Adding 3D graphics to rich Internet applications (RIA) may entertain consumers, but what business value can they possibly have for enterprise service-oriented architecture (SOA) applications?
An answer comes from Adobe System Inc. with today's announcement of Adobe LiveCycle Enterprise Suite (ES) Update 1, which puts Flash technology to work for businesses ranging from insurance to manufacturing. Adobe LiveCycle PDF Generator 3D ES is used in manufacturing for generating CAD files with detailed engineering specification, said Brian Wick, Adobe's director for the LiveCycle product, which makes use of the Adobe Flash Player and Adobe Reader on the end user's desktop.
Using a 3D illustration of a car, an auto insurance customer reporting accident damage can show where the dents and dings are, creating a visual claim form. In a pre-release demo of this application designed for an unnamed insurance provider, Wick said it is easier and more accurate for the driver to graphically mark the damage on the car rather than write out a description on a claim form.
Using the 3D capabilities, the driver is able to call up an image of the exact make and model of the car down to the color of the paint job, and then as if playing a computer game mark where the right front bumper got bashed. The driver might not know the technical names of the parts of the car that are damaged but can communicate it accurately to the claims adjuster by showing it graphically.
If required to list all the damage and explain exactly where it is, the customer is more likely to abandon the online claim form, Wick said.
"If I have to write it all out, I'm probably going to pick up the phone and call an agent," Wick said. A time-consuming call to report the accident defeats the purpose of having an online RIA application, he asserted. The productivity gain is lost as the accident is reported over the phone with an insurance agent making notes in the same way it was done in the pre-Web world.
Manufacturing industry applications
Illustrating a business-to-business application of the Adobe technology, Wick points to Mfg.com Inc., which is deploying LiveCycle to exchange CAD diagrams between parts suppliers.
Atlanta-based Mfg.com is an SOA-based online global marketplace for buyers and sellers of parts and components used in manufacturing, explained Grant Williard, vice president of product management for the company. The site currently has more than 50,000 subscribers using it to buy and sell manufacturing components, he said.
Mfg.com is a beta site for the Adobe technology being released today. Now that it is generally available it will provide the RIA-based front-end for SOA applications running on JBoss that allow manufacturers to browse CAD files stored in a MySQL database, Williard explained.
The site matches parts makers with manufacturers in a way that makes it the eHarmony for factory floor engineers, Williard explains.
"We have buyers in Europe purchasing parts in China, and manufacturers in China purchasing parts in the U.S.," he said in illustrating the global scope of the online marketplace.
The Flash and 3D PDF technology allows the manufacturer to view a detailed diagram of the part to make sure it fits the engineering requirements. However, the transactions are more complex than just providing the CAD files, which is where SOA provides a platform for other companies to integrate the business logic required to close a deal, Williard explained.
Additional functions include applications for project management, logistic support, letters of credit, he said.
"We're not going to be providing all those applications," Williard said. "Our focus is providing an open transparent marketplace. Through service-oriented architecture we will allow other people to have that information to create mashups."
The mashups might include banks providing credit functionality for the transaction, he said as an example.
"Their SOA can connect to our SOA to create a mashup to make the transaction more efficient," Williard said.
Another aspect of the transactions is rights management, which is a less flashy but crucial feature of the Adobe LiveCycle ES product, the Mfg.com executive added. Parts manufacturers are concerned about providing the engineering specifications for their products without the intellectual property rights being protected, he said.
"With the Adobe LiveCycle product we'll be putting these PDFs that it generates into an encrypted form and using Adobe's rights management to protect and control how intellectual property is used," Williard said.