The Future of Retail Analytics

The importance of retail analytics

The pandemic disruption challenged online and offline retailers on various fronts. Despite the decline in footfall due to restrictions, data indicates shoppers’ preference for an in-store shopping experience.

A PwC survey confirms almost 40% of consumers visit a physical store at least once a week to make purchases. While 65% of shoppers opted for in-store shopping to avoid delivery fees, over 60% chose it to get the items immediately. 61% of consumers prefer in-store shopping because they like to feel or try the products.

While it is not the apocalyptic scenario predicted for brick and mortar retailers, transformation in the experiences is here to stay. 62 percent of Baby Boomers and 58% of Gen Zers1 who prefer in-store shopping would like the conveniences of online as well.

Retailers can make the most of this demand and shift the tide in their favor with retail analytics. Pure-play online players like Alibaba or Amazon owe their success to retail analytics. It helped them understand their customers to come up with hyper-personalization strategies. Physical stores can level up too by implementing data-driven strategies. After all, they have one very distinct advantage over pure-play retailers – physical availability.

No wonder the conversion rate for brick and mortar retailers2 is higher (almost 13 percent) than that of online retailers, which are around 3 percent.

Physical stores are here to stay. Retail analytics paves the way.

There is an abundance of data in the Retail sector across consumer preferences, inventory usage patterns, transaction records, and more. Collating and studying the relevant data with the appropriate Data Analytic Tools is the difference between gaining insight and getting lost in dense details of the business.

For example, Starbucks, the coffee chain giant, used data analytics to empower human connections, enhance in-store experiences, and induce transparency in the supply chain. Analytics helped it brew exciting menus, offers, and addictive coffee for its more than 100 million weekly customers.

Yet, most retailers cannot attain the data maturity required to stay ahead.

Leverage data insights to delight your customers with a magical experience. Contact us now!

While 25% of retailers are leading in terms of their data maturity, over 50% are still struggling to prioritize investment in data capabilities and find the right people on their path to digital transformation.

The in-store experience is the leverage. In-store analytics can make a difference.

Modern retailers are using various methods to track the movement of customers once they step into the store.

Innovations like smart mannequins that analyze faces to determine age, gender, race, and the time spent by shoppers at the stores help brands enhance the in-store experience. Smart carts with location beacons and sensors collect customer data on the store sections visited, time spent, products selected but discarded prior to purchase, and more.

In-store analytics helps:

  • Differentiate between shoppers and consumers and how they behave from the entrance to the exit
  • Identify products that fly off the shelves and those that don’t
  • Prevent theft and shoplifting
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of store displays and employee actions that motivate purchases
  • Efficiently assign staff resources.

The Chinese eCommerce giant Alibaba’s retail store Hema allows customers to scan barcodes through an app to get product information and pay for their groceries. This provides insights into shopper preferences on products not purchased. The analytics enable them to create personalized shopping experiences, devise loyalty programs and targeted promotional campaigns.

Also Read: How the use of technology in retail stores are helping them withstand competition

Analytics is key to optimizing inventory and supply chain logistics

The one thing that matters most for every business is maximizing sales.

Retail analytics helps retailers:

  • Manage inventory and achieve assortment optimization
  • Ensure demand fulfillment by stocking the right product at the right place
  • Align merchandising decisions with customer expectations and performance of product categories
  • Assess new products for their incremental financial contribution and the value they offer to customers
  • Ensure smart delisting to replace slow-moving items with those in demand
  • Enable optimal space utilization based on the popularity of products and their contribution towards overall profitability

Nordstroms’ incident offers important lessons for Retailers. Beyond its premium stores, they relied heavily on Nordstrom Rack discount stores to overcome the pandemic-induced lull. The company added more products at lower price points while adjusting its assortment. Low inventory levels in premium brands across key categories led to understocking, creating a gap in merchandise availability. 

Shares plunged by about 23 percent, and CEO Erik Nordstrom was quick to confess, ” We brought some lower price product in categories that we’ve heard from customers is not what they [want].”

While it is good to look into ‘what could go right’ with data analytics, it is essential to prepare for things that could go wrong effectively. 

Assortment analytics should be supported by inventory analytics to optimize the supply chain. 

The French retailer Carrefour uses AI-powered predictive analytics to optimize inventory management across warehouses, stores, and websites. It helps the company predict demand, refine supply orders, reduce stock outages, and avoid overstocking.  

Demand fulfillment should be effectively balanced against the cost of excess inventory to achieve profitable outcomes. 

BWG, the company behind Spar in Ireland, is all set to roll out an AI-based predictive stock ordering solution. With a €6.5 million investment in smart technology, it will use it to anticipate customer behavior across its 1,000-plus stores. 

Successful retailers rely on:

Descriptive analytics – It gives them insights about the performance of their business actions to tweak marketing campaigns and determine response rates, conversion rates, and costs per lead. It is more effective when used along with web analytics

Diagnostic analytics – It looks at past performance too but it studies the relationship between variables and outcomes. It helps retailers understand ‘why’ they got those outcomes to decide what they can do in the future. 

Predictive analytics – It helps retailers analyze shoppers’ behavior based on insights obtained from diagnostic analytics. It enables them to forecast trends and stock accordingly. 

Prescriptive analytics – It helps retailers make incremental adjustments to match steps with changing sentiments, demand, and supply shocks. Recommendations come in real-time and changes can be made immediately. It’s how airlines adjust their ticket prices.

The Spanish retailer Zara exemplifies what retailers can achieve with retail analytics.

It manages a tight supply chain with real-time updates on SKU-level inventory data. It gives customers what they want while keeping the ones that lack the pull away. 

Zara obtains qualitative feedback from sales employees to understand customer sentiment. It initially orders in small batches and increases the inventory only when the designs get a satisfactory response in store. 

In contrast to its competitors like H&M which creates 80% of the designs ahead of the season, Zara designs only 15-25% ahead of the season and more than 50% mid-season depending on what becomes popular. Its quick refresh cycles create a sense of scarcity that further increases the demand for its designs. 

As Masoud Golsorkhi, the editor of Tank, a London magazine puts it, “With Zara, you know that if you don’t buy it, right then and there, within 11 days the entire stock will change. You buy it now or never. And because the prices are so low, you buy it now.”

Tools for data-driven retail

Data generated, captured, copied, and consumed globally has increased by a whopping 5,000% from 2010 to 2020. 

There’s a lot of raw data out there that can offer a wealth of insights to study customer needs and deliver delightful experiences. All you need is a robust data analytics tool. 

Embark on a retail analytics journey with Trigent

The right data tools can help build a suitable data ecosystem. Our extensive suite of data analytics tools can help you align data investments to desired business outcomes. 

We can help you prioritize data to transform even the most challenging use cases into avenues for growth. Call us today!

References

  1. https://review42.com/resources/retail-statistics/
  2. https://www.forbes.com/sites/patfitzpatrick/2020/07/23/retail-conversion-rate-secrets-you-never-knew/?sh=68eff76dfbaa

Why educational institutions should consider Salesforce Education Cloud to streamline student services

When BI Norwegian Business School sought to establish itself as an international market leader, they knew they had to update their technology and streamline student services. They chose Salesforce Education Cloud to centralize their communication channels and elevate the student experience. 

With the new digital capabilities and a transformed ecosystem, BI created a single point of access for students and a unified platform for its staff. Marketing and communication automation gave them a 360-degree view of students and activities to help deliver a relevant and personalized experience. In just a few months, it resolved 87% of the 11,000 service requests in first contact.  

Needless to say, educational institutions can break new ground with Salesforce Education Cloud!

Modern educators need the power to assist a student at the right time, the ability to keep parents informed about their ward’s progress, and the proactiveness to respond with agility and empathy. 

Salesforce Education Cloud enables all this and more to facilitate continuous learning and improvement. It makes it easier for institutions to collaborate, communicate, and create better experiences for all. 

Drive student and institution success from anywhere with successful CRM integration. Let’s talk

Salesforce Education Cloud is shifting the tide for educational institutions

Salesforce is empowering students, educators, and administrators to attain personal growth and institutional success. Educational institutions have embraced a digital-first mentality keeping students’ needs at the forefront during decision-making. The pandemic has served to accelerate the pace of digital innovation across all facets of the ecosystem. 

Want to know more? Read: How universities are using AI to power operational efficiency

 IDC has categorized 29% of Educational institutions as ‘digitally determined’ who are charting their digital journeys with multiple innovations for virtual learning and see Salesforce Education Cloud as a key component in bringing the ecosystem together.

What is Salesforce Education Cloud?

Salesforce took a giant leap in the world of CRM (customer relationship management) with Education Cloud. It helps educational organizations prioritize the student experience to ensure long-term student success. 

It helps them future-proof themselves while keeping pace with the shifting needs. It gives them insights into student activity and preferences, enables them to identify meaningful connections, and builds communities around students, parents, alumni, and other stakeholders. Most importantly, it keeps the complexities at bay. 

As Mark Lombardi, president of Maryville University, puts it, “Everything in the classroom should be challenging, but everything outside should be a service and should be easy.” 

With the help of Salesforce Education Cloud, Maryville University has improved the admissions process making it faster, easier, and more accessible to all prospective students. It has successfully used Service Cloud to provide an omnichannel service and Pardot for targeted communications. 

It has also built the Enterprise Application Solution for Yield (EASY), a free, open-source application solution on the Salesforce platform and is the recipient of a Campus Technology Impact Award for the extraordinary impact it has created using technology on campus.

Salesforce Education Cloud enables institutions to create a central hub of information that enables connected experiences at scale, every step of the way. From recruitment and admissions to career guidance and alumni engagement, it transforms the entire student experience with technology. 

A world of benefits 

Salesforce Education Cloud has something to offer to students and educators throughout the K-20 student lifecycle and beyond. 

According to the Total Economic Impact study by Forrester Consulting, it has been helping higher education institutions improve revenue, enrollments, savings, and retention. 

With Salesforce Education Cloud, educational institutions have been able to

Continuous improvement

Salesforce Education Cloud helps build strong communities with fast-response communication and student interactions.

Despite its remarkable retention rate, Santa Fe College struggled to wiggle out of its ‘second-choice’ school position among applicants. By leveraging Salesforce’s Pardot, Social Studio, and Community Cloud solutions, it was soon able to improve its outreach. It attained an increase of 250% in engagement, 60% in digital inquiries, 75% in campus tour requests, 15% in admissions applications, and 4% in enrollments. 

Connected campus

With the increasing use of mobile devices, it has become imperative for colleges to adopt mobile-first initiatives that make websites more responsive, build apps, and have a connected campus.

The University of San Diego was quick to realize this and turned to Salesforce Education Cloud to build mobile apps that can empower students. These apps help them track performance, activities, and even emotions about their chosen academic courses. The CRM and mobile apps have ensured better student engagement and communication beyond conventional classrooms.

Also read: A realistic look at the effectiveness of AI in the education sector

Better communication

Salesforce Education Cloud boosts productivity in a big way, helping schools and colleges break down silos and automate workflows. 

The London School of Economics and Political Science has been migrating all their data to the Salesforce platform to garner actionable insights and foster meaningful communication. With access to new metrics, it has increased the open rate of personalized emails from 25% to 40% and an increase in the click rate from just 2.9% to an impressive 11.23%.

Incredible features to unlock the power to do more

With an array of features and capabilities, Salesforce Education Cloud is opening new pathways for student success. In a day and age where educators spend more time addressing non-academic needs, it gives them the power to engage and retain students.

Some of its top features include:

  • Centralized and streamlined operations to enable digital engagement for effective communication.
  • Marketing automation to map critical milestones in the student journey and facilitate other functions such as campaign management, social marketing, personalized communication, event management, and online chat support 
  • Loan application management to coordinate with third-party vendors for loan approvals and manage communication on loan processing.
  • Admission Connect, an admission CRM software, creates customized solutions for smooth admissions.
  • Education Data Architecture (EDA) for a 360-degree view across the entire educational journey
  • The K-12 Architecture Kit to build a holistic data model for monitoring student interactions with other stakeholders
  • Einstein analytics to identify areas that need attention, track enrollments, and enhance engagement outcomes.

