lvnevJimmy and I have just returned from the 21st FileMaker Developers Conference which was held in The Cosmopolitan Hotel, Las Vegas. The 3 day conference attracted over 1500 delegates from the US, Europe and the Asia Pacific. Over 60 sessions were presented and these were organised into 6 streams: Core, Design, Mobility, Web, Innovation and Business.

This “DevCon” was my fourth and Jimmy’s first; and we came away with lots of new ideas and techniques as well as community confirmation of our general development practices. With four sessions a day plus the ‘socialising’ DevCon is an exhausting and exhilarating few days.

The first take away from DevCon 2016 is that the FileMaker platform has a very healthy user base with the company expecting record revenue for the next quarter. This gives FileMaker, the company,  the assets needed to continue innovating/improving their products. To build a great system you need strong, consistent foundations and that is what FileMaker continues to provide.

Here are a few highlights from the sessions we attended:

You can run one or more FIleMaker servers using Amazon’s EC2 instances. This provide your own FileMaker cloud. Further if you use a product like 360Works MirrorSync3 you can ‘cluster’, share the load, several FileMaker Servers and keep them synchronised. The concept is to set up 2, or more, FileMaker Servers on Amazon EC2 instances then use MirrorSync’s Server-to-Server service to keep the two instances up to date. The advantages in this scenario are:

• The solution becomes far more scaleable as using Amazon’s load balancing tool users will be allocated to different instances according to the resources available.

• In the event of a server failure the database doesn’t become unavailable as the other instances will still be available. Then the Administrator can start up the ‘failed’ server with the last good backup and MirrorSync will bring the file back up to date with the other instances.

There were a few sessions on setting up FileMaker Server on Amazon’s EC2 instances. It’s becoming a much more common practice and certainly has it’s advantages in terms of scaleability, availability and backups.

Last year FileMaker released their iOS App SDK for FileMaker 14 and this has been updated for FileMaker 15. What the SDK does create an iOS application that will run any FileMaker file without the need for FileMaker Go: a kind of runtime for mobile. This means the user doesn’t open FileMaker Go and then select the file to launch: they just launch the application. FileMaker Go doesn’t even have to be installed.

The application can then be distributed using an MDM, Apple’s VPP or through the App store.

There are a few Applications on Apple’s App store built in Filemaker and then wrapped as an iOS application using the SDK.

To manage mobile users you need a Self-updating application because you will need to update the mobile application at some time and a self-updating application saves you the trouble of bringing in all the mobile users, copying their data into the new version. Enrich have implemented this functionality previously but a presentation from Katherine Russell of Rightwing gave us further insight into the processes.

In demonstrating the self-updating file techniques Katherine linked this in with the SDK for a self-updating native application. An exciting step forward.

JavaScript is eating the World! In a very entertaining session Todd Geist demonstrated setting up a Node.js server connected to FileMaker Server so you had a web application build using JavaScript technologies to build and connect to FileMaker server. The session was a technical triumph and we are already experimenting with this for particular scenarios.

In order to achieve more sometimes you need to integrate other iOS applications with FileMaker Go. Chris Ippolite from iSolutions demonstrated suing the Open URL script step to share FileMaker information with other iOS applications like FaceTime, Maps, Mail, SMS. He then took the concept further to SMS location based information and edit images, returning the edited image to FileMaker.

His final showpiece was to change the hue of a lamp based on whether the answer of a question was correct or not. Very cool.

Using FileMaker as the hub of a collaborative enterpise. Goya’s Salvatore Colangelo gave a fascinating session on integrating a FileMaker database with web based collaboration tools such as Dropbox, Slack, Trello and Asana. Of course this concept can be extended to other common web services such as MailChimp and Xero.

Beacons, Beacons everywhere. Of course with the implementation of Apple’s iBeacon technology into FileMaker Go 15 the conference was full of Beacons. We’ve done some work with Beacons in the Enrich offices and the really nice thing about using Beacon technology with FileMaker is that is just works.

There was, of course, a great deal more information delivered. It will take us some time to assimilate all that we have learned in the meantime if you have any questions please email us.