In our last Mobility Minute, Ricardo Spina introduced you to the mobile app the SAP Mobility Design Center was recently asked to create for New York Yankee fans as part of the Beyond the Numbers project. The app allows users to interact with 111 years’ worth of New York Yankees player history. In this week’s blog, Mike Klimentiev will give us a behind-the-scenes look at the technical challenges the team had to deal with while creating this app, and how they motivated them to create an app that does an incredible job of presenting the data in a way that really speaks to baseball fans. Mike is one of our top solution architects in the Mobility Design Center team at SAP Labs. Here is what he has to tell us about this amazing engagement:
It was a great project to work on! Even to me – a person who didn’t grow up playing baseball – it was obvious how interesting this data would be for any student of “The Game.”
How to Pull Meaning from an Ocean of Data
With 111 years worth of detailed player and game statistics, we had a huge amount of data to share with people.But data is not useful by itself – it needs to be presented in a way that makes it meaningful. You’ve got to be able to “slice and dice” it, manipulate it in myriad ways, and examine it from multiple points of observation. We had to decide on a delivery vehicle that would do the best job of presenting the data in a way that engages fans and pulls them into using the app.
At SAP we have a huge set of data visualization and analysis tools at our disposal, and any one of them would have done a great job at wresting valuable meaning out of the data. But our tools are intended for the corporate world, and they look a bit too businesslike to deliver New York Yankees statistics in a way that makes them appealing to hardcore ball fans. After all, you wouldn’t wear your office clothes to a local sports bar where true baseball aficionados are waiting for a game to begin!
Defining Our Goals and Ground Rules
Before the Design Mobility Center team starts a project, we define our goals and ground rules. After some brainstorming we quickly came to the conclusion that the application needed to satisfy the following criteria:
- Be highly interactive and easy to use for a casual user
- Be able to handle over 100 years of statistics as well as statistics from the current season
- Demonstrate that SAP can build customer-facing applications on top of SAP technology
Here’s how these goals drove our technological development of the app:
Maximum Ease and Interactivity
It didn’t take us long to decide to go with a native iPad application. The iPad’s form factor allows users to explore data much easier than a phone form factor. And while HTML5 has made huge advances in recent years, it’s still not on par with native applications when it comes to slickness and performance of user interface layer. We knew an iPad app would allow us to create a fun and engaging graphic interface that fit perfectly with the entertainment-based nature of the data.
The Best Way to Crunch Such a HugeVolume Data
The data volume question did give us pause. We went back and forth between the idea of storing all that data and running queries on the central HANA server or caching the data on the user’s local data engine. Running queries on the HANA server would give us infinite power and speed – but it would limit the application to online-only usage, which would be a bummer for anyone on a car trip or out of Wi-Fi range. In the end, we decided to marry the two ideas together and use a data cache in the local storage that is updated from the central HANA server on schedule.
The Power of Building on SAP Technology
Our goal of demonstrating how customer-facing applications could be built on top of SAP technology was probably easiest to achieve. We simply built our application on top of HANA instance, the same technology that powers the Web version of the Beyond the Numbers project at http://www.sapandtheyankees.com/historical-dashboard.html.
In the next version of the application, we plan to use HANA’s powerful analytical engine to offer users the opportunity to play with predictive analytics, in addition to the comparative analytics that are already on full display. This is just one of the ideas for features that we would like to add in subsequent versions.
We are currently completing the final round of paperwork necessary for the release of the application – and then it’s time to take the next challenge and engage with another client on our mission to delight the world with consumer-grade mobile applications powered by SAP Mobile.
Solution Architect, Mobility Design Center at SAP Labs
A big “Thank You” to Mike for providing this inspiring project insight. In the next Mobility Minute, we’ll share with you what our designers think on how the new iOS7 will impact the design of consumer-grade mobile applications