Salesforce Education Cloud: The ‘cost’ factor

As part of its Power of Us program, Salesforce offers ten subscriptions to eligible organizations at no cost. It provides an extensive range of packages packed with excellent CRM features to match your unique requirements. The EDA Basics Module available on Trailhead can be a good starting point to know what it’s all about. 

An easier way, of course, is to let our technology experts help you. 

Build a truly connected campus with Trigent

We have been helping educators prepare for tomorrow with the unmatched capabilities of the Salesforce Education Cloud. 

As you gear up to test the digital maturity of your institution and transform the learning experience, you count on us to pass with flying colors. We will partner with you to strengthen student journeys with deeper insights and greater engagement.

We can help you adopt a data-driven culture to drive digital engagement. Call us today for a business consultation. 

Off the Shelf vs Custom Software: Making the Right Choice for Your Business

Here’s all that you need to make an informed choice on off the shelf vs custom software

Digital transformation has propelled businesses to adopt automation and scale up their processes to stay ahead of the competition. While doing so, they have two choices – to buy a ready-made off-the-shelf solution created for the mass market or get a custom software designed and developed to serve their specific needs and requirements. 

The difference between off the shelf and custom written software

Several readymade solutions are available in the market that is incredibly easy to use. SAP, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, is a classic example of what you can achieve with off-the-shelf software powered by built-in intelligent technologies. 

On the other hand, Airbnb has been using customized CRM (customer relationship management) software to create a tailored marketplace to elevate the customer experience.

Choosing one of these two options depends solely on the type of business, its specific requirements, the budget in hand, and a few other factors. In this blog, we intend to help you make an informed decision that serves the best for your business. 

To build or to buy?

It can be overwhelming for organizations to choose between off-the-shelf software and custom software. It is essential to balance the long-term growth plans of the business with its short time needs while making a decision.

Before we dwell further, let’s take a look at the basics of off-the-shelf and custom software. 

 Off-the-shelf software is a pre-designed software developed to cater to the needs of a wide range of customers. It has the following benefits.

  • Ready-to-use with few configuration steps
  • Flexible commercials including annual licensing and pay-per-use
  • Ready templates and workflows depending on Industry and Use Case

However, being a standard version designed for a wide range of customers, it may fail to meet some specific needs of a business. Some of the features may be irrelevant and new features would be difficult to add. Besides, an undifferentiated offering would also mean businesses would lack the distinction to stand out in the market.

On the other hand, custom software can be tailor-made to fulfill all the requirements of a business. Precisely why McDonald’s decided to cook up its own software to manage its supply chain decades ago. While its competitors used packaged point-of-sale software, McDonald’s created PC POS, a two-part system, that helped it reduce the cost of POS systems down to approximately $15,000 to $20,000 per restaurant.

A more recent example includes Uber API which utilizes custom software in transportation to make the driver experience more rewarding through its intelligent navigation and guidance systems. Amazon too uses customized enterprise software solutions to collect data and boost revenue, while Netflix is relying on custom software to offer personalized entertainment.

Those who critically evaluate their business requirements understand the potential customization holds in maximizing growth, decreasing costs, and increasing revenue. 

A natural health products company increased its order throughput by 150% with a next-gen CRM application. Find out how!

Precisely why even popular off-the-shelf platforms like Shopify2 offer a high level of customization through its eCommerce solutions. Shopify allows businesses to build a visually appealing online store while providing security, reliability, speed, and a powerful suite of marketing tools. It empowers them to make it SEO-friendly and mobile responsive to ensure utmost shopping comfort. 

Choosing custom software is easier when you know the feasibility, user experience and effort required to realize the desired solution. 

Organizations are often tempted to start with an off-the-shelf solution, and they end up buying them too, only to realize their limitations in the long run. Unlike off-the-shelf solutions, custom software solutions are designed specifically for in-house use, helping organizations digitize processes to improve overall efficiency and performance.

The implementation difference

With a constantly evolving technology landscape, coding is no longer what it used to be. It’s fast, efficient, and relatively simple, as the proliferation of open source has made code snippets readily available for programmers. A smooth, drag-and-drop interface allows them to create highly advanced applications without writing a single line of code. As long as programmers have the essential knowledge about coding, they can develop custom software as required with the necessary features

Of course, you will also need an in-house team to develop the software and address challenges pertaining to requirement gathering, app design, testing, support, feature enhancements, patches, and general maintenance that would require dedicated time and effort. 

Off-the-shelf does not call for writing codes, but companies may often find themselves struggling to use agile methodologies to their full potential. Challenges usually arise due to a lack of skills required to use those platforms and insufficient customization. 

Besides, successful implementation is not just about technology but also revolves around the people within the organization who may require training before they can adapt and accept accountability.

The decision to build or buy will require buy-in from key participants to ensure proper communication and collaboration among users, developers, customers, and business partners.  

The cost factor

The initial cost of off-the-shelf software is usually low and affordable since it gets divided among multiple users who buy the same software license. 

But is off-the-shelf ‘good enough’?

The initial cost has been a major draw for most opting for ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions. But it may often end up costing you more over time since you will have to spend on customization to align with your business requirements. For instance, if you need cloud-centric or mobile-specific features, those may not be inclusive of your standard package forcing you to pay a little extra to get these additional perks.

The cost of custom software, on the other hand, will have to include the assessment, designing, wireframing, and building costs. 

The cost of custom software will depend on the time and resources required to complete the project and the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) you intend to create. It will also depend on whether the software development is on-site or off-shore. 

Off the shelf vs custom software : The 80/20 decision criteria

A readymade solution with a limited scope of functions and standard workflows is great for small businesses. The software can be launched quickly, and users dive into the new ways of working quickly without expert guidance or an extensive learning curve. But you should be aware of the perils of working with a one size fits all solution. Businesses need to measure their ROI based on the nature of their workflows, the tools and technologies they need, and the pain points they wish to address.

We recommend the 80/20 rule.

In other words, the off-the-shelf solution you choose should offer at least 80 percent of the features you are looking for and require only 20% of customization. But if you need further customization, you should evaluate the customization effort required versus having custom-built software. The key lies in mapping your long-term ROI so that your efforts and investments align perfectly with the organizational objectives, team goals, and nuanced workflows. 

The custom application advantage

Custom software comes with a world of benefits and is hence preferred by many. Companies wanting to expand their footprints may choose to develop a custom platform aligned with their goals. Partnering with specialists can be an excellent option for those wanting the versatility of custom software but are not in a position to put together and manage a specialized team in-house.

Trigent recently helped a technology-driven fashion accessories retailer develop an easy-to-use mobile app. The application was designed by combining  Augmented Reality, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning to help digital shoppers determine the fit of their footwear from the comfort of their homes.

The custom application helped the retailer offer a differentiated experience for its millennial customers, maintain its leadership in the industry and increase its user base by 17%. The application also increased the usual sales three times and decreased product returns by 57%.  

Want to know how? Read our case study 

Build with Trigent

Our technology experts have been helping companies upgrade their technology stack, empowering them to reimagine their business and better engage with customers. Our suite of software solutions is just what you need to automate and revamp business processes. Our deep domain knowledge gives us an edge to design and build software for the specific needs of diverse industries. 

Unleash business growth and ensure business continuity with custom software from Trigent. Call us now for a business consultation.

 References

  1. https://www.salesforce.com/in/?ir=1
  2. https://www.shopify.in/

Is Conversational AI Right for Your Business?

Alex is desperate to get his vehicle tire replaced ahead of the long drive early the next day. The local tire store is closed for the day and opens late morning. Looking for options, he logs into the tire company website and is greeted by a new avatar.

Emma: Hello, I am Emma, here to help you. What are you looking for today?

Alex: Hi – I need replacement tires for my SUV.

Emma: Sure, I will be glad to help with that. Please select your vehicle make from the options provided ……

A few minutes later, Alex signs off, thanking Emma. He just placed an order for express delivery of two spare tires for his SUV to be delivered by 5:30 am. He is relieved. He can now catch a good sleep before he sets out on his long drive the next morning. 

In today’s world, while humanity sleeps, smart AI bots stay awake and keep your business ticking, answering routine questions, taking queries, recording service requests, or even helping complete a sale. With little or no human interaction from the business. An incredible upgrade to customer experience –unimaginable just a few years ago. That is the power of Conversational AI. 

As businesses transform digitally, they find that conversational AI for customer experience (CX) are viable options that must be considered.  

Read more: 5 Points to Evaluate Before Adopting AI in Your Organization

Key elements of Conversational AI

Conversational AI is an interesting blend of tech Natural Language Processing (NLP), machine learning (ML), deep learning, contextual awareness, and Art. It allows bots to converse like human beings by recognizing speech text, understanding context, understanding multiple languages, and creating as close to human interaction as possible. Art brings a human touch, elements of empathy, mannerism, and contextual personalization, making it seem very real.

Conversational AI comes in two flavors: AI chatbots that are predominantly text-driven and AI voice bots that serve voice responses. The realism in voice (personal language preferences, dialects, and tonality) brings a new stickiness level to the CX instance. 

Unlike older generation chatbots, Conversational AI bots are not script-based, rule-driven programs. The AI element (especially in voice bots) aims to ‘understand’ unspoken emotions and customize the menu’s responses to ensure a more meaningful experience. 

Technology components

Conversational AI technology includes NLP, machine learning, dialog management – which might need NLU (Natural Language Understanding) – where unstructured customer inputs are mapped based on context and keywords to something that can be interpreted. It then gets presented using NLG (Natural Language Generation). 

The process uses orchestrated responses for conversation flow, using the client’s history, context, and past responses as required. For Conversational AI voice bots, ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) and TTS (Text to Speech) routines need to be integrated with necessary customization and training. This throws up unique challenges as language, and human interactions have cultural elements that vary widely across geographies. 

Successful deployments of Conversational AI are driving a change in the business rationale for its consideration. Initially, the business case for AI Chatbots evolved around reducing the human resource costs required to provide 24×7 Customer Service. However, when implemented correctly, it reduces people costs, saves on training, unlocks efficiency, and increases sales – a priceless return on investment!

Examples of successful conversational AI deployments

  • Financial Services: PwC, a globally reputed Big 4 Accounting firm, deployed AI-powered NLP-based chatbot to answer queries on HR, finance, and business process policies. Available to 10,000 employees in one region, PwC frees up the HR team to focus on more strategic issues and less on routine matters. 
  • Airline Sector: Lufthansa’s Elisa, Nelly, and Maria are the airline’s trained AI chatbots that go beyond answering routine questions from passengers. These chatbots will even connect a passenger to a live speaking human agent when required. The passenger doesn’t need to wait in line, and the agent has a complete context to address the query quickly.
  • Services & Utilities: Bluehost is a leading hosting services company with a chatbot well equipped to handle most client queries. This includes billing details, pending bills, current plans, renewals, and some others.
  • Insurance Industry: Geico, a leading insurance company, has its now popular and friendly AI virtual assistant, Gabby. Gabby is also in constant learning mode as it trains on customer inputs and queries to improve further. 
  • Fashion Industry: Sephora is a popular fashion brand that is an early adopter of conversational AI chatbot tech. The bot throws up a quiz for a new visitor, which it uses to customize recommendations and create a user profile. The bot allows you to apply various products to your selfies to visualize how you look in them. The popular bot is now rolled out across multiple platforms, including FB Messenger.

Not a panacea

Understanding customer process, system maturity, and knowing which customer touchpoints to automate are critical. If AI is introduced in a hurry before all customer interface contexts, workflows, and escalation paths are clearly defined or understood, it can create chaos and do more damage than good. 

Make sure you ask for the latest version of the AI model from the vendor, understand the road map, and consider the best for your deployment. The AI models need to be trained for your specific business context, product categories, and business logic. Also, test internally or do a pilot for early adapters and measure feedback to see the response before full-fledged large-scale deployment. Remember, AI is a tech solution and will not fix a broken business or client process.

