Atkins looks to HTML 5.0 to deliver cross-platform geographic apps

By Graeme Burton
21 Jun 2012 View Comments
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Atkins, the engineering consulting and services company, is planning to develop geographic applications in HTML 5.0 in a bid to free the company from dependence on major IT vendors, according to associate director Martin Ford-Whyte.

The company is currently developing geographic information systems (GIS) applications to run on Apple iOS for clients who want to purchase iPads in particular – in preference to Google Android or Microsoft Windows 8 devices – for various heavyweight applications.

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However, the company is keen to shift such development to HTML 5.0, which ought to run on browsers across multiple platforms - freeing the company and its clients from hardware and operating system vendor lock-in.

"The work we are doing at the moment in the mobile space is predominantly around Apple devices," said Ford-Whyte. "But what we are looking at is more HTML 5.0 and to support offline data collection."

This reflects the direction in which the GIS space is moving, with such initiatives as the Open Geospatial Consortium, which is specifying open standards for features such as web mapping.

"That makes it easier to swap out services because they are standards compliant," he added. "As long as HTML 5.0 delivers what we are hoping, it will enable us to support a wider range of devices with the solutions we are developing."

Ford-Whyte was speaking to Computing at CAExpo in London as the battle between Google, Microsoft and Apple over mobile devices and operating systems heats up.

It is currently developing on iOS in response to demand for applications running on Apple's operating system. "It is what our customers are predominantly interested in," said Ford-Whyte.

But in the next three to six months it will be looking to shift such development efforts over to HTML 5.0, which ought to be able to run on a compliant browser on any modern device. 

HTML 5.0 is the latest major revision of the HTML standard since the introduction of HTML 4.0 in 1997. It is intended to support multimedia, while retaining its relative ease of use for developers.

The impetus for HTML 5.0 followed the presentation of a position paper by the Mozilla Foundation and Opera Software at a World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) workshop in June 2004. However, the standard is still under development and it remains to be seen whether it delivers on all its promises.

If it does, though, it will represent a challenge to Apple, Google and Microsoft, which are each competing to build software eco-systems with apps based on their respective OS platforms.

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