The 3M development team decided that the Microsoft Azure platform was the best option. “I knew I wanted to go to the cloud, because in addition to better scale and accessibility, I wanted the flexibility to use data in many different ways,” says Fox. “I’d worked with a lot of different cloud back ends, and because I’d said I could get the project done in two days, I knew which platform I’d have the most success with—and it was obviously Microsoft Azure.” The developer chose Microsoft Azure Mobile Services for a secure, scalable platform that would easily integrate and store data from 3M equipment and other sources. “We have the in-house talent to build a back end from scratch ourselves, but there was no way I would be able to create a mobile app with all the back-end services in a reasonable amount of time without Azure Mobile Services.” Fox used Xamarin, a development platform with a C# shared code base, to write native apps for iOS and Android devices. Xamarin includes Xamarin Studio, an integrated development environment that integrates with the Microsoft Visual Studio 2013 development system for streamlined creation of Android, iOS, and Windows software including mobile apps. Creating apps that would run natively on mobile devices instead of a website had several advantages. Salespeople, who frequently lost connectivity while traveling, would be able to work offline. And after gathering new information, they would be able to synchronize seamlessly with the cloud. Fox estimates that approximately 80 percent of the code was shared between iOS and Android platforms, which was one reason it was possible to complete the project within two days. Easy data integration with Azure Mobile Services was another reason the project was completed so quickly. Currently, the company collects data from approximately 1,300 different 3M devices and business systems, and can easily scale as needed. Approximately 40 salespeople use the asset-tracking tool to display real-time information about 3M installations around the United States. Whenever a salesperson enters new data, the information is immediately available to others in the field through Notification Hubs, a push notification engine in Azure Mobile Services. The solution also takes advantage of the mapping and GPS technology built into each mobile device to automatically provide highly visual, location-specific information. 3M division is also creating an app for Windows Phones using Xamarin to port code, and is looking at opportunities to create similar tracking apps for other business groups.