Watch our video to learn more on improving your capabilities for AI/ML testing

Conversational AI is here to stay. Apart from all the apparent benefits stated in this article, the bot is a goldmine of data that can help conceptualize targeted campaigns and build memorable engagements if mined correctly and integrated into CRM. As other related technologies improve (such as gesture tech), expect AI chatbots to become a ‘must have’ for most businesses.

AI deployments are soaring in the business world at multiple touchpoints – from websites and social media platforms to apps and HR systems catering to customers and employees. 

Start a conversation with Trigent today

Conversational AI ensures your customer experience goes up a notch. Find out at what customer touchpoints in your business you should consider deploying conversation AI and how best to implement the solution. Ask our retail gurus at Trigent. We have developed AI solutions for our customers in the healthcare, banking and finance, transportation, and logistics industries. Benefit from our experience. We are optimistic this chat will help drive an entirely new conversation with your customers.

Over 70% of customer interactions will rely on chatbots in 2022. Delight your customers with Conversational AI. Let’s talk

Flutter vs React Native: Choose the best cross-platform framework for your learning app

How to ensure your app runs across multiple platforms with the least effort?

The global online e-learning space received its biggest trigger in 2020, with the pandemic forcing closures of schools and colleges worldwide. The already buoyant market is forecasted to grow even further to a massive $374 billion by 2026, averaging a compounded growth rate of 14.6%.

If you are building an education or learning app, you probably want to know your development framework options. This article attempts to capture the essence of what stands out for each prospect, especially in developing a learning or educational app.

Flutter vs React Native: Mindshare

When it comes to cross-platform development frameworks, Flutter with 42% and React Native with 38% together controlled about 80% developer mindshare in 2021. This is as per the data drawn from the JetBrains Statista 2021 study with 31.7k developers surveyed worldwide. Essentially this means that you are in good hands between these two frameworks from a development stack perspective.

Build engaging and responsive cross-platform apps with the best suitable framework. Let’s talk

Impressive Deployed base

React Native wins hands down when it comes to popular consumer apps with a large volume user base: For example, Pinterest with over 250 million MAUs (monthly active users) and with 82% mobile users, FB Ads with over 5.4 million advertisers and 18 billion ad variations market to over 1 billion users, Instagram with over 500 mil daily active users (DAUs) and with 1 billion searches per day, are all built using React Native.

Examples of popular applications built using Flutter are Google Ads, the world’s most busy e-com marketplace – Xianyu by Alibaba, PostMuse (Instagram photo editor), Groupon (discount coupon and group deals marketplace), and eBay Motors. These apps also have significant scale, seamlessly work across platforms, and provide a superior user experience.

Genesis

Flutter is an open-source UI SDK (software development kit) from stables of Google (2017) that helps develop cross-platform apps for Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows, Google Fuchsia, and Web platform. The first version was code-named SKY and ran on Android. By September 2021, Dart SDK and Flutter version 2.5 were released. The update was targeted at improving Android, iOS full-screen mode, and other enhancements.

React Native is an open-source UI software framework created by Meta Platforms, Inc. (formerly Facebook) in 2013 and is used to develop applications for Android, iOS, macOS, Web, and Windows.

How Flutter Works

Flutter components: Flutter consists of the following parts briefly summarized here with their core functions.
Dart Platform Flutter runs in Dart VM with a JIT (Just in Time engine allowing stateful hot reload while the app is running, thus avoiding a restart or loss of state.

Flutter engine: C++ code is a portable runtime software for hosting Flutter applications and implements Flutter core libraries, file, and network I/O, plugin architecture.

Foundation Library: written in Dart, provides basic classes and functions used to construct Flutter apps and design specific widgets of 3 types: stateful, stateless, and inherited widgets. These are widely used for most Flutter applications.

How React Native Works

React Native runs in a background process, interprets Java Script directly on the end-device, and communicates with the native platform via serialized data over an asynchronous or batched bridge.

Syntax of React Native is like CSS, but it does not use HTML or CSS. The messages from JS threads are used to manipulate native views instead. React Native allows developers to write native code in Java, Kotlin for Android, Objective -C for iOS, C++, or C# for Win 10, making it even more flexible.

You may also like: Flutter vs Xamarin: Choose the best cross-platform framework for your project in 2022

Ease of Start

Kickstarting Flutter development is simple. All you need to do is download the file for the OS you need, and you are ready to go with all documentation built into the official site.

React Native is also easy to use. Since the framework uses the UI library developed by Facebook, code creation is further simplified.

Learning Apps throw unique challenges based on specific use cases: a substantial volume of simultaneous users for test prep, online class streaming lessons, or gamified lessons with animations.

Both React Native and Flutter have several examples of holding forth in such challenging environments.

Cross-platform framework capabilities

Flutter: A single code base allows programmers to quickly adapt to a new platform avoiding detailed system study and planning, saving time and energy.

Flutter comes with high-performance widget ergonomics allowing low data exchange between the app and mobile platform. It also comes with the ability to compile into native code for Android and iOS.

A React Native project contains an iOS directory and an Android directory. These directories act as entry points into each platform. They include the code specific to each platform, and this is where the JS code is bridged for each platform.

Code Reuse

Flutter’s components are all in-built, allowing cross-platform development from the get-go. Apps on Flutter are widget-based with customization allowing native-app look and feel. Code reusability in Flutter is about 80%.
With React Native, there are reports of large chunks of code base reuse – in many cases up to 80-85%.

Development Ease

Hot reload is a term used to describe a framework’s ability to insert code changes live on a running app without bringing it down and restarting. It is a powerful feature as it completely avoids restart and saves time in educational/learning environments.

React Native also supports the ‘Hot Reload’ feature allowing users to see code changes without compilation.

Developer Support

Google’s strong global support makes the developer community comfortable taking the plunge into Flutter.
Facebook has an enviable record of some of the largest software talent pools to support you on your development journey. On this front, too, there is not much difference between the two approaches, and either way, you will safely reach your goal.

End-user Experience

The amazing thing about React Native apps is that they render an on-par experience to Native apps. Whether the context is text-heavy or fast transactions with rapid-load requirements, React Native has delivered at scale. This is what you see on Instagram and Pinterest with hundreds of millions of simultaneous users.

However, some users believe that React Native adds unnecessary complexity and is not best suited for CPU-intensive applications, typically leading to performance issues or degraded end-user experience.

Flutter or React Native?

Both Flutter and React Native are powerful platforms running large-scale businesses with widely available global developer support. The key parameters that will determine the choice of the platform are app requirements, use cases, user experience, and budget. Sage wisdom recommends – bringing in the experts.

Work with a suitably talented, experienced partner who can take a consultative position and advise you based on the need.

Build your cross-platform app with Trigent

That partner could be Trigent: a software development partner who can bring in expert opinion on multiple frameworks such as Xamarin, Flutter, Angular UI, JQuery, Appium, Cordova, and React Native and deliver to your exact requirements.

Looking for an expert assessment? Call us for a quick consultation

Underlying challenges manufacturing enterprises face during cloud migration

Cloud migration has increased enormously as manufacturing companies gain and maintain a competitive edge. A fundamental paradigm shift in planning and orchestrating business models is required. Manufacturing companies need to ensure that management and IT teams work together to build a product and cloud service portfolio that complement each other and are aligned for operational excellence. 

Although manufacturing companies produce tons of data, the irony is that there isn’t enough information. Manufacturers find transformation difficult since equipment lasts for decades, and replacements are costly. They tend to have siloed data that sits in a data lake before being used appropriately. When interconnected, they struggle to deal with unstructured data and the process required to scale that solution across the enterprise. Many manufacturing companies are now addressing this issue with an edge platform.

Jabil1, the manufacturing solutions provider, quickly addressed the data problem. Its plant floor quality assurance solution organizes data to analyze issues in real-time and offers a high prediction accuracy rate. With an ability to identify errors even before they occur, Jabil sees substantial productivity improvements. 

While young companies may find it easier to hop onto the Cloud, large enterprises often find themselves struggling under the weight of legacy IT systems that are somewhat rigid and may require more extended transition periods. 

We aim to uncover ways to circumvent these issues to ensure quick transitions and faster cloud success.

Implementing the right strategy ensures a successful migration to the Cloud. Let’s discuss

The state of cloud migration in manufacturing

As per a recent survey, the number of companies using cloud technologies as part of their digital transformation endeavors has increased from 51% in 2019 to 62% in 20212. During this time, edge computing deployments grew from 43% in 2019 to 55% in 2021, while fog computing, known for its capabilities to create a small, cloud-like computing infrastructure, rose from 20% in 2019 to 25% in 2021. 

The jump is not surprising because manufacturing processes require real-time control and response rate to operate and support efficiently while checking on downtimes. Cloud helps in remote monitoring, collaboration, and building a data-driven culture. 

A classic case in point is UNOX3. Its pursuit of creating ‘intelligent’ ovens took the cloud route to develop new cutting-edge projects for data-driven cooking. 

UNOX has revolutionized its customer service via an omnichannel cloud contact center that enables it to meet 95% of service-level customer requests efficiently compared to just 67% before cloud adoption. A managed live streaming service to create interactive video experiences and a content delivery network service to deliver content and applications with low latency and high transfer speed has helped it improve agility, scalability, and savings.

In the wake of the pandemic, remote monitoring compelled manufacturing companies to migrate to the Cloud. It allows them to create key performance indicators and enables plant floor managers to closely watch asset utilization and OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness). 

Automation technology supplier Emerson for instance, witnessed a surge in the use of sensors combined with edge gateways when manual on-site inspection became difficult. Explains Peter Zornio, chief technology officer at Emerson, “Previously, people were looking into automating some manual inspection with sensors and edge gateways but held back because they thought it was too expensive. But suddenly, without enough people on site to do inspections, the technology presented them with a way to move forward.”

While everyone is sold on the idea of migrating to the Cloud for its apparent benefits like flexibility, agility, enhanced privacy, security, and greater operational efficiency, the struggle to migrate successfully to the Cloud is real and overwhelming for many. In manufacturing setups, systems are usually interconnected with the plant equipment, leading to roadblocks on the way to cloud adoption. 

However, there are ways and means to avoid them. 

Create a robust cloud migration strategy 

The right cloud migration strategy based on a thorough assessment of your needs and resources can be a good starting point. 

Core Technology Molding Corporation, known for its highly engineered plastic products and tooling designs, has been able to keep operations running smoothly with a cloud-based ERP system. It allowed the company to address its need for monitoring processes in real-time when employees were forced to work from home.

The one that’s most appropriate for you should be found on the following considerations:

  • What are your business goals? What problems are you trying to resolve?
  • In which stages of production are downtimes most damaging for business? 
  • What are your security, regulatory & data privacy requirements?
  • How equipped are you to tackle disasters to ensure business continuity?
  • Are skills & experience internally available to undertake a cloud migration project?

Your cloud migration exercise has to be driven by a purpose. You need to identify the pain points to understand what could work for your business. 

Assess your cloud readiness

Cloud readiness is not just limited to tools and platforms but includes people and processes too. The digital literacy of your employees is crucial for successful cloud adoption. Cloud providers offer advanced tools, testing, and interface options to enable agile development in a typical manufacturing IT environment where the cost of experimentation and failure is extremely high. With hundreds of applications spread across multiple physical data centers in diverse geographical locations, fragmented IT poses a considerable problem. 

Cloud can enable standardization of infrastructure and platform to recover quickly from outages. Suntory Group, a Japanese multinational brewing, and distilling conglomerate, adopted AWS cloud to standardize their infrastructure and systems. The decision was part of its global expansion plan to accelerate processes following a merger or acquisition and reduce operational burden. The Group reduced infrastructure TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) in the Japan region by 25% soon after cloud adoption.

Manufacturers need data to forecast demand, expedite orders, check the quality, and predict equipment failures in real-time. They need to break data silos and make informed decisions to increase production capacity and improve the supply chain. They need a 360-degree view of the data to get deeper insights. Going beyond the mere ‘life and shift and wait’ approach is essential to gain greater sovereignty over your data.

