Mobile Apps Powered by Azure Government

>>Hi. This is Steve Michelotti. And today, I’m joined by
Eric Egland and Andrew Ditmer of our Global Black Belt team
and we’re going to be talking about Mobile Apps Powered
by Azure Government. Now, you guys probably
get this a lot. Global Black Belt? Can you tell us a little bit
about what that is?>>Sure. I know,
it’s an unusual name, but it’s an exciting place
to be in Microsoft. So what we do is
our team is called app innovation and
what we do is help customers kind of do
things for the first time. Like for example,
build an app in Azure that they’ve
never done before. You know, they have
a new subscription, new tenant. How do they build
their first app? And we help them do that. So it’s fun, I get to, I
spend a career in government and I get to help
government customers innovate.>>Awesome. Okay. So, let’s
talk about mobile apps today. I’ve heard that you guys have this thing called
the Office Locator app. Tell us a little bit
about what is that?>>Right. Yes. So, I spent
a career in government. I’m working with government
customers all the time. There’s all these challenges
for going mobile, for going to Azure, and all these difficult
discussions that take a long time and budget planning and all this all the resources. And I thought,
“Well, if we could just sort of cut through that, that Gordian knot
and show him just how easy it is to
just get started. And once you’re started, then you can decide what path
you want to go down”. And so, we came up with
the idea of a custom demo app, that uses different
Azure services that’s a fully native iOS and Android
mobile app that can then allow government
customers to use it and see how easy it is
and then expand from there.>>Okay. So, I
think you’ve sort of answered the next
question I had, which was, how did it start? It sounded like it
kind of started as a starter project, if you will.>>Yeah, that’s
exactly what it was. A starter project to say, “Hey, how can we make this
easier for customers to just get going?” And so, we took
a demo app that was available online and re-purposed it to be able to address. You know, I thought, “Well, what does every
enterprise have?” They have different offices. So we said, “Well, let’s just do a list view of the different offices
and allow people to drill down and get to
other information and use a lot of functionality
that you have in a mobile app that
everybody sort of wants.” So it can be, and then adding all the technical
detail as well. So if I can I’ll–>>Please do.>>–walk you
through a little bit. So this is basically
the overview, right. So this is a way for
government customers to, so if you think in terms of leadership and business units, and in terms of I.T. technical teams, to
get what they want. One, is to understand. What’s involved in getting
going in this direction? What’s the business value that I’m going to
get out of this, and how hard is it or how
easy is it or how much resources am I going
to have to plan and allocate to this?
So that’s the idea. You can go from a spreadsheet
with the locations, publicly available
information for where your offices are, to a fully native app, like we’re showing there. You’ve got the Android
on the left, iOS on the right, and
the code in the middle. So, that’s basically
what we’re able to do.>>Okay. So, if I
hear you correctly, I hear you saying
that I can go from basically an Excel
spreadsheet to having a fully native
mobile app in Android and iOS running for
my government agency without investing
millions of dollars and two years of time? This might sound a little
too good to be true. We’re going to have to
get you guys to prove it over the next few minutes
here. Okay, so keep going.>>That’s a good point, yeah.>>You’ve got my attention.
