How HTML5 Can Modernize Your Mobile Document Access
|Simon Wieczner in HTML5 Friday, August 8, 2014|
According to Gartner, approximately 184 million tablets were shipped last year and we can expect that 2014 will bring additional market growth. It’s not surprising that tablets are outpacing smartphones as the enterprise’s most popular computing platform. While the latter are more portable, their smaller screen size presents challenges when it comes to viewing full size documents. Tablets, on the other hand, pose no such issue and many professionals are attempting to perform all of their computing work on them.
As such, it follows that businesses are increasingly looking to offer their employees and their customers a mobile document access solution. This is a challenge and will take time to be as fully developed as desktop or laptop access, but it’s workable as long as the server-based software is appropriately designed, provisioned and configured.
Mobile document access can provide many benefits for companies, employees, and customers alike. The latter will enjoy enhanced access and faster acquisition of information with the ability to view and react to documents via their flexible, light and portable device. Meanwhile, companies can make their employees more efficient by allowing them to access data and get their work done from almost any location. Businesses can earn customer loyalty by enhancing their ability to obtain critical information on the road, at a coffee shop, in their automobile or even in bed.
Following are just a few examples of industries that can benefit from mobile document access:
Tablets offer insurance agents many powerful tools for the field, including collaboration tools such as integrated cameras to take photos and audio/video recording capabilities to collect statements. They also open up the possibility of custom applications for accident recreation that can aid in determining responsibility. Additional capabilities include:
- High resolution displays to view case-related images and video
- Powerful processors to display and manipulate various media, including large documents, maps, and drawings-
- Digital pen capabilities to take notes, draw diagrams, and obtain signatures directly on the tablet screen
Because of mobile device portability, healthcare workers are utilizing tablets for a variety of tasks, including reviewing electronic health records and other patient data at bedside or in the examination room. Among the additional use cases are:
- Reporting, updating, and inputting medical records digitally right in front of the patient, all of which save physicians and other clinicians valuable time by eliminating the need for data entry post-visit
- Collaborating and communicating with both patients and other healthcare workers (scheduling appointments, managing prescriptions, etc.)
- Showing patients educational videos in between the nurse’s screening and the doctor’s arrival
Mortgage agents, brokers, and other financial advisors can discuss and display customer information and marketing information at the customer’s home or office.
Judges and lawyers can easily and quickly access critical information in the courtroom without being encumbered with bulky computers. In addition, the gathering and managing of evidence (for example, medical reports, cell phone records, faxes, e-mails, or large volumes of photos) can be performed anywhere.
These are just a few examples to illustrate how mobile applications are becoming increasingly popular across industries. As enterprise mobility accelerates, HTML5 technology will play a critical role.
Why HTML5 is Important
HTML5 capability is a hugely important advance in browser technology that allows more flexible and capable web-based user interfaces for many different applications.
Introduced a few years ago but now seeing much greater adoption, HTML5 allows application developers to use browsers as the shell for many of their applications. This greatly simplifies the process of creating an application but, more importantly, it minimizes the task of downloading, installing, configuring and updating these applications.
The power of HTML5 technology is that applications can be easily downloaded onto almost any browser - whether it’s Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or another browser specific to a tablet or smartphone - without much effort. The major benefit here is that an application developer can create one app for multiple platforms and devices.
By using HTML5 to run applications on the browser, you can also have radio buttons, check boxes and enter information in text fields. However dealing with documents is another challenge solved by HTML5. One of the key factors transforming the dissemination of documents to large audiences via mobile document access is that HTML5 running in modern web browsers supports the display of several useful image and document formats.
By addressing the major issues of supporting an employee and customer audience over multiple computing devices and operating systems, web-based HTML5 is creating a document viewing revolution for companies interested in web-based document support.
This advance provides the technology to display certain images types like JPEG and PNG within the page of the browser. This is vital for documents, however, for organizations with different document types like Word, RTF, or PCL, having browser support for JPEG or PNG doesn’t matter. This is where server side processing makes a difference. With the proper tools and technology, various document types can be converted on the server to an appropriate form viewable by the HTML5 document viewer.
What’s Behind the Scenes?
Through careful and sophisticated design on the server, a company can disseminate documents, photos, faxes, emails and more to anyone using a browser. Not only can images be displayed but whole HTML5 “applications” can be easily installed transparently to the user.
Currently, one popular class of applications are document viewers which self-install on the user’s web page and then allow the user to download documents, view, rotate, transform, redact, annotate and more. Properly designed, the viewer’s same features and functionality can be offered on a PC, a Mac, a tablet and perhaps even a smartphone.
These viewers facilitate document zooming and rotation, annotation, and collaboration regardless of format. With proper design, they can also be further customized to simplify and speed workflow processing. For example, adding keyboard shortcuts for actions such as zooming, rotation or scrolling, or displaying only the functions a user requires on the tool bar.
As mentioned earlier, a chief benefit of HTML5 is that it requires no client resident application other than a browser. In addition, the same web-based application will run on any device with a browser - be it Windows, Apple, Android or another smartphone or tablet platform. Support is also simplified as no client software is required, eliminating the need to download Flash, Acrobat, or Word.
HTML5 also addresses security concerns as only representations of documents are downloaded, leaving the actual documents securely saved on the server. Additional benefits include:
- Easy updates since the “application” is downloaded every time
- Easily configurable based on permissions so that users can be selectively enabled for various tasks like printing or saving
- Greater capabilities can be easily provided by modifying the server software without burdening the client systems
- Easily scalable since no installation or user effort is required on the client
The technology is not without its drawbacks, however. Because major processing occurs on the server, performance can be affected unless the servers are scaled appropriately. In addition, HTML5 can’t directly control hardware and may not have all the capabilities of a full fledged application.
In summary, HTML5 technology is great for its intended use but it doesn’t replace other technologies. By its nature, HTML5 only does part of the application processing - the rest has to happen on the server. For applications that need to directly control hardware or do a lot of processing, traditional methods may be a better choice if performance is important.
However, when working with documents where more time is spent reading and reviewing rather than writing or editing, the HTML5 solution works very well. As such, I expect the technology to play a critical role in the future of enterprise mobility in the increasingly visual world.
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