Softwire Blog


Top five technology trends for 2017


20 January 2017, by

cyber-glasses-1938449

 

With so many new buzzwords and technologies, it is hard to determine which of these actually hold any clout in the modern business arena or have what it takes to become part of our lives in the future. Whilst we don’t profess to have all the answers here at Softwire, here are the top five trends that we believe will make a real impact in 2017.
Virtual Reality

We predict that VR will continue to be one of the most significant developments in the technology space this year. VR has the potential to complement and improve daily activities.  Facebook has marked its space in this arena and we are likely to see VR-related upgrades from the leading social media players. Social media channels are one of the best routes for pushing the boundaries of this technology. Products including Google Daydream Viewer and  Samsung VR have increased the level of content for consumers to digest and we’re likely to see this with games, movies, TV series and possibly gigs.

 

Augmented Reality

With the overwhelming success of games like Pokemon Go, brands now see the huge potential of this technology. It’s taken stampedes of people in parks, racing to catch their next Pikachu to make anyone pay attention. We predict that 2017 will see consumers less apprehensive of accepting AR on their smartphones and devices. In fact, with many of the shocks the world has faced in 2016, perhaps it may offer a more appealing ‘reality‘ whilst not completely detaching us from the outside world.

Following its recent upgrade, Microsoft’s mixed reality platform, ‘Windows Holographic’,  now promises a varied new set of reality experiences for Windows users. Apple could make a play for a seat at the table with AR offerings. Who knows, Magic Leap may even start shipping at some point later this year (well, maybe…).

Where AR surpasses its counterpart, VR, is in its hardware simplicity. There is no need to purchase additional complimentary hardware, there’s a much easier gateway to the experience – a mobile device. AR has the potential to enhance existing games, toys, work and retail and we’re excited to see what comes next.

 

Artificial Intelligence

During 2016, AI has developed significantly and as a result machine learning has become more universally understood. Consumers have benefited from the increased choice of digital voice assistants and it’s likely that many big players will see 2017 as an opportunity to take advantage of consumers’ understanding and appreciation of this growing tech trend.

With Google’s Assistant, and Amazon’s Echo marketing themselves as must-haves in the home, we could see champions such as Microsoft and Apple releasing their own respective Cortana and Siri-based competitive devices.  AI will continue to grow smarter and smarter.

 

Screen Technology

We will take advantage of some of the emerging tech,  AR and VR, on 4K screens and on smartphones. Yes, smartphones.  HDTV technology is old news, curved screens and 3D just aren’t hitting the right buttons. Creating bigger and bigger TVs will not win any innovation prizes. Why is this one of our top trends? We believe that the manufacturing tides of transformation are turning towards the smaller screens, specifically those we have at our constant disposal.

We have seen OLED (organic light-emitting diode display) technology rise to become the flagship technology for smartphone screens. This year we’re likely to see the technology leveraged to help create thinner and more battery-efficient smartphones.

Why is this important? Why should anyone care? Will anyone ever really notice? Consumers are becoming more familiar with slipping their smartphones into their VR headset of choice.

With the screen so close, only higher resolutions can deliver the best experiences.

 

Security and Privacy

With the growth in artificial intelligence and IoT devices security is a key question.  We will have thousands of connect devices, all communicating via the cloud, using real-time monitoring, logging, and data analytics – data on us. Security gaps with unpatched IoT devices could lead to significant compromises more damaging than previously thought.  In order for these technologies to move forward security and privacy issues need to be taken seriously.

 

We will be closely monitoring these trends during 2017 and delivering bespoke digital solutions to our valued clients, to find out more read our blog.

 

 

How to become a supplier for the public sector


9 November 2016, by

Have you ever wanted to work for the public sector, but didn’t think that as an SME you would have the same opportunities as a large supplier?  Softwire’s experience as a software supplier to the public sector has shown us that this is not the case. In this blog post we explore why bespoke software developers, design agencies, cloud product vendors or freelancers should consider working for the public sector.