Let’s keep going.>>It’s worth
pulling the thread, but that’s exactly it, yeah. Without spending
really any money, any kind of procurement action, you can just have the app. And that’s actually
how it first started, was a pre-sales motion.>>Okay.>>To say, “Hey, this is really that easy.” And we had customers
who would get it and were blown away just
how we did it for them.>>Yeah.>>And then they
would take it to their internal
stakeholders and say, “Hey, here’s this app and it has our logos and
our information on it.” And IT directors or business owners would say,
“Where’d you get that? Like, we haven’t put out
an RFP for that mobile app.”>>Right.>>And they go, “Well, yeah you don’t have
to because it’s so easy to get started. And boom, you’ve
got their attention.>>Absolutely.>>That’s how we started.>>The Excel spreadsheet
is interesting too because you’re
talking about this in the context of Office Locator
but I could put anything I wanted in the
spreadsheet if I was interested in having
a mobile app for something else.>>That’s exactly right. I’ll walk you through an example where a government agency, one of the largest
counties in the country is doing just that.>>Great. All
right. Tell me more.>>Sure. Okay. So
as you can see, there’s a spreadsheet here. And so, you’re basically
just putting in your basic address,
Department of XYZ, your address, there’s
hours of operation if you want to put
those in there, and then there’s an image link. And that’s important
because visuals are important and if someone
sees their own logos, then they don’t feel
like, oh, that’s just some demo where that
doesn’t really apply to me. This feels like it’s ours. And so you just put
those image links in there and you can go from that.>>Okay.>>And then shifting
to the Azure services. Originally, we just designed it to focus on the mobile app
and we thought, where’s the best place
to put this. This is going to go to any
number of government agencies, so we put it on Azure. And now as we’re helping government agencies get to
Azure for the first time, they also want to go mobile. Those two things tend to go hand in hand and so it’s great. So Azure SQL App service, the Cognitive Services
specifically inside the Computer Vision API, you’ve got the Smart
Thumbnail feature, and then Azure
functions as well.>>So with putting it
in Azure government, it enables them to get
all this functionality and at a higher level of compliance than even our Commercial Azure.>>Right. Yeah, exactly. So those security concerns
and compliance concerns, those all sort of
go away because they’re already addressed and so they don’t have
to worry about that. They can focus on the app
and learning about the app. And that’s one of
the values here. This shows the agency basically completes
the spreadsheet.>>Okay.>>And then there’s
documentation and that’s what Andrew
is going to walk through in the demo. There’s documentation
and code that’s very detailed that they can
walk through to learn. So the technical teams can see, well, how are
these apps architected? How do you even do this? How do you architect
the mobile app? How do you bring it
calling up these services? What’s involved in that? And here it is,
it’s all laid out. So instead of a tutorial that might be what they want
or what they don’t, they get to see soup to nuts the whole project and it’s
right in front of them.>>Okay. So they
understand how to use it. Once they use it,
what’s next after that.>>Yeah. Well so, what they get to see, this is the neat part is, they get to see their own logos. And so that List View is
what I’m showing right now. And basically that shows
all the different logos, all the different departments
that they have. And then you can
drill down from there. But like you said,
you could do people, or any number of things. One government agency
is using it for critical facilities that
they have to monitor, time, and for
compliance reasons, how long has it
been in operation? When was the last maintenance
call? All those things. And they’re using this as
the skeleton to build out the fully functional
production app that actually meets
their specific need. So you can drill down
and see the Office Hours, you can see in the codes
right there for everything, as well as calling up the native phone
application to dial, as well as to navigate. And then we also have the gist of the calendar and
various data inputs, just different things
that you would have, the pickers, all the
different free text, structure text, things that
you have in a mobile app. So it’s a catch all and they can just see
how you do that.>>Is really the best of
both worlds on the phone. You would have all the native
features you’ve mentioned, the native phone app, but on the back end on
the server side, you have the full power of
the Azure Government Cloud with Azure functions, and SQL database, and
Cognitive Services.>>Right.>>You really bring
a complete solution into the mix here. Okay, great.>>Yeah. We take
the Intelligent Cloud and meet it with
the intelligent edge.>>Yeah. Absolutely.
