SAP ships updated mobile app development tools

Early adopter National Grid in U.K. is using tools to help field engineers maintain electricity and gas lines

SAP AG Thursday announced the general availability of SAP Mobile Platform 3.0, a common software development kit (SDK) for developers to build apps for use by consumers, business partners as well as employees.

SAP said National Grid, operator of an electricity and gas transmission network in the U.K., is an early adopter of the software. The company used the updated platform with other SAP tools to help 1,500 field engineers maintain the energy grid with iOS devices.

Engineers are using the system for a variety of tasks, such as taking taking photos of repair or maintenance work done in the field. The photos are stored for transmission along with work history and other data when the devices come in contact with a Wi-Fi network. It thus creates savings on cellular data transmission costs.

The SAP software "delivers an incredibly powerful but simple user experience for our field engineers so they can focus on their day jobs," said Tina Sands, head of Information Systems for National Grid in the UK, in a statement.

Mobile developers at MSC Mobile, based in Augsburg, Germany, also used a pre-release version of SAP Mobile Platform 3.0. MSC Mobile built an app that incorporates augmented reality that lets store merchandise workers quickly check whether high-profit products are available on store shelves.

The MSC Mobile app, called Shelf Plus, allows a worker to hold up an iPad to view a store shelf and see where items on a checklist also in the app are located. ( See a video demonstration here.)

When the worker clicks on a given item on the checklist, it is highlighted on the iPad display within a green box. The inventory data helps the worker compare what items need restocking or need to be trucked to the store.

In the Shelf Plus example, SAP Mobile Platform 3.0 helped greatly simplify the development process, said Jim Jaquet, senior director of SAP mobile marketing, in an interview. With a development team of six seasoned developers working part-time, Shelf Plus took the equivalent of a single developer working 35 days to finish, he said.

"We've brought development times down to hours for simple app, days for medium apps and weeks for high-end apps," Jaquet said. "That's very significant."

SAP's last release of SAP Mobile Platform was version 2.3, which shipped in March 2013.

The 3.0 version integrates the application development suites from three enterprise and consumer-facing tools SAP obtained in recent years from acquisitions of Sybase and Syclo. Pricing for 3.0 remains the same as for 2.3, with no added cost for existing customers to upgrade, Jaquet said.

He didn't disclose pricing for new customers.

Version 3.0 integrates with third-party development tools such as Open Data Protocol API's (Application Programming Interfaces) and Apache Cordova software, which helps lower costs.

SAP recently ranked in Gartner's "leader" category for mobile application development, and often competes again IBM in the space, Jaquet said.

Matt Hamblen covers mobile and wireless, smartphones and other handhelds, and wireless networking for Computerworld. Follow Matt on Twitter at @matthamblen or subscribe to Matt's RSS feed. His email address is mhamblen@computerworld.com.

See more by Matt Hamblen on Computerworld.com.

Read more about app development in Computerworld's App Development Topic Center.

Tags App DevelopmentMobile/WirelessapplicationsNetworkingSAPwirelesssoftwaremobile

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