Application Research

Office space at the ACI institute

Apps are ubiquitous and tightly integrated into our daily lives. They help facilitate decision making and communication in our work and play. Apps often serve as the front-end to other devices and systems that gather data within their respective environments and help us live healthier lives, or better understand and respond to complex problems, such as the decline of honey bee populations. Many dedicated physical devices such as cameras, flashlights, car keys, and point-of-sale terminals have morphed into apps, software running on smartphones and tablets. We believe the app revolution is just getting started! There are more app ideas awaiting implementation than there are skilled developers to implement them.

Modern apps are implemented in a variety of techniques. Some apps are expressed as native applications, binary app bundles built upon specific vendor platforms such as Apple’s iOS or tvOS, or Google’s Android. Other apps take shape as web applications, based fundamentally on HTML5, JavaScript, CSS3 and a variety of derivative web technologies and frameworks. Other apps utilize hybrid frameworks such as React Native, PhoneGap any many more that allow developers to implement the app via web technologies, but ultimately deploy in the form of native apps via popular app ecosystems. An app’s implementation path is dependent on a number of complex tradeoff decisions that will vary based on intended outcomes/goals. App designers and developers must immerse themselves in the app’s use case and make thoughtful and informed decisions about how to implement.

iPhone with the Laker Mobile app displayed

End users are often most familiar with the app’s front-end, the app’s user interface. However most conventional app’s also involve a back-end, a software system typically resident somewhere on a server (or servers) on the Internet or as is commonly said, “in the cloud”. The back-end is often where the data generated and consumed by the app is housed, along with application logic that authenticates and authorizes users, enforces domain specific rules, and much more. Like the app front-end, there are a variety of different software stacks and techniques involved in building app back-ends. In addition, app back-end developers also need to be concerned with non-functional requirements such as scalability and security, as well as making system level decisions such as premise-based deployment vs cloud-based deployment.

iPhone with the app PollenCheck on the screen

The GVSU Applied Computing Institute builds apps with and for external collaborators. App projects vary in terms of domain and work content. Some projects are more back-end focused, some more front-end, and others involve building complete app solutions with both front-end and back-end. Many of our past app projects have been proof-of-concept apps, citizen scientist tools, pilot studies, and in some cases production app experiences. We’ve worked on app experiences in a wide-variety of domains, ranging from apiculture apps to health / wellness apps.

If you have a challenging app idea or app aspiration that you’d like to discuss more, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Page last modified May 4, 2022