  1. Firstly, the Government has a genuine commitment to increase public sector spend with SME’s. The target for 2020 is 33% * this follows an upward trend of 25% in 2015.
  1. Even if you have no experience in the public sector this should not detract you from applying. Softwire had little experience in the public sector but we have recently been able to win multiple varied and exciting projects. Experience in the private sector is extremely valid along as long as you can demonstrate your expertise through case studies and testimonials.
  1. There are procurement portals which list all the current opportunities available. Some good starting points are:

Explore all the frameworks on offer  http://ccs-agreements.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/

Freelancers, bespoke providers, cloud product providers and cloud consultants should head to the digital marketplace https://www.digitalmarketplace.service.gov.uk/ and to search for larger digital projects from across the EU: http://ted.europa.eu/TED/misc/chooseLanguage.do=

  1. In most cases the projects have been scoped and funded in advance of selecting a supplier, mitigating your risk. Requirements and budgets are usually stated upfront allowing you to assess which projects would be a good fit for your organisation and there’s a clear and open process for asking questions.
  1. The scope and range of public sector work is very diverse. It’s not just local authorities and large public bodies. Public sector includes research institutions, infrastructure providers, regulators and many more.
  1. There is a strong government directive for digital transformation and you could be working on projects using leading-edge technologies, methodologies and design techniques. The Government Digital Service manual explains and encourages best practice to ensure project success. https://www.gov.uk/service-manual
  1. Public sector projects have a strong social impact. Through digital transformation the Government wants to push the boundaries of technology to improve and make public services more effective and efficient.
  1. The government mystery shopper portal ensures that the procurement process is fair to SME’s. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/mystery-shopper-results-2016
  1. techUK works with the Government on behalf of the industry and is an advocate for the needs of small and medium sized tech companies.
  1. With the Government digital transformation budget expected to be around £1.8bn next year – what are you waiting for?

*https://www.nao.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Governments-spending-with-small-and-medium-sizes-enterprises.pdf

2016 internships


21 October 2016, by

As a second year Computer Science student at Cambridge without much free time, I had learnt a lot of theory but had done surprisingly little useful programming. I therefore applied for a summer internship at Softwire to change this. I wanted to gain experience working a proper project from beginning to end and Softwire did not disappoint. I did a four-week training internship starting at the end of July.

(more…)

Submitting your cordova app to the apple app store


12 October 2016, by

These days, everyone has an app. If you are one of the people who decided to write a cross platform app using cordova and would like to now post it to the app store, then keep reading and I’ll explain how to go about doing that.

Just a word upfront, in order to build your app, and to post the built app to the app store, you will need an apple machine.

Building your app

There are three steps required to build a release version of your app. Create a certificate, create an app identifier and create a provisioning profile. Once you have done these steps, you will be able to build a signed ipa of your app.

Create a certificate

First, you will need to login to Apple’s developer website. If you do not have an app id, you will need to create one, and you will also need to register as an Apple Developer, which will cost you $99.

Now that you are logged in, go to the distribution certificates page, and create a new certificate by clicking the plus button, marking your certificate as Production > “App Store and Ad Hoc”, and then following through the instructions on the website, which involve creating a signing request.

Create an app identifier

Again, the first step is to login to Apple’s developer website. This time, go to the app identifier page.  Fill in a short description, and then specify the app identifier for your app (this is stored in the config.xml in your cordova project:

<widget id="com.softwire.exampleApp" ... >

At this stage, if you want to add any extra services to your app (e.g. PushNotifications) then you will need to mark them on the app identifier.

Create a provisioning profile

As with the other steps, you need to login to Apple’s developer website. Head over to create a new Provision Profile. Select Distribution > “App Store” then continue.

On the next page, you will need to select the App ID that you have just created and click continue.

On the final page, you will need to select the certificate that you have just created and click continue.

