Lithium Labs: 2011 – 2014

I founded Lithium Labs in 2011. It was bootstrapped by the proceeds I received after selling Aschmann Media Group (Social Media Startup). The idea was born by recognizing the impact, and potential, mobile apps could have in the enterprise space. The original mission statement was:

“Lithium Labs provides a full suite of services for designing, developing, implementing and maintaining an enterprise mobility solution. We support all major mobile operating systems and hardware including iPad, iPhone Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Symbol and Intermec.”

The product/application portfolio of the company was seeded by a few mobile apps I had already released, and were being used widely in the SAP space. All of them were free from the various App Stores, the primary objective of these apps were for me to personally learn about the technologies and platforms, and the secondary objective, was to draw awareness to Lithium Labs as a company, and provide an example of what was possible. One of the most popular free apps which I developed under the Lithium Labs portfolio was “SAP Note Viewer”, with 12K downloads. read more

GE Healthcare: Design Thinking in the NICU

I have been exposed to design thinking in a variety of ways over the past 13 odd years. From conferences, startups and projects – I have used the framework to develop and build services, software and hardware which incorporates one of the most important elements in the design: empathy.

Empathy ensures that the designers, developers and creators of these products “walk a mile in their shoes” and put the users at the center of the development lifecycle rather than technology, limitations or costs.

This TedX talk is a nice example of empathy in something critical that all of us can in some shape or form relate to, which is being born. The video centers around the design thinking process which went into the design and development of Neonatal Intensive Care Units and the equipment which nurses and parents have to deal with when a child is born prematurely. It is a great example of how empathy was an integral part of the process from start to finish. read more

Naming a business …

When Kat was setting up her Laser Cutting business, we struggled to pick a name. Taking a more objective approach to the problem, we found some resources that could help. us decide on the right one.

Spark fresh
Wet kitty/drykitty – xxx
Anchor cat
Robot might be too impersonal or not crafty

Open Source Project: Metric² for SAP HANA


Metric² is a web based, realtime dashboarding platform for SAP HANA, on SAP HANA.I recently gave a demo of the app at Demojam in Las Vegas (You can read my blog post about the event here). Metric² is a free app/download and this blog gives some insight into how it works, and how you can download and install it in your own HANA system:


Metric² is made up of 3 key areas:

Dashboards: Metric² can have multiple dashboards. Dashboards are designed as blank canvases, are quite flexible, and can contain widgets which are added can be simply dragged and dropped into their needed locations and also sized accordingly.

Widgets: Dashboards can have multiple widgets displayed. There are a variety of widgets including a range of predefined datasources (CPU, Memory, Disk etc.) but also include custom widgets (SQL, JSON, Yahoo) which can display a myriad of information to your team. read more

Why Demo Jam ROCKS – from a losers perspective ;)

It was Tuesday night sometime back in 2009 at my first TechEd where I was sitting in the audience and really wishing I was standing up on stage, presenting something inspiring and innovative which would encourage the votes of the demanding audience of Demojam. Well, it took 4 years to creep over personal hurdles, family time and to gain an ounce of courage which persuaded me to post an entry in 2013, this blog gives some insight into what I did, what I would have done differently, and also why Demojam really needs people like YOU!

A couple of months ago (May through July) I went through the openSAP HANA course and was really impressed, not only by the DB, but more the HANA XS Engine as an Web/App server. Being a “learn by doing” kinda person I struggled to get the most out of the course content since it really didn’t apply to anything I was currently working on, until I realized the opportunity… As I described in my demojam presentation, I drank the HANA coolaid 🙂 Personally, it was not so much of the big data aspect that intrigued me, but rather this concept of the DB and the app server really being a single entity from a platform, as well as infrastructure perspective. Simple. I spent a couple weeks learning a lot more, since I had something to apply it against and started developing an app called Metric² read more

zSCN – A iPad SCN Community Reader

After spending a couple of months traveling in 2012, I wrote a personal app for reading and following content created on the SAP Community Network. Although it was slightly buggy and ghetto, I found it way faster than firing up my MBA to check if a comment or something helpful had been posted in my local Netweaver Gateway hangout. I spent the last +- 6 months using the app and after reading a few comments on the new Idea place and in the forums, I decided a couple of others may find it helpful and set out to build a user friendly version. 

