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You don’t always get reception while at sea, so it made sense that fisheries officers had an app with offline data.

When on the water, Department of Fisheries officers are required to make licence queries. And, if you’ve ever been out far enough on the water, you’ll know that reception and signal can be rare to find while on the deep blue sea. 

The Department of Fisheries manages the marine and freshwater fisheries and ecosystems within our state of WA. Their aim is to conserve, sustainably develop and share Western Australia's aquatic resources and their ecosystems for the benefit of present and future generations.

Before we did our magic, officers out at sea would attempt to call the office (sometimes with no luck) and ask a team member to do a lookup and confirm details. Yes, they would be at sea, trying to call the office to get a prompt check, and as you can imagine, it wasn’t a quick or robust process.

It seemed obvious that the Department of Fisheries needed its officers to be able to access fishing licence and registration data on a portal mobile application - something quick and independent of needing to have a live connection to the internet (or be able to call an office). Even better if this could be done single handedly, with the other hand to help the officers balance while on the waves.

The benefit of creating this in the form of a mobile application is that it can go with the officer, in and out of the boat, whether they are onshore or not. It also meant less reliance on other team members. 

"Our mobile app made waves….no surprise to us though, as it was made for the waves."

Xamarin to the (sea) rescue with online and offline modes.

Xamarin Forms, a Microsoft owned company with tools for cross platform development was implemented by our team to develop a windows application with secure mobile API interface, allowing secure mobile access. The use of fuzzy search logic was an added benefit to improving results for occasions such as incorrect spelling.

The Mobile AppPortal Library is a C# Library for use in any Xamarin project. This library contains the API interface to access the AppPortal service, as well as some heavy caching facilities. The library can operate in 2 modes, online, and offline.

In online mode, all data requests are sent to the AppPortal server and responses will include real time data (or as close to real time based on the importer service providing the data). When switching to offline mode, the application library will (whenever it has a data connection) request from the AppPortal all data that has changed since its last request online. Then all functionality is provided directly from the local synchronized data source.

To be an app or not to be an app - that is the question!

There are pros and cons of each. For the Department of Fishers, a mobile application was chosen to allow for ‘offline’ mode. As an application, it can store and save data when there is no live internet connection, allowing the officer to use the features and functionality as required. 

Any new data input saves, and when a live connection is made again, it would upload into the database. Whilst website-based application is very efficient, it would not have suited this scenario, as it would require users to have a live internet connection to use the features they needed.

We stay open minded to the goals of the client before specifying an approach, or technology. 

Custom mobile applications versus web-based applications is always an interesting topic. If you want to discuss, debate or dissect your next app project – let us talk through your requirements and the various paths available to you.

Enough about us. 

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