Siemens, the manufacturing giant, has been leveraging Google Cloud’s data cloud and AI/ML capabilities to implement artificial intelligence at scale. By harmonizing the factory data, employees working on the plant floor can visually inspect products and predict the wear and tear of machines on the assembly line.

Collaborate with the right technology partner

Applications and Data cannot be moved overnight and will cause security concerns if you overlook the migration time that would be required. It’s therefore essential to have a meticulously crafted roadmap based on priorities, business goals, timelines, resources, and budget. 

While everyone understands the importance of cloud adoption, a whopping 74% fail to capture its total value, according to McKinsey’s recent Cloud in Discrete Manufacturing Industries survey4. 50% of respondents have found cloud technology more complex than they had perceived it, while 40% admitted to exceeding their cloud budgets.

Choosing a migration partner based on familiarity or low pricing can lead to migration failures that can be too expensive to rectify. While iterating ways to budget cloud migrations, Gartner5 points out that 60% of infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders will experience public cloud cost overruns through 2024, putting a big dent in their on-premises budgets.

The role of a technology partner is highly critical here. 

The right technology partner will evaluate the complete ecosystem, review the interdependencies across siloed applications, and prioritize the workloads to be migrated. They will offer a comprehensive cloud strategy to enable successful cloud adoptions without impacting business users and service-level agreements. They will have the tools and resources to move multiple, complex applications. 

They will help you adopt the Industry 4.0 framework with appropriate automation tools and cloud-based data analytics. With real-time visibility into the manufacturing ecosystem, they can empower you to build more innovative products and create value for your customers and business partners.

Ensure migration success with Trigent

Allow us to help you migrate smoothly to the Cloud and manage your manufacturing workloads with ease. Our technology experts can help you with cloud-native applications and advanced data analytics solutions to achieve agility at scale. 

Our cloud strategy has been helping our clients get maximum business value. We can help you too. 

Call us today for a business consultation.

References

  1. https://cloudblogs.microsoft.com/industry-blog/manufacturing/2017/10/11/digital-transformation-excellence-lessons-from-manufacturing-leaders/
  2. https://www.automationworld.com/TakeFive/video/21977710/how-industry-is-using-cloud-edge-and-fog-computing-today
  3. https://aws.amazon.com/solutions/case-studies/unox/
  4. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/automotive-and-assembly/our-insights/clearing-the-air-on-cloud-how-industrial-companies-can-capture-cloud-technologys-full-business-value

Identifying the Best Cloud Architecture for Fast Content Access, Optimized Bandwidth Usage, and Content Security

The importance of identifying the best Cloud architecture

Massive volumes of data consumed through multiple devices have forced the media industry to revisit how they manage content. Personalization is the expectation now and at all times. It has given birth to many operational challenges compelling media companies to transition from traditional broadcasting to a digital distribution model. Cloud solutions play a critical role here, helping the industry build a robust ecosystem to manage everything from data creation to consumption while ensuring flawless user experiences.

TVU Networks has witnessed a whopping 243 percent increase in SaaS use in 2021 compared to 2020 due to the rapid adoption of cloud-based and remote workflows. As per a joint report1, ‘The show goes on in the cloud’ by PwC and Microsoft, production delays and the under-delivery of episodic content lead to over $3.5 billion in lost ad revenue for broadcasters and underlines the severe impact it could have on the industry. 

While a lot of groundwork remains to be done, Media and Entertainment (M&E) businesses that were once hesitant to embrace emerging technologies are now eager for a digital transformation. The pandemic has already thrown them a curve making them realize the importance of moving away from legacy production systems towards a more dependable cloud infrastructure to stay afloat in a socially distant environment.

Media & Entertainment companies are now transitioning with Intelligent cloud transformation

Entertainment companies are doing everything in their power to deliver content the way their consumers want. While media segments like video games and streaming enjoyed good returns during the pandemic, others have suffered. 

M&E companies are now transitioning from big screens to bite-sized content, breaking free of the limitations of legacy production systems. The conversation is now around technologies that can demonstrate greater value and ROI. 

Intelligent cloud transformation has emerged as the Holy Grail for M&E companies while they attempt to accelerate innovation and increase revenue. The focus is now to automate routine tasks, explore digital delivery chains to augment revenue, and harness technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create content libraries

The cloud in media has emerged as a viable solution to reach out to consumers and monitor how consumers engage with the content. Jennifer Cooper, Global Head of Media and Communications Industry Strategy & Solutions, Microsoft2, points out, “The disruption created by COVID-19 has agitated the industry into accelerating innovation and digital transformation in areas that were previously only in planning stages of cloud migration. The stage is set for an industry-wide metamorphosis.” 

Need help with identifying the best cloud architecture to accelerate content performance and increase revenue? Let’s talk

Why is IT modernization a top priority today?

Online video consumption has grown considerably, with viewers resorting to smartphones and tablet PCs for their entertainment needs. Today, everything from animation and visual effects to high-definition videos and high-resolution audio creates colossal data that can be overwhelming for legacy IT architectures. 

Some of the top challenges companies are currently facing include:

Evolving expectations of consumers – The discerning consumers now expect greater flexibility and choices from an industry that is already having a hard time dealing with the dips and spikes in viewership. It has become crucial for M&E companies to deliver content across a wide range of channels and formats. Cloud computing is now inevitable for companies to manage their volatile demand. Those like the Walt Disney Company quickly shifted to the cloud to digitally transform their content production, media supply chain, streaming, and data analytics process. They also built up a virtual studio to collaborate with artists across the globe.

Faster time to market – M&E companies have understood the only way to stay competitive is to produce and distribute original content in an agile but cost-effective manner. Direct-to-consumer (D2C) models like OTT streaming and subscription-based services are on the rise raising the US household average to nine paid subscriptions across music, videos, and gaming. Cloud deployments are the smart choice since they allow M&E companies to store, manage, and deliver content digitally and shift workloads seamlessly across public and private infrastructures.

Rising costs – Low-cost OTT (over the top) companies that cater to consumers directly via the Internet have struck a blow to the bottom lines of traditional M&E companies. These highly cost-sensitive times aim to unlock trapped value and cost efficiencies by moving away from legacy silos and inefficient workflows. These companies are now turning to cloud computing to minimize sunk costs associated with content storage and delivery.

High streaming performance – Even a six-second delay in streaming an ad can cost M&E companies a lot of money. Thanks to the growing number of subscription-based services that allow ad-free viewing, it has become highly challenging to grab and hold viewer attention. As these companies ensure minimal delays and downtime, the cloud enables architectures that support high performance and availability. The intense competition in the streaming space has led to several mergers, with the latest duo to seal a deal being WarnerMedia and Discovery.

A remote workforce – When businesses went into survival mode during the pandemic, they had the additional stress of managing a remote workforce. In an attempt to rise above the unprecedented volatility, ViacomCBS5 came up with a unique hybrid work model for its employees to enable them to spend some of their workweek time at home. The rationale was to cater to customers and take care of the employees. ViacomCBS created a cloud-based hub to automate workflows, lower costs, and optimize delivery over any distribution channel. M&E companies have been deploying cloud solutions to keep the business running via cloud-based telephony, messaging, and conferencing.

Enhancing capabilities with cloud

Despite the initial apprehensions of getting on to the cloud, forward-thinking companies like Netflix are now comfortably using the cloud to enhance their capabilities. The cloud infrastructure helps broadcasters adjust their sails as they work towards post-COVID norms. Apart from providing a single platform for all applications to broadcasters and M&E companies, it also enables greater operational efficiency and integration. 

You may also like: 6 Cloud Migration Mistakes that Businesses Need to Avoid

If you are still unsure about having cloud architecture, we give you a quick lowdown on its numerous benefits. 

Scalability to manage complex needs

To deliver content to any device at varying connection speeds, M&E companies need to format multiple video files with streamlined workflows that encode, transcode, and securely store content. The complicated workflows call for excellent scalability. Legacy applications are incapable of handling them since they are resource and labor-intensive which leads to high maintenance costs. On-premises streaming does not offer the required computing capacity and bandwidth to deliver content seamlessly. 

On the other hand, cloud infrastructures empower companies to host rendered files for delivery. Since cloud servers are present worldwide, content is delivered via the closest hub, minimizing streaming latency. Cloud infrastructure also proves to be cost-effective since companies can simply add more cloud resources to scale up services rather than purchasing anything upfront. 

Sony Pictures Imageworks is a classic case that turned to Google Cloud Platform to enhance its capabilities and augment its infrastructure. Steve Kowalski, VP of Systems Engineering for Sony Pictures Imageworks6, explains, “In the past, we had to expand our on-premises infrastructure to support those peak periods. We’d try to rent 10,000 or 20,000 extra computer graphics rendering machines to get us through 10 to 15 weeks a year of peak production activity. We’d need extra graphics workstations for the 150 or more artists we added during peak periods. But the companies that rent the equipment typically want much longer time commitments.”

Greater control through data management 

Every M&E company needs to understand the complex behaviors of its audiences. The smart ones resort to cloud computing to ingest and manage big data and get insights to drive audience engagement and loyalty. This large volume of data, both structured and unstructured, helps companies optimize supply chains, monetize content, and improve user experiences. 

The cloud offers scalability to on-demand data analytic tools to extract and transform data required to make data-driven decisions. With millions of active users in several countries, Spotify has managed to grow its number of subscribers by 29% in a year by embracing the cloud. It can now iterate quickly based on data insights by moving its 1200 online services, data processing DAGs (direct acyclic graphs), and 20,000 daily job executions to the cloud.

Ensure security and compliance at all times

In addition to customer data, M&E companies need to safeguard digital content from piracy. We read about cloud security breaches frequently, but these breaches often occur due to companies’ flawed policies and technologies. 

Instead of doubting the potential of the cloud in providing a safe infrastructure, M&E companies must invest time and effort in finding the right service provider to minimize the attack footprint. Security breaches are often the result of errors in configuration and unpatched vulnerabilities and can be easily avoided by choosing the right service provider. 

CineSend, a provider of secure video storage, encoding, and delivery solutions, has scaled to deliver cutting-edge video experiences and support its customers with cloud adoption. Its scalable cloud-native solution has empowered it to attain 1,000% video streaming business growth in 2020. Most importantly, it has built a secure video streaming platform that allows it to encrypt customer data at rest while letting customers host their events remotely.

Embrace cloud technology with Trigent

As a trusted partner for several industries, including the M&E, we can transform your business by enabling faster content delivery and greater engagement. Our services will empower you with insights to ensure quick decision-making and enhanced operational efficiency. 

Discover a whole new way of managing your infrastructure with our technology partners by your side. Call us today for a business consultation.

References

  1. https://www.techrepublic.com/index.php/article/the-cloud-becomes-a-delivery-mechanism-for-the-media-and-entertainment-industry/
  2. https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/alliances/microsoft/azure/show-goes-on-in-cloud.html
  3. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-ott-devices-and-services-market-report-2021-2026-featuring-akamai-technologies-amazon-apple-brightcove-google-hulu-limelight-networks-microsoft-netflix-roku-tencent-301436184.html
  4. https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/cloud-computing-market-234.html
  5. https://variety.com/2021/film/news/viacomcbs-return-to-work-bob-bakish-1234928556/
  6. https://cloud.google.com/customers/sony-pictures-imageworks 

Five popular databases for mobile apps in 2022 – Choose the right one for your application

Today, mobile apps are the face of any service or business online. One of the biggest challenges for a mobile app developer is to choose the right database to support the app.

The app can require a database for multiple reasons such as, to store the following information

  • user authentication information, 
  • transactions carried out by a user, 
  • listing and updating inventory,
  • offline state when out of network

The database for an app is selected based on the purpose of building the app. This blog aims to aid the app developer in choosing the correct database based on some specific criteria. In doing so, we have listed five popular databases for mobile apps in 2022, with their benefits and limitations to help an app developer make an informed decision.

