Mobile application development with IBM Worklight

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IBM Worklight Mobile Application Development Essentials

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Develop efficient mobile applications using IBM Worklight with this book and ebook

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by Muhammad Saifuddin Talha Haroon | February 2014 | Enterprise Articles Web Development

This article is written by Muhammad Saif Uddin and Talha Haroon, the authors of the book IBM Worklight Mobile Application Development Essentials.

(For more resources related to this topic, see here.)

The mobile industry is evolving rapidly with an increasing number of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. People are accessing more services from mobile devices than ever before. Mobile solutions are directly impacting businesses, organizations, and their growing number of customers and partners. Even employees now expect to access services on a mobile river. Several approaches currently exist for mobile application development; which include:

  • Web Development: Uses open web (HTML5, JavaScript) client programming modules.

  • Hybrid Development: The app source code consists of web code executed within a native container that is provided by Worklight and consist of native libraries.

  • Hybrid Mixed: The developer uses arguments in the web code with native language to create unique features and access native APIs that are not yet available via JavaScript, such as AR, NFC, and others.

  • Native Development: In this approach, the application is developed using native languages or transcoded into a native language via MAP tool's native appearance device capabilities, and performance.

To achieve a similar application in different platforms, requires a different level of expertise hitting the cost, time, and complexity. The preceding list outlines the major aspects of the development approaches. Reviewing this list can help you choose which development approach is correct for your particular mobile application.

The IBM Worklight solution

In 2012, IBM acquired its very first set of mobile development and integration tools called IBM Worklight, which allows organizations to transform their business and deliver mobile solutions to their customers. IBM Worklight provides a truly open approach for developers to build an application and run it across multiple mobile platforms without having to port it for each environment, that is, Apple iOS, Google Android, Blackberry, and Microsoft Windows Phone. IBM Worklight also makes the developer's life easier by using standard technologies such as HTML5 and JavaScript with extensions for popular libraries such as jQuery Mobile, Dojo Toolkit, and Sencha Touch.

IBM Worklight is a mobile application platform containing all of the tools needed to develop a mobile application. If we combine IBM Worklight components into a stream, it would be clean to say that hybrid mobile application development is tightly coupled with a baseline.

Every specified component provides a bundle of functionalities and supports. Here is the lifecycle of Mobile Application Development;

  • Worklight Studio: IBM Worklight provides a robust development Eclipse based environment called Worklight Studio that allow developers to quickly construct mobile application for multiple operating platforms.

  • Worklight Server: This component is a runtime server that activates or enables secure data transmission through centralized back-end connectivity with adapters, used for offline encrypted storage, unified Push Notification and many more.

  • Worklight Device Runtime: The device runtime provides a rich set of APIs that are cross-platform in nature and offer easy access to the services provided by the IBM Worklight Server.

  • Worklight Console: This is a web dependent interface for real-time analytics, Managing Push Notification Authority and Mobile Version Management. The Worklight Console is a web-based interface and dedicated for ongoing administration of Worklight Server and its deployed apps, adapters and push notification services.

  • Worklight Application Center: It's a cross-platform Mobile Application Store which pretends specific needs for Mobile Application Development team.

There is a big advantage for using Worklight to creating user interface and that reflects on development at client side as well as server side. In general developer faces problems during development and support for creation of hybrid app by using other product, are typical not straight to define the use cases, debugging, preview testing for enterprise application but using a Worklight, developer can make simple architecture and enhanced improvised structures are amend to have mobile application.

Creating a Simple IBM Worklight Application

Let's start by creating a simple HelloWorld Worklight project;

The steps described for creating an app are similar for IBM Worklight Studio and Eclipse IDE.

The following is what you'll need to do:

  1. Start IBM Worklight Studio.

  2. Navigate to File| New and select Worklight Project, as shown in the following screenshot:

    Create New Worklight Project

  3. In the dialog that is displayed in the following screenshot, select Hybrid Application as the type of application defined in project templates, enter HelloWorld as the name of the first mobile project, and click on Next.

    Asked for Worklight Project Name and Project Type.

  4. You will see another dialog for Hybrid Application. In Application name, provide HelloWorld as the name of the application. Leave the checkboxes unchecked for now; these are used to extend supported JavaScript libraries into the app. Click on Finish.

    Define Worklight App Name in the window

  5. After clicking on Finish, you will see your project has been created from design perspective in Project Explorer, as shown in the following screenshot:

    Project Explore after complete Wizard.

Adding an environment

We have covered IBM Worklight Studio features and what they offer developers. It's time to see how this tool and plugin will make your life even easier. The cross platform development feature is a great deal to implement. It provides you with the means to achieve cross-development environment without any hurdles and with just a few clicks within its efficient interface.

