve.

First of all, it is important to carefully chose between a web and a mobile application. Mobile apps are useful when they use one of the device’s native capabilities (e.g. Bluetooth, GPS, camera, etc.), and when they enhance the experience provided to the user (compared to what a web application could do).

Industrial challenges

The challenges industries face are often very good candidates for mobile apps as they leverage all their potential. Therefore, I have identified five recurring issues that industries are facing nowadays. These pain points can be easily relieved by mobile applications.

Challenge 1: Productivity issues due to technical limitations

Continue reading about 5 industrial challenges mobile applications can solve

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Time for Coffee available on Android

Do you have time to take a coffee before your next public transportation connexion? Time for Coffee is a project initially started by François Terrier among friends in 2015.  We continued the work to make it available on further devices. 

When the Apple Watch came out, a few Liipers had the idea to make an app for it because having the next departures on the wrist was a perfect use case for this kind of device. The app received quite a lot of attentions in Swiss newspapers and received a Silver in the best of swiss apps in the category “Wearables & New Devices”. Since the Android world deserved also our attention, we made the app available for Android and Android Wear watches. The app is downloadable on the Play Store.

Continue reading about Time for Coffee available on Android

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Swift Alps Conference – experimentation and collaboration

The Swift Alps Conference has a special format focused on experimentation and collaboration. This is my report of the conference and the workshop Kilian and I held. The slides are available below.

Last month my colleague Kilian and I were pleased to attend the Swift Alps Conference, an experimental conference about Swift taking place in the Swiss Alps. This conference had a different format from what one can expect from a typical software development conference. In this case the format was more focused in experimenting and collaborating with other attendees with the goal of learning something new.

Experimenting with strangers

Continue reading about Swift Alps Conference – experimentation and collaboration

Tags: , , , , , ,