Keep Your Business Protected with an Emergency Contact List App for the Work Perimeter of BlackBerry 10

Enterprise

It’s no secret that the top three business “apps” have consistently been Email, Calendar, and Contacts. These simply allow business to get done. Now we’re entering a new era of mobility where “email is old” and social networking/instant messaging are replacing it at increasing rate. Still, the business case for an Emergency Contact List is significant – if not required – in nearly every Enterprise environment.

 

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For those of you unfamiliar, an Emergency Contact List (ECL herein), is simply a customized list of important contacts available on the mobile device. Generally think of names and phone numbers.


 

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BlackBerry has always been at the forefront of Enterprise application development, and has made several advancements to a simple ECL model throughout the years. First, and foremost: offline support. It IS an Emergency after all! The ability to pull up information quickly and without network access is critical for an employee in an emergency situation.

 

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Next we add PUSH technology to keep the data in sync. This differs from polling, where a device would ping the server to check for new data availability, because your device is only updated when the server has new data – and when new data is available, it’s proactively pushed down to your smartphone. This allows it to run extremely efficiently, not drain excess battery life by polling, reduces your network infrastructure load (compound a poll by potentially thousands of devices), and lastly the data is guaranteed to make it to the endpoint as soon as the device restores network connectivity. The best part is that with BlackBerry all you need is BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 and a few lines of JavaScript – leaving you with secure Enterprise-grade push technology that’s fully functional!

The last advancement I’ll mention is the unique ability for “PIN to PIN” communication between BlackBerry smartphones. PIN messages are sent directly from one BlackBerry device to another over cellular data plans or Wi-Fi networks. Again, in a disaster-type situation, there is a possibility that your server infrastructure could experience downtime – so no emails. Also, voice traffic trunks can get congested quickly (ever get “Network is busy” signal when trying to place a call?) With PIN to PIN messaging, you have an extremely robust set of tools to attempt to get a message through to the other side no matter how extreme the circumstances! We’ve heard many stories of customers using this functionality in disaster situations – and not just businesses, but emergency services and governments as well.

At BlackBerry, in the spirit of sharing and open-collaboration, we’ve released and posted our codebase online in GITHub. This allows, and in fact encourages, you to fork your own copy and begin development. As we commit changes back to the main codeline, you are notified and can merge them into yours or leave them out.

So how do I get this ECL app for BB10 in my Enterprise? It’s a six step process:

  1. Install our HTML 5 WebWorks Development SDK by following the detailed instructions.
  2. Install an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) of your choice. I recommend Aptana Studio because it’s free, has GIT integration, does great JavaScript error checking and syntax highlighting, and runs on all major platforms.
  3. Check out our code in GitHub and our ECL app repository in particular.
  4. Build and SIGN the app (instructions can be found on the GitHub page). You’ll need to apply for app signing keys in order to complete this step.
  5. Deploy the application into the WORK perimeter by uploading the signed application to your BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 (talk to your IT administrator to accomplish this). Please note you MUST run the application once on each client to register itself as a PUSH listener! After that, the users may close the app, reboot the device, anything short of removing the app – and it will receive any pushes directed towards it’s application ID in the future.
  6. Import your existing ECL contacts from a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet or CSV file into the new app (by running server/index.htm in the GitHub package) and PUSH it out! You may upload this file to your BES10 server, or any other HTML server for that matter – since this is just a standard HTML file, you can run it on any machine that has access to your Enterprise network (yes, even your laptop). By cut and pasting your data into the webpage it serves up, you can push your data out to any devices running the ECL app that you deployed in the last step. Just give it at minimum the BES10 server address, port, and an application ID to push to.

If you’d like to learn more about this and other great samples to help you out with enterprise application development, register for some of our upcoming webcasts here.

Lastly, if you have any problems, reach out to your BlackBerry account manager for assistance. You are also welcome to tweet me @latestlinux, the team at @BlackBerryDev, or post any questions in the comments below.

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