Choosing the right database for your mobile application

Here are some of the vital pointers to look out for while selecting a mobile database 

Need for using the local store of the device

  • If the app does not have a server requirement
  • If the app needs to function everywhere, even when the network is off
  • If the app is a part of a distributed landscape and needs to store data pertaining to itself
  • If the load is to be shared with the app’s local store and a central database

Cross-platform support

  • If the app has to be built across ios or android or all platforms
  • If the app is hybrid

Data Model

  • A relational database would be the right choice if the schema is well defined and requires consistency, more writes and complex querying.
  • For a continuously evolving app, a NoSQL database makes sense.

Synchronization support

If the application needs to sync with peers or a central database, it is best to go with a database that provides a sync feature such as Realm or Couchbase Lite.

Type of database

One would need to go in for a structured RDBMS or an unstructured NoSQL database based on many factors. These factors are:

Schema evolution – A startup or, broadly, an internet company requires quicker Agile cycles of product changes and, therefore, a flexible data schema. Choosing an RDBMS would mean expensive Alter statements and time-consuming data migration. It would need a full-time DBA, whereas a NoSQL database is built for this kind of flexibility.

Fixed data structure – An RDBMS would make sense over a NoSQL. If the app requires a large volume of data reads instead of writes, a NoSQL could be considered. 

Storing large volumes of data – Again, a NoSQL database comes with sharding facilities out of the box. Large data storage can be achieved manually with RDBMS, but they are classically built for vertical scalability.

Transactions – While a few NoSQL databases ensure consistency, the more extensive set provides availability over real-time consistency. This is where an RDBMS works best. 

Analytics – RDBMS works best for complex analytical queries.

Caching – A good datastore for managing user sessions would be a key value of the NoSQL database.

Social network operations  – A graph-based NoSQL database would work best.

Cost – Legacy RDBMS requires expensive hardware and annual licenses. Cloud-based databases could run up a bill based on the kind of querying or updates required.

SAAS-based app – Ideally, the database would be on the cloud. Banking apps require high security and, therefore, might be on-premise.

App or platform’s technology–  Choice of the database can also be governed by the type of technology used. Mongo is popularly used with NodeJS, Postgresql with Python, and Mysql with Java. It is not a deciding factor but based on the skill pool. 

Have questions on which database would suit your application the best? Talk to us now!

Here are five popular databases available in the market today to choose from for mobile app development –

SQLite

SQLite is a lightweight SQL database engine following the principles of RDBMS. It is built into every mobile device.

Benefits

  1. Lightweight –  As is needed in a mobile device.
  2. Cost – Free and zero configuration.
  3. Performance – Very fast when compared to writing the file system
  4. Reliable – It updates content continuously so that data is not lost due to power failure.
  5. Platform support – It provides cross-platform support like iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac.

Limitations

  1. Not scalable and not suitable for large data storage.
  2. It does not support concurrent transactions
  3. Lacks built-in data security features
  4. It’s not a full-fledged RDBMS like MYSQL lacking fine-grained access control, support for joins, a GUI for ease of use.

REALM

Realm is an open-source object database for the mobile app by Mongo. It runs on the client device and is available for both native and cross framework apps.

Benefits

  1. Object-oriented data model and therefore easy for developers to understand and work with
  2. Realm is offline first. Data is read and written to the device. If server-side sync is required, then Realm sync can be enabled. This synchronizes data with the Mongo realm using a background thread on the server-side.
  3. Realm enables fast querying with its lazy loading and a zero-copy architecture. All Realm objects are live objects that reflect the most current data and can be subscribed to for changes. 
  4. Realm Triggers automatically execute a function at a scheduled time or when an event occurs, such as a change to a database or a call to an HTTP endpoint. 
  5. Data can be encrypted in-flight and at rest, keeping even the most sensitive data secure. Realm has built-in user management that can be integrated with third-party authentication providers such as Google and Facebook. Rules can be defined for controlling data access.
  6. Realm is open source. It is distributed under the Apache 2.0 license and backed by MongoDB.
  7. It is cross-platform and can be used with Swift, Objective-C, Java, Kotlin, C#, and JavaScript.

Limitations

  1. Realm affects the apk size.
  2. Realm requires a schema to model the data and relationships. Therefore migrating to Realm DB comes at a cost. 
  3. Realm objects can be modified only within a transaction, making it cumbersome and requiring disciplined use of the database. 
  4. Auto-increment of primary keys does not come out of the box. It has to be taken care of programmatically.
  5. Closing Realm connection after use should be followed strictly to prevent memory leaks as the garbage collector does not know how to work with Realm objects.
  6. Realm Sync does not currently support sharded MongoDB Atlas clusters. However, a sharded cluster can be accessed as data sources through functions and MongoDB Data Access.
  7. Syncing to Mongo at the back-end comes at a cost.

Couchbase Lite

Couchbase Lite is another NoSQL-based mobile database for the offline-first experience. 

Benefits

  1. Couchbase mobile supports both native and cross-platform frameworks
  2. Couchbase provides an end to end data management solution referred to as Couchbase Mobile with –
    1. Couchbase Lite as the embedded store for the app, 
    2. Sync gateway synchronizes data over the web using constructs such as REST APIs, batch updates, events.
    3. Couchbase Server, which can serve as the full-fledged central back-end store
  3. Data security is provided across the entire stack, including user authentication, role-based access, and data encryption at rest and in motion.
  4. Data can be stored as JSON documents or blobs. Therefore storing multimedia, IoT, or regular data of applications can be stored easily. 
  5. Since Couchbase Mobile allows JSON documents, it is schemaless, and therefore migration comes at zero cost.
  6. It is lightweight, between 1-5MB

Limitations

  1. Arbitrary querying is not possible. It has to be done only through views which are indexes internally and therefore extremely fast. But views don’t work well with complex queries that might require more than one view to resolve.
  2. CouchDB does not work well with full-text searches.
  3. Doesn’t have an out-of-the-box object mapper. This needs to be coded in by the developer.
  4. Couchbase is shipped with a small instance of Memcache to handle the in-memory cache, which hogs memory for many documents and degrades performance.
  5. Enterprise support is expensive.

Cloud Firestore

Cloud Firestore is a NoSQL database provided by Google as a part of its mobile application development platform, Firebase. While the data storage is online-first, it does support offline data persistence. This feature, when enabled, caches a copy of the data to write/read when the device is offline. It syncs back to the server when the device is back on the network. The benefit of choosing Firestore is that it’s a part of Firebase, which provides a host of services to enable the app developer to use ready-made features such as user authentication to analytics with minimal customization and no servers to manage.

Benefits

  1. Data is stored in the form of documents that can be queried easily
  2. Provides automatic sync of data between devices offline data storage and notifies the app on data changes.
  3. Firestore provides strong authentication and authorization based on user identification and other criteria. It also integrates with Firebase authentication, which supports user/password and third-party authentication integration such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook.
  4. Very high performance.
  5. Backed by Google’s cloud infrastructure, Firestore scales easily.
  6. It provides excellent cross-platform support.

Limitations

  1. It can become expensive.
  2. Complex queries and full text-based search are not handled well in most NoSQL databases.
  3. Offline query performance is slow.
  4. Document size is limited to 1 MB
  5. Writes are expensive and limited to 1 write/second. It works best for read-intensive apps.

Oracle Berkeley DB

Oracle Berkeley DB is an open-source embeddable database allowing developers the choice of SQL, Key/Value, XML/XQuery, or Java Object storage for their data model. It is available in three versions -Berkeley DB, Berkeley DB Java Edition, and Berkeley DB XML

Benefits

  1. Provides a choice of schema between NoSQL and RDBMS
  2. Berkley DB provides a SQL API that is fully compatible with SQLite. This gives the developer an option to migrate to Berkeley or use SQLite under the hood.
  3. Provides cross-platform support
  4. Rich querying, indexing, and transactional support provide a tremendous full-text search for the SQL implementation.

Limitations

  1. Heavier footprint compared to the NoSQL option.
  2. It allows an open-source license as long as the developer’s code is freely redistributable. Otherwise, one has to go for the commercial license.
  3. Support under an open-source license is not great.

Ultimately, selecting an ideal database for your mobile application depends on its requirements and feasibility for the application. 

Build your mobile app with Trigent 

With decades of experience and highly skilled experts, our end-to-end mobile app development services are designed to ideate, build, update, deploy and maintain your mobile applications with ease.

Leverage the best skills to build responsive cross-platform & native mobile apps. Book a consultation now!

6 Cloud Migration Mistakes that Businesses Need to Avoid

Businesses worldwide are busy moving their legacy applications to the cloud in the wake of the pandemic. While reducing infrastructure costs and enhancing security remain important reasons for many, it is crucial to assess the individual business environment to understand why cloud migration is important for you. 

Cloud migration needs to be seamless and simple for it to be effective. Cloud adoption has tangible benefits as over 70% of companies have already moved some of their workloads to the public cloud, as confirmed by Gartner1. Yet, it predicts that 60% of infrastructure and operations leaders may experience cost overruns by 2024 that may end up hurting their on-premises budgets.

As per a Cloud Security Alliance report2, 90% of CIOs have experienced failure or disruption in data migration projects caused by complexities encountered while migrating from on-premises environments to the cloud. Only 35% of the survey respondents met their migration deadlines. The 2019 Fortinet study reveals 74% of the companies moved their applications back to on-premises on failing to attain desired returns.

This brings us to the most pertinent questions – why do these migrations fail, and what can you do to ensure a successful cloud migration? And most importantly, why is cloud migration an essential endeavor for organizations?

Address challenges and migrate to the Cloud seamlessly. Talk to us now

Advantage Cloud – Why migration from legacy systems to cloud is important for an organization

There are several benefits of migrating to the cloud as it gives businesses much-needed flexibility and scalability. The Coca-Cola Company achieved 40% operational savings while reducing maintenance costs and improving performance by migrating to the cloud. 

Cloud-native startups are already collecting data from their customers and markets to accordingly align their offerings and implement product updates in the production stage. 

SaaS is preferred by many who wish to add or delete features based on customer feedback. Subscription-based models that allow marketing teams to have more enriching interactions with end-users and implement changes across marketing, sales & pricing, and customer support functions are proving to be extremely valuable. 

According to Gartner, end-user spending on cloud services will grow at a CAGR of 21.7% taking it from $396 billion in 2021 to $482 billion in 2022. Explains Brandon Medford, senior principal analyst at Gartner, “Organizations are advancing their timelines on digital business initiatives and racing to the cloud in an effort to modernize environments, improve system reliability, support hybrid work models and address other new realities compelled by the pandemic.”

To meet retail’s new mandates, the largest grocery chain in the U.S. Kroger, recently unveiled a privacy-compliant collaborative cloud that offers a granular view of customer behavior. 

Planning for successful cloud migrations

Cloud migration calls for a lot of planning to ensure a positive business and operation impact.

When Netflix decided to go all-in on the cloud, most were unaware of the existence of the cloud. But it had problems that needed immediate attention, and thus came its famous Simian Army that unleashed the Chaos Monkey. It is a software tool developed by Netflix engineers to simulate failures of cloud instances and test the resiliency and recoverability of their Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Proper planning is the key to successful migrations and should consider various aspects from the present and future perspectives. Remember, you need to build the cloud for the future, anticipating growth and new business models. A simple ‘lift and shift’ may work for some while others may need a complete overhaul of application architectures through re-architecting. To avoid downtime and performance degradation, you need to understand cloud migration best practices. 

But before you start anything, you need to ask the right questions. Why do you want to move to the cloud, and what do you expect? Is your workforce ready for this transition? What migration strategies will work for your business? 

Here are a few mistakes you must avoid at all costs to ensure smooth cloud migration. 

Failing to understand organization networks and infrastructure

Every solution provider will offer unique attributes making it highly overwhelming for businesses to choose solutions based on their business and data needs. Lack of proper understanding causes breaks in the systems, and some data may be left behind. This can disrupt functions and lead to additional costs and frustrations.

For instance, Sime Darby Industrial Sdn Bhd (SDISB) faced scalability and security issues due to config limitations in their Cloud infrastructure. Periodic lags and downtime arising from these misconfigurations caused major disruptions driving up costs for the company.  A personalized, end-to-end solution by a partner was needed to help SDISB improve its Cloud e-commerce site performance.