Finally, give the provisioning profile a name, and click continue again.

You do not need to download the provisioning profile, we will get XCode to do that for us in the “Submitting your app”.

Submitting your app

In order to submit your app to the app store, you will need to build the signed ipa file, create an app store listing, and then finally submit the app you have built.

Building a signed IPA

Now that you have created a provisioning profile (see above if not), you must get xcode to download it. To do this, login to your Apple account on XCode (Preferences > Accounts), and then click the + button and follow the instructions to add your account.

Once your account has been added, select your account in the left panel, and click “View Details…” in the right panel. On the screen that opens, you should see the provisioning profiles attached to your account. One of these will be the Provisioning Profile you created above. Select the Provisioning Profile and click download. This will now be available to xcode when building your project.

The next step is to inform cordova of which provisioning profile to use when building. This is done using a build.json file. You should create a build.json file, and include in it the id of the provisioning profile that you downloaded.

Finally, you can now run a build on your mac using:

cordova build ios --device --release --buildConfig build.json

This will create a signed ipa of your app under

platforms/ios/build/device/*.ipa

Creating an app listing

Login to iTunes Connect. From here, you can go to the apps page, and then create a new project. You will now need to fill in details for your app (there are lots to fill in, but the help Apple provides is quite useful), and ensure that you have uploaded screenshots of the app running on both phone and tablet (if relevant).

Once you are happy with the details, save them.

Submitting the IPA to the app store

Now that an app listing has been created, the next step is to upload the build (created above) to Apple.

To perform this upload, you will need Application Loader 3.0. You can download this from the “Prepare for submission” page on the app listing.

Once you have Application Loader installed, login and click choose. Select the ipa that was built earlier, which will upload the app to Apple. It will automatically be linked to your app listing, as the app’s id will match the one specified on the app listing.

After upload, the ipa will be processed by Apple, and following that, can be selected as the version that should be published to the store. If you’re happy with everything, then submit the app to review.

Apple will now review your app, and it will appear in the app store when it is ready. The review process will take a couple of days, and you will receive an email when the submission is complete.

Speed Coding 2016 – Q4 Solution


3 August 2016, by

This post explains the solutions to Question 4 of our speed coding 2016 competition. If you haven’t yet read the question, head back and have a go now.

(more…)

Speed Coding 2016 – Q3 Solution


27 July 2016, by

This post explains the solutions to Question 3 of our speed coding 2016 competition. If you haven’t yet read the question, head back and have a go now.

(more…)

Speed Coding 2016 – Q2 Solution


20 July 2016, by

This post explains the solutions to Question 2 of our speed coding 2016 competition. If you haven’t yet read the question, head back and have a go now.

(more…)

Speed Coding 2016 – Q1 Solution


13 July 2016, by

This post explains the solutions to Question 1 of our speed coding 2016 competition. If you haven’t yet read the question, head back and have a go now.

(more…)

Speed Coding 2016 – Q4


6 July 2016, by

Here’s the 4th and final question from our last speed coding competition. This is a long and tricky one, so make sure you’ve put some time aside if you’re planning to try and solve it.

(more…)

Tips for remote working on the other side of the world.


4 July 2016, by

Like lots of people I’ve always liked the idea of remote working in exotic locations, but I recently had the opportunity to give it a go. I travelled halfway around the world and continued working for Softwire from New Zealand.

I enjoyed the experience, especially the 100% flexibility of knowing my team were all in bed: as long as I’d done a day’s work by the time they woke up, I could drop what I was doing and hit the beach or go for a long bike ride whenever the whim took me. On the downside there was almost complete isolation, access to the rest of the team was very limited and the brief period of overlap when I could actually talk to people became very valuable, even though it was at highly inconvenient times of day.

If you’re interested in more detailed advice about working remotely as a developer, see my original post on my personal blog: http://swilson.co.uk/blog/2014/09/11/working-remotely-in-a-dev-team/