Hacking for Missing Kids – Technology for Good

By | Design, Events, RedBit | No Comments

Back in October, we spent some time with Microsoft to build some technology to help find Missing Children in Canada and ideally around the world. This was a collaboration with Missing Children Society of Canada, City of Calgary, Calgary Police Services who provided ‘what we were building’ and the problem we were trying to solve. RedBit and Microsoft provided the technical expertise to build a solution within a weekend to attempt to solve this problem.

Finding Missing Children - Hacking for Good

For more information on the technical background and RedBit’s participation, see our technology summary on the Xamarin application coming soon. This article will cover what we built, some processes we went through and finally the results.

The Team

There were many groups involved in building a solution, but RedBit’s main responsibility was building out the Xamarin client for iOS, Android and Windows.

The Xamarin development was lead by myself (Mark Arteaga) a Microsoft MVP, Xamarin University Trainer and using the Xamarin platform since 2010.

Invited to help with the development were members of Silicon Halton Tech Under 20 specifically Denys Linkov and Mohammed Eseifan who are first year university students. Also invited to participate was Microsoft Student Partner Taha Hasan Ubaid.

We also had folks from Microsoft helping on various parts specifically Mickey Macdonald, Jeff King, Sage French, Adasha Datta, Pierre Roman and Anthony Bartolo.

The TeamWith any project, key is to have the subject matter experts and this is Missing Children Society of Canada, City of Calgary, Calgary Police Services who helped us understand the ‘why’ and ‘what’.

The Problem

In Canada 45,000 children go missing every year and 150 of these cases are abductions. Of those 150 only 6 AMBER Alerts are issued because it has to adhere to very strict criteria to be issued.

Missing Children Society of Canada has been around for the past 30yrs helping provide support for families with missing children. They also help coordinate with media, law enforcement and various community groups to find children that have gone missing.

the problem

Now there are systems in place for the 150 and the use of tech is being used such as the Most Valuable Network. But this is only for 150 kids, what about the other 30,000+ children that go missing?

The weekend hack consisted of trying to address this problem. The 30,000+ children that are not abducted could have been lured away via social media, can be runaways but are still in potential danger. What we built tries to address children being lured away through social media.

As a father of three, I was thrilled to be a part of this to try and make some sort of difference with technology in the world.

Design Session

design sessionWith the problem defined, we started determining what needs to be done. With any project at RedBit, we start with a design session to figure out what exactly needs to be built.  The following key items were determined.

Personas

We had an idea of the users that were going to use the mobile app (personas) and this was officers investigating a case. Another persona was parents and children to manage their settings and their accounts. Our focus for the weekend was the officers investigating the case.

Opt-In & Education

We determined that users would have to opt-in to have their social media monitored. As a kid aged 10-18, it would be difficult to convince them to opt-in so educating parents, community leaders would have to be done to talk to children about internet safety and tools around to help them. It’s like before the internet days, where you and your parents had a ‘code word’ if someone was to pick you up from school, if they had the wrong ‘code word’ you didn’t go. This would be another mechanism and tool that hopefully would never have to be enabled.

Enabling the System

To enable the system, we decided that a user would have to opt-in, and if they felt like they were in danger they would put something on social media with a certain hashtag.

Take the scenario where a young girl or boy meets a stranger from social media for ‘coffee’. If the person doesn’t feel safe, he or she can put something on social media with a hashtag of #HFM which stands for Help Find Me.  My first thought was ‘what kid is going to be able to tweet when they are being abducted!?’

After talking to people who deal with this all the time usually meetings are in a public setting and they may have an opportunity to put something out there. Adding the #HFM hashtag will enable the system and notify appropriate parties.

Session Results

After an hour of a design session & brainstorming we came up with the following white board drawing

whiteboard drawingIt was a simple application that consisted of

  1. Login Page
  2. List of Cases Page
  3. Case Details Page
  4. Map of social content page

With this we had a good idea of what the APIs needed to provide and what the Xamarin mobile app needed to display. Here is a high level architecture of the system that was to be built.

architectureAt this point we understood the user needs, the technology required, what to focus on and we were ready to build a prototype.

