The Infosys Labs research blog tracks trends in technology with a focus on applied research in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

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Mobile BI

We have seen a big traction of work happening on smartphones these days. Every day some vendor or other keeps on coming out with newer technologies to make the smartphone experience an immersive one in consumer space. In enterprise space, lots of apps are being developed to help the users in the day to day work. As per Forrester Research, mobile workers are set to make up 73 percent of the workforce in 2012. These users can be executives who need real time data on the move to make key decisions, or employees who need data to do a particular kind of work. For example, for users on field jobs, some BI can be done to find out their availability and load, and automatic alerts can be sent out on regular based on their work completion time. Their positions can also be tracked via built in apps, so that new requests can be routed to the nearest users. 

Most of these things require some form of analytics to be performed on the data. For executives, this means having dashboards where they can access real time data and move around things as per their needs. This could be pretty useful when they are going for a high profile meeting and need absolutely the current data. For other users, this BI could be as simple as providing the list of inventories required to do a particular job depending on the parameters which are entered. Location based services have already picked up big time. As per Gartner's 2012 BI Magic Quadrant survey, majority (53%) of organizations are set to deliver some form of mobile analytics by this year's end.

Now, when I say mobile BI, it may refer to any smartphone, tablet, phablet (phone + tablet) etc. which is capable of providing data on the go. Previously, laptops were the preferred means of getting this information. Laptop works on pull out scenario (unless obviously you write some custom code/tasks to get data on periodic basis). Smartphone/Tablet can be used for push in scenarios to get real time data on fly which can be further used to perform data analytics on the go.
Smartphone is a good candidate for operational mobile BI. For analytics and more interactive kind of experience, tablets/phablet is the best option available. Most of these devices fall under one of the two categories described below for data access:

  • Using the mobile browser to access data, similar to PCs - Application wouldn't depend on the type of device, but users will end up having limited capabilities. Mostly used for view only apps.
  • Creating an application designed specifically for the mobile device - Taking advantage of the APIs exposes by the device to design application to make use of the touch capabilities of the device.

Currently, there are many vendors who have come up with their own interactive apps which can be deployed on tablets/smartphones. Some of them are mentioned below:

  • MicroStrategy
  • PushBI
  • QlikView
  • Roambi
  • Tibco
  • Yellowfin
  • MobiWeave

Microsoft has plans to support browser-based applications such as Reporting Services and PerformancePoint on iOS (Apple Operating system) in the first half of 2012 and touch-based applications on iOS and Android (Google operating system) by the second half of 2012.

Vendors like MofuMobi and MobiWeave already provide capabilities for SQL driven mobile app development and providing report viewer and sharepoint viewer for Microsoft reporting and sharepoint services respectively which can be used on various devices.
With the announcement of Microsoft tablet, there is a good possibility of Microsoft introducing its own set of tools for mobile BI development on tabs and smartphones, same way it had done for developing applications for Microsoft Azure market place.

To summarize, Mobile BI seems to be the future of analytics and reporting, and as seen in Gartner and Forrester Research reports, it is already picking up pace and set to become one of high focus areas for any organization in not too distant feature.

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