M-OTA: Mobile 'Over-The- Air' (OTA) Overview

Mobile OTA is one of the Key aspect in enterprise mobility. This is an key differentiator over Mobility service or platform provider capabilities.

A person who understand the OTA capabilities and what level the provider or platform provide the flexibility to create and manage the mobile app deliveries.

The Key OTA capabilities are
#1 OTA - Binary download and Activation
#2 OTA - On demand content push / Sync Services
#3 OTA - Lazy loading of static resources
#4 OTA - Mobile Binary Management
#5 OTA - Mobile App Upgrade (Casual / Force )
#6 OTA - Mobile App Access Restriction by App/OS - version
#7 OTA - Mobile Binary Management
#8 OTA - Mobile Download Statistics
#9 OTA - Mobile Binary Distributions (Private appstore)

Let's go over some of the OTA capabilities in-detail to understand what it is and how it works.

1. OTA - Binary download and Activation

The capabilities are remote binary download specific to the device, install and the binary with in device and activate the device remotely over the air.

The application like NFC Mobile Payment Application, the key capabilities required in the mobility platform is the OTA remote download.

The Telco or TCM provider will provide the NFC TCM Client binaries over the air as part of successful device registration. This NFC binaries will be get downloaded to device and extracted or installed to active NFC capabilities defined as per provider. This binaries will handle the Lifecycle of NFC data protection with in NFC Secure Module and data transfer between devices to POS.

Once this secure binaries are downloaded then the binaries has secure mechanism to registered with Telco / TCM provider to activate or opt-in the services over the air.
This OTA behaviour will be linked to MDM capabilities.

2 OTA - On demand content push / Sync Services

OTA brings the key capabilities such as SYNC content or On demand content push to enterprise mobility.
Most of the smart mobile application development platform provide this feature to reduce the appstore upload round-trips.

On demand content push provide the mobile users to use the latest functionalities pushed from mobile middleware with-out the user being download the newer version from appstore. This helps the enterprise to avoid the frequent appstore upload hazels.

SYNC Service / SYNC content is the key differentiator in every smart mobile application development architecture. Mobile client will sync with Mobile middleware constantly and get download the newer version if available in server. It means the user always have the latest content into his mobile.

3 OTA - Lazy loading of static resources

When the enterprise are building either native or hybrid app. The key challenges are handling the assets, dynamic images and changes of those.

For example, the dynamic assets such as campaign images, styles, java scripts and static htmls can be zipped and send to mobile client on-demand via lazy loading with-out impacting the mobile UI rendering. This way mobile large file downloads / changes can be pushed to mobile and that can be extracted and cached.

4 OTA - Mobile Binary Management
Enterprises will built multiple mobile apps and each mobile apps will targeted in different platform and each platform specific apps can have unique app versions.

Since the mobile binary management is critical to appstore upload and tightly coupled with agile project management and multi-track development.

Mobile Binary management provides the option to upload the binaries (apps) into OTA by platform, by device groups, by app version, by OS version etc.
This binary management provides option to enable and disable the specific upload or published binaries as well.

The upload binaries should have new, modified, published, expired, disabled flag to control the app management function as part of App publishment practise.

5 OTA - Mobile App Upgrade (Casual / Force )

In Enterprise world, we can't live with single version of app being uploaded and hanged with single version. The app will be frequently upgraded with more features and functions as part of enterprise mobility roadmaps under specific enterprise function.
Since than the enterprise app owner should know when to ask the users to force download the new app or provide flexibility to live with their older version.

5.1 Force Upgrade: Most of the cases, the audience of enterprise (B2C) will be larger. And ask them for frequent force download of newer version from appstore and re-install the app into their device is impact the user experience. Only one the critical app version roll-out, security patch, OS upgrade enforcement scenarios need option for all the lower version of app users must download the newer app available.

The user behaviour is, when the existing app user open the app in their mobile, it should throw the pop-up and ask the user to download the app from appstore with-out the user being access the existing app function.

5.3 Casual Upgrade: Ensure the mobile app users are provided flexibility to upgrade the mobile newer version of the apps as their convenient.

This is the practise in most of the enterprise to provide better user experience which end-up with multiple version of app being used by different user groups with in enterprise.

This practise also provide the maintenance of the app in-terms of backword compatibility application issue.

6 OTA - Mobile App Access Restriction by App/OS - version

Enterprise frequently come across different situations to restrict the specific version of App or OS to be restricted from public access.

For example, the enterprise identified the major functional /security defect in the specific app version which is available in public. So the enterprise app owner should upload the new app or existing app version limitation settings.

Option 1: All the Android Mobile Specific app version 2.0 can force upgrade and less than 2.0 can't work any-more.
Option 2: All the iOS 4 and 5 version existing user devices can't use this app functions.

7 OTA - Mobile Binary Distributions (Private appstore)

In 2008 - 2011, the popular items are private appstores. Since J2ME, Android, Blackberry, Nokia phones apps does not have proper public appstore. The enterprises are struggled to distribute the apps (middlets, jars and apk) to public.

The standard mechanism is relaying the private (in-build or platform) provided intranet mobile binary distribution mediums. This binary distributions mediums are tightly integrated with MDM.

The users are notified SMS/email/mail with specific web url and the users are expected to click/type and open this url in mobile browsers.

The MDM (mobile device identification) capabilities are identified the user devices and platform etc and provide the specific binaries to their devices securely. Later this private appstores are exposed over internet as well when the B2C apps are stored growing.
This private appstores are still very popular in the enterprise environment (with in secured environment access - with in organization).

However after the public appstore emerges as Google Play, Apple Appstore, BB World, Windows Store etc this private store capabilities from mobile platform provider are not high-lighted much. But this is one of the key function if you wish to look for enterprise internal app development and secure distribution.

Ramu Arivuvel
Enterprise Architect

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