The Build & Prototype

With problem defined and technology requirements defined we were ready to build. The RedBit team focused on getting the Xamarin app up and running and connected to a backend NodeJS REST API system. Within the weekend we were able to successfully build a Xamarin app for iOS, Android and Windows for users investigating cases. Other members of the team where able to retreive social media content from registered users and enable the system if the #HFM hashtag was triggered on registered users. This data was then displayed in the Xamarin app.

 

Here are some screenshots of the login page on all three platforms

loginpageThe Case list page

caselistThe Case details page

casedetails

The backend system was built using NodeJS and running on Microsoft Azure and here is a screen grab of the system telemetry data

image17The Results

Once we finished building we validated the solution with Missing Children Society of Canada, City of Calgary, Calgary Police Services who provided feedback during the design session and during the build.  Although we did not get everything we wanted completed we did get amazing feedback and the best feedback was “it’s a great first step and can use it in the future as it’s built out more”.

Here is the CEO of Missing Children Society Canada recording an overview of what was built

image18Considering we had 3days to try and solve a really big problem I think it’s an amazing first step and validated the technology can possibly work!

I’m really excited to part of an amazing hack with an amazing team of people for trying to solve a real problem in our world. As a long time developer, it’s great to use technology to help make a difference in our world. This is the first step but not the last!

 

 

redbitplaceholder

Xamarin Dev Days Toronto Wrap Up

By | Events, RedBit | No Comments

Had a great time putting together Xamarin Dev Days and wanted to follow up with some thanks and resources for devs to keep learning about Xamarin development.

logos_banner-1
First off thanks to RedBit for feeding all attendees (can’t learn & code on an empty stomach!) and RedBit team for helping support putting together the event. Second thanks to HackerYou, not only do the provide amazing people to hire (we have hired 3 grads) but they also provide a great space for dev events like we did. And third thanks to Xamarin (Microsoft) for helping us co-ordinate everything with attendees.

Would also like to thank the speakers who came as far as London (Ontario 🙂 and Seattle to spend the day. On site we had

  1. Myself – Microsoft MVP, Xamarin University Trainer & CEO RedBit
  2. Tom Walker – Microsoft MVP, Xamarin MVP & Consultant
  3. Lori Lalonde – Microsoft MVP, Xamarin MVP & Consultant
  4. James Montemagno – Principal Program Manager – Microsoft/Xamarin

Always great presenting together with Tom and Lori, and it was my first time presenting with James, if you need to know anything technical about Xamarin, talk to James or just go through his GitHub repos … you will definitely use them in your Xamarin projects!

And finally thanks to all the attendees who took time away on a Saturday to spend the day with us. Reconnected with some old friends like Rob Lim, meet some new friends like Allan Ritchie (who also has an impressive GitHub repo) and Dave Wood who is an ObjectiveC/Swift developer.

Here are some images from the event

So if you want to continue learning here are some resources.

If I have missed any feel free to comment and I will update. And don’t forget RedBit is hiring!

redbitplaceholder

2016 Application Development Resources

By | General, RedBit | No Comments

We come across interesting resources all of the time that can help with the successful development of web and mobile applications – and we love to share.  This list will be updated periodically as come across new resources.  If you have anything to add, let us know!

Xamarin Resources

Microsoft Resources

Mobile Web App Development Resources

 

Resources to Polish your Apps

Icons

Game Art

Fonts

Sounds

 

Cross Platform Resources

 

RedBit Resources

redbitplaceholder

Xamarin Dev Days Coming to Toronto

By | Events | No Comments

Xamarin Dev Days is coming to Toronto and RedBit will be helping host one in Toronto in partnership with Hacker You & Xamarin.logos_banner-1The event is to take place on October 29 2016 at the Hacker You training facilities located at 483 Queen Street West in Toronto. You can register for the event here.

Xamarin Dev Days is a global event held in over 40+ cities around the world. It’s more than just a hackathon, but is an opportunity for developers to learn native mobile development for iOS, Android and Windows from the ground up. If you’ve always wanted to learn mobile development, this is your chance to learn from the experts.

On site we’ll have

  1. Mark Arteaga – Microsoft MVP, Xamarin University Trainer & CEO RedBit
  2. Tom Walker – Microsoft MVP, Xamarin MVP & Consultant
  3. Lori Lalonde – Microsoft MVP, Xamarin MVP & Consultant
  4. James Montemagno – Principal Program Manager – Microsoft/Xamarin

We will have a full day stacked with session, food and then hands on labs so you can get dirty with some code!

schedule

Special thanks to RedBit, Hacker You and Microsoft Xamarin team for helping us put this together for the developer community!

