Mobile Development Day features tech-savvy speakers, panelists

Telephones have evolved considerably over the course of history. Starting out as basic communication devices, they have grown far beyond their original concept. Still, technology continues to flourish and provide users with a wider range of possibilities.

Research Park is sponsoring the third annual Mobile Development Day to discuss progress and advancement in smartphone technology. The event will take place at the I Hotel in Champaign from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday. The daylong event will include 25 speakers and panelists and an audience of more than 200 people.

“This is a good way to get a daylong exposure to a variety of different types of programming,” said Laura Frerichs, director of Research Park. “(The event showcases) different examples of applications that are being developed, either for entrepreneurial efforts or for a large industry.”

The event is structured in sections, including keynote speeches and dual panel sessions. The topics covered include entrepreneurship, app versus website, and corporate and science mobile.

Alex Bratton will be one of the keynote speakers at Mobile Development Day. Bratton graduated from the University in 1993 with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. From there, he went on to found 13 companies including Chicago-based Lextech, which focuses on enterprise application technologies.

“My passion is really applying technology to help people thrive in whatever they’re doing — living their lives or doing their jobs,” he said. “And I founded Lextech really to apply that in a work setting.”

Bratton will focus his speech on this idea; that mobile systems can be applied in new places and even industries that are not necessarily tech-based.

For example, Lextech is working to “mobilize” a grain silo, so to speak. Instead of requiring a truck driver to leave the cabin, inhale corn dust and slow down the grain loading process overall, the driver can now push one button on his phone to do the work. This mobile system lets him communicate with the industrial equipment, telling it when to begin loading grain into the truck.

“There’s technology everywhere,” he added. “Mobility is becoming our window into all of that.”

One of the panel topics is the Internet of Things, which focuses on this same concept: connecting the Internet or mobile technologies to everyday items.

“There are now going to be connected devices all over us,” Frerichs said. “So it’s not just your phone that’s smart, but how that phone (links) you with different items that were otherwise inanimate objects.”

She explained how one Kickstarter project by Champaign-based Oso Technologies seeks to monitor plants’ water content. A sensor is placed in the plant, and once it detects the loss of too much moisture, it can notify the user via email or text.

Mobile Development Day is free, and it also welcomes those who are not in the mobile or computer field but are interested in learning more about it.

“I think (Mobile Development Day) is a great event for the University; it’s a great event for the community,” said Patrick MacKay, president of 004 Technologies USA and panelist in the event. “Not only is it a great event for folks who actually work in the space to do some networking, but more importantly the opportunity for folks in the community to learn what’s going on.”

004 Technologies USA is a mobile application development company located in Champaign, with a subsidiary in Aschaffenburg, Germany. Locally, it offers workshops for individuals or businesses, helping them create apps in relation to their line of work. Globally, the company partners with retailers across Europe to manage an online presence.

MacKay, like Bratton, is also an alumnus from the University. He graduated with his MBA in 2010.

“One of the things about the University of Illinois is that … (the engineering and) computer science department has been responsible for some of the most groundbreaking foundational research and development that we’ve seen,” MacKay said. “There is a rich, rich legacy here.”

This legacy will be exhibited Friday through mobile technologies as part of the daylong event. While the event is free, anyone who wishes to register must do so soon, as there is limited space.

For those who are able to come, the event hopes to build on the previous two Mobile Development Days to bring together students, faculty, community members and industry personnel.

“One of the things that excites me about the Mobile Day is really looking at how other people are addressing problems in the enterprise of mobility, so we can all learn from each other,” Bratton said.

Reema can be reached at [email protected]