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4 Wireless Applications

This chapter provides an overview of Oracle Application Server Wireless features and benefits. The topics include:

4.1 Introduction to Oracle Application Server Wireless

Wireless computing extends the e-business infrastructure to new classes of devices, delivering on-demand information wherever it is needed, using any device. Oracle Application Server Wireless enables access to information, applications, and services by delivering information that users want, when they want it, on the mobile device of their choice, thereby making them more productive and saving the enterprise money. It provides a solution to the critical enterprise requirement to provide mobile workers with access to their email, calendars, and key enterprise information.

A component of Oracle Application Server, Oracle Application Server Wireless enables enterprises and service providers to efficiently build, manage, and maintain wireless and voice applications. OracleAS Wireless makes Web and database applications (such as e-mail, news, and directory services) accessible to mobile device users by enabling optimal device experience through a common application development framework and environment.

It renders the same application to multiple target markup languages, including HTML, WML, HDML, cHTML, VoiceXML, SMS, and XMPP. Figure 4-1 shows the flow of information between a wireless client and enterprise information systems.

Figure 4-1 Oracle Application Server Wireless

Oracle Application Server Wireless information flow
Description of "Figure 4-1 Oracle Application Server Wireless"

4.2 Oracle Application Server Wireless Architecture

In order to set up an Oracle Application Server Wireless environment, you must have the following:

When users request wireless service, the following occurs:

  1. The wireless device connects to the gateway, passing the URL of the requested service.

  2. The gateway collects the device profiles, such as subscriber ID, device ID, user agent profile from the wireless network.

  3. The gateway submits a URL request to OracleAS Wireless, passing the device profiles.

  4. OracleAS Wireless normalizes the request and forwards the request to the target URL.

  5. OracleAS Wireless transforms the response from the target URL to the requesting device markup language.

  6. The gateway sends the response from OracleAS Wireless to the device.

Figure 4-2 illustrates this flow in terms of the Oracle Application Server Wireless architecture.

Figure 4-2 Oracle Application Server Wireless Architecture

Oracle Application Server Wireless architecture
Description of "Figure 4-2 Oracle Application Server Wireless Architecture"

4.2.1 Oracle Application Server Wireless Server

OracleAS Wireless normalizes the request from any channel and forwards the request to the target URL using the HTTP or HTTPS protocols. It then retrieves the content (which can be in MobileXML, XHTML/MP or XForms). The server renders the device-independent content to any target device.

If the content is not accessible through HTTP or HTTPS, the wireless application container provides the API for you to plug in your own protocol adapters, which can retrieve content from non-HTTP sources (such as PL/SQL applications, SQL queries, LDAP, and IMAP). OracleAS Wireless expects the response from the adapters in MobileXML, XHTML/MP, or XForms.

4.2.2 Oracle Application Server Wireless Transformers

Oracle Application Server Wireless transformers transform device-independent markup into device-specific markup. The transformers render the same content into a functional, actionable page on any device. The transformers use the device knowledge base to activate the device-specific capability as it renders the page.

The device and network adapters automatically transform and optimize application content for any wireless device and network. The adapters support the following mobile technologies:

  • 2-way pagers for asynchronous services (SMTP/SMS)

  • WAP devices

  • Voice access through regular phone lines

  • PDA devices

OracleAS Wireless provides these types of transformers:

  • Generic service transformers: Support languages such as WML. Generic service transformers convert Mobile XML to a generic WML format that works on any AP-compliant wireless phone.

  • Device-specific transformers: Optimized for specific devices. For example, instead of using the generic WML transformer, you can use a device-specific transformer that exploits the device characteristics of a specific phone. The OracleAS Wireless initial repository includes transformers for several target formats, including CHTML, HDML, MML, and VoiceXML.

  • Custom transformers: Create custom transformers to target new device platforms and optimize content presentation for specific devices. OracleAS Wireless publishes device transformation rules so that anyone can create support for any type of device and markup language.

4.3 Oracle Application Server Wireless Features

Oracle Application Server Wireless 10g (10.1.2) includes many new features and enhancements, improving the way enterprises and service providers conduct business.

Oracle Application Server Wireless can be split into four component groups:

4.3.1 Multi-Channel Server

At the core of Oracle Application Server Wireless is the Multi-Channel Server, which enables application access through multiple delivery methods, such as SMS, voice access, WAP, and Pocket PCs. The Multi-Channel Server greatly simplifies and reduces the cost of development by acting as an intelligent wireless proxy for mobile applications. The magnitude of mobile devices and networks are relieved from developers' concerns. Developers can now focus on creating mobile applications for any channel in one, future-proof open standards language. The new Multi-Channel Server extends the existing multi-channel capabilities of previous Oracle Application Server Wireless releases.