It’s going to be a fun day, so be sure to register!

redbitplaceholder

In 2016 Enterprise Spending on Mobile Is Low

By | General | No Comments

Since 2002, I have been involved in mobile development, starting with WAP development and creating a product for Lotus Notes.  14 years later a Gartner Survey Reveals Enterprise Spending on Mobile App Development Remains Low, from a Gartner analysis on How Enterprises are Tackling Mobile App Development in 2016  that reveals:

Mobile Only 10% of Dev Budgets

Spending is set to go up 31% on mobile in the future, but why are enterprises not spending more?  This percentage is actually down 2% from 2015.  The questions that come to my mind are:

  1. Is it a fear of not having control of data and a lack of security?
  2. Is it that there are so many devices out there that enterprises don’t want to limit the type of devices employees can use? Do they have a BYOD strategy?

There are ways to lock down your apps and data and RedBit has developed HIPPA compliant apps.  I’m sure there are more questions, but these are ‘answerable’ and the  technology exists to help reach mobile enterprise goals. If spending is expected to rise, maybe these questions are being answered.

Demand is Up, But Not a Priority

Employees are demanding Business to Employee (B2E) mobile apps, whether that be tablet, laptop, phone – to me it’s all mobile. RedBit has written software that spans iOS, Android, Windows, Web, APIs and shared some amount of code across all those platforms.  The technology is there to help us achieve that.  Employees should be given the freedom to complete their tasks and job from any location in a secure and reliable manner. Especially with the new workforce coming in (yes, millennials and the ones after that) who grew up with technology.  They are going to expect this flexibility to get their job done using whatever device they want.

Custom Mobile Apps, Not Templates

In 2012-2013 we attempted a startup that ‘templated’ mobile apps for media companies. We did a few things wrong (which I’m not going to get into now or else I’ll never stop writing) but the biggest thing we learned is customers want a custom experience for their brand.

The Gartner survey proves this point and states that “given most development teams use custom app development for all their apps, extending this to mobile is a natural behavior” which tells me that internal enterprise dev teams are used to doing it from scratch.  My recommendation for custom app development is:

  1. Figure out an integration strategy.  Most enterprises have existing infrastructure and you don’t want to change those. This is the biggest roadblock, but it can be solved. In one project we went old school and had SAP push a file to an FTP server which then an Azure web job would monitor and update the SQL database for the mobile apps to display data. Not the most efficient process, but you need to start somewhere to effectively leverage legacy systems.
  2. Select a technology like Microsoft’s Xamarin.  Come up with a framework that can be used across various apps. Things like authentication, accessing APIs, and UI style guides can all be put inside a ‘starter kit’ so your teams can get up and running quickly and not start from scratch every time.
  3. Start small with a proof of concept.  There is so much technology out there to get you up and running fast.  The days of spending years getting something up and working are gone.  If your enterprise is spending 12 months or more planning and building apps, it’s time to re-strategize.

What’s Next?

If you are a CIO/CTO/CDO/Dev Manager there are a lot of items to figure out on mobile, but it’s time to get in.  I’ve always been a proponent of mobile and how it’s going to change the way we work and live, and it really has. Just see Mobile is Eating the World which was done in 2014 and then the 2016 version by Benedict Evans from a16z.  Does this survey indicate that enterprises are done with mobile?  I don’t think so. After 14 years working in mobile development, I’ve never been more excited with all the new technologies coming out and how quickly we can get something going.

About the Author:

Mark Arteaga is founder of RedBit Development. Mark specializes in implementing clients’ visions for their customer’s business needs and implementing those visions into realities with mobile and web based software solutions.  With clients such as Microsoft, Bell Media, Orkin, Telerik and the Art Gallery of Ontario as well as others, Mark has vast experience in helping solve business problems through software and bringing his clients visions to life.  Mark’s love and knowledge of game changing technology is felt in his presentations, technical articles and mentoring activities.  You can follow Mark on Twitter @markarteaga or leave a comment below.