To add an environment for Android, iPhone, or any other platform, right-click on the Apps folder next to the adapters and navigate to New| Worklight Environment. You will see that a dialog box appears with checkboxes for currently supported environments, which you need to create an application for. The following screenshot illustrates this feature—we're adding an Android environment for this application:

Worklight Environment selection window

IBM Worklight Client Side API

In this article, you will learn how the IBM Worklight client-side API can improve mobile application development. You will also see the IBM Worklight server side API improve client/server integration and communication between mobile applications and back end systems.

The IBM Worklight client-side API allows mobile applications to access most of the features that are available in IBM Worklight during runtime, in order to get access to some defined libraries that appear to be bundled into the mobile application. Integration of the libraries for your mobile application using Worklight Server is used to access predefined communication interfaces. These libraries also offer unified access to native device features, which streamlines application development.

The IBM Worklight client-side API contains hybrid, native, mixed hybrid, and web-based APIs. Besides, it extends those of these APIs that are responsible for supporting every mobile development framework. The development framework for a mobile application is used to improve security including custom and built-in authentication mechanisms for IBM Worklight provided by client-side API modules. It provides a semantic connection between web technologies such as HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript with native functions that are available for different mobile platforms.

Exploring Dojo Mobile

Regarding the Dojo UI framework, you'll learn about Dojo Mobile in detail. Dojo Mobile, an extension for Dojo Toolkit, provides a series of widgets, or components, optimized for use on a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. The Dojo framework is an extension of JavaScript and provides a built-in library which contains custom components such as text fields, validation menus, and image galleries. The components are modelled on their native counterparts and will look and feel native to those familiar with smartphone applications. The components are completely customizable using themes that let you make various customizations, such as pushing different sets of styles to iOS and Android users.

Authentication and Security Modules

Worklight has built-in authentication framework that allows developer to configure and use it with very little effort. The Worklight project has an authentication configuration file, which is used to declare and force security on mobile application, adapters, data and web resources which consist following security entities.

We will talk about the various pre-defined authentication realms and security tests that are provided in Worklight out-of-box.

To identify the importance of Mobile security you can see that in today's life we keep our personal and business data on mobile devices. The data and applications are both important to us. Both the data and applications should be protected against unauthorized access, particularly if they contain sensitive information or transmitting over the network. There are number of ways via a device can be compromised and it can leak data to malicious users.

Worklight security principles, concepts and terminology

IBM Worklight provides various security roles to protect applications, adapter procedures, and static resources from an unauthorized access.

Each role can be defined by a security test that comprises one or more authentication realms. The authentication realm defines a process that will be used to authenticate the users.

The authentication realm has the following parts:

  • Challenge handler: This is a component on the device side

  • Authenticator and login module: This is a component on the server

    One authentication realm can be used to protect multiple resources. We will look into each component in detail.

  • Device Request Flow: The following screenshot shows a device that makes a request to access a protected resource, for example, an adapter function, on the server. In response to the request, the server sends back an authentication challenge to the device to submit its authenticity:

    Request/Response flow between Worklight application and enterprise server diagram>

Push notification

Mobile OS vendors such as Apple, Google, Microsoft, and others provide a free of cost feature through which a message can be delivered to any device running on the respective OS. The OS vendors send a message commonly known as a push message to a device for a particular app. It is not required for an app to be running in order to receive a push message.

A push message can contain the following:

  • Alerts: These would appear in the form of text messages

  • Badges: These are small, circular marks on the app icon

  • Sounds: These are audio alerts Alerts - Text Messages

Messages will appear in the notification center (for iOS) and notification bar (for Android). IBM Worklight provides a unified push notification architecture that simplifies sending push messages across multiple devices running on different platforms. It provides a central management console to manage mobile vendor services, for example, APNS and GCM, in the background.

Worklight provides the following push notification benefits:

  • Easy to use: Users can easily subscribe and unsubscribe to a push service

  • Quick message delivery: The push message gets delivered to a user's device even if the app is currently not running on the device

  • Message feedback: It is possible to send feedback whenever a user receives and reads a push message

Cordova Plugins

A Cordova plugin is an open source, cross-platform mobile development architecture that allows the creation of multiplatform-deployable mobile apps. These apps can access native component features of devices using an API having web technologies such as HTML 5, JavaScript, and CSS 3. Apache Cordova Plugins are integrated into IBM Worklight Android and iOS projects. In this article, we will describe how Apache Cordova leverages the ability to merge the JavaScript interface as a wrapper on the web side in a native container with the device native interface on the mobile device platform.