I like that. Okay. So how do customers
and partners find this?>>Yeah, sure. So this
is available on a public, I’ll bring up
the address in a minute.>>Okay.>>But let me give an example where customers are
using it for production. This is exciting to
me because it’s really just a demo to get people
going and get them comfortable. Los Angeles County
is using this to enable their employees to
find remote facilities. So they’re doing a list view. And this is LA County Fire
specifically. So one of the largest
fire departments in the country because
LA County is so sprawling, mountains, dense
urban areas, all that. So one of the challenges is that in an
emergency circumstance, people usually are moving quickly and they usually
have to go somewhere, get supplies, or get
equipment, or uniforms, or meet up with
other EMS type people, and then go to this site of the emergency,
go to the fire.>>Right.>>And the challenges at these facilities are so remote that nobody’s
ever been there before. And so, they use this
as the list view. Boom, we have to go here,
drill down, okay, navigate. And now they’re able to do that. So they’re in production on that now and then they’ve liked it so much that they’re expanding
it to a personnel finder. This LA County of thousands
and thousands of employees. How do I find you if I don’t know you and
we’re both employees? Well, this is
a great way to do so. So we’ve had it where
customers use it for real business use case, and then actually expand
it to another one. And that’s what it
was designed for, is to just be useful enough and it kind of a Swiss army knife
of mobile apps, that a production need can be focused on and
further developed.>>It sounds really like LA County is leaving a lot
of these other counties across our country behind
a little bit in terms of technical innovation because they’re taking this
and running with it. And hopefully based
on their example, other counties can do the same.>>Right. Yeah.
We’re having a lot of interest as we go around. And shifting to
the technical side, so your technical team
can see that. So the business owners like this in LA County for example, and I’ve met with
the technical team who says, “Oh, this is great. We’ve read online,
we’ve watched videos, but this shows us exactly
how it’s architected”.>>Right. Okay.>>So the calling up
the different services. So that’s basically how you can go from a spreadsheet
to a full app.>>Okay.>>And then this example, we’re here in Washington state, and this is the one I get most excited
about is the state of Washington actually
deployed this and had it built through an RFP, and used it in
a child welfare context. So had a lot of
problems with people not paying child
support on time and when they interviewed people who were offenders in that way, there’s enforcement resources
that go into that, it’s a really
difficult situation, they found that
people didn’t have access to electronic banking. They didn’t have a lot
of things that we might take for granted as being able to make payments and things. They didn’t so they
had to find the office, the right office
to go and a lot of times they had
a hard time doing that. So they released
this app and used the Office Locator Code for that list view of listing all their different
facilities and people, so people can find
the facilities, engage with the facilities, call them, set up
appointments, things like that. It’s been out long enough, that they hit a lot
of important metrics. Business impact is real. More payments made, fewer
enforcement actions, shorter time from the time
periods they care about, there’s a notice to
payment, that kind of thing. So it’s been exciting to see
that actually translate to real business impact that helps people and that’s why it’s fun to work with
government because it really affects
people’s lives.>>Absolutely, Definitely.
That sounds great. Okay. So where do
we go from here? There’s the URL mentioned in term of where they find it if they want to get started?>>Yes, so exactly. This is it. The code’s there, the
documentations there, and Andrew is there too.>>Okay. All right. Now
you got me excited here. I think we need
a demo to walk through this and you’ve
got me hooked here. Now let’s see if
this is really real. We’ll get Andrew to come in
and give us a demo on that. All right Andrew, so
why don’t you come in walk us through
this a little bit?>>Absolutely. So here
you can see the app running on iOS and on Android.>>Okay. So these
are simulators, they are running
locally on your machine. You can see both platforms.>>Yes. This is
the android emulator and this is the iOS simulator. And behind it you
can see the code here in Visual Studio for Mac. And all of this works on Visual Studio for Windows as well. You just have to have a Mac somewhere on your local network