Enterprise Mobility Canada

Thanks to everyone who stopped by to say hello or play with the Hololens at the 5th Annual Summit on Enterprise Mobility Canada, October 4th and 5th at the Shangri-La on Toronto.  If you are looking for more information on the Digital and Mobile Enterprise, including a downloadable infographic, visit our summit site msummit16.redbitdev.com

redbitplaceholder

Round Up: August 2016

By | General | No Comments

Redbit Round Ups are published once a month and feature summaries and opinions on a few handpicked articles that caught our eye in the areas enterprise digitization, mobile technology, augmented reality, tech entrepreneurship and the Internet of Things.

This RedBit Round Up asks about policies supporting the mobile workforce and the changing role of the IT department in the new digital enterprise.

‘Bring Your Own’ Policies and Meeting Employees’ Mobile Needs

In 2016, 65% of the U.S. workforce will be mobile. By 2021, that number will be 72%. What defines a mobile worker? Well IDC defines mobile workers as “employees who use mobile devices in their work”. To me, a ‘mobile device’ can be a Microsoft Surface, Windows Phone, iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet but can also include new mobile devices like Microsoft HoloLens, which is completely untethered.

Recently, Business Insider released The Enterprise App Report – Bring Your Own Policies, The Shift to Enterprise Apps and How companies are Adopting to Meet Employees’ Mobile Needs giving an overview of some of the trends happening in the enterprise.

Some key points   

  1.      69% of managers said mobility will change the enterprise in the next 10 years the way the web changed the enterprise in the last 20.
  2.      Enterprises are giving employees the opportunity to ‘bring their own device’ and have more freedom over device choices.
  3.      Employees are bringing their own apps: For example deploying DropBox or Box.com within a small group to share corporate files because companies are slow to adapt or have systems that are too hard to use.
  4.      37% of companies have already created their own mobile enterprise apps either in-house or using a partner.

So, what does this mean to you as a CIO or IT leader? It means your organization needs to be ready to support multiple devices and be ready to support third party apps. As a leader, you will also have to take into account security policies within your company (or implement one if you don’t have one) to keep corporate data safe.

If you build internal productivity or line of business apps (LOB) you need to think mobile first and adopt technologies that allow you to target multiple mobile platforms, like Xamarin. Employees want to use what they are comfortable and familiar with and companies have to be ready.

Your employees expect to be mobile and to attract new talent to your organization, you have to be able to provide a flexible technology environment. Employees are your customers too and it’s customer first, as well as mobile first.

Read the full article here.

Analysing the Chief Digital Officer and the Rise of the Digital Enterprise

I remember back when I started my career and co-op terms, working in IT departments, we would have projects that would last longer than my actual co-op term and in some cases would last years. With my short attention span that didn’t last long for me!

Fast forward 16 years later and those days are now gone, or at least they should be! If enterprise IT groups are still doing multiyear projects, they will effectively be overtaken by existing competitors who are more agile or new competitors into the market who are smaller and can move quicker.  Of course, some projects do take a long time and software is never truly done, but you have to release your enterprise software often and adopt a culture where it’s ‘Customer First’.

Quinton Wall gives some pointers in Analysing the Chief Digital Office and The Rise of the Digitial Enterprise and some good stats

  • IT needs to shift to driving digital innovation, rather than investing time, money, and personnel on activities which do not differentiate the company.
  • 68% of IT teams say their enterprises have experienced growth in mobile apps, cloud migration, and cybersecurity.
  • 63% and 62%, respectively, have plans in place to increase customer and employee apps.
  • 60% of enterprises now employ a Chief Digital Officer (CDO).

One point Quinton makes is, it’s not just about apps which I 100% agree with. It’s transforming your IT department to be more agile and have a continuous feedback loop from the end customer. Who is that end customer? The end customer can be internal employees, vendors, partners, or external customers who pay you money. A customer may need to integrate into your environment in some fashion and you need to give them the ability to integrate. That could mean giving them an ‘app’ for iOS, Android or Windows, or that could mean giving them secure access via a standard based REST API.

The transformation of IT also includes adopting cloud technologies, whether that be Amazon, Microsoft, Google, or IBM. You should no longer have to submit a ‘purchase requisition’ for a large server box that needs to be setup which could take weeks or months depending on if ‘IT has time’. You should be able to just go to your cloud vendor of choice, type in your credit card, give access to your dev team and have them spin up a ‘dev environment’ to get started. At the same time the infrastructure and security group should start figuring out the logistics of what is required to run what the dev team is building.

