By Sean Bowen
Most people have at least one mobile device and as a result are constantly connected to the Internet. These devices allow users to access any online service on the go – from searching for news to shopping for groceries. Brands have been quick to jump on the new opportunity to connect with their customers. There are now an estimated one million mobile apps representing 40 billion downloads by consumers across the globe.
The expectation is that a user will have instant and easy access to relevant information and services, whenever and wherever he/she chooses. However, when it comes to using time-sensitive data in a mobile app, the quirks of the Web, server farms and the mobile network often create delays and frustration.
Google engineers discovered that if it takes more than 400 milliseconds – literally the blink of an eye — for a computer to respond to a click on a website or a tap on a keyboard, it is too long. And if a site loads too slowly, customers will go elsewhere.
Similarly, a study by Web traffic controller Akamai Technologies revealed that a poorly designed website loses 30 percent of its customers within a few seconds. The same study also found that if a site takes longer than four seconds to load, 75 percent of viewers would not return to it.
These findings can easily be transferred to mobile apps. With only milliseconds to capture the loyalty of customers, it is essential that brands deliver high quality, accurate and timely content at speed. They have to offer a rich user experience that can scale to any number of customers – whether hundreds or millions – that are engaging with the application on the device of their choice.
But the consistent delivery of dynamic content remains difficult. Many technical challenges stem from the fact that the most popular web communication method is still the web service, which was designed for high bandwidth, reliable networks, based on desktop usage – and not unpredictable network connections, bandwidth-constrained mobile networks, mobile device platforms or the demand for real-team interactivity.
For example, a typical web service can transmit around 2,048 bytes across the network just to make a request for data. In the mobile environment this is inefficient and costly. If an app tries to achieve any real-time, asynchronous communication – e.g. receiving a new promotion based on location-based data, or an instant message from a customer services representative – then the app must continuously poll for updated data. Most of the update polls will come back with nothing, making the app inefficient and the user experience poor.
Moreover, this technology requires a costly web infrastructure. Traditionally, organisations build their own infrastructure, either at a hosting facility or on their own premises. However, buying and paying for the hosting of enough hardware to meet predicted needs is, in many instances, prohibitively expensive. Planning for maximum capacity results in poor utilisation. At the same time, poorly designed real-time applications that constantly poll servers for the latest information lead to high bandwidth consumption.
Organisations need to find ways to reduce the data sent over the network infrastructure. Incorporating the three capabilities below in an app will allow brands to provide a fast and immersive user experience:
1. Identifying redundant, aged data and removing it from the two-way stream of communication, so that only the latest, relevant data is sent
2. Intelligently and dynamically updating data in transit
3. Supporting ‘intelligent reconnect’- i.e. if a connection is interrupted, it is automatically re-instated when the user is back in signal
The technology to support this kind of clever data distribution is already available. Now it’s time for organisations to look at how they optimise their mobile apps. If they don’t, users will eventually go elsewhere.
About the author
Sean Bowen is Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director at Push Technology.
Founded in 2006, Push Technology is a leading provider of data distribution solutions enabling organisations to deliver efficient, high performance, conversational, web and mobile applications. Push Technology’s Diffusion™ software serves as a development platform to remove the complexity and associated challenges of developing for scale, coping with the explosion of data across networks, delivering a rich application experience and real-time conversational interactions. Diffusion gives developers the ability to create high performance, value driven, reliable web and mobile applications. Push Technology solves data distributions problems for all organisations including the e-gaming, financial services, distribution and logistics, media and broadcast and transportation sectors. Customers include bet365, Betfair, Betdaq, Compliant Phones, ICAP, Lloyds Bank, Oddschecker, Racing Post, Sportingbet, Tradition and William Hill.
Push Technology is headquartered in London, UK with a research and development team in Maidenhead, UK. US offices are located in New York.