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12.1 Designing a real-world Android application
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We ve established that our mobile worker will be carrying two things: a set of hand tools and an Android device. Fortunately, in this book we re not concerned with the applicability of the hand tools in his toolbox, leaving us free to focus on the
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Designing a real-world Android application
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capabilities and features of a field service application running on the Android platform. In this section, we define the basic and high-level application requirements.
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12.1.1 Core requirements of the application
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Before diving into the bits and bytes of data requirements and application features, it s helpful to enumerate some basic requirements and assumptions about our field service application. Here are a few items that come to mind for such an application:
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The mobile worker is dispatched by a home office/dispatching authority,
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which takes care of prioritizing and distributing job orders to the appropriate technician. The mobile worker is carrying an Android device, which has full data service a device capable of browsing rich web content. The application needs to access the internet for data transfer as well. The home office dispatch system and the mobile worker share data via a wireless internet connection on an Android device; a laptop computer isn t necessary or even desired. A business requirement is the proof of completion of work, most readily accomplished with the capture of a customer s signature. Of course, an electronic signature is preferred. The home office wants to receive job completion information as soon as possible, as this accelerates the invoicing process, which improves cash flow. The mobile worker is also eager to perform as many jobs as possible, because he s paid by the job, not by the hour, so getting access to new job information as quickly as possible is a benefit to the mobile worker. The mobile worker needs information resources in the field and can use as much information as possible about the problem he s being asked to resolve. The mobile worker may have to place orders for replacement parts while in the field. The mobile worker will require navigation assistance, as he s likely covering a rather large geographic area. The mobile worker needs an intuitive application one that s simple to use with a minimum number of requirements.
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There are likely additional requirements for such an application, but this list is adequate for our purposes. One of the most glaring omissions from our list is security. Security in this kind of an application comes down to two fundamental aspects. The first is physical security of the Android device. Our assumption is that the device itself is locked and only the authorized worker is using it. A bit na ve perhaps, but there are more important topics we need to cover in this chapter. If this bothers you, just assume there s a sign-in screen with a password field that pops up at the most inconvenient times, forcing you to tap in your password on a small keypad. Feel better now The second security topic is the secure transmission of data between the
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Putting Android to work in a field service application
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Android device and the dispatcher. This is most readily accomplished through the use of a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connection whenever required. The next step in defining this application is to examine the data flows and discuss the kind of information that must be captured to satisfy the functional requirements.
12.1.2 Managing the data
Throughout this chapter, the term job refers to a specific task or event that our mobile worker engages in. For example, a request to replace a hard drive in a computer at the bookstore is a job. A request to upgrade the firmware in the fuel-injection system at the refinery is likewise a job. The home office dispatches one or more jobs to the mobile worker on a regular basis. Certain data elements in the job are helpful to the mobile worker to accomplish his goal of completing the job. This information comes from the home office. Where the home office gets this information isn t our concern for this application. In this chapter s sample application, there are only two pieces of information the mobile worker is responsible for submitting to the dispatcher:
The mobile worker communicates to the home office that a job has been closed, or completed. The collection of an electronic signature from the customer, acknowledging that the job has, in fact, been completed. Figure 12.1 depicts these data flows. Of course, additional pieces of information exist that may be helpful here, such as the customer s phone number, anticipated duration of the job, replacement parts required in the repair (including tracking numbers), any observations about the condition of related equipment, and much more. Although important to a real-world application, these pieces of information are extraneous to the goals of this chapter and are left as an exercise for you to extend the application for your own learning and use. The next objective is to determine how data is stored and transported.
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