That leads into DevOps and a ‘DevOps Culture’. Gone are the days that you have a certain business group say to IT “we need X” and IT goes off to a room and comes back six months later and gives the business group “Y”. Once dev is done, even if the dev group does deliver “Y” when “X” was asked for, they throw it over to IT to get it up and running.

There should be no more isolation of groups, the entire company should be involved throughout the entire development process from stakeholders to testers, QA, developers, infrastructure/operational folks, business group leads and the end customer. Once ‘Version 1’ is ready, gather feedback from customers and repeat the cycle.

This is not a small task but needs to be done by all enterprises, if they don’t achieve this the company will be eliminated. Remember this great quote from Will Rogers, “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there”. If your enterprise is a leader don’t become complacent, or you will find yourself run over by your competitors.

Read the full article here.

redbitplaceholder

Microsoft Build 2016 Toronto: HoloLens for Business

By | Events | No Comments

POst-#2

HoloLens was released before the Build Toronto event and we signed up quickly and ordered a device.  Using the existing applications available, we have visited Machu Picchu in Peru, the Colosseum in Rome and the entire Galaxy.  The games are a ton of fun with aliens coming out the walls to shoot you – they can break any real world object in your view.  We have played with it and learned a lot about what HoloLens is capable of and what you can do with the SDK.

Games are great.  But, what can augmented reality (AR) do to solve business problems?  The possibilities are very interesting.

Virtual reality is about being immersed in another world – it’s a complete sensory experience, which is not as effective with real world solutions past the conceptual stage.  With HoloLens, and augmented reality, you have the potential to solve real world operational issues.  From an industry standpoint- once you connect all of these things together – your IoT devices connected to your backend talking to your HoloLens – the solution options are endless.  HoloLens is spatially aware and you can see what’s happening in the moment in the real world.  There are already some great examples of the technology in use, like with Japan Airlines.  

SEE ALSO: Microsoft Build 2016 Toronto: IoT and Azure

RedBit is developing proof of concepts and prototypes for interior design, engineering and commercial and residential construction.

 

AR is a better way to visualize and action your data.  Right now, you can see real time analytics coming from your IoT devices, but you still need to be behind a screen.  With HoloLens, you can see that data on the site, at the spot of the sensor, and be able to make decisions and take immediate action if warranted.  Any data that can be visualized in real time across different industries is a great source for augmented reality. For example, sensor data can be used to monitor key components used to drill or refine oil. The two videos below help illustrate how data, sensors and AR can be applied in two industrial settings.

Where to Start?

To get started, you can create a 2D app in UWP (Universal Windows Platform) across all platforms including HoloLens.  For 3D you would require a Unity plugin to begin to play with 3D games, training programs, etc.  Internally, we are doing some interesting things with e-commerce augmentation and future looks pretty cool. If you want to learn more about the differences between AR, VR and mixed reality check out the video below. To learn more about building a 2D UWP app for Microsoft HoloLens watch the Build 2016 session below or contact us.

Listen to our chat with Mark where he answers the following questions:

  • What have you been doing with HoloLens so far?
  • What practical uses for industry and companies do you see for “mixed reality” or augmented reality? How is it different from VR?
  • Are there specific tools and technologies required to create a solution for HoloLens?

redbitplaceholder

Microsoft Build 2016 Toronto: IoT and Azure

By | Events | No Comments

Blog-post

Overall the Microsoft Build 2016 conference in Toronto was a good one – if you can’t make it out to the main event in San Francisco, you can still get a feel for the things that Microsoft is working on relevant to the developer community. RedBit’s, Mark Arteaga, a Microsoft MVP attended to assist with welcoming attendees and to find out what developers are thinking and working on and what they see for the future. One session, in particular, focused on Azure and IoT. For the digital enterprise, the Microsoft Azure IoT Suite can be a great toolset when planning the development of an IoT solution.

IoT Project Considerations

There are a few things that enterprises should consider when embarking on an IoT project, outside of the development.