Trying to migrate everything in one go

While migrating data and workflows, simply prioritizing a ‘life and shift’ approach to move workloads without modifying or analyzing them may not be the best move. You may have to rewrite and re-release applications in a cloud-native manner or replace them based on a proper assessment. Workloads need to be assessed first before initiating a migration project. 

Besides, every storage and solution will have its own merits and limitations that need to be evaluated, and the right backup strategies would play a critical role. Organizations like OVHcloud, Europe’s largest cloud provider, had already taught us a lesson in data backup the hard way when its data center suffered a catastrophic fire. Those who had purchased the backup and disaster-recovery services offered by the company were able to resume operations while others suffered.

The right migration partner can play a crucial role here. A proof-of-concept or minimal viable cloud is recommended to get a realistic view of the migration. This will eliminate the threat of losing essential data or causing breaks or breaches arising from inefficient migration. 

Not having the right migration partner

The migration partner you choose will largely determine the success of your cloud migration. Rather than choosing them based on familiarity or low pricing, you should focus on their experience. A partner with certified experts across Cloud Vendor solutions will provide you with a design that is right for your business rather than pushing a specific technology. Handing the migration project to internal teams may be feasible only if the team has relevant prior experience and expertise.

You may ask your migration partner for a cost proposal along with the necessary recommendations following proper assessment of your data and infrastructure to commence the project on the right foot.

Failing to map dependencies

Incomplete application assessment also leads to encountering dependency bottlenecks later. You need to discover and account for the interdependencies between on-premises systems early on to ensure there are no hiccups along the way. Failure to do so would lead to incorrect grouping and order of application migrations, eventually leading to burgeoning costs and cascading delays. It will also lead to perennial performance issues and cause your migration costs to go off the rails.

Failing to factor in hidden costs

You need to pay close attention to transformation costs that may involve upskilling, increased salaries for cloud management roles, changes in organizational structure, operating procedures, new practices, etc. 

Adobe found this out the hard way in 2018 when its engineers realized that a single computing job on Microsoft Azure was racking up charges of $80,000 per day. A week later, this had accumulated to a bill of more than half a million dollars.

No matter what the cost, budgeting must include indirect project costs to ensure the organization operates optimally without any financial stress.

Added care required to move legacy applications safely onto the cloud

It’s easier to safely move legacy applications to the cloud once you analyze the complexities involved in different types of data and apps. For instance, moving your corporate email service to a public cloud SaaS service is pretty straightforward. What’s challenging to migrate is an application that was developed years ago. The fact that your entire business relies on it can only make it even more difficult. 

There could be bespoke applications developed in-house, but the new cloud offerings cannot align with these customizations. A classic case is Autodesk’s SaaS offering that runs just one version of the software and is not compatible with customized applications or third-party add-ins. What’s more, businesses that have unique ERP applications often struggle with cloud solutions that cannot accept such personalized versions. Organizations can avoid this turmoil by choosing one of these options to ensure safe and swift migrations.

  • Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) wherein applications can be moved as is or with minor tweaks to operate from the service provider’s infrastructure.
  • Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offers a secure database or development environment for organizations to install and manage their customized applications or code. 
  • Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) wherein all responsibilities are managed by the service provider to offer a tailored service to organizations for cost efficiency, scalability, and flexibility. 

The right migration partner will help you with suitable cloud solutions and strategies and even offer customized ones to ensure migration success. The infamous data scraping breach or the breach that cost Facebook huge losses, including a $5 billion penalty, have taught us essential lessons in cloud security.

No matter which migration partner you choose, make sure they adopt a security-first approach. After all, security cannot be an afterthought and is the only way to reduce the attack surface and the breaches arising from it. Ensure you regularly maintain the patches and updates, configure cloud-native solutions correctly, and secure the network for vulnerability management and incident response.

Simplify your Cloud migration journey with Trigent

Our domain experts at Trigent assess your portfolio and business needs to determine the pain points and ways to address them. As a cloud migration specialist, we blend unique methodologies with purpose-built assessment tools to decide the right migration strategy for your business. Accordingly, we devise a detailed transformation roadmap prioritizing apps to be migrated and treatments to migrate to the cloud using best practices seamlessly. 

Allow us to assess your cloud readiness to help you rapidly scale and succeed with the right cloud solutions. Call us today for a business consultation.

References

  1. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/6-ways-cloud-migration-costs-go-off-the-rails
  2. https://www.ciodive.com/spons/why-do-cloud-migrations-fail/600946/

Flutter vs Xamarin: Choose the best cross-platform framework for your project in 2022

If you are considering a mobile application for your business or service in 2022 chances, are you or your software development partner, considering a cross-platform framework? Naturally, your search would entail several different frameworks and quickly bring you to a crossroads: Flutter vs Xamarin?

A bummer? Not really. Perhaps this brief analysis will help you make that call. 

Background: A quick look at the genesis of these cross-platform frameworks

Flutter is an open-source UI SDK (software development kit) from the stables of Google in 2017. It helps develop cross-platform apps for Android, iOS, Linux, Mac, Windows, Google Fuchsia, and Web platform. The first version was code-named SKY and ran on Android. By September 2021, Dart SDK – Flutter apps are written in Dart language, and Flutter version 2.5 was released. The update was targeted at improving Android, iOS Full-Screen mode, and other enhancements.

Xamarin, a Microsoft company produces open-source software that works in tandem with .NET. It is a part of the C# / Visual Studio suite, extending it with tools and libraries for building apps on the various target OS. The promise is that developers can easily reuse their C# code and port their code across platforms.

Want to identify the right cross-platform frameworks for your mobile application? Let’s talk

Flutter and Xamarin: Architecture and components

Flutter components: Flutter consists of the following components briefly summarized here with their core functions.

Dart platform: Flutter runs in Dart VM with a JIT (Just in Time) engine, allowing stateful hot reload while the app is running, thus avoiding a restart or loss of state.

Flutter engine: The C++ code is a portable runtime software for hosting Flutter applications, and implements Flutter core libraries, files, network I/O, and plugin architecture.

Foundation library: Written in Dart provides basic classes and functions used to construct Flutter Apps and design specific widgets. Three types, stateful, stateless, and inherited widgets are used widely for most Flutter applications.

Xamarin has a Mono environment for use both in iOS and Android. Internally Mono is combined with components to give a smooth response. It runs along with Android Runtime on Android, Objective-C runtime in iOS, Linux kernel in Linux. 

Architecturally, therefore, there may be no significant edge in either of the approaches.

Kickstarting the development effort in cross-platform frameworks

Kickstarting Flutter development is a breeze. Just download the file for the OS you need and you are ready to go with all documentation built into the official site. But it is not so with Xamarin. Xamarin requires multiple steps starting with downloading the correct version of Visual Studio, installing Community, Visual Studio Professional and then reserving hours for documentation help which you will certainly need.

Economics of framework

Microsoft expects fees for commercial deployment from enterprise users that could range from $799 to $5999 per user. The fee can prove to be a clear disincentive to a developer considering a cross-platform app framework while Flutter is entirely free.

Code reuse

C# and its intrinsic .NET heritage enable easy reuse of LINQ and async programming features – a big plus for Xamarin. Together with Xamarin.Forms API, it is said code reuse is closer to 96%; which is impressive compared to Flutter. Xamarin’s Android and iOS tools to build platform-specific features also help code reuse. However, it is important to understand that code written with Xamarin is only reusable within the .NET technology stack.

Flutter’s components are all in-built, allowing cross-platform development from the get-go. Apps on Flutter are widget-based with customization allowing native-app look and feel. Code reusability in Flutter is about 80%.

Cross-platform capabilities

Flutter: A single code base allows programmers to easily adapt to a new platform avoiding detailed system study and planning, saving time and energy.

Flutter comes with high-performance widget ergonomics allowing low data exchange between the app and mobile platform and comes with the ability to compile into native code for Android and iOS.

Development ease

Flutter serves Hot! Hot reload is a term used to describe a framework’s ability to insert code changes live on a running app without bringing it down and restarting. It is a big deal as it completely avoids restart and saves time in rapidly changing business environments such as Q-commerce (quick commerce such as food service app, retail app, and mobility world apps).

Xamarin has an equivalent Hot reload feature, also called Live Reload, allowing users to see code changes without compilation. 

Performance

Flutter architecture obviates the need to use JS bridge to communicate with native components which uses Google’s Skia rendering engine. This boosts its cross-platform performance significantly with minimal dropped frames and low lag.

Apps built on Xamarin have performance that depends on the Xamarin framework used. For example, the performance of Xamarin.Forms, especially while handling graphics, falls short of expectations. Sometimes special components need to be developed for the iOS / Android world, thus losing its appeal for UI-heavy applications. 

Widget ergonomics

Widget library of Flutter is both convenient, beautiful, easy to use, and driven by contemporary design. A large customizable library of widgets with access to navigation, multiple options in interaction models, layouts is available with support for animation. Consistency in the look and feel of the app on different devices coming from a high-widget approach is easy on the eyes.

Flutter’s inherent performance on fast-moving graphics and animation stands head and shoulders above competing cross-development platforms. Its rapid growth within the developer community and la significantly large developer community built within a short span of 4-5 years indicate its popularity.

Developer support

Google’s strong global support makes the developer community comfortable making the plunge into Flutter. 

On that front, Xamarin stands as a formidable competitor to Flutter. As an established top global software product house, Microsoft pulls all stops to provide the necessary support to the developer with its established support processes. Besides, C# and.Net already have a large developer community, making it easier for Microsoft to extend support to new converts to the Xamarin turf. 

Xamarin or Flutter: Choosing the best cross-platform frameworks for your application

Not being tied to IDE is a big plus for Flutter users, whereas, for Xamarin developers, an intimate knowledge of Visual Studio IDE is critical for the smooth work of Xamarin. The concept of Visual Studio IDE is to be understood and implemented. However, it is not considered accessible by many. Apart from this, Microsoft also requires Visual Studio IDE licensing to be procured. 

Flutter comes with the flamboyance, aggression of a young, ready-to-go, open-source, free, and almost no barriers to develop and deploy. Xamarin has a more traditional evolutionary sense of growth but well-established clientele backing it globally. With myriad opportunities exploding on multiple verticals, Microsoft is not going to let this opportunity be lost either. Expect a robust battle between these technology giants on the cross-product platform wars.

Work with a partner you can trust

Working with a development partner with a full-stack skillset covering multi-platforms iOS and Android, and with development skills across the board from Dart, Swift, Java, JS, Kotlin, Objective C, and C# is naturally an advantage. If you have a software development partner such as Trigent, for example, who, in addition to the above, excels in multiple frameworks such as Xamarin, Flutter, Angular UI, JQuery, Appium, Cordova, and React Native, you are in safe territory and in trusted hands. 

When your software partner is multi-skilled, technology crossroads are certainly less daunting. 

Build responsive and engaging cross-platform mobile apps. Contact us now

Trigent’s Clutch Year in Review for 2021

Clutch gives Trigent a NPS score of 100%

Businesses depend on reliable metrics and data to make correct decisions. This leads teams to value and invest in tools and services that provide more accurate data. This is why when Clutch informed Trigent, of a new feature that analyzed and summarized all of the activity on our profile for the past twelve months, we jumped on it.

Clutch is an independent market research and B2B review platform. It is dedicated to showcasing the top service providers across industries and regions worldwide. The platform is widely acknowledged for its large collection of data-driven content, verified client reviews, and agency rankings.

We perused the entirety of the year-in-review feature and were happy with a lot of the results that we found. However, one statistic immediately stood out to us as the most impactful to both our reputations and operations. Every one of the clients who wrote a review for us in 2021 recommended us to their friends and colleagues.

While we always did our best to provide high-quality services to all of our clients, we never expected such a perfect referral rate would result from it. We made sure to thank every one of our clients & partners who took the time to write a review on our behalf. Now we repeat those sentiments today as this new information reveals the extent to which their efforts extended.

We also appreciate this new feature that the Clutch team developed for its users. Without it, we would never have known about this important dataset. This only increases the value that our profile provides to our core operations. It also places us in a great position coming into 2022 as it boosts our team’s morals and improves our reputation in the industry.

