Integrating Your Mobile Data Made Easier – ProntoForms Dispatch and API

Posted by Mats Lindeberg, Friday, March 16, 2012

ProntoForms is celebrating the release of ProntoForms Dispatch, a technology that allows for a more robust process of work order dispatching.

This post is from Glenn Chenier, our VP of Research and Development. He explains from a technical perspective, the recent release of ProntoForms Dispatch, a technology that allows for a more robust process of work order dispatching.

Over the past several months, we have been focused on delivering more and better options to our customers for connecting their businesses with ProntoForms. We are excited today to reveal even more features to facilitate integration. Before discussing what’s new, let’s review the recent improvements.

First, we’ve expanded the formats used to deliver your mobile data to you.

If it is a finished, printable document that you want, then check out our options for rendering your data to PDF, MS Word, HTML, and other formats. Our administration portal offers dozens of options for you to tweak the output of your document. If you still want more, an affordable document customization service is also available.

If you have integration needs that require a well-structured data format, then take advantage of our XML and JSON output options. Choose whether you want binary data (like photos) collected by the mobile device included with your text data in a single data file (in the case of XML), or if images should be delivered in separate files alongside your text data.

Second, we’ve expanded the list of places we can deliver your formatted data to — what we like to call our “Data Destinations”. Of course, we can still send via email, with dynamic recipient lists, and fully customizable subject lines and attachment file names. But we can also deliver your documents to a growing list of cloud-based services, including, Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Docs.

If cloud services aren’t your thing, we can also send to Microsoft SharePoint, secure FTP (SFTP) sites, HTTPS file upload targets, and wikis and content management systems (webdav). We’ll even POST your data as name/value pairs over HTTPS to a script or servlet on your website.

If sending instant notifications of form submissions helps out your business process, then try out our Twitter and Facebook data destinations. What’s a well-placed tweet worth to a business?

Since introducing data destinations and our improved data formats, we have received very positive feedback from customers. We’re hoping they’ll be just as enthusiastic with our ProntoForms Dispatch and the ProntoForms API release. We realize that getting your data back from us rapidly and in a usable format is only part of the integration story. Getting the business data that your mobile worker needs seamlessly into your mobile ProntoForm is also critical. This release addresses front-end integration requirements (among other things, of course).

Introducing ProntoForms Dispatch

With ProntoForms Dispatch, an administrator can direct a form to the ProntoForms App Inbox (new in this release) of a specific user. Better still, the administrator can optionally pre-fill data into the form for the mobile user. The pre-filled data could be read-only, or could be available for editing on the mobile device. The bottom line is less mobile data entry, fewer errors and better results for your business.

There are two methods to dispatch to your mobile workforce. The first option is to use the ProntoForms Web Portal to dynamically generate a dispatch template for your form. Download the template, add-in your dispatch data, and upload back to the portal to trigger the dispatches to your mobile users.

Businesses that demand integration and automation should employ the second method, dispatch via the ProntoForms API. Read on to learn more about the API. To learn more about the details of dispatching, read the documentation on Dispatching Forms to a User.

Dispatching is supported in the ProntoForms iOS (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch) and Android Apps.

Introducing the ProntoForms REST API

The ProntoForms REST API opens a world of integration options to our customers. REST Web services have become ubiquitous — the underlying technologies are widely supported across programming languages, and the number of skilled programmers experienced with REST grows daily.

For front-end integration (getting your company’s data into the ProntoForms mobile App), our initial API offering has a few options. One option, dispatching a pre-filled form to a specific mobile user, is a simple matter using the API. This opens the possibility of programmatically extracting data from your business systems, forming dispatch messages in XML or JSON format, and using the API as a means to get the data into the hands of your mobile users.

Another option for front-end integration is the use of the API to update your ProntoForms Data Sources (also known as “Lookups”). Data sources are typically used to populate pick lists (and filtering pick lists) on ProntoForms. Until this release, updating data sources could be done only via a manual action in the ProntoForms Web Portal. With the API, automation of data source updates with data extracted from your business systems is a real possibility.

Another first made possible by the API is the automated extraction of data records (completed ProntoForms) in CSV format. Extracting ProntoForms data in CSV format has always been an option, but required a visit to the Web portal. Scripting CSV export generation and retrieval is now possible through the API.

The API functions above are the most eagerly anticipated, but there are more on the way. API methods are also available for managing users and retrieving data. We will be adding more in future releases, so please let us know what you would like to see.

… and That’s Not All

Finally, we’re not done building out our data destination functionality, and we have added a handy feature in this release. Perhaps you wish that one of your data destinations would receive only a subset of your form submissions. With the new release, you can apply data destination filter rules that look into the data of your form and decide whether or not to send it to the destination.

For detailed information on the new features, please visit ProntoForms’ Product Documentation Portal. 

Enjoy the new release!

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