Sunday, January 18, 2015

Push Notifications for Phone Gap App using GCM and Mobile Service

Push Notifications are part of our lives everyday. We get alerted about new emails, news updates, What's app, Facebook Twitter messages so on every hour (or every minute for some :D ). When an app is running, it could request for data and present it on the screen.Push Notifications alert user with information even when the app is NOT open. For example email alert appearing even when the email app is not running on the mobile device.

Windows Azure Mobile Services (integrated with Notification Hub) simplifies sending notifications to multiple mobile platforms, Android, iOS, Windows Phone 8 etc. In this blog, I'm writing about Android Notifications. Will be writing about other mobile platforms (using mobile services) in upcoming blogs.

Here is the agenda for this blog,
  1. GCM (Google Cloud Messaging)
  2. Azure Mobile Services for sending Push Notifications
  3. Phone Gap App registering and receiving notifications

GCM for Android:

For an app installed on your Android device, GCM can send messages over the internet even when the app is not open. It has the ability to queue messages when the device is offline and send it when connected (if message doesn't expire). These messages popup in the notification area. App can be launched when user taps on a notification.

Refer to the image depicting steps involved in sending push notification using GCM. This is one of the ways to use GCM. For the case I'm describing in the blog, with Azure Mobile service, this design fits.

In the five step process described in the image, i) each phone registering with GCM for notification will get a reg id. App will store Sender Id/Project number and send it in the request to get reg id. ii) Developer need to generate API key through Google Developer Console and use it while sending Push Notifications. This way GCM is sure sender of the message is owner of the app.

Azure Mobile Service

Azure Notification Hub allows sending Push Notification to cross platform devices and apps. Mobile Service is integrated with Notification Hub allowing easy notifications. It acts as the server in above architecture. It automates most part of action 4 i) Saving reg Ids, ii) Storing API key and verifying with GCM and iii) Provides easy API for sending notifications. It also provides ready made client libraries for making GCM calls and registration with notification hub.

Let's get the app ready!

  1. Setup in Google Developer Console.
  2. Setup Mobile Services 
  3. Add Push Notifications to Hybrid Mobile App.

Setup in Google Developer Console.

  1. Log into Google Developer Console
  2. Click Create New Project, provide Project Name and click Create.
  3. Make a note of Project Number, that is the Sender Id.
  4. Click on the project to get into details view.
  5. In the left navigation panel, select Credentials under API & Auth.
  6. Click Create New Key. In the popup window, select server key.
  7. Make note of generated API Key.
  8. Click on APIs under APIs and Auth and make sure Google Cloud Messaging for Android is "ON"

Setup Mobile Service:

Log into Windows Azure Management Portal.
Enable Push Notifications on Mobile Services for GCM.
  1. Select the Mobile Service providing Push Notification functionality.
  2. Click on Push tab.
  3. Under Google Cloud Messaging Settings, specify API Key noted from Google Developer Console.
Update script that triggers Push Notification
  1. Select Data tab and click on table that need to trigger Push Notification.
  2. Click on Script tab.
  3. Select appropriate action among Insert, Update, Delete or Read. And update following code. (read descriptions in the comments)
// add additional behavior to request.execute for Push Notification.
       success: function() {
           // template for the payload
           var pn= '{ "message" : "Sample push notification" }';
// push.send notifies all configured mobile platforms (iOS, Android, WP8) etc. Using push.gcm.send for GCM only.
// first parameter of send specifies all tags. 

           push.gcm.send(null, pn, {
               success: function(response){
                   console.log("Sent push:", response);
               error: function (error) {
                   console.log("Failed to send PN", error);
                   request.respond(500, { error: pushResponse });

Enable Phone Gap mobile app to send Push Notifications:

Add push plugin-
cordova plugin add

Device plugin
cordova plugins add

Note: include scripts for Mobile Service and Notifications Hub MobileServices.Web-1.2.5.js and NotificationHub.js. They are downloadable from Mobile Service HTML/JS template project.
// set up Push Notification as the app is launched and deviceReady event is fired

 var pushNotification = window.plugins.pushNotification;

// Mobile Client object is created at script file level.
 mobileClient = new WindowsAzure .MobileServiceClient("", "my-mobile-service-key");

// Phone Gap App and Mobile Service could be used for non Android platforms as well. So check this condition. Else conditions on other mobile platforms shall be added.
if ( device.platform == 'android' || device.platform == 'Android' ){
           app.successHandler, app.errorHandler,
               "senderID": GCM_SENDER_ID, // it's the project number
               "ecb": "gcmCallback" // function to be called by GCM Service for completing registration.

GCM Callback below.
    function gcmCallback (e) {
     switch (e.event) {
//This function is called in two scenarios, while registering device with GCM and while receiving Push Notifications
     case 'registered':
          if (e.regid.length > 0) { // regId will be sent back to Notification Hub/ Mobile Service.
              if (mobileClient) {
// Client library for notification hub -that allows multi-platform Push Notifications. Of course, Here we are focusing on GCM/Android.
             var notificationHub= new NotificationHub(mobileClient);

 // Set template for data to be sent by Mobile Service
            var template = "{ \"rootObject\" :{\"message\":\"$(message)\"}}";

// Send regId to Notification Hub, so that mobile service uses it when sending Push Message.
             notificationHub.gcm.register(e.regid, null, "any-template-name", template).done(function () {
// This is my function for updating status on view. You can use console.log or any other method.
              app.updateStatus("Registered for new notifications, through Notification Hub");
                        }).fail(function (error) {
// This is handling Push Message
            case 'message':
            // if app is open when notification arrives
                if (e.foreground)
// Perform target action when notification arrives. Again, this my function update view. You can handle it diferently.


            case 'error':
                app.updateStatus('GCM error: ' + e.message);

                app.updateStatus('An unknown GCM event has occurred');

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