to do the iOS build.>>Okay. Great.>>So let’s take
a look at the app. Here’s the list view that
Eric was talking about. It’s got all these
different locations. In this case I’ve set up the Office Locator for the Veterans Affairs
Administration. So these are a bunch
of different VA locations all
across the country. I found some public data source,
there’s 1,200 locations. I only had enough time
to really process the first 100 to get them into that spreadsheet
and import them. So it was about 100 locations
and here you see the list, here’s the detail page
that shows the picture. In this case, I used
the Google Street view of that location. And here we see an Apple map
of the location. We can navigate from here and it pulls up the native
map, mapping tool.>>So it’s sounds
like you can really use any tool you want, you’ve mentioned Google Maps,
Apple Street View. We’re not forcing you to
use all Microsoft products. You can use an open ecosystem,
use anything you want.>>That’s right.>>All right great.>>Then if we go
back to the app, you can also call
directly from here. Obviously, the simulator
doesn’t have a SIM card so it’s
not going to call. But on a real device, you
would place a call right there. Then all this works
the same way over on Android. Except on Android we’re
using Google Maps. We hit “Navigate” is going to pull up the Google Maps app. And then of course you can
call from here as well.>>Okay. All right. So we’ve got the app running
on both of these platforms. So I assume in order
to build this app, you needed a team of
Android developers, and a team of
Objective C developers. Obviously must be how
you build this, right?>>Well, actually
no. In this case, we used the Xamarin platform and the entire app was written in C# right here in Visual Studio.>>So you’re saying you
have C# and that was able to do Android and iOS
just one C# code-base?>>Correct. And it’s
100 percent native code.>>Okay.>>So you can access
100 percent of the native API for
iOS and Android, you get a native UI
on each platform. So this is using UI kit on iOS, and using a XML on Android.>>So it’s not
some HTML rendering, the javascript, its native code, C # is calling a native APIs.>>Exactly. And your C# fully compiled into the native
binaries in each platform. So you get native
performance as well.>>Awesome.>>So it’s a fully native app, written from a single code-base. And it’s backed by
Azure Government. And here you can see we’re pointing to an end point
in the Azure Gov.>>Awesome. So that demo
you just ran where was calling up those locations was actually talking to
Azure Government?>>That’s correct.>>Great. All right.>>One thing I wanted
to add Steve is, so we’re talking
about the value here for people to be
able to access this. Partners can really
benefit from this, right? So, partners who want
to go show something to a government customer
or to any customer, challenge with partners is well, how much are you going
to invest to go do something at no cost to
a potential customer. That’s always the business development challenge
that they have. With this, they can do this for the customer that
they’re either engaged with or they’d like
to be engaged with, and just take a list of
10 offices and plug it in, and be able to go
show them “Hey, here is an app with your logos
and your information. We know how to do this, we know how to use Azure, we know how to take you mobile.” So, it’s a great way
for partners too, to add a low cost, low investment, to be able to show this powerful capability.>>Yeah, definitely.That’s
awesome. Okay, Steve. Talked a little bit
about the client side, building the app itself. I heard you guys many times
mention Azure Services, and how it’s talking
to the back end. What can you tell us about that?>>Sure. So, first
let’s start at that
link that Eric mentioned. So that the hack,
there is in a hackfest. You can do a hackfest
at your organization, or in your community, and use this as a step by
step guide on how to do it. So, it takes you
to a GitHub page, and it tells you a little bit about what’s
the office locator is, talks about the
technologies it uses. Then down here at
the bottom, it’s got really a cookbook of different recipes on
how to take this code, put in your data, set it up
on your Azure subscription, and use it for your use case.>>Okay. I see right here, you’re talking about
things like the “Easy tables” and
the “Functions.”>>Correct.>>Okay, great.>>So, your starting
point here will be this “Azure
Easy Tables Hack.”>>Okay.>>You go here, it’s got
a step by step guide. And Step zero is to
install Visual Studio.>>Yeah, okay.>>Done. All right,
let’s move on.>>Yeah.>>I’m not going
to go step by step. I’ve got some of
it done already. But next, you go to
the Azure portal, and you create
an Azure App Service.>>Yeah.>>And then you take
a SQL database there in Azure, and you create an