The most critical aspect of Cordova plugins is to deal with the native functionalities such as camera, bar code scanning, contacts list, and many other native features, currently running on multiple platforms. JavaScript doesn't provide such extensibility to enhance the scripting with respect to the native devices.

In order to have a native feature's accessibility, we provide a library corresponding to the device's native feature so that JavaScript can communicate through it. When the need arises for a web page to execute the native feature functionality, the following points of access are available:

  • The scenario has to be implemented in platform-specific manner, for example, in Android, iOS, or any other device

  • In order to handle requests and responses between web pages and native pages, we need to communicate to/from web and native pages that are encrypted.

By selecting the first option from the preceding list, we would find ourselves implementing and developing platform-dependent mobile applications. As we are in need of implementing mobile applications for a cross-platform mobile, and because it leads to provide cost-ineffective solutions, it is not a wise choice for Enterprise Mobile Development Solutions. It seems to be a really poor extensible for future enhancements and needs.

Encrypted Offline Cache

Encrypted Offline Cache (EOC) is the mechanism that is used for storing the repeated and the most sensitive data, which is used in the client's application.

Encrypted Offline Cache is precisely known as EOC. It permits a flexible on-device data storage procedure for Android, iOS, BlackBerry, and Windows. This procedure provides a better alternative to the user for storing the manipulated data or the fetched response using the defined adapter data when offline and synchronizing the data for the usage of the server, which provides modifications that were completely developed when offline or without Internet connectivity. In order to dedicatedly create any mobile application for multiple platforms such as iOS and Android, consider using JSONStore rather than EOC. It seems to be much more practical to implement and is supposed to be the best practices of IBM. The JSONStore provides a mechanism to ease cryptographic procedures for encrypting forms and implementing security. PBKDF2 is a key derivation function that would act as the password to access encrypted data, which would be provided by the user. HTML5 cache can be used in EOC, which is not guaranteed to be persistent and is not a proper solution for the future updated versions of iOS.

Storage JSONStore

The local replica is a JSONStore. IBM Worklight delivers an API which do its work with a JSON Store consuming the class WL.JSONStore using the JavaScript defined method.

You can generate an application that endures a local storage manipulated data with data copy and thrusts the local updates to a back-end provisioned service.

Nearly every single method or process which is delivered in API for retrieving synchronized data to activate the native copy of the defined data that is kept on the client application or on-device. By means of the JSONStore API, you can encompass the functionality of existing adapter connectivity model to store data locally and impulse modifications from the client to a server. You can pursuit the local data storage and apprise or delete data within it. It can be used to protect the local data store by using password-based encryption.

Summary

In this article, we have discussed modern world mobile development techniques using IBM Worklight which surely allows an easy ,integrated, and secure enterprise mobile application with respect to time and development efforts. Beside it, most of the key functional areas have been covered including IBM Worklight components, mobile cross-platform environment handling and authentication, push notifications, Dojo mobile framework, and Encrypted Cache for Offline storage. IBM Worklight has the most diverse mechanism to enhance the mobile application functionalities with a more optimum and efficient way. This article also completely concludes the mobile application development techniques and features, by using which enterprise mobile app development will no longer be disquiet.

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IBM Worklight Mobile Application Development Essentials Develop efficient mobile applications using IBM Worklight with this book and ebook
Published: February 2014
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About the Author :


Muhammad Saifuddin

Muhammad Saif Uddin has diverse experience in mobile, software, and web development. For the past few years, he has been exploring new mobile development environments to make mobile app development easy in the future. He has exposure to most of the development technologies that exist but is mainly focused on Android and iOS mobile development. He has successfully designed over 30 mobile apps, which are distributed on iTunes and App Store—AMEX Mobile and Bayt Mobile are two of these apps. He is also IBM Worklight Certified, and besides his remarkable knowledge of the mobile world, he has introduced many enterprise and web applications with Responsive Web Design. He blogs at http://saifo.blogspot.com and writes articles and tutorials on different technologies that include Android, Worklight, and Java. He lives in Karachi, Pakistan, with his wife and family.

Talha Haroon

Talha Haroon initially started working in the HRM and CRM fields as his main areas of focus, but later on in his career path, he dedicatedly moved to MobileFirst. If we glance at his specialities, then it would become apparent that he has proficient expertise in ERP's development and customization as well as mobile hybrid development. He is also IBM Worklight Certified and has deployed and developed many enterprise and mobile applications in which AMEX Mobile app and  AppleVacationsOnline.com are the most highlighted and his biggest products. Moreover, he has introduced some futuristic business processes that will assist retail businesses to grow by themselves.

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