This chapter covers

■ Storing and exchanging data

■ Implementing the Field Service Application

■ Following the application flow

■ Capturing signature

■ Uploading data

Now that we have introduced and examined Android and its core technologies, it is high time to put together a more comprehensive application. In this chapter we are going to put much of what you have learned into a composite application, leveraging skills gained throughout the book. In addition to an in-depth Android application, this chapter's sample application works with a custom website application that manages data for use by a mobile worker. The aim is to demonstrate a more complex application involving real-world requirements. All of the source code for the server-side application is available for download from the book's companion website.

After reading through this chapter and becoming familiar with the sample application, you will be ready to strike out on your own and build useful Android applications. Many of the code samples are explained; however, if you need more background information on a particular topic, please refer to earlier chapters where the Android APIs are more fully presented.

If this example is going to represent a useful real-world application, we need to put some flesh on it. Beyond helping you to understand the application, this definition process will get you thinking about the kinds of impact a mobile application can have on our economy. This chapter's sample application is called Field Service Application. Pretty generic name perhaps, but it will prove to be an ample vehicle for demonstrating key elements required in mobile applications as well as demonstrate the power of the Android platform for building useful applications quickly.

Our application's target user is a fleet technician who works for a national firm that makes its services available to a number of contracted customers. One day our technician, who we will call a mobile worker, is replacing a hard drive in the computer at the local fast food restaurant, and the next day he may be installing a memory upgrade in a piece of pick-and-place machinery at a telephone system manufacturer. If you have ever had a piece of equipment serviced at your home or office and thought the technician's uniform did not really match the job he was doing, you have experienced this kind of service arrangement. This kind of technician is often referred to as hands and feet. He has basic mechanical or computer skills and is able to follow directions reliably, often guided by the manufacturer of the equipment being serviced at the time. Thanks to workers like this, companies can extend their reach to a much broader geography than the internal staffing levels would ever allow. For example, a small manufacturer of retail music-sampling equipment might contract with such a firm for providing tech support to retail locations across the country.

Because of our mythical technician's varied schedule and lack of experience on a particular piece of equipment, it is important to equip him with as much relevant and timely information as possible. However, he cannot be burdened with thick reference manuals or specialized tools. So, with a toolbox containing a few hand tools and of course an Android-equipped device, our fearless hero is counting on us to provide an application that enables him to do his job. And remember, this is the person who restores the ice cream machine to operation at the local Dairy Barn or perhaps fixes the farm equipment's computer controller so the cows get milked on time. You never know where a computer will be found in today's world!

If built well, this application can enable the efficient delivery of service to customers in many industries, where we live, work, and play. Let's get started and see what this application must be able to accomplish.

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