Beyond the Mobile App—A Technology Foundation

  • Iggy Krajci
  • Darren Cummings
Open Access


Mobile devices are connected and involved in so much more of our life than just simple communications. Connected devices are all around us: Wi-Fi photo frames, Bluetooth receivers in automobiles, and even wireless headphones. These devices allow us to stay up-to-date and engaged with all of our surroundings in a way that has never been seen before. Mobile phones allow us to interact with the world in a whole new way.


Short Message Service Touch Screen Advance Encryption Standard National Electrical Manufacturer Association National Electrical Manufacturer Association 
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In this business, by the time you realize you’re in trouble, it’s too late to save yourself. Unless you’re running scared all the time, you’re gone.

—Bill Gates

Mobile devices are connected and involved in so much more of our life than just simple communications. Connected devices are all around us: Wi-Fi photo frames, Bluetooth receivers in automobiles, and even wireless headphones. These devices allow us to stay up-to-date and engaged with all of our surroundings in a way that has never been seen before. Mobile phones allow us to interact with the world in a whole new way.

Connected Devices

As predicted by Kirk Skaugen, Corporate Vice President of Intel, over 15 billion devices will be connected to the Internet in the coming years. The Internet currently supports more than 4 billion connected devices, allowing for practically nonstop communication.

The low prices of computer chips that power these connections have enabled a wave of connected devices. Devices that previously did not have wireless functionality now do, and that has changed how we interact with them. For example, modern televisions include wireless chips that allow them to receive streamed television and movies directly over the Internet.

Home Computing

It may feel like old news, but home computing is still a very legitimate and lucrative business. In a study conducted by U.S. Energy Information Administration, just fewer than 30 million Americans do not have a home computer of some kind. Compared to the 80 million Americans who have one or more personal computers, the United States is more connected than ever before.

Applications on personal computers have come a long way since the creation and induction of smartphones into the marketplace. The ability to use and control your home computer from your smartphone, and vice versa, has taken off. You can view your desktop on the go, sync files and contacts from your phone to your laptop, use your phone as a remote control, or stream videos from your phone directly to your television.


Modern cars are loaded with tons of new technologies. You can watch television in the back seats, stream music over Bluetooth, or make a hands-free call to anyone in the world.

Smartphones have added even more functionality to the vehicles that we rely on daily. The ability to make a hands-free call over Bluetooth is often included in modern smartphones. This capability allows you to communicate with others while you are on the road—legally. GPS is another application inside of vehicles that is being used on smartphones. You no longer need a separate GPS device to map your route, which has significantly hurt the standalone GPS device market. Porting all of the functionality of these devices directly onto a smartphone adds convenience and ease of use. In addition, you can stream music to your vehicle’s speaker over the auxiliary port, find the cheapest gas in the city that you are passing through, and find things to do that are happening right now.

Applications that interact directly with automobiles are just starting to take off. As mobile phones get more powerful and vehicles are released with more technological interfaces, new smartphone applications will be created for this purpose.

Digital Entertainment

A new age of digital entertainment is upon us. The connected nature of the modern world has created new possibilities and uses for entertainment devices and services. There are now multiple ways to stream television, movies, and music over the Internet, whenever you want. The entertainment industry embraces and encourages these services, often offering on-demand content for a subscription fee.

With the addition of these capabilities, smartphone application developers created new uses for mobile phones. You can use your mobile phone as a television remote, as a media center that plays movies from the HDMI port on select devices, or as a portable media player that streams music from the radio.

Special Requirements

The public side of the market is not the only place that smartphones are used. There are many military and private-sector uses for modern communication devices. Whether they are specially built hardened devices, extra-long range capabilities, or top-secret level communications, there are many special requirements for these types of devices.


Sometimes also called hardening, ruggedization involves altering a device so that it can be used in more intense conditions than regular users might encounter. Used often in military applications, these devices might be needed underwater, in sandstorms, or in rain, or might need to survive impact after falling from great distances. Technical specifications document exactly what these devices must be able to handle in order to be licensed for military applications.

Ingress Protection Rating

The Ingress Protection (IP) Rating Code is a standard that classifies the degree of protection against outside forces. The IP Code standard specifies that each classification contain two characters representing its degree of physical and liquid protection. If there is no protection, an X is placed in that spot.

The first digit is its protection against solid particles and objects. The highest rating that you can get on the first character is a 6. Scoring a 6 means that the device has complete protection against damage from contact, as well as no ingress to dust. The second character describes the protection against liquids, specifically water. The highest water rating is an 8, specifying that the device can be fully submersed beyond one meter for any length of time without sustaining internal damage.