Now on to the app …. firstly, starting up the app you are presented with a list of spaces (thanks to Jason Lax for creating a helpful list here!), secondly, the app uses the RSS feeds from each SCN “Space” to curate the content, each time you select a space the content is cached on the device (in a little SQLite DB) and refreshes each time the space is opened. You can also select the number of items which are downloaded in each category (blogs, documents and forums). After logging into SCN using your SCN username/password, it will download your spaces, people and saved content. Keep in mind that you cannot “save” or create content from the app, since the SCN API’s are not currently publicly available (I am hoping for some change on this!). However, each item can be selected and the original content will be displayed on the website where you can login and respond/comment. You can also easily email the item to a friend in need, or tweet it if you are a social butterfly 😉  read more

Start 2 Finish: Developing an iPad app using SAP Netweaver Gateway

Essentially, these are some of my slides from a TechEd presentation last week (MOB205). My position with this presentation is to depict the overall process I use when developing an app, a few of the *many* considerations to make, as well as the simplicity of using a product like Gateway to actually connect and “consume” ERP/CRM/Back office data in a few lines of code.

Why Mobile?Needs no introduction, mobile was one of the hottest topics at TechEd this year, if it had a “girly” name or acronym like “HANA” … I am convinced it would have been “the” hottest topic 🙂 Why Gateway?The mobile landscape is fairly complex right now, lot sof vendors, lots of choices and not particularly easy to navigate. One this is for sure, services are here to stay – particularly REST based web services and that is exactly what Gateway is built for.Another great product: XS Data Services for HANA …. 
So this is the app being designed during the presentation. Essentially my goal was to develop a “template” type app which the attendees could download and use as a starting point for their mobile app development and encourage them to get their feet wet.
The app makes 2 service calls. 1 to pull a list of customers from SAP ERP, once selecting a customer, the app would download the additional details of the customer including the address. And lastly – the “idea” … anyone wanting to customize the app could pull additional data in, a good example would be: An Accounts Receivable Clerk who attends a weekly open payables meeting, may want to take their iPad, get a list of customers, select one in question and see all open payables which are relevant … easy to do with this type of structure and simple to implement.Another example was a Business Development road warrior who could select a customer, and see a list of Open Quotes.Your app … here is some starter type code and you decide …
I skipped a couple of the slides related to the Gateway platform … this included this slide/blog post I added a couple of weeks ago:
During the presentation I also reminded folks that mobile apps can be powered by a variety of data providers, including a method we (Lithium labs) did a couple years ago which was actually using SAP.Net Connector (v2.0) to create a ASP.NET Web Service (XML) which was called from the mobile device which worked and is still in production today.
In this app, all the components are distributed. The Netweaver Gateway instance in the cloud at AWS (Thanks John!) and connected to a ERP backend which is in Walldorf (ES Workplace). The app talks to the AWS GW machine which pulls the data from the ERP and gives it back to the iPad via a REST web call.
Now that we have covered the platform, we will go through the prerequisites for developing the iPad app. We will cover the development machine types, software need and useful tools.
A mac development machine is recommended, when I started out 3 years ago, I tied to put together a hackintosh … didnt work, first update and it bombed… waste of time. A used mac mini off craigslist goes for +- $300 … worth the investment.
This is an overview of the developer accounts – most important point was that with the free account you cannot run your app on a physical device … (boo). Pay the $99 if you are getting started and if you develop something your company wants to deploy on a larger scale … i.e. > 10 devices, pony up to the Enterprise Program.Click here for additional details:
Development options.I am a native kind of guy …
Useful tools include a solid graphics editor … I estimate that I spent +- 50% of my time when developing an app from start to finish with graphics and the UI. If you have access to a graphic or UI designer … USE THEM 🙂 RESTClient for Firefox has saved me multiple hours … a quick and easy way to test your services before development.