“Easy tables” as a set of auto generated web APIs that sit in front
of a SQL database, and allow you to
interact with that.>>Okay.>>So, you create
an “Easy table”, and then it will
pick up right from there and it’ll show
you kind of life.>>I really like the step
by step directions because I might be someone’s coming with Azure commercial subscription, or in our case here, that’s
your government subscription. Either way, I can follow
those directions the same way.>>Exactly. So, if you look at the screenshots
here in the guide, it really talks about doing it in Azure
commercial, right? Here’s But here, for a demo today, this is
all in Azure Government. So, there’s no trickery here, this is all 100
percent real demo.>>Same developers experience
just different endpoints.>>Exactly. So here we
have the “Easy table.”>>Okay.>>And this is connected to my Azure SQL through
my data connections, there’s my connection string.>>Yeah.>>And then, for
my “Easy tables”, here’s the two tables
that powered the app. There’s the location table
and the feedback table. So, one of the
features of the app, we jump back in
there, is I can give feedback on any one
of these locations.>>Okay.>>Right. And that saves it here in this feedback
table in the database.>>Okay.>>But in order to put
my location data in there, all I have to do
is go add from CSV, and I browse to a CSV file
here on my desk.>>Okay, so here you’re
adding a brand new table. You already have
one collocation. We are adding a new one, I heard you guys
mentioned the CSV before, this how to get
from the CSV into an actual Cloud database?>>Right. This is how you
take best spreadsheet that has all your data with
its locations, or people, or whatever you’re wanting
to show in the app, you just put that
in a spreadsheet, and then you can import it
into your database here.>>Okay.>>So, I’ll just give
this a name called Location2, centered here at
the location table.>>Okay, great.>>And then I come down
here and hit “Import.” And we see the import
did some progress, and then it’s finished.>>So, it’s just like that. It actually inferred
all the column names. By looking at the CSV,
is that I’m going to create those in the database, and it just sucked all that CSV, and I’ve got a database
table now on clock.>>Yeah, correct. It
went super fast for that. But let’s look at
that again, and see how it pulled out all of
the different column headings.>>Not only just the columns, but even it’s strings, integers.>>Correct.>>Awesome.>>And then we have
our Location2 table here. We can see that there’s a bunch of
different rows in here. We have several pages of rows.>>Okay.>>So, it’s how
easy it is to get that data up into
a Cloud database. And then to connect
that to your app, all you have to do
is go back up here to the overview page
of your App Service, and grab the URL,
and point here.>>Yeah.>>Then come back into your app, and you paste it right in here.>>All right, great. So, let me see those “Easy
table” one more time. I heard you mentioned
the “Feedback table.” So, I can come in here
to this “Easy tables”, I can upload data from CSV. If we go into a feedback table, okay, I see there’s two rows.>>Correct.>>I still don’t
know if I’d buy it. There might be smoke
and mirrors here. I want you to prove to me that this app is running
as Azure Government by adding a new feedback item using
your app that you were [inaudible]>>So, here we’re in
the Iowa simulator, and I go to that
leave feedback page, and I’ll just leave a lot
of these as default values. I’m going to put in
my name. Then down here, I can put in some feedback like, “This was awesome! Great facilities.”>>Oh, autocomplete.>>Yeah.>>It corrected your typo.
That’s pretty cool. You got that for free, native functionality. In the device.>>It’s using the native
functionality of the device. I’m here in the simulator, and I’m using
a physical keyboard, but I’ve a physical device would pull up
that virtual keyboard.>>Yeah. In this way that
I’m on Android, whatever?>>Right. If you’re using
a third party keyboard, it all works here
in this app as well. You can tap the microphone,
and do dictation to it. All that is just built in
to the native platform.>>I prefer to just tell
my boss that I created the autocomplete
functionality so I can get the promotion, and then that’s rightt.>>It’s a great time to
be a developer, right? It’s all these tools that
just happened for us, right?>>All right, cool.>>So, I hit “Done” here, and
I’ll hit “Submit” up here. And says it’s
submitting my feedback.>>Okay, great. So, it was actually making
that connection to Azure, submitting it, saving
in the database.>>If I come back here
to my “Easy table”, and hit refresh there’s that.>>There it is.>>Now we have three rows. Okay. There it was,
just got at it. All right. You sold me. I believe that. No smoke