Applications written in XHTML are passed through the Multi-Channel Server and translated for any device and network. For example, an XHTML application passed through the Multi-Channel Server is translated to VoiceXML if a phone is accessing the application, and is translated to WML if a WAP phone is accessing the application. The stylesheets used to transcode are maintained and regularly updated by Oracle.

Also new to the Multi-Channel server are Multimedia Adaptation Services. Oracle Application Server Wireless Multimedia Adaptation Services provide device-specific adaptation of images, ringtones, voice grammars, and audio/video streams. Devices support different image formats and have different screen sizes and color depths. As part of the content adaptation performed by OracleAS Wireless in responding to a request, images are dynamically adapted to suit the device. Ringtone adaptation allows for conversion of ringtone data to formats supported by the most popular phones, such as RTTTL, iMelody, and MIDI. The flexible framework for ringtone adaptation allows developers to easily add support for new ringtone formats.

4.3.2 Oracle Sensor Edge Server

Oracle Sensor Edge Server is a middle tier component that integrates sensors and other types of command and response indication equipment and applications. Sensors are hardware or software end points that make observations of certain changes of state. Usually this is a physical state change, for example when a laser diode detects that something has blocked its beam. Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is this type of sensor. Observations can also be made of software states of change or defect, such as when a monitor daemon that is running on an edge controller exits.

4.3.3 J2ME Support

Java 2 Micro Edition (J2ME) provides a lightweight operating system for mobile devices, enabling client-side development using open standards. With the large number of J2ME-enabled phones on the market, vendors need a method for efficiently building, managing, and delivering J2ME applications to the right mobile users. Oracle Application Server Wireless includes complete, end-to-end support for building J2ME applications and delivering them to mobile devices. OracleAS Wireless J2ME support includes the J2ME Developer's Kit and the J2ME Provisioning System.

There is a restriction on the complexity of J2ME applications because of the limited computing power of mobile devices. The more complicated the J2ME application is, the less usable the application will be on a mobile device. One way to create compelling J2ME applications is to use Web services. Applications are able to push some of the CPU-intensive logic to the Web services residing on the server side. However, even the call to Web services from J2ME devices is too CPU intensive. Oracle J2ME Developer's Kit offers the ability to extend Web services to J2ME devices in an optimized manner for mobile devices. Using the J2ME Developer's Kit, J2ME application (MIDlet) developers can make Web services calls through the Oracle Application Server J2ME proxy server using a client stub. Additionally, MIDlet developers can utilize built-in features optimizing communication, such as request and response caching, if the network is unavailable. The calls can automatically resume when the network connectivity resumes.

OracleAS Wireless streamlines the deployment, management, and delivery of J2ME applications with a provisioning system. The application management Web-based tool allows users to upload J2ME applications for management and secure storage. A byte-code inspector verifies the application for any malicious content. The OracleAS Wireless support for over-the-air (OTA) efficiently delivers applications to target users or devices. Digital rights management adds a digital layer around J2ME applications to support business logic that provides full control over the application. The digital wrapper supports billing strategies and application lifespan control.

4.3.4 Notifications and Multimedia Messaging

Oracle Application Server Wireless further enhances intelligent messaging with functionality for actionable alerts, message adaptation, and failover delivery control. Also new are multi-media messaging (MMS) features that allow for richer messaging experiences. Existing messaging capabilities have been improved to include more flexible message templates, security to prevent message spoofing, support for message prioritization, and more flexibility in handling volume alerts.

OracleAS Wireless supports multi-media messaging (MMS) for rich mobile messages, including graphics, videos, and audio. MMS messages can be authored natively in SMIL or in open standards XHTML. Messages that are authored in XHTML are automatically adapted for wireless devices by OracleAS Wireless. The power of adaptation allows a message to be written once and automatically optimized for any target device.

Notifications are improved by allowing messages to be sent, and responded to, using the new actionable alerting capabilities, enabling further action from a sent alert. For example, a stock alert can prompt a user to take an action and sell when a target price is hit. Location can now also play a role in alerting. Location-based alerts generate and deliver alert messages based on a mobile user's current location. For example, a field service coordinator receives an alert when a service engineer is within two miles of a customer with an urgent service request.