  • First, and most important, is infrastructure.  IoT is about connecting a bunch of devices to the internet – potentially supporting 100’s, 100’s of thousands, even millions of devices that are pushing data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, every second or on varying intervals.  Enterprises need to ensure their infrastructure can handle the sheer volume of data.  If there is a legacy infrastructure in place – a customized application that is critical to business operations for example – considerations will need to include whether your IoT programming can work directly with the existing infrastructure or whether wrappers, using standard based technology REST API’s etc. – need to be built.
  • Second, is communication.  Wherever the IoT devices are going to be geographically can impact the success of a project.  A strong and reliable network connection point could be a concern if your IoT device is being used in a remote area where cell or data coverage is limited.  How are the data packets going to be conveyed to your system?
  • Third is the business process.  IoT solutions often mean a shift from a product based business model to more of a service based model.  And, all of that data is going to need to be analyzed and actioned in new ways that could mean a change to the workforce and at the minimum an increase in training requirements for existing resources.

Choosing an IoT Project Partner

If a business chooses to work with a partner to build and implement IoT solutions, it should be a partner who is versed in developing software for both the IoT device and the backend.  At RedBit, we play with hardware, but we are not hardware manufacturers.

We have a network of hardware partners who can prototype hardware development and help to get into the production stages of IoT devices, taking into account progressive and legacy manufacturing processes and working environments for the devices.

A partner should understand how to prototype, build out the backend solution (most likely cloud-based) and assist with manufacturing.  RedBit is strong in writing for an embedded device with limited available computing resources, and vast interconnected backend systems – both hardware and software engineering.

Azure for IoT

Once the main considerations and choice of partner have been sorted out and enterprises are ready to embark on building an IoT solution, Azure’s IoT Suite offers a 3rd party solution, including Azure IoT Hub that assists with the capture and analysis of data and communication with legacy data infrastructures, Power BI to report on live data and Stream Analytics to push and report on data.  There are even some predictive maintenance analysis opportunities.

The future of IoT and the digital enterprise is being written daily and the Azure IoT Suite is a big part of it.

Listen to our chat with Mark where he answers the following questions:

      • How was this year’s Microsoft Build Toronto conference? What role did you play at this years’ event?
      • What do enterprises need to be aware of when tackling an IoT project?
      • What should a company look for in a Microsoft partner to help them design and implement an IoT solution?
      • What’s the benefits of Microsoft Azure as a foundation for an IoT project?
      • What’s next in IoT and the “digital enterprise”?

xamarin

Xamarin Evolve Wrap-Up

By | Events | No Comments

xamarinevolvelongpost

In April, I was invited to participate as a Xamarin University instructor at Xamarin’s annual Evolve 16 event in Orlando – the largest cross-platform mobile event in the World dedicated to the future of apps.  I have been using Xamarin since 2011, and have attended this conference for years (they have the best food!), but this year’s event is the first since Xamarin’s acquisition by Microsoft and there was a new energy.

The industry has been waiting for this acquisition – it seemed inevitable – but what does it really mean for Microsoft and mobile application developers?

A lot.

Microsoft has completed their end to end story for app development with the addition of Xamarin.  Similar to the picture flow of ‘develop, test, build, deploy, monitor,’ this now equates to the following products ‘Xamarin, Xamarin Test Cloud, Visual Studio Team Services, Hockey App/Xamarin Insights’.  Great tools that are now available for developers and enterprises to roll out mobile applications on any platform.

The Enterprise & Xamarin

The biggest and most exciting change is that a lot of enterprises that are Microsft shops can now adopt Xamarin because it is now a part of your Visual Studio licensing, whereas before you had to pay for it dramatically reducing the licensing costs.  Xamarin.iOS, Xamarin.Android, Xamarin.Forms are open source under the MIT license which is the least restrictive license and is part of the .NET foundation, which is the open source consortium for .NET that includes C# and the Roslyn compiler.

Enterprises who have been struggling with ways to mobilize their data and processes as they need to leverage their legacy infrastructure, processes and workflows. Now if they are on the Microsoft stack (or really any stack) they can now easily adopt Xamarin to mobilize processes on any platform, quickly get something up and running to see if it’s a viable option.

