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7.3 Pervasive Devices

Pervasive mobile devices are at the core of the mobile enterprise solution's value proposition. However, unlike PCs, which can be centrally administrated, managing a large number of small devices that people carry around all the time is an IT nightmare. Many of the device management issues are both social and technical in nature. In this section, we discuss what the problems are and the technical tools that can help IT managers and users.

The successful use of the technologies described in this section rely on proper user education and corporate policies.

7.3.1 Protect On-Device Data

Small devices are very easy to lose. Stolen enterprise devices that contain sensitive business data, user credentials, or even company private keys could pose a real security risk. The only way to guard against this is to use strong encryption to protect on-device data. In Chapters 19 and 20, we compare security toolkits and provide code examples of how to protect your on-device data.

7.3.2 Synchronize Often

Today's battery technology lags far behind the device technology. A smart mobile device with a fast CPU; a large, backlit LCD; and multimedia features could drain its battery in a matter of hours. Most smart phone or high-end PDA devices require the user to recharge every day. If the user forgets, she will probably end up with drained batteries in the middle of the next day. Drained batteries could result in lost data. One way to cope with this is to synchronize the device periodically with backend data sources. Chapter 13 discusses the database synchronization options.

7.3.3 Optimize for Many Devices

Because pervasive devices are cheap and easy to carry around, there tends to be many of them in a company. Each worker could carry multiple interconnected devices. Enterprise solutions need to support all devices in use in the company. J2ME provides a device-independent platform to develop applications. But applications still need to be optimized for the specific target UI and other device characteristics. The use of the MVC pattern could ease the pain of customizing applications: Only the view layer needs to be modified. For example, when the Sun Smart Ticket blueprint teams decide to port the application to MIDP v2.0 devices, they need to recode only the view layer in a matter of days. Another way to implement an MVC solution is to use the clientside container, as described in Chapter 4, Section 4.4.

7.3.4 Centralized Provisioning

Mobile enterprise users need to have the latest patched software and up-to-date application data. However, it just does not fit the mobile worker's busy life and work style to sit down, hook the devices to PCs, and follow detailed update instructions from the IT department every day. As a result, those instructions are often ignored. To manage and update software and data on a large number of mobile devices is a challenging task. The following are several tools that automate the device management process for both mobile users and IT administrators.

  • J2EE provisioning server: The JSR 124 develops a specification for J2EE client provisioning servers. The server allows operators to plug in adapters for any client provision scheme. For example, the MIDP Over-the-Air (OTA) support is provided by a bundled adaptor in the reference implementation. When the device requests a client software, the provisioning server matches the device with clients in the repository and deploys the client using the appropriate adaptor. The provisioning server also provides hooks for backend billing, tracking, and CRM applications. Figure 7.2 shows the overall design of the J2EE client provisioning server.

    07fig02.gifFigure 7.2. The J2EE client provisioning server.

  • OGSi bundles: As we discussed in Chapter 4, OSGi bundles are self-contained mobile applications with managed life cycles. For devices running OSGi services, OSGi bundles could be the ideal way to deploy applications and contents.

  • Synchronization server: Database synchronization can also be used to provision and update contents (see Chapter 13).

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