In this case the 5 steps simply outline the general direction needed to take a app from conception to production.
From a requirements point of view and as mentioned in the introduction, the app was built to provide a framework for the participants and encourage them to “Extend” it.
When starting the app it makes an initial service call from BAPI_CUSTOMER_GETLIST, selecting one of the records will make a second call usig BAPI_CUSTOMER_GETDETAIL and populate the detail page.
Another suggestion I made was to proof out the data access portion first, not necessarily build from the bottom up, but rather ensure that all data fields which are required are accessible. I have spent countless hours developing front end apps, with a “wishlist” of datasets which were not feasible when I started modelling the data services and had to reconsider many points.
So next up from a design perspective and as mentioned above, we walked through the data exposure piece, essentially using SE80 to take your BAPI and create a web service. From SP04 – this should be done in SEGW, not SE80. 
Once the service has been created and exposed, RESTClient for firefox is a great tool for testing the service before even touching any code. This to me is part of the “data access” test I do before design.
Executing our service in this case produced the results showing a list of the customer details.
Data has been exposed and seems to be working. Next up design the app UI.
As mentioned, a point people found interesting in the presentation was that I spent on average 50% of my time in a graphics editing program like photoshop, designing icons, UI elements, etc. IMO – UI is the difference between a good app, and a great app. The iPad/iPhone graph paper is very handy and you can print or even buy your own from this site:
I also suggested that open source software should be considered when developing mobile apps, in our case the app will be using 2 packages to make life simpler, JSONKit and AFNetworking. is a great website for discovering open source code.
At this stage the data source created, the UI designed and its time to do some coding in XCode. I will be going into more detail behind these steps in an upcoming blog series called “S2F”.
Start with a master – detail template (from XCode). Add your UI elements comprising of labels and buttons.
Create a 20 line method for fetching data from your gateway service and displaying it on the screen. Very quick and simple. Obviously *good* programming takes considerably more time, but as a POC and starting point, this is perfect.
Data, design and code done, next up some testing and deployment options.
We did a quick test and spoke about the deployment options. If you are a partner and would like to certify your app, work needs to be done to package your content using the AAK toolkit and developing in your own namespace.Also keep in mind that with a apple enterprise license:“An app will not run if the distribution certificate has expired. Currently, distribution certificates are valid for one year. A few weeks before your certificate expires, request a new distribution certificate from the iOS Dev Center, use it create create new distribution provisioning profiles, and then recompile and distribute the updated apps to your users.”
Wrapping things up, we can see that with only a few lines of code you can easily (and without any additional tools) can connect and consume data from Netweaver Gateway. Also keep in mind that if you would like to cache that data in a local sqlite db, it really only takes a few more lines to make data available offline. (differential control when writing data is a WHOLE nother story!)

At the end a couple of the questions included:

I see you are passing the username and password in the URL? Yes, in this example that was the case to display the simplicity. Pratically you would want to definitively use SSL, pass your params in the header of the HTTP request and also possible hash/encrypt these variables. read more

Supplier Analytics – a new free iPad app

After writing about utilizing javascript charts in iOS apps a little while ago, I decided it would be a good marketing tool for my company (Lithium Labs) to develop a free/public app which demonstrated the features of using such technologies on handheld devices. The free app is called Supplier Analytics and when using the sample dataset gives you some insight into how a enterprise app could be used in an automotive manufacturing/supplier environment. The app gives operations or managers insight into the performance and operational well-being of a company globally, and nationally by subsequently drilling down into a production facility or branch. read more