IP Codes are just one of the various standards for classifying protection. Inside of the United States there also exists the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), which publishes protection ratings. Outside the United States, there are extensions of the IP Code specification, as well as entirely new systems. For example, the German standard called IP69K rates high-pressure and high-temperature situations.


The medical world has its own list of requirements. The information and use of medical data must be confidential. In the United States, patient-doctor confidentiality is taken very seriously and these devices must be protected. At select hospitals across the country, Android tablets operate with and contain sensitive information. A patient’s electronic medical record (EMR) contains the patient’s entire medical history, which is sensitive information.

To protect these devices, information is encrypted and locked. Password authentication is required to use the device, as well as possible secondary forms of authentication to ensure identity. These devices also feature screens and designs to make the lives of medical professionals easier. This often means large, easy-to-read screens, with applications specifically catered to medical situations.


Hardware is expensive and creating virtual platforms on a single hardware device has become a common practice. This saves money and resources, because you can replace virtual instances at any time without touching the hardware. Virtual instances also let you interface with systems without needing any sort of specific hardware. For example, virtual Android devices that run on the Android Emulator allow users to interact with it as if the application were deployed on the actual device.

Secure Communications

Keeping military communications secure has always been a challenge. Sending and receiving secure communications in the field is a very difficult problem. The ability to talk securely is a powerful advantage over opposing forces. The difficulty of secure communication is a multipart problem with few answers. You must establish a method of encrypting, decrypting, and transmitting your communications with as little delay as possible. In addition, you must offer some means for determining who to trust and who not to trust.

Because of all of these complications, the hardware and software used in the military is often years behind consumer-grade products. On Android devices, companies have been working to develop secure communications that will be used on the battlefield, as well as in government buildings.

Type 1

The National Security Agency (NSA) has certified a Type 1 device, or system, for use with secure information. Type 1 certification is a rigorous process that involves extensive testing and formal analysis. Some of the areas of analysis include cryptographic security, tamper resistance, manufacturing, and emissions testing.

Federal Information Processing Standard

A Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) certification grants software and computer systems access to use sensitive and highly classified information. There are different classifications of FIPS that deal with different standards. For example, FIPS 46-3 is the code for the United States Data Encryption Standard (DES), whereas FIPS 197 deals with the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).

The Cyber Fiber of Our Connected World

The modern world has become very dependent on constant connectivity, and it’s easy to forget just how many forms of connection exist. These methods of connection all have different benefits and restrictions. It is important to have a solid technical understanding of how these methods operate, in order to find the correct match for your business’s needs.

Cellular Networks

Cellular networks are incredibly technical and complicated systems; even small networks require specialized hardware and software. Cellular networks transfer data from point to point through the use of cellular towers. There are two major communication protocols of cellular networks—Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). These protocols allow multiple types of data to be streamed from one device to another. Their data includes voice calls, Short Message Service (SMS), and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS). The Open Mobile Alliance (OMA) standardized the technical details and specifications for many of the protocols and services provided on cellular networks.

Open Mobile Alliance

The Open Mobile Alliance was formed in June of 2002 and acts as a standards body for the mobile phone industry. The OMA is responsible for the maintenance and creation of many standards within the mobile space, and works with various standards bodies. Some of the more notable are the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the 3rd Generation Partnership Project 2 (3GPP2), the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Wireless Communications

Wireless communications transfer data between two or more endpoints that have no physical connection. The distance of this connection can be as short as a few inches or as far as hundreds of thousands of miles. Many forms of wireless communication exist, the most popular of which are Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and radio frequency (RF). Each method has distinct benefits and issues.


Wi-Fi is available on almost every electronic communication device produced today; it allows for data connections from a Wireless Access Point (WAP). Wi-Fi networks have ranges of between 120 feet (36 meters) and 300 feet (91 meters), depending on the environment. The two major types of Wi-Fi in common use are 802.11b and 802.11g. Most Android devices support Wi-Fi that connects to the Internet and to local networks. When using Wi-Fi on Android devices, any cellular data connection will be suspended until connectivity is lost or until Wi-Fi is disabled. Using Wi-Fi on an Android device generally means a much faster connection speed with less latency.


Bluetooth is similar to Wi-Fi, but is a newer wireless technology created in 1994 by the telecommunications vendor Ericsson. It’s good for transferring data over short distances with high levels of security. Bluetooth devices operate primarily by pairing, focusing on one-to-one communication. Security is increased by requiring physical intervention during the pairing process to ensure that the user has access to both sides of the device. Bluetooth supports direct data transfer, and because of the short range and the higher data speeds, typical Bluetooth devices act as interfaces or controllers to existing systems. These systems include headsets, keyboards, mice, and mobile devices.

