Sunday, May 13, 2012

Monetizing your mobile apps using IBM Worklight and Ad networks - Part 2

In part 1 of this article, we discussed how to leverage ad networks to monetize your apps by showing targeted advertisements through simple tweaks using the ad network SDKs.

Another, relatively less explored way of advertising when you do not want to go through the ad networks or just want to use your app to advertise your own business, is to use IBM Worklight adapters and push notifications.

What are Worklight adapters? An Adapter is a transport layer used by the Worklight Platform to connect to various back-end systems. Worklight supports SQL and HTTP adapters out of the box, which means you can also do RESTful operations using the adapter.

Some ways in which you can use adapters are:
  1. The simplest way an adapter can be used to retrieve ads is to create a UI element on a page in your application and render this UI element using the data returned from an adapter, which can fetch advertisements from a back-end enterprise database. For example, if you're working with an android app, create a web view using height as "wrap_content". You can also use other UI elements such as Gallery for images or layouts. And then call your adapter to fetch the ad-related data to be rendered in the UI element.
  2. Use two or more worklight adapters to mashup data and display targetted advertisement. Eg: Get the city from a page where the user has to select his city -> use an adapter to query a database to fetch a city ID -> use another adapter which can fetch ads related to that city ID from another data source or application. The worklight city weather demo app shown below is a great example of how such a mashup can be done. Read the Worklight mashup tutorial to learn more.

Adapters can be combined with push notifications to yield yet another way of showing ads. How can this be done? An adapter can listen to an event source and push advertisements as notifications through the app store mediator (Google, Apple). These notifications can be in the form of a notification dialog or a badge. (A badge is a small notification which appears on the corner of the application icon - think facebook mobile app which shows notifications and message alerts right on the icon). The worklight server comes with a browser-based console that can be easily used to dispatch notifications to all devices that have the app installed and subscribed to the notifications.These ads are nice when a user has installed the app and subscribed to the notifications, although they don't provide a very powerful way of in-app advertising, which can be done using ad network integration or adapters. A good example of push notifications is special offers that your business rolls out from time to time. Eg: Christmas Offer - Upgrade to the full version of the app at just 49c. Push notifications give you the power to broadcast ads whenever you want to, thus customizing them according to the needs of your business. The figure below shows how the worklight push mechanism works. 

Push notifications can be used in other ways as well. You can  use them to notify users of new versions or upgrades of the app as soon as a build becomes available. This method truly combines the power of effective lifecycle management of mobile apps with the Worklight builds. This even works in the context of enterprise apps where the primary users of the app are the employees themselves. Eg: if you're using IBM Rational Team Concert (RTC) and you build your app using the Jazz team builds, you can create an adapter that listens to the Jazz server  (or an app store) and as soon as a new build of the app is available, automatically sends push notifs to all devices with the app to upgrade to latest version. Additionally, RTC source control can help in modularizing the adapters into components, so that different departments/units in the company can maintain their own components independently of the apps and yet support an app which is used across departments/units.

Note: To send push notifications to Android devices, you will need to use Android Cloud-to-Device Messaging (C2DM). You need a valid Gmail account to register to Google’s C2DM service at To send push notifications to iOS devices, you will need to use Apple Push Notifications Service (APNS).

There are also other powerful tools that can help in making sure that the ads you render, either through ad networks or adapters have a look and feel of your app, and don't look forcefully shoved in. While you cannot control the way the ad will be shown, because they're creatives of a third-party, you can ensure that the UI widget in which the ad appears matches your app's look and feel. You can add custom style sheets to the UI elements if you're using say, the Javascript SDK of InMobi which integrates directly with hybrid/ mobile web apps. You can even use tools such as IBM Rational Application Developer which provide WYSIWYG editing for commonly used UI toolkits such as Dojo mobile.

So join the mobile bandwagon and start making money from your apps!

Catch me at IBM Innovate 2012, and hopefully not by the collar! ;)

Monetizing your mobile apps using IBM Worklight and Ad networks - Part 1

While mobile has become a platform that can no longer be ignored by businesses and developers alike and efforts are on way almost in all industry sectors to leverage this platform, it is silently becoming one of the best marketing and advertising platform of our times. Why? With 300,000+ apps and 10 billion downloads in the last 3 years alone, people are spending ever-increasing amounts of time on their smartphones. The mobile revolution has been much faster than the PC revolution in its reach and adoption. "Mobile media consumption is growing fast, as people worldwide are now spending more time on their mobile devices than watching TV. In the U.S., people are spending about 142 minutes a day on their devices, compared to 135 minutes for TV and 96 minutes on PCs, making mobile the primary media consumption channel in the nation.", says InMobi's Anne Frisbie. An infographic I stumbled upon recently has some even more convincing numbers. Click on the image below to see the complete infographic.

That being said, how does an application developer or an enterprise show targeted ads to consumers or clients? The more popular approach is to incorporate ad banners that can be used to show ads from a mobile ad network such as Google AdMob or InMobi. What are mobile ad networks? They're agencies that purchase ads from companies who want to promote their products on mobile apps. An app developer, also known as a publisher, gets paid on different pricing models if he agrees to show those ads on his app, using the SDKs or services provided by the ad networks. You can read more about the different kinds of ad networks here

While its relatively easy to use these SDKs in native applications, its still not straightforward to do so in a hybrid or mobile web application, which are becoming more popular with the cross-platform advantage they offer. So if I'm developing, say, a hybrid app, how do I use say, the Google AdMob SDK, which is primarily for an Android app? IBM Worklight, part of the IBM Mobile Foundation is a powerful development platform which allows you to do this easily. Here are some steps that outline how native ad SDKs can be used along with a hybrid app:

1. Create a Worklight project, adding all the common web code to the 'common' folder and overriding Android specific behavior in the 'android' folder by creating a new Android environment. If you're new to Worklight, you can read the Worklight tutorials to learn how to work with a Worklight project.

3. Add the SDK JAR to the android>native>libs folder.

4. Declare in AndroidManifest.xml located in the android>native folder.

5. Setup the required network permissions(INTERNET and ACCESS_NETWORK) in the AndroidManifest.

6. Now navigate to android>native>res>layout>main.xml and open it in the xml view. You will see a single WebView declared in the xml. All you need to do is add an AdView to the layout right above the WebView

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<LinearLayout xmlns:android=""
     < android:id="@+id/adView"
                         ads:testDevices="TEST_EMULATOR, TEST_DEVICE_ID"

     <WebView android:id="@+id/appView"


Voila! You have your add banner in the application. An alternate way of doing this would be to first generate the Android project from the Worklight project by using "Build Environment and Deploy" option, and then modify the main.xml in the native Android project using the nice UI.

Any native code for the ad banner such as ad listeners etc. can be added to the Android activity class which references the main.xml or any other layout where the ad was added. For example:
public class HelloWorklight extends WLDroidGap {
    public void onCreate(Bundle savedInstanceState) {

In the same fashion, you can add Interstitial ads by combining native and web pages in the Worklight project. Also, you can add ads into iOS/ Blackberry/ Other apps using the other SDKs provided by Google AdMob, InMobi and other networks.

In the part two of this post, I'll discuss how to use Worklight adapters and push notifications to render ads for your own business through your database or other data sources.