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Case Study: A Mobile App for Ski Patrollers

Posted by Ben Busse

Wed, Jun 25, 2014

Gary Meyer is a professional software architect and volunteer ski patroller at a major ski resort in Colorado. He loves the outdoors and he loves to code too. Looking for ways to fuse technical innovation with volunteer interests, Meyer couldn’t help but wonder how mobile technologies could bring innovation to ski patrolling. He looked for what was available in the app stores, but couldn’t find a good mobile app targeted to the unique needs of the men and women who keep the slopes safe. There are about twenty-thousand ski patrollers in the U.S. alone and Meyer saw an opportunity to build a mobile app that would help them do their jobs better.

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Application Features

Meyer got inspired to build his own app initially for the ski patrollers at the resort where he volunteers. Says Meyer, “It was easy to define the features because I needed the app myself. There are countless things to be on top of as a ski patroller -- weather forecasts, avalanche forecasts, trail and lift statuses, emergency contact numbers, complex on-mountain logistics, medical reference information. Not just technical and medical, we need to know where beers are after sweeps. The app needed to be simple, fun, and social. Patrollers can get to the data they need to serve guests well which results in better safety and fun for all on the slopes.”

The mobile app has a number of handy features for ski patrollers. First, there’s a community “wall” where you can chat with other patrollers. The app lists all important phone numbers in one place, including dispatch, ready room, and triage room phone numbers. Users can easily access contact information for every patroller as well. There’s a section with important details about the mountain, including AED locations, toboggan locations, the current avalanche forecast, and other details. The app also provides a dedicated section for first aid information.

Meyer will soon release the app as a “closed beta” for the ski patrollers at the resort where he volunteers. “I’m excited about getting the app into the hands of fellow Colorado ski patrollers. We’ll incorporate user feedback, make some quick improvements, and then offer the app to patrollers at other resorts when it’s in good shape,” says Meyer.

DreamFactory Provides All the Backend Services

Meyer didn’t want to write a custom backend for his mobile app. Writing the frontend application would be straightforward, but the backend requirements were significant and would be time-consuming to implement from scratch. Backend requirements included user management and authentication, role management, relational database tables, external REST service connections to the snow report, weather report, and lift status, and a REST API to access files.

Meyer also wanted a choice of where to install the backend software. He decided to use the Red Hat OpenShift platform, but wanted the option to switch platforms in the future if necessary. He used the open source DreamFactory Services Platform installed on Red Hat OpenShift as the backend for his mobile application.

“I looked at a number of backend solutions and DreamFactory was the obvious choice. The first consideration was of course capabilities, and DreamFactory had everything I needed functionally on the backend, without requiring me to write any custom backend code. I also prefered an open source solution. The deployment flexibility was also important. I installed DreamFactory on Red Hat OpenShift but I can easily move DreamFactory to another PaaS provider or install DreamFactory on my own Linux server in the future,” says Meyer.

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DreamFactory provides the entire backend for Meyer’s ski patroller app, including:

  • Users - The app uses DreamFactory’s user management system for user registration and single sign-on authentication (SSO).

  • Roles - End users are granted app permissions using DreamFactory’s role system. End users can be guests (no authentication required), members (ski patrollers), or contributors (app administrators).

  • Javascript SDK - The app is built with HTML5, Javascript, Twitter Bootstrap, Adobe PhoneGap, and DreamFactory’s open source Javascript SDK to make REST API calls to the DreamFactory Services Platform.  

  • Relational database - The app uses DreamFactory’s built-in MySQL database to store data such as member contact information, mountain information, and “wall” posts. DreamFactory provides a documented, ready-to-use REST API to this relational database.

  • External data access - The app uses DreamFactory as a secure proxy to several external REST services, including a snow report, current weather conditions, and lift status. It’s also easy to add new REST services on the backend to extend what the application can do.

  • File storage - The app uses a Dreamfactory REST API to access static files like medical protocols that an end user can view in the app.

  • Flexible installation options - Meyer installed DreamFactory’s open source package for Linux is on Red Hat OpenShift. If needed, he can easily migrate the entire backend, including backend data and REST services, to another IaaS or PaaS provider or to his own dedicated Linux or Windows server.

As a developer working on his own project, Meyer is glad DreamFactory enabled him to deliver a mobile app quickly. “I was excited about this project and took the whole thing on myself. My time is of the essence so it was out of the question for me to build a homegrown user management system, security, and a bunch of REST APIs on the backend. DreamFactory has chopped off months of development time. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have completed the app without DreamFactory,” says Meyer.

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Check out the Ski Patrol App on our Community Showcase Page!

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