HTML 5 is here and needless to say the gates to debate; expert advice and declarations have been thrown open. Even the domain of this article-Field Service Management is experimenting sincerely with HTML5 platform to develop apps for its various services.
So we come to the pertinent question: Will HTML5 upstage native app development or will the native apps hold fort strongly?
I say native apps will still rule the mobile devices of many a Field service management organization. The reasons are aplenty. Read on.
Native apps have been the backbone of many transactions/interactions since the dawn of the Smartphones era. They are the reason why Apple established its App Store, Google rivals it with its Google Play and Microsoft wants to catch up with its Windows Store. But as in every sphere of innovation, an apt alternative to native apps was being awaited and the HTML5 more or less fulfills that desire.
Native Apps for Field Service Management (FSM)
Field Service Management is a vast and diverse field. The number of services coming under umbrella is staggering and consequently companies operating in this space too offer services only in some categories/verticals. “One size fits all” is a bad phrase in an industry like Field Service Management. This applies to app development in FSM too.
The following list presents a point by point argument on why native apps score over HTML5:
Different Service Requirements
Each company’s offering differs in complexity, usage, value adds and so on. The consequence is apps residing in each Field Service technicians must facilitate all the tasks putting a premium on its size. Invoking it via a browser even with the nimble HTML5 may not be as faster as starting the app from device.
Age of multimedia
Apps for field service industries like healthcare or oil rigging require rich animated content. Example: an animated video of how Ebola virus attacks via unclean hands or real time pressure differentials in a distillation tower. Native apps load/react 10-15% faster than HTML5 apps. They provide a rich user experience by rendering high quality graphics and animated content.
Use of device features
Native apps use the host device’s features like camera, OS, messaging, location, animation etc to aid the field staff’s efforts. In contrast HTML5 is stifled from exploiting the device’s features. It does offer GPS and accelerometer capabilities but these are slower and vary in different devices. HTML5 capabilities lag far behind that of native apps.
Native apps facilitate encryption of any cached data and imposition of any security protocols. Supervisors can monitor their field workforce functioning and watch out for any non-compliance. Security company data over browser can be tricky and the threat of hacking will loom large always.
Native apps are accused of being OS necessitating development of the same app for different OS. HTML5 apps also face an equally critical challenge to be compatible to each browser (Safari, Opera, Firefox etc.) and their versions. Imagine an Field Service worker not being able to access his/her enterprise app just because Firefox browser version is not compatible with Android OS version!
HTML5 pundits may vouch for the “write once run anywhere” mantra but when internet, browser or source is compromised none of the destination devices will be able to receive or transact. Not so with native app where business will continue if one device or one OS is compromised. The adage “Don’t put all your apples in one basket “is apt in this case.
Native app development incurs substantial investments in developers and testers for each OS, maintenance and upgrades. However, this is a small trade off in return for the massive benefits native apps offer vis-a-vis HTML5 based apps. It therefore must be the choice of app development for a customer centric industry like Field Service Management.