If you want to discover why all of our clients recommended our services, contact our team to schedule an appointment today. We are confident that our track record speaks for itself and that you’ll be recommending us to your colleagues as well.

Control Tower in Logistics – Optimizing operational cost with end-to-end supply chain visibility

The competitive business landscape and ever-changing needs of customers are reshaping traditional supply chains today. With globalization and organizations looking to extend their geographical scope for lower-cost sourcing options and emerging markets, the complexity of supply chains has increased. The increase in outsourcing makes effective collaboration with partners imperative for efficient supply chain operations. 

In addition to these complexities, organizations have continuous pressure to improve their profit margins and increase revenue. Supply chain executives are often under enormous pressure to cater to the needs of their customers while optimizing their supply chain operations cost-efficiently. These critical business challenges drive the need to create solid end-to-end capabilities for supply chain visibility.

Supply chain visibility is the most vital enabler for managing businesses both within the organizational boundaries and across the boundaries. Visibility across processes, right from the receipt of an order to its delivery, provides the flexibility, speed, and reliability to gain a competitive advantage in the form of well-controlled supply chain functions.

Supply chain control towers embody the leading principles of supply chain visibility to address this need. It integrates data from multiple sources to provide end-to-end visibility across the supply chain, improve resiliency, and respond faster to unplanned events. A control tower in the supply chain helps organizations prioritize, resolve, and understand critical issues in real-time.

Current state and phases in supply chain visibility

Supply chain visibility, in short, includes the process of how organizations capture data and interconnect it to retrieve the vital supply chain execution information. It provides a comprehensive view for tracking information, material, or cost by monitoring the main dimensions in a global supply chain, such as inventory positions or shipment status or real-time order movements, to make well-informed decisions based on facts.

Many logistics organizations have implemented or are in the process of adopting solutions for supply chain visibility. However, they reflect different phases of maturity. The maturity level is identified by the associated processes, skills, and tools involved.

Leading practices for supply chain visibility

A successful solution for supply chain visibility is deployed around five main principles for a holistic view of the inbound and outbound operations.

Understanding Control tower

Control Towers are cross-divisional organizations with integrated “information hubs” to provide supply chain visibility. These hubs gather and distribute information, allowing people trained to handle these capabilities to identify and act on risks/opportunities more quickly.

It provides end-to-end visibility to all the participants involved in supply chain logistics. These may include manufacturers, distribution centers/warehouses, logistics, shippers, carriers, 3PL, 4PL, and store-end customers.

Also read: How supply chain visibility is reducing operational costs in logistics

A control tower helps capture and correlate relevant supply chain data from all entities involved in the operation, be it freight details, inventory positions, or transportation parameters. It supports real-time update capabilities with the help of the latest technologies like IoT and predictive analytics to monitor possible supply chain disruptions in goods movement or material shortages.  In short, control towers help implement a centralized decision-making system that focuses solely on fulfilling the end user’s needs. 

The importance of control tower in logistics

A control Tower provides round-the-clock visibility, enabling real-time feedback to customers through video, voice, or text. In short, a control tower in logistics operation offers greater reassurance and efficiency, irrespective of time zones, office hours, or holidays.

A control tower implementation is managed by a team of supply chain experts, who monitors the movement of goods throughout the supply chain. The freight movement data is then collected and analyzed to ensure that the essential service requirements are met. This data can be used to prevent potential disruptions or take corrective actions.

A team of highly experienced professionals then makes decisions based on the real-time information obtained to ensure that all service commitments are met and that customers remain happy and satisfied. The customer can follow up on special requirements concerning their cargo, such as temperature control, time constraints, or relevant security/customs clearances.

Achieve end-to-end supply chain visibility and optimize operational costs with control tower solutions from Trigent. Contact us now!

Key benefits of control tower in logistics

The Control Tower is pivotal for effective supply chain management. They help manage any unpredictable, potential disruptions in supply chain operations. They enable better planning, decision-making, proactive event management, improvement of the performance of supply chain partners, and sophisticated supply chain analytics.

Some of the benefits of control tower while streamlining dynamic management of the supply chain are as follows:

  • Enhancing logistics operations
    • A control tower platform can be configured to help manufacturers gain better insights into retaining supplies and raw materials.
    • Help carriers enhance their ability to fulfill orders quickly for customers. 
    • Reduce Inventory 
    • Speed up detection and reaction times
  • Achieve end-to-end visibility
    • Control tower systems provide details on freight movement to multiple stakeholders involved in the logistics world. 
    • Correlate data across siloed systems to provide actionable insights and manage exceptions
  • Improve service levels such as total cycle time and on-time delivery
    • Better insights and accurate information help companies improve their delivery rates. An optimized control tower helps them achieve this critical goal. 
  • Reducing costs
    • Every business looks to optimize its profits, and in most cases, this is achieved by reducing costs of operation and goods.

Implementation approach

The need for a quick response is more significant than ever before. Organizations need actionable recommendations derived from intelligent strategic inputs to respond quickly and effectively to mitigate risks and unforeseen circumstances. Control towers plan, monitor, measure, and control logistics in real-time to deliver compelling, essential strategic capabilities and cost efficiencies.

Here are some pointers to ensure the successful implementation of control towers in your organization:

  • Ensure standardization

To fully realize the benefits of a control tower, it is necessary to harmonize all the processes that it is mandated to control. Hence the first step of implementation should be to define integration standards among all the actors involved in the operation, i.e., manufacturers, assembly lines, warehouses, logistics, delivery stores, and customers.

  • Central oversight, local execution

Maintaining a balance between central oversight and local coordination for execution is crucial in bringing in the required business knowledge for building robust solutions for day-to-day operations. It enables the field to use the insights and act based on ground realities.

  • Multifunctional involvement

Establish a successful control tower implementation by including representatives from all relevant functions. They should also be given a clear idea of the individual benefits and working across the system. 

  • Pragmatism

Ensure a “feasibility-first” approach over the theoretical best practices to help deliver a control tower solution that fulfills all the preset objectives within a reasonable time frame. 

  • Knowing when to stop

It is always essential to keep an eye on the returns and avoid any adoption efforts that provide a low return. 

Break free from visibility challenges with control tower solutions from Trigent 

The recent pandemic and disruptions induced by the current digital transformation wave have put logistics organizations under immense pressure to perform. The highly experienced team at Trigent provides comprehensive and customized solutions to ensure end-to-end visibility while streamlining your supply chain operations.

End-to-end visibility and significant cost reduction for our customers have made Control Tower solutions a critical service in our offerings. Book a consultation with us to know more.

Uncovering Nuances in Data-led QA for AI/ML Applications

QA for AI/ML applications requires a different approach when compared to traditional applications. Unlike the latter that has set business rules with defined outputs, the continuously evolving nature of AI models makes their outcomes ambiguous and unpredictable.  QA methodologies need to adapt to this complexity and overcome issues relating to comprehensive scenario coverage, lack of security, privacy, and trust. 

How to test AI and ML applications?

The standard approach to AI model creation, also known as the cross-industry standard process for data mining (CRISP-DM), starts with data acquisition, preparation, and cleansing. The resulting data is then used on multiple model approaches iteratively before finalizing the perfect model. Testing this model starts by using a subset of data that has undergone the process outlined earlier. By inputting this data (test data) into the model, multiple combinations of hyperparameters or variations are run on the model to understand its correctness or accuracy, ably supported by appropriate metrics. 

Groups of such test data are generated randomly from the original data set and applied to the model. Very similar to the new data simulation approach, this process dictates how the AI model will scale in the future with accuracy.

Also Read: How to adopt the right testing strategies to assure the quality of AI/ML-based models

Challenges in data-led QA for AI/ML applications

The data-led testing and QA for AI/ML applications outlined above suffer from myriad issues, some of which are given below.

Explainability

The decision-making algorithms of  AI models have always been perceived to be black boxes. Of late, there is a strong move towards making them transparent by explaining how the model has arrived at a set of outcomes based on a set of inputs. It helps understand and improve model performance and helps recipients grasp the model behavior. This is even more paramount in complaint-heavy areas like insurance or health care systems. Multiple countries have also started mandating that along with the AI model, there needs to be an explanation set on the decisions made.

Post facto analysis is key to addressing explainability. By retrospectively analyzing specific instances misclassified by an AI model, data scientists understand the part of the data set that the model actively focused on to arrive at its decision. On similar lines, positively classified findings are also analyzed.

Combining both helps to understand the relative contribution made by each data set and how the model stresses specific attribute classes to create its decision. It further enables data scientists to reach out to domain experts and evaluate the need to change data quality to get more variation across sensitive variables and understand the need to re-engineer the decision-making parameter set used by the model. In short, the data science process itself is being changed to incorporate explainability.

You may also like: 5 points to evaluate before adopting AI in your organization

Bias

Decision-making ability of an AI model hinges to a large extent on the quality of data that it’s exposed to. Numerous instances show seepage of biases into the input data or how the models are streamed, like Facebook’s gender discriminatory Ads or Amazon’s AI-based automated recruiting system that showed discrimination against women.

The historical data that Amazon used for its system was heavily skewed on account of male domination across its workforce and the tech industry over a decade. Even large models like open AI or codepilot suffer from the percolation of world biases into their models since they are trained on global data sets that are themselves biased. While removing biases, it’s sufficient to understand what has gone into data selection and the feature sets that contribute to decision-making.

Detecting bias in a model mandates evaluating and identifying those attributes that excessively influence the model compared to other attributes. Attributes so unearthed are then tested to see if they represent all available data points. 

Security

According to Deloitte’s State of AI in the Enterprise survey, 62% of respondents view cyber security risks as a significant concern while adopting AI. ‘The Emergence Of Offensive AI’ report from Forrester Consulting found that 88% of decision-makers in the security industry believe offensive AI is coming.

Since AI models themselves are built on the principle of becoming smarter with each iteration of real-life data, attacks on such systems also tend to become smarter. The matter is further complicated by the rise of adversarial hackers whose goal is to target AI models by modifying a simple aspect of input data, even to the extent of a pixel in an image. Such small changes can potentially bring out more significant perturbations in the model, leading to misclassifications and erroneous outcomes.

The starting point for overcoming such security issues is to understand the type of attacks and vulnerabilities in the model that hackers can exploit. Gathering literature on such kinds of attacks and domain knowledge to create a repository that can predict such attacks in the future is critical. Adopting AI-based cyber security systems is an effective technique to thwart hacking attempts since the AI-based system can predict hacker responses very similar to how it predicts other outcomes.

Privacy

With the increased uptake of privacy concerns like GDPR, CCPA across all applications and data systems, AI models have also come under the scanner. More so because AI systems depend heavily on large volumes of real-time data for intelligent decisions – data that can reveal a tremendous amount of information about a person’s demographic, behavior and consumption attributes, at the minimum. 

The AI model in question needs to be audited to evaluate how it leaks information to address privacy concerns. A privacy-aware AI model takes adequate measures to deanonymize, pseudonymize or use cutting-edge technology for differential privacy. By analyzing how privacy attackers get access to input training data from the model and reverse engineer effectively to get access to PII (Personally Identifiable Information), the model can be evaluated for privacy leakage. A two-stage process of detecting the inferable training data by inference attacks and then identifying the presence of PII in the data can help identify privacy concerns when the model is deployed.  

Want to know more? Read: Best practices for test data management in an increasingly digital world

Ensuring accuracy in QA for AI/ML applications

Accurate testing of AI-based applications calls for extending the notion of QA beyond the confines of performance, reliability, and stability to newer dimensions of explainability, security, bias, and privacy. The international standards community has also embraced this notion by expanding the conventional ISO 25010 standard to include the aforementioned facets. As AI/ML model development progresses, focus across all these facets will lead to better performing, continuously learning, a compliant model with the ability to generate far more accurate and realistic results.

Need help? Ensure seamless performance and functionality for your intelligent application. Call us now

AI in Education – A Realistic Look at the Effectiveness of AI in the Education Sector

A realistic view of the current adoption rate of AI in education, and pointers on how to ensure that it works, amidst the digital-learning hype.