and mirrors. That’s great. Okay. You mentioned the site where it has a step
by step tutorial. I also heard you
mentioned GitHub. So, it sounds like you can
pull the code from GitHub.>>That’s correct.>>Is that the option, that’s my only choice here?>>That’s one option,
but also a lot of Visual Studio developers
are used to starting their projects directly
from Visual Studio. And so we have a Visual
Studio plugin as well. Then you can install
Visual Studio, and then you just go “File”, “New”, “Office locator app”, and it has all
the code in there. It also has an Azure template, and then it will create all of the Azure resources you need, the app service, the SQL
database, all the functions. Everything you need,
and use one click, deploy it from Visual Studio
into the government.>>That is awesome. Because now it’s like
I’m doing “File”, “New project”, “New mobile app”, and copy and paste
a bunch of code. It’s actually
a new office locator app, literally pulling
all the codes, your good to go.>>It automatically will
put in your endpoint there because you’re creating
through that plugin as well.>>That’s awesome. Thanks to Ross Williams on
the US Public Sector team. He did that. David Hathaway on the GBB team and Dan Rigby. There’d been a lot of people who’ve contributed to the code, and Charlene Wall getting
this out to government. There’d been a lot of folks involved in getting
to where it is. So, we’re really
excited about it.>>The Microsoft team
supporting public sector so that you can lean on us
for a lot of that work, and you can get up and running really quickly,
hit the ground running.>>Right. Awesome.>>Okay. Well, this has
been really awesome. Anything else you can show us?>>Yes. So our cookbook actually has two
more recipes as well.>>Okay.>>So here on that GitHub page, we have the “Azure
Easy Tables Hack”, but there’s also
an “Azure Functions Hack”, and a “Visual Studio
App Center Hack”.>>Okay.>>In the “Azure Functions Hack” is your next step after
you have your app created, and your easy tables, and
all the data in there, the next step is to put in
your images of your locations. So, if you have say
an image library, you can upload those into
an Azure Blob Storage, and each upload will trigger an Azure function that will then use Cognitive Services to create a Smart Thumbnail
of that location, and then store the URI
to its location, and Azure Blob Storage
into your easy table, and so it’s immediately
available in the app.>>Oh, I see. So, that’s really compelling because the added functions
called Cognitive Services, you’re using Cognitive Services
to create that thumbnail, but you could use it
to make sure it isn’t inappropriate photo
being uploaded before you create the thumbnail, and you can really use these, and all these
different combinations.>>Absolutely.>>Okay, very cool.>>In all the how to
do that, and again, is step by step right here
from creating a new function App to doing your Blob trigger, to which code actually do.>>Okay.>>Use copy and
paste this in there. It’s really easy way
to take your images, and make them
available to your app.>>And Azure functions
as our technology, there are server list technology we don’t have to stand
up a whole website, they just can just monitor. In this case, a Blob or Q or whatever case to
trigger its functionality.>>Correct.>>Okay, awesome.>>And then, the third recipe in here is for Visual
Studio App Center, which is a way to do
DevOps for your mobile app. So, it’ll do everything
from Cloud builds each time you push
code to your code repo, to automated testing,
to distribution of it, to crash reporting
and analytics.>>Wow, okay.>>And just walk you through
how to do all of that.>>That is awesome. Okay great.>>So, one thing, this is originally started as something we
did for customers. And this is the first time
that it’s become self-serve.>>Yeah.>>What we’d really
like is feedback. So, we’d encourage anyone who’s watching to give it a try, and see how it works for
you, but give us feedback. This is coming out into
the wild for the first time. So, we’d be grateful for any feedback that on ways
we can make it better, or things that
seem to work well. We’d really appreciate that.>>It’s already on
GitHub so they can give that feedback
directly in GitHub.>>That’s correct.>>They can do it with
you guys directly.>>That’s right. [inaudible]
like this repo, create issues. We already have a pull request.>>Awesome, right.>>So, somebody
who’s made changes, and requested that we bring
this into our main line repo.>>Very cool. All right, great. All right, thanks guys, okay. This has been very informative. This has been Steve Michelotti, along with Eric Egland,
and Andrew Ditmer. Talking about
building mobile apps powered by Azure Government.
Thanks for joining.

Maurice Vega

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