As the Symbian OS becomes more widely available there are a number of independent Consultancies growing up around the platform. This week we take a look at one such company, Mobileyes of Sweden, who are perhaps unique in the range of work they have done, from low level utilities through to user applications.
We have in the past profiled a number of software developers who are building consumer applications for the growing portfolio of Symbian OS based devices. While a number of these have developed their commercial software business from a background in bespoke software development and consultancy there are a growing number of companies who are specializing providing custom software development for solutions utilizing Symbian OS. One such company is Mobileyes of Stockholm, Sweden.
Johan Carlsson and Magnus Johansson formed Mobileyes in 1999. They first met at Ericsson while they were both working as contractors on the predecessor to Ericsson’s R380. Their involvement with Ericsson continued through to the Ericsson R380 project, which was where they first got involved with Symbian OS, or Epoc as it was at that time. Magnus had responsibility for software architecture during the development of the Ericsson R380, which was based on a Unicode version of Epoc V5, while Johan worked with low-level communication protocols.
It was no coincidence that Mobileyes was formed in 1999 as Johan explained “At that time we believed in the future of smartphones and similar devices, so when Symbian joint venture was created we saw a good business opportunity for us.”
Mobileyes has an in-depth knowledge of some of the more fundamental aspects of the Symbian OS and have developed some quite sophisticated drivers and utilities. One of the first development projects they undertook was to port the GSM data stacks, used for circuit-switched data calls, to Epoc for use in R380. Key members of the Mobileyes staff have also been working with Telephony Server plug-ins (TSY) since the birth of Symbian. Mobileyes have continued to work in the area of telephony, data communication and messaging, while also undertaking development of end user applications for business customers.
To illustrate the diversity of the work Mobileyes has undertaken the following are some of there development projects:
A Symbian smartphone typically has two CPUs. One is running the Symbian OS, providing the user interface to the smartphones features, and the second handles the signaling with the wireless network, phone calls and data communications over dial-up or GPRS. The communication between these CPUs often uses a serial connection. Having multiple logical channels over the serial link is often advantageous, as the user may want to use several functions simultaneously that utilize this link. One channel could be used by PPP for browsing the Internet, while another is used for SMS AT-commands and a third for telephony control, making an ordinary phone call, and indications, such as signal strength. This software therefore allows multiple logical channels over a single physical serial connection (e.g. UART). Each multiplexed channel appears as a normal physical serial port for the software components sitting on top of the CSY, allowing multiple activities to be undertaken on the single serial link.
Cell Broadcast MTM
Most high end phones today support SMS Cell Broadcast messages, sometime known as area information messages. This is a way for network operators to send out information and advertisements targeted at phone users in a particular area. Even though Cell Broadcast is supported in the lower-levels of Symbian OS, it is not yet integrated in the Messaging application as a series of Message Type Modules (MTM) and therefore Symbian OS licensees would need to create these themselves. In 2000 Mobileyes integrated satellite messages into the Epoc messaging application for the American company Comtech. Leveraging this experience Mobileyes integrated Cell Broadcast messaging into the Messaging application of Symbian OS. (You can find out more about Cell Broadcasting at http://www.cellbroadcastforum.org.)
Database application framework
This application was inspired by the way in which Visual Basic allows developers to rapidly build database applications using a framework of database-aware commands. Mobileyes’ goal was to allow Symbian OS C++ developers to build a user interface for database applications more quickly using a framework of database-aware C++ classes and also allow the resulting application to be portable between different SQL databases. Mobileyes currently use the framework for their own internal product development. When third-party database products with robust synchronization capabilities become more readily available this could be an invaluable tool for C++ developers.
Client for Field Service Automation
Developed as a prototype for a Swedish company with a nationwide network of service engineers the Client for Field Service Automation integrates a Symbian OS smartphone with any service system using a SQL database. The prototype is for the Nokia 9210 Communicator. The users of this particular system typically enter a large amount of text when reporting back to central system, so the customer saw a device with real keyboard as a necessity. Typical functionality that the Service Client handles includes, the delivery of Service call and the creation of new calls in the field. It can also report back service call progress and deal with part requirements as well as maintain a history of service calls along with client details on the Nokia 9210.
“We think the future for Symbian OS looks bright, during this year we both hope and think that the number of Symbian devices will grow rapidly”, says Magnus Johansson. Like many companies the recession in the telecommunications industry of the last few years has limited their growth but Magnus believes that they are “ready to expand again.”
Mobileyes are already thinking about the future and have a number of products under development. These include what they are calling their “smart delta” technology that aims to provide extremely efficient over-the-air upgrades of software, which they are expecting to target at both device manufacturers and third-party developers. They are also working on a “marine” application using the Sony Ericsson P800 and Bluetooth technology.
“Mobileyes focus will continue to be a specialist company working solely with the Symbian OS both as contractors and developing our own intellectual property.” concluded Magnus.
About the WDN Symbian Editor, Richard Bloor
Richard Bloor is a freelance writer and editor with 18 years experience in the IT industry as a developer, analyst and latterly Project Manager with a particularly focus on software testing. Richard has been involved with the Symbian OS since 1995 and has been writing about it for the last 3 years.
Richard is also an associate with System Architecture consultancy Equinox of Wellington, New Zealand.