When the kids in Montour school district (PA, USA) turned up to school that day in the fall of 2018, they were in for a surprise. They were told they would begin a brand-new course on Artificial Intelligence (AI). What on earth was AI? And what could it mean to kids in classes 5 and 6?

But this was a serious matter. MIT Media Lab and Media, Arts and Science Department at MIT, had come together and proposed to ‘catch them young’. The idea was to make an early introduction to concepts and practical AI lessons for middle school kids. All students from classes 5 to 8 would go through the AI Ethics program to identify use cases of gender / racial biases, privacy, and fairness. By the end of the 3-day course, they would know if such biases were embedded into the programs they would work on.

Welcome to generation AI. This makes millennium kids look antiquated. This new breed is sensitized to the good of AI and is aware of where it could go wrong. 

That is not all. Montour School district STEM teacher has co-developed a six-week program with Carnegie Mellon Dept of Computer Science called AI in Autonomous Robotics for 7 and 8-grade students. The implementation rigor here is quality stuff as kids are asked to solve real-world problems. 

Amper Music, the world’s first AI music composer and producer, has worked with music faculty at the school to develop a 10-day AI Music program for class 7 and 8 students. This school district is certainly leading the AI drive firing on all cylinders.

A host of universities, AI software firms, educators, and AI experts are coming together like never before to create early engagement for school kids into the AI world. And unlike what most of us would have thought: It is not only about STEM. In fact, the philosophy is to move from STEM to STEAM (with a liberal dose of Art – music, media, entertainment) thrown in for good measure. And this is happening in several pockets across the US.

AI in education sector – AI is here to stay, and the US campuses are already doing it

Across the United States, AI penetration within the education sector is tangible but may not be visible to the untrained eye. While varying in level of experimentation, schools and higher education institutes have embraced the tech and decided to learn how to harness its powers. 

Pittsburg-based Carnegie Learning1 offers AI-based personalized math, applied sciences, and language programs for post-high school students to rediscover learning. The entire program is personalized and self-paced, giving a new approach to STEM learners post-K12 schooling. The results demonstrated in some school districts in Washington and Texas prove the program creates a positive impact.

Duolingo2 is an amazingly popular AI-based customized language learning tool that allows anyone to learn a language. This is based on machine-driven instructions optimized for students based on millions of similar learning sessions held earlier. And most of the learning is for free.

California-based Content Technologies3 is a pioneer in AI and has developed several advanced AI systems for education. The Cram 101 is an AI tool that converts any textbook fed to it into chapter-wise byte-sized summaries, true or false type questions, learning concepts in record time. The company has developed similar tools for different disciplines such as nursing education, high school, and so on.

Some of the interesting outcomes of the approach of starting them young came from a US scientist, Ms. Druga, who built Cognimates, an AI platform for building games and programming robots and training AI models. Cognimates was incubated in MIT Media Labs. 

In a three-year study, where kids were taught to program bots to play games such as Rock and Scissors and build gaming applications using AI. One of the most profound observations came from Druga: When the kids came out after a session and said – “the computer is smart, but I am smarter”.

This was a powerful endorsement of how a young student comes away with a high level of confidence in the programmability of the computer to do what she wants it to do. This clearly establishes the argument about why AI perhaps should be started early on in school.

Next steps in playing this right – How can AI be used in education?

In general, schools and Universities must do the following to stay abreast of the AI curve and help imbue its benefits within the communities.

1.   Create a qualified AI resource team within the institution so they can track AI developments in peer institutes, vendor implementations and research the use cases.

2. Understand own deployments, migration of data systems into the AI realm, define implementation road map and create necessary stakeholder education of the new systems that will come.

3.   Educational institutions should also work with boards, government agencies, and accreditation bodies to define a structured AI curriculum for higher courses. This may require an industry interface also. This combination will create a Special Interest Group -university-industry – regulator group that will work together in ensuring the best interests of all concerned.

4. Faculty training, student and parent education, and awareness programs in terms of how the implementation could affect them need to be made available. Privacy and security rights of all stakeholders are paramount and need to be protected. How the schools intend to ensure data protection as machines become more powerful and open to sharing, receiving data from remote tutors, servers dynamically need to be shared transparently.

The Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) and the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) launched the AI for K-12 Working Group (AI4K12) to define for artificial intelligence what students should know and be able to do.

There are several such movements developing effective programs to deploy at various levels. These can help institutes understand better where AI is headed and how to ride this new technology wave to harness its full benefits.

Start your AI journey with Trigent

AI could well be the elephant in the classroom but if it’s a friendly elephant that can help enrich your life, you wouldn’t complain, would you?

At Trigent, we provide intuitive and easy to use AI solutions that ensuring seamless adoption of the latest technology. With the AI-powered tools from Trigent, you will be able to accelerate your digital transformation initiative in your organization successfully.

Want to know more? Get in touch with us for a quick consultation.

 References

  1. https://www.carnegielearning.com/why-cl/success-stories/
  2. https://www.duolingo.com/info
  3. http://contenttechnologiesinc.com/

Modernize Your EDI System for Faster, Flexible Integration and Scale

The challenges posed by the pandemic are urging businesses to be agile and responsive. Both consumers and companies have undergone a significant evolution since the onset of the pandemic. The focus is now on digital transformation and its role in building resilience during anticipated or unforeseen events. The responsibility on the technologies and architecture that connect retailers, distributors, suppliers, manufacturers, and customers is enormous.

To deal with the disruptions caused due to the pandemic, organizations are now dependent on a highly available and scalable Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) more than ever before. Those who have already implemented it are looking for ways to optimize it and improve their supply chain operations and ensure stability and visibility. Not surprisingly then, the global EDI market1 valued at $2.46 bn in 2019 is now predicted to touch $49.21 bn by 2027 at a CAGR of 9.5% during the forecast period 2020-2027.

EDI enables organizations to move their paper-based documents such as purchase orders, invoices, and documents related to payments, inventory, shipping status, and other business-critical processes to a standard electronic format. It replaces traditional business communication with automated capabilities that allow organizations to share data in real-time. It is a boon for modern organizations in an ecosystem where goods and services are constantly exchanged as part of their supply chains.

Why modernize your EDI system?

Although EDI has been around for years as a dominant protocol in the world of B2B, the systems that enable the exchange of EDI documents have now moved to the cloud. The modern EDI setup simplifies the regular maintenance necessitating robust data backups to safeguard data at all costs. The modernized versions of EDI offer up-to-date features and security measures that are required to streamline your operations, securely exchange data, and increase business efficiency.

EDI integration facilitates data collection, visibility, reporting, and analysis. Efficient EDI transactions also ensure prompt and reliable product and service delivery, resulting in positive business outcomes and superlative customer experiences.

But as with every other technology, EDI integration also requires a bit of work and planning. There are things to remember and pitfalls to avoid to get the full benefits.

Here are our top 3 recommendations.

1. Incorporate flexibility to scale with Modern EDI system architecture

The one lesson we learned well in 2020 is the certainty of change. Things can happen when you least expect and turn your world upside down. In business scenarios, change comes in the form of unforeseen events. While the pandemic caused significant turbulence, seasonal changes along with industry and region-specific events are widespread. When the business network is available in the form of cloud or hybrid solutions, it is easier to scale up and down to accommodate these sudden fluctuations in transaction volumes. 

Cloud EDI system software comes with technological and business process improvements to offer greater elasticity and agility to your business. While traditional EDI enabled connections between external partners and internal resources, the new version connects partners, applications, services, and data with end-to-end combinations of both internal and client-facing business processes.

2. A robust B2B infrastructure

Your trading partners and vendors need seamless connectivity to fulfill your business demands and exchange information without disruption. The modern Cloud-based infrastructure with Native Apps, modular design, and APIs offer multi-enterprise connectivity and visibility that consistently demonstrates its ability to manage unprecedented growth in transaction volumes. 

Logistics companies have confessed to losing over $250,000 annually due to poor integration2 while 9 percent said they are losing $1,000,000 or more due to technology integration issues. Thirty-four percent of the research study participants admitted they depended heavily on manual integration processes and suffered from slow decision-making.

The right technology partner can help you implement EDI best practices while providing the necessary maintenance and support. EDI/B2B data typically comes from vendors and partners and a good service provider will help you manage it well to optimize performance and free up strategic resources.

3. Privacy and data protection

With the shift to the Cloud, you need to do everything possible to protect data. EDI brings you closer to your supply chain partners, which means essential details about your organization are vulnerable. Global operations bring in different legal frameworks, cultural differences, and diverse privacy and data protection rules. Encrypted transfer protocols and proper data storage are critical for end-to-end processes. 

You need to understand the sensitivity of data to incorporate best practices. For instance, invoice data is more sensitive than order data since it includes commercially sensitive information that needs to be protected from misuse. Ohio-based logistics startup Sauder Woodworking recently embraced a B2B fulfillment suite replete with EDI automation to drive business agility and security across its B2B ecosystem.

 Making a case for API

Modern application development enables companies to innovate rapidly by using cloud-native architectures with loosely coupled microservices that interact via Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). EDI architectures are transitioning from traditional monolithic models to a modular design that is enabled by APIs. 

Justin McMillan, the COO of logistics consulting company UpstartWorks, confirms, “Traditionally, EDI is a very strict, specification-driven technology or a way of transferring data. EDI uses AS2, a data transfer protocol, to ensure that the data between two parties is secure when it’s transferred. Whereas, API’s allow for flexibility in its abilities to customize, as it’s based on a programming format where you can make calls to certain sets of data to receive whenever you need to.”

The truth is API can serve as the perfect complement for EDI. Rather than pivoting from EDI to API, we need to augment EDI integration with API capabilities to optimize supply chain efficiencies. 

While EDI works effectively for batch processing mission-critical transactions such as financial documents, APIs come in handy for real-time data exchange.

For instance, freight carriers need real-time efficiency as well as secure B2B data exchange. APIs give them a competitive advantage with real-time shipment status and load-tender responses. At the same time, EDI formats support new standards for mission-critical transactions as per government mandates to ensure reliability and security. By integrating both into backend systems, freight carriers get the ideal mix. 

Explains Frank Kenney, director of market strategy for Cleo, “All along we’ve told our customers and prospects, ‘You’ll need real-time end-to-end visibility. You’ll need a way to connect on-prem to the cloud. API isn’t replacing EDI, they’re complementary, and you’ll need a single platform that can do both. You need the agility to turn on a dime. And you’ll want the choice to either do it yourself, get it as a managed service, or figure out some combination of the two. It’s all about you being in control of the customer experience. It’s all about optimizing your business ecosystem and creating value through integration.”

APIs help connect directly to applications and transactional systems like ERP for instant data transfer. API-driven transactions need lesser storage, memory, and computing effort to manage data exchange, making it easier to secure them with encryption and authentication methods. APIs also help onboard new partners quickly and self-service onboarding processes, making it easier for faster EDI data exchanges. No wonder APIs are an essential milestone in the digitalization roadmap of modern organizations. 

So if you are already using established EDI methods and practices to support mission-critical processes, you can strengthen them with API capabilities without making an additional investment to build separate infrastructure. A unified platform that supports such a blended solution will do the trick.

Winning with EDI

While there has been a lot of speculation and deliberation around EDI systems, the fact is EDI is here to stay. It offers concrete benefits to users and works exceedingly well in diverse IT systems. Giving it an additional boost with APIs can enhance your capabilities significantly. Collaborate with a service provider with ample experience in EDI and API integration to eliminate complexities from your business environment and get an edge to manage supply chain operations efficiently.

Switch to EDI with Trigent

Decades of experience and a highly competent team of technology experts allow us to help you improve data transfer and accuracy with EDI and API-enabled solutions. We can enable advanced supply chain process automation while supporting you during the entire process. 

Count on us for your modernization endeavors and unlock the true potential of a robust EDI system.

Call us today for a business consultation

References

  1. https://www.theinsightpartners.com/reports/electronic-data-interchange-edi-market/
  2. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201214005149/en/One-in-Three-Logistics-Firms-Loses-250K-Annually-Due-to-Poor-Integration 
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