Are mobile app's absolutely necessary for consumer use?

I REALLY don’t want to have to develop and maintain smartphone apps for all the different platforms out there - preferring instead to provide my product a web app that customers can access with any device equipped with a web browser (sensible no?).

However, I’ve got the impression that it will be necessary to integrate the blink-up SDK in both IOS and Android apps. The developer edition blinkup app already in appstores requires a developer account login so this app is not for consumers. Is it possible for there to be a baseline blink-up app for consumers as well? I can’t see any reason not to and it would unburden developers considerably.

The key word you mention, @iceled, is ‘customers’. If you have customers then you’re a commercial enterprise and your offering will be beyond the scope of the Ts&Cs of the free developer service we offer (for which, as you say, there’s the Electric Imp app in the App Store and in Google Play).

Developers who’ve signed a commercial agreement with us can get access to the BlinkUp SDK for iOS and Android, which they can use to integrated BlinkUp into their apps, even if those apps are used only to configure customers’ devices and all other device interaction is mediated by your website. As you say, web access, if properly secure, isn’t a bad notion.

Commercial users also have their code running on full robust production servers, not the developer environment, use of which comes with other caveats too because it’s designed for testing not for maintaining hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands of devices.

Yes, I get the deal r.e. commercial vs. developer use - however as a teensy-weensy hardware-focussed one-man-and-his-dog operation, I was looking to the Electric Imp platform to solve a number of problems for an acceptable service fee. Among those problems is not wanting to have to develop, deploy and maintain smartphone apps. I’ve written the odd experimental Android app but didn’t particularly enjoy the experience and I don’t own an IOS ecosystem and frankly don’t need yet another steep learning mountain to climb.

You guys have done an amazing job in living up to your mission statement of making the IOT simple to implement. But if you make an objective comparison between the cost of development (equipment, hardware, knowledge etc.) between getting an Imp up and running - and of developing and deploying a smartphone app - it’s a huge difference. I may be the only product developer in 2014 who is keen to stay away from smartphone apps but even those who aren’t could save a big chunk of effort with only a single web app to worry about.

Is there a technical reason why a generic blink-up app couldn’t be made available in appstores for consumers? The blessed Impee gets connected to the user’s WiFi and the agent returns a URL for the device when the blinkup is done (by handshake with the generic blinkup app) for example?

I am currently working through the same thing as a very small company. I have enough iOS chops to build an app, but not Android. My plan is to find a freelance Android developer who can put a very simple wrapper around the SDK that will work for me. I’m sure that amount of work won’t cost much as the SDK already has the guts of what you need.

I understand where you’re coming from, @iceled, but I’d say that since iOS and Android phones are sufficiently ubiquitous now, they’re arguably the best (current) platform for consumer IoT application control. Judging by laptop and desktop sales over the past couple of years, mobile is where it’s going to for a while yet.

You tacitly acknowledge that by asking for apps just to do the BlinkUp bit, though I think that, as a consumer, getting an agent URL and having to manually key it in, or cut’n’paste it into a web browser is a very sub-par experience. As I say, I do understand why you want to use a browser, and why you don’t want to learn one new platform let alone another.

As an aside, Mac OS X/iOS coding a a hobby of mine, but I recently tackled Android for some documentation. Never again…

I think @MakeDeck has the answer: you need to hire a coder or coders to do the app work for you. It’ll cost, but you amortise that cost through what you charge your customers. If any of my projects move beyond the kitchen, that’s what I’ll have to do for Android support, for instance.

I greatly appreciate the thoughts and comments here. I hope my point about the comparison between the simplicity of coding and maintaining the imp and the complexity of doing the same for Android/IOS/Windows mobile/whatever new platform pops up next… that’s really not a trivial issue.

Sure it makes plenty of work for coders-for-hire but that didn’t seem to be the ethos of the Electric Imp who speak in terms of businesses not having to reinvent the wheel. In the spirit of simplifying the whole IOT business, so the widest variety of vendors can participate, I think EI would be missing a trick by not providing generic access as an option.

After blinkup, and ascertaining that the agent requires it by messaging, the generic app could provide a tool-less browser view to the webpage representing the device. For PC style browsing it shouldn’t take much to dispense the link - an email would do.

Xcode is a pretty nice IDE. I installed Eclipse at one point to tackle Android myself…went “Ewwwww”, and didn’t open it again. :slight_smile:

Xcode, I guess, will only run on iOS which is something I would have to find a big old chunk of money to buy-in and code on! And yes, just getting the environment set up in Eclipse to cater for the umpteen different Android releases is a grubby experience.

smittytone, I’m not saying that smartphones are a fad - I couldn’t live without mine and it’s the very thing I want to access my internet things on. I’m saying they’re not the product I want to develop for. The Internet of things is about things accessed over the internet and I’d argue that the web-browser is the standard tool to do that.

Tell you what… you write me an Android app, and I’ll write you an iOS app.

It would seem a few of us here are a “third market” for imp where we are looking to make short-run/bespoke/artisanal items around imp for fun or (small) profit

Makedeck in particular has done a great job working with the imp team to enable the hardware side, could we make the software side happen (I know its small potatoes for the imp would help bring developers to the platform)

This is something we have definitely considered in the past (eg: a way to do blinkup and then show the agent webpage within the app, allowing a generic app to control various devices). No firm plans though as yet.

eg: a way to do blinkup and then show the agent webpage within the app, allowing a generic app to control various devices

@Hugo that would fit my need perfectly

That’s potentially really good news Hugo! I’m sure that even Megacorp inc. might be attracted by the prospect of product deployment without the hassle of continual software maintenance on multiple different platforms. I, for one at least, think your clever architecture for the Imp deserves to be liberated from the messy business of platrorm specific development - not locked into it.

I brought it up in the hangout last night, @beardedinventor explained he has first hand experience of the issue when friends wanted their own copy of the “ISS overhead” gadget he’d made

He did concur however with what @Hugo just said, they have no immediate plans

I’ll look into providing this as a service through MakeDeck.