Asynchronous applications enable messaging devices, such as SMS and email devices, to access applications. A mobile user can maintain a session with an application via SMS or email. To invoke an application, the user sends a message with the message body containing the name of the application and any inputs. A separate message is sent back, by the application, with the results.

4.3.5 Wireless Development Kit

The Oracle Application Server Wireless Development Kit is a small footprint Oracle Application Server Wireless development environment for developing wireless and voice applications. This speeds the development process by giving extra flexibility to fit any development process using any IDE, development tool, Web service, and device simulator. The Wireless Development Kit can be used on any PC or laptop, connected or disconnected, to build and test wireless and voice applications. It is no longer necessary to have a full installation of Oracle Application Server to build and test wireless applications. The Wireless Development Kit supports development for voice, mobile browser, J2ME, and messaging applications.

Oracle offers a version of the Wireless Development Kit specifically for JDeveloper called the JDeveloper Wireless Extension. JDeveloper users can utilize the JDeveloper Wireless Extension for complete wireless development with code templates, wizards, code insight, and automatic deployment to Oracle Application Server.

4.3.6 Web Clipping

The Wireless Web Clipping Server allows clipping and scraping of existing Web content to create wireless applications that reuse your existing PC browser-based applications. The Wireless Web Clipping Server is used to create many applications, each of which represents Web content that has been clipped and scraped from one or more Web sites scattered throughout a large organization.

To create a Wireless Web Clipping application, the user simply uses a Web browser to navigate to the Web page containing the desired content, then selects the portion of the page to clip and scrape. The user then sets some attributes, exposes input parameters if the Web clipping uses form-based submission, saves the application, and tests the application. The following are some of the features that the Wireless Web Clipping Server supports:

  • Navigation through various styles of login mechanisms, including form-based and JavaScript-based submission and HTTP Basic and Digest Authentication with cookie-based session management.

  • Fuzzy matching of clippings. If a Web clipping gets recorded within the source page or if its character font, size, or style changes, it will still be identified correctly by the Wireless Web Clipping Server and be delivered as the Wireless Web Clipping application content.

  • Reuse of a wide range of Web content, including basic support of pages written in HTML 4.0.1, JavaScript, applets, and plug-in enabled content, retrieved through HTTP GET and POST functions (form submission).

All Wireless Web Clipping application definitions are stored persistently in the Oracle Application Server infrastructure database. Any secure information, such as passwords, is stored in encrypted form, according to the Data Encryption Standard (DES), using Oracle encryption technology.

4.3.7 Location Services

Oracle Application Server Wireless Location Services give access to the full Location Based Service (LBS) functionality, such as positioning, geocoding, mapping, driving directions, and business directory lookup in an open standards manner. Any application or generic client can use the included WSDLs to invoke the LBS Web services. In addition, OracleAS Wireless instances can use LBS features more conveniently by using the "Web service" provider proxy. This allows you to switch LBS providers without having to make modifications to the applications using LBS features.

The LBS features are available through the Web-based tools in addition to being available through APIs. The LBS features allow mobile positioning, to provide the user's current location, and privacy management, to control when and to whom a mobile user's location is available. Both mobile positioning and the caching of the location information can be enabled or disabled by the system or by individual users. Users can grant mobile positioning access to other users or groups of users (communities) for a certain date range and for specified time windows.

This release also allows a mobile user/device to send the current location, which is usually provided by a GPS receiver, to OracleAS Wireless. The current location can be subsequently queried through the existing mobile positioning and privacy management framework. Users can also choose to position themselves manually using the location mark feature. A location mark can be either a point location specified by an address or a region specified by a city, state, or even a country.

In the previous release, users could configure multiple content providers for geocoding, mapping, driving directions, and business directory services. A provider was selected based on static ordering or its availability region. This release adds the ability to monitor the performance and reliability of providers and dynamically adjust the selection criteria. It also logs performance statistics that help administrators in managing their systems.

4.3.8 Mobile Office Applications

Enterprises can get up and running on wireless or voice applications quickly by deploying the mobile applications that are shipped with Oracle Application Server Wireless. The Mobile Office suite of applications provides wireless browser and voice access to email, calendars, address books, tasks, directories, and files. These applications are fully integrated, enabling the most convenient user experience through such features as directory-based or address book-based recipient selection while composing email messages.

All Mobile Office applications are based on standard protocols, allowing a simple integration into existing environments. Mobile Email gives access from any mobile device to any IMAP or POP3 server, including Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino. Mobile Directory connects to any LDAP directory server. And finally, Mobile Calendar integrates with Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino servers, and through published interfaces Oracle enables easy customization to support any calendar server.