Most modern Android devices are Bluetooth-enabled, with Bluetooth 2.0 or greater support. These Android devices can stream music, chat from phone to phone, and even create Internet hotspots using Bluetooth. When using Bluetooth, Android allows your enabled device to act as either a server or a client.

Mobile Interfaces

The way we communicate with our mobile devices has changed over the years as new technologies have been integrated into smartphones. Instead of just a simple physical dial pad with some sort of display, modern phones contain multitouch screens, vibration motors, LED notification lights, sophisticated noise detection, speakers, accelerometers, and physical buttons. Android developers provide these technologies using the Android SDK.

Touch Screens

Full-color touch screens are a newer, popular technology that has taken over the smartphone market. The best touch screens used in mobile devices support high resolution, multiple touches, and non-scratch covers. There are two primary types of touch screen currently used in the mobile space—capacitive and resistive.


The capacitive touch screen is composed of an insulator, typically glass, which is coated in a conductive material. When a finger touches the surface, the electronic field is distorted, and the capacitance is measured to find the location of the press. As a result of this technology, the screen is quite accurate and requires only the slightest touch. The most notable downside to capacitive screens is the requirement for some sort of electronically conductive material to operate the screen. This means that styluses must be conductively enabled in order to work (and so must your gloves)!


Resistive touch screens, as the name implies, have two flexible sheets covered in a resistive material. One of the sheets has sensors running horizontally and the other sheet has sensors running vertically. When the screens make contact, the exact point is located based on which lines crossed. Any object can operate resistive touch screens; however, the amount of force required is much greater and precision is less accurate than with capacitive touch screens.

Apple Inc. has chosen to use only capacitive touch screens for all of its products that employ touch screens. Within the Android device market space, device manufacturers have been split on their choices between capacitive and resistive.

Vibration Motors

The touch screen is only one of many methods for interacting with a mobile device. Almost all modern smartphones have some sort of vibrating motor. The vibrating motor consists of a smaller electric motor with a weight purposely attached in an unbalanced fashion. When the motor attempts to spin, the off-balanced nature of the weight causes the device to shake and vibrate. In Android, developers have full access to the motor and can at any time turn it on and off.

LED Lights

Modern smartphones contain one or more lights that can be used as a secondary means of notification. On the Droid 2 for example, the light is illuminated green after an unread text message is received and blue for changes to the radio status. The light color and status can be modified at will by any Android developer.


Many modern smartphones include onboard-embedded accelerometers. An accelerometer is an electronic chip that measures acceleration in one or many directions. The Android OS uses the built-in accelerometer as a means of detecting screen orientation. Third-party developers have expanded on this technology by developing applications that use the measurements as a form of input.

Tilt Sensor

Similar in many ways to the accelerometer, the tilt sensor is an embedded device contained in some modern smartphones. A tilt sensor is used in the Android OS as an alternative to an accelerometer to determine the device’s current orientation.

Hardware Buttons

In addition to the touch screen, many phones have physical buttons that allow for quicker access to tasks like adjusting the volume, putting the phone to sleep, returning to the home screen, and using the camera. When an Android application has the focus of the device, these buttons can generally be reprogrammed to act as input for the specified application. For example, inside of many media applications, the volume buttons change to adjust the volume of the media controller instead of the phone’s ring volume.


Android devices are much more than just communication and entertainment devices. They are used in many different ways, such as interaction with standard personal computers, control of our vehicles, interlacement with digital entertainment systems, and much more. The potential extends beyond the general consumer market. To accommodate all the possible situations that these devices can be used in, there are special requirements that you must address. Devices can be hardened to work in underwater and extreme duty environments, encrypted and protected for use in sensitive areas, virtualized for testing and development, and even secured for use by military forces. This is all possible because of the cyber fiber that allows devices to remain connected at all times. It’s this very cyber fiber that has created the rich and ever-changing digital world of the modern age. We can interact with our devices through various mediums. The high-resolution touch screen provides responsive and accurate control; the vibration motors can inform us about new events; and the built-in sensors can detect real-time changes in device orientation. All of these interfaces, and more, are available for Android developers to use in any and every way possible.

Copyright information

© Iggy Krajci 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iggy Krajci
    • 1
  • Darren Cummings
    • 1
  1. 1.TempeUSA

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