Whether you’re an enthusiastic developer, a tech aficionado, or a marketer working with mobile app-generated Big Data, it’s important at least to understand the technical side to facilitate our activities. Among the basic knowledge, it is crucial to understand what an SDK is.
In this article, we will try to explain in simple and clear words what SDK is and what role it plays as a data source, its benefits, and its relevance in the world of data science and business data analysis.
What does an SDK stand for?
The acronym SDK refers to “Software Development Kit.” An SDK, basically, is a set of tools that allows a team of developers to create a mobile application, which can be connected to other software.
SDK tools include all the basic technical elements that developers can use and integrate into their apps, such as an editor, libraries, run-time and development environments, compilers or debuggers, or other analysis or testing tools.
Using an example in the real world, consider the SDK as a toolbox containing nails, a hammer, drill, gloves, and other work tools. Using these tools, you can build small things (like a piece of furniture) or more complex projects (like a house). An SDK essentially operates as a toolbox for software developers. Instead of hammers and nails, it contains APIs, IDEs, and other essential tools. SDKs are designed to be used for specific platforms or programming languages but also to improve developer-created mobile app functionality: to show advertisements in apps or manage push notifications or as an analytics system.
How is it works?
We’ve seen what elements SDKs provide to developers to create software applications on a specific program. This allows programmers and developers to avoid reinventing the wheel every time they want to code standard application features such as data storage, location, user authorization, and geofencing, among others.
What features should a good SDK have?
An SDK will likely be used outside of the company where it was produced, so it should provide value to other companies and the developers who use it. The SDK’s value depends on its features, which in general should be the following:
- Lightweight, meaning that an SDK does not have a negative impact on a mobile device’s CPU, battery, or data consumption.
- Easy to use even for other developers. It should provide tutorials and sample code and provide support to a community in case of problems.
- Comprehensive documentation, including an explanation of how the code works.
- Multifunctional, has enough functionality to add value to other applications. It must also interact well with other SDKs.
- Customizable, to be able to implement them with external settings, perhaps for unique needs, to customize branding or graphics.
- It’s essential to use SDKs that come from trusted sources to make sure you don’t accidentally put harmful or unwanted code into your apps; so you can avoid issues with privacy, a hot topic these days.
SDK as a data source
The SDK can also be considered a data source. SDKs themselves are not trackers, but they are tools through which most tracking occurs through a mobile app installed on our smartphone.
Developers can use SDKs to encode location capabilities directly into an app, thus ensuring that the app collects GPS and location data (if the user gives permission for the app to collect this location information). That makes the SDK a great source of data about people’s movements and behavior.
Therefore, a location SDK collects users location data through mobile apps installed on their mobile phones. These are the main characteristics of the data:
- SDKs collect high-quality GPS location data with a given indication of the level of signal accuracy.
- SDKs must encrypt and protect sensitive users data.
- SDKs must inform about privacy policies and data sharing.
- Users must give explicit consent on sharing their data when using mobile apps.
However, it is worth mentioning that, since the location data collected via SDKs have a higher quality and accuracy, it is available in a smaller volume than other types of data sources, such as bidstream data obtained on a large scale. It is also considerably more expensive, as it requires direct integration of the SDK into mobile apps. This means more human resources, time, and money spent on partnership negotiations with app development companies, data assessment, and integrations.
SDK is a set of tools needed to provide unique features to improve the user experience of mobile apps. SDK components not only allow developers to add features visible to the end-users but also collect different types of data, such as location data, usage data, behavioral data, etc., that help improve user experience.
Accuracy and security are some of the strongest advantages of SDKs as a data source. Still, considering the downsides, it is a relatively expensive, smaller scale tool. Many apps, which use SDKs to track location data, require a significant amount of power, reducing the performance and battery life of a mobile phone.