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What's New in the Firebase Mobile Dev Platform

Google announced several updates to its Firebase mobile development platform, which provides back-end functionality such as Crashlytics crash reporting, analytics, machine learning capabilities, performance monitoring and more.

Here's a rundown of some of the new and improved features, starting with the three biggest announcements as presented by Francis Ma, head of product, during the Google I/O 2019 conference:

  • Machine Learning: To simplify machine learning for app developers, the Firebase team updated its ML Kit, which is still in beta, with three new capabilities:

    • On-device Translation API: This lets developers use the same offline models that support Google Translate to provide fast, dynamic translation of text in an app into 58 languages.
    • Object Detection & Tracking API: This real-time location and tracking of the most prominent objects in live camera feeds.
    • AutoML Vision Edge: This helps coders create custom image classification models tailored to individual needs.

  • Performance Monitoring: As part of an effort to expand the scope of Firebase beyond its mobile roots into the Web dev space, the platform's Performance Monitoring tool now supports Web apps with new beta functionality.

    "By pasting a few lines of code to their site, the Performance Monitoring dashboard will track and visualize high level web metrics (like page load and network stats) as well as more granular metrics (like time to first paint and first input delay) across user segments," Ma said. "The Performance Monitoring dashboard will also give you the ability to drill down into these different user segments by country, browser, and more."

  • Google Analytics for Firebase: This part of the Firebase platform received a new audience builder as part of a rebuild of the entire audience system that included a new interface. The Audiences tool helps developers segment users in different ways important to specific business concerns. "For example, if you wanted to create a 'Coupon users' audience based on people who redeem a coupon code within your app, and then complete an in-app purchase within 20 minutes, this is now possible with the new audience builder," Ma said.

    Some of the new features in the tool are related to functionality such as:

    • Sequences
    • Scoping
    • Time windows
    • Membership duration

Other new features listed by Ma include:

  • Support for collection group queries in Cloud Firestore, a fully managed NoSQL database. "This allows you to search for fields across all collections of the same name, no matter where they are in the database."
  • The new Cloud Functions emulator, which is run in the Firebase CLI (command-line interface). It can emulate HTTPS functions, callable functions and Cloud Firestore functions.
  • Configurable velocity alerts in Crashlytics. This provides notifications to developers when an issue suddenly increases in severity and affects a significant percentage of users. Developers can configure how often and when to receive these app stability notifications.

The Firebase team also made improvements to the Test Lab, provided more control over Firebase permissions and open sourced more SDKs, with the most recent example being the C++ SDK. See Ma's blog post for more information.

About the Author

David Ramel is an editor and writer for Converge360.

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