I had the opportunity to interview the developers (Mathieu Haddad and Prabhdeep Singh) behind Annecto about their experience building cross-platform native apps for iOS, Google and Windows Phone. Annecto lets users search and connect with professionals who share the same networking & career interests – at events, up in the air, or anywhere. From someone who travels frequently and finds himself bored on planes, this is pretty neat. What really caught my eye is that they have a patent for their app, the first I have ever heard from an app developer.
Rami: Tell us about yourself and Annecto?
Mathieu : Annecto allows you to connect with the people around you that share the same networking interests and passions. Created with patented technology and available for iPhone, iPad, Android-enabled smartphones and Windows Phone, Annecto lets users search and connect in real-time with nearby professionals who share their interests, whether they’re at an expo, conference, workshop, airport, flight, or anywhere else.
Rami: Wait… you have a patent for your app? How does your patent work?
Mathieu : Annecto comes in to facilitate and make this interaction more efficient by connecting users based on preferences and geo-locations. The first aspect allows passengers on board of a transportation vehicle, to synchronize their device with the InFlight Entertainment system and network. The second aspect allows attendees to connect by checking in the Annecto app using the Twitter #hashtag of the event. Instead merely tagging a comment or content (as is done on Twitter and Facebook), Annecto uses #hashtag to locate and connect with people in real-time. This hashtag can be geolocalized and geofenced to only permit attendees who present at the event premises to network.
Prabhdeep : From a technical perspective, the application talks to an Azure back-end using a web service. The web service is called by creating a SOAP client object but data is transported using the JSON format. The web services are hosted on Azure, giving us ability to scale as we add more users to the application or on the days when we are hosting large number of events.
Rami: How would you compare the platforms as developers? What did you like or dislike about each?
Prabhdeep : I believe the difference came from the fact that I had more experience with certain technologies than others.
Working with Visual Studio and Eclipse IDEs made it easier for me to follow and create something in Windows Phone and Android. Development on OS X was new for me, so it took me a bit more time to get used to the system, the terminology and the tools. We had used Visual Studio previously and XAML was fun as the development team had the independence to make interactive interfaces. In Visual Studio, instant help is available within the IDE so it’s very user-friendly. There is provision to view the design while app is not in running mode.
We have a design team, which typically send us the layout in CSS/HTML, which could be challenge to incorporate into the programming in both iOS and Android, but using XAML was great on Windows. XAML has very extensive data binding capabilities. The resolution independent nature of XAML and the dependency properties feature are very helpful.
Rami: Where do you see the development of Annecto going?
Mathieu : Regarding transportation, we would like to integrate Annecto on IFE (InFlight Entertainment) devices. For that, we are working with Thales at the moment and had Annecto showcased on their next generation IFE at the APEX 2014 Expo in Anaheim.
Rami: How was your integration with Microsoft Azure?
Prabhdeep : I have worked with Amazon EC2 infrastructure before, which I recall was not easy to get going. I remember spending quiet bit of time with Amazon support to help me with certain things. On other hand Azure was very simple to setup, I like the dashboard, the menu. I am still new to Azure but it’s definitely looking good.
The configuration for notification alerts and the web services related to it were an initial challenge as we were doing it for the first time but we used the documentation available and it was a smooth flow from there onwards.