A lot of enterprises still believe it’s hard to integrate existing systems with a mobile solution – I don’t think it’s hard.  It takes time, but you can overcome a lot of challenges with the right software.  With the Xamarin acquisition, Microsoft is truly a mobile first cloud first company. Their cloud is on Azure, and in terms of mobile they can now target not just Windows but embrace all platforms including iOS & Android. It’s truly a new Microsoft.

Xamarin Test Cloud

Seems there is lots of investment in Xamarin Test Cloud and the biggest thing that excited me was the Test Cloud Live. Basically the scenario here is you deployed an app, a bug pops up on a device you don’t have and the bug only happens on this on particular device.

If you develop for Android, this is a common occurrence and can happen for a number of reasons. With Test Cloud Live you can essentially debug right from Visual Studio on a device in Test Cloud. You can attach to it straight from Visual Studio and interact with a real physical device. One of the biggest challenges of mobile is having all the devices available to test on, this will definitely help solve that.

Test Recorder for Visual Studio is also announced (still preview) but you can use test recorder to essentially record a user working through an app, test recorder will generate some code and then you can use that code to automate tests in Test Cloud. Test Cloud is really exciting in my opinion!

The XAML World

A lot of investment is being placed on Xamarin Forms and XAML. The biggest thing I saw was a XAML previewer which will allow you to preview screens you are designing which is a welcome addition.

Now that Xamarin is part of Microsoft, I expect a lot more investment in XAML tooling and expect to see some sort of amalgamation with XAML, since Xamarin’s XAML is not exactly like Microsoft’s XAML.  This is only speculation but think the XAML teams from MS and Xamarin will probably combine but we won’t see a “unified XAML” for sometime, probably 1year or more.

Xamarin University

Xamarin University hosted over 700 people, including the 29 intermediate/advanced student in the class that I co-instructed with Glenn Wester.  This was a great experience and excited to be part of the team to help deliver training to students.

Xamarin University offers a unique training experience with live classes and providing students access to instructors for 1 on 1 sessions. I’ve never been big on certifications, but this is done differently.  Xamarin University will give devs a head start in the mobile development space and figure out how to find, debug, optimize mobile apps and offer tips and tricks on various topics. Definitely recommend XamU! (We have tips & tricks, too!)

Xamarin Workbooks

Another exciting development is Xamarin workbooks, which are essentially tools to test code live without actually writing an app.  Why this excites me is I’ve been teaching my kids how to code and mentoring students and various people interested in technology. I think Xamarin Worksbook will be a great teaching tool for technology development students. I look forward to experimenting with the workbooks to see how useful they will be for our client projects. You can check out the workbooks here.

 

I’ve been an Microsoft MVP for 13 years now and RedBit became a Xamarin Premier partner in 2013.  We have been using Xamarin to build out our iOS, Android and Windows apps with an Azure backend for quite some time, helping clients to leverage backend systems and years of proven business processes, embrace the mobile wave.  The changes at Xamarin and Microsoft can only improve our success.

Here is the keynote for Evolve 2016 and below with some highlight key parts in case you want to jump around.

Video Highlights:

00:00:00 – 00:04:00: Opening remarks by Xamarin CEO & Co-Founder, Nat Friedman

00:04:00 – 00:11:00: Trends in mobile development

00:11:00 – 00:14:00: Miguel de Icaza, CTO & Co-Founder of Xamarin announces open sourcing of Xamarin’s SDK’s

00:14:00 – 00:21:00: .NET and new Xamarin features

00:21:00 – 00:28:00: A tour of Xamarin Studio

00:28:00 – 00:30:00: New capabilities in Xamarin Forms

00:30:00 – 00:35:00: XAML (Xamarin And Microsoft Love) with Nina Vyedin, Product Manager, Engineering

00:35:00 – 00:48:00: Miguel showcases Xamarin Workbooks

00:48:00 – 00:56:00: Nish Anil and James Montemagno, Developer Evangelists & Engineers, build an app in 5 minutes and demo the new dark theme

00:56:00 – 00:59:00: Jessica Steiger, Customer Success Engineer talks testing in Visual Studio

00:59:00 – 01:11:00: Donovan Brown, DevOps Senior Program Manager closes the loop with distribution and monitoring

01:11:00 – Nat’s back with closing remarks “We’re thrilled about the possibilities that we have now integrated with Microsoft to give you a complete end-to-end developer platform. We hope you can see the potential.