It has been several years since Gartner first made their prediction that Citizen Developers will create at least 25% of business applications by 2014. We have quite a few of these at Intel, and I recently shared one of my favorites at IDF. Some of my colleagues outside of IT built a little app that provides mobile access to real-time conference room availability so you can find an empty room. Here’s how that app came to exist.
First, you have to understand something about Intel’s conference rooms: they’re always booked. It’s a vicious circle. Because they’re always booked, people frequently book a room “just in case”. The image below shows room reservations for one of our bigger buildings:
However, if you go walking through our hallways at 10 past the hour you will frequently find an empty room because of a no-show. Corporate Services has stepped in to help by offering a set of “reservationless” conference rooms: collaboration rooms, rooms for stand-up meetings (no chairs!), and phone booths. These are all available on a first come, first served basis. The challenge, of course, is finding an empty room since there is no system of record to show availability.
Some of my colleagues over in IT had a great idea to help with this: sensors. We already had sensors in the rooms to turn off the lights when no one was there. What if those sensors could communicate room availability to the outside world? They did a pilot to upgrade the sensors, using motion and sound to determine whether anyone was in the room. That data was fed through some APIs to a panel display at the end of a hallway. The result was a list of nearby rooms and occupancy status.
That was a great improvement, but what about mobile access? The original implementation required someone to walk to a central location to check the room status. And what if there were no empty rooms nearby? You’d have to walk to another floor or building to check.
Some of our citizen developers provided a solution. They used the Intel XDK to create an HTML5 app that consumes APIs from both the sensors and the conference room scheduling system. We provided them with a redacted version of the conference room API, ensuring that no PII (names, email addresses) or other sensitive data (project names & status, e.g. “SuperSecret ProjectX Go/No-Go Decision Meeting”) leaks out. They created an intuitive, touch-friendly interface that overlays room availability on a map.
This little app is at the confluence of the Internet of Things, enterprise API Management, and HTML5. It pulls in sensor data through secure, well-defined enterprise APIs. It provides a visualization of that data, and uses HTML5 to deliver mobile access as well as desktop use. It’s just one of many applications I have seen that iterate on a corporate tool, repackaging the underlying data in a way that serves a different usage model.
For more information, and an entertaining view of how API management and HTML5 combine to enable BYOD and other mobile access programs, check out this video. For a roadmap on how to get started, click on the image below to download VisionMobile’s poster, illustrating the full spectrum of mobile app dev tools for enterprises.