You might have missed this news story: Chrome gets Web-NFC support, i.e. the ability to recognise and read RFID tags. You may think that is nothing new for smartphones and you are right. Still, it is a bit of a revolution:
Until now, access to the NFC interface and thus the ability to use RFID tags was exclusively reserved for native apps. If you wanted to use this feature in the past, you had to register with your smartphone’s app store, find and download a corresponding app and later receive any updates this way as well.
This may be feasible for an individual user, but in the enterprise environment, where an IT department has to support many users, this quickly can grow into a considerable and time-intensive task. It doesn't have to be this way any longer.
In this series, we will highlight the background, technology and benefits for you.
These technical innovations are becoming possible with so-called “progressive web apps”, or PWA for short.
This is not in itself a standalone technology, but rather a growing family of techniques, APIs and interfaces that allow web applications in your browser to adopt more and more functions that were formerly exclusively available to native applications on your smartphone.
As a result, the line between applications that you need to download from an app store and those that you access directly from a website or link is slowly disappearing. PWAs have been able to integrate directly into your smartphone for some time, now. Well-known applications, such as Twitter, have been doing this since 2017.
Our own mobile solution TSI Connect has also been available as a PWA version for several years, too. Strictly speaking, this variant is actually the one we recommend, because for you as a user there are only benefits:
So far, however, applications that integrated NFC and RFID tag features as a web-only PWA have not been possible, and our inventory management solution required a separate Android app of the same name to support reading RFID tags as well.
With Web-NFC, this is about to change. As soon as Web-NFC becomes widely available, TSI Connect will be equipped with this functionality in the PWA version, too. For you as a user, this means that you no longer have to download the TSI Connect app from the app store but can use TSI Connect directly from your browser and install it on your smartphone. In the long run, the PWA version will actually replace our native app completely.
In the next part of our series we will look at how PWAs make faster update cycles possible and in the third part we discuss the security benefits that PWAs bring.