Firebase: Its features and usage

Firebase: its features and usage

With the launch of Firebase, many individual developers also emerged with their start-up’s ideas; exponential growth was seen in the application development industry. Firebase supports both mobile applications and web-based apps.

Before the advent of Firebase, backend developers had to write these recurring codes for each application they created. As a boon to them, Firebase Inc. launched the software development platform Firebase in the year 2011. Later in 2014, Firebase was acquired by Google. Earlier it served only as a real-time database, for messaging or banking apps, but now it provides a chain of eighteen distinct services. Backend as-a-Service was the need of the hour, as many enterprises had budget constraints for creating and maintaining a backend infrastructure.

For designing the front-end of mobile or web applications, we have numerous plugins and libraries that are used for making the graphical user interface more attractive. Even if we come up with a very fancy user interface, our application will remain worthless until we add the backend code, security and hosting services. Designing the front-end is an upbeat creative job, but the crucial and the painstaking part of any application is its backend development. The most part of the backend code is common for a number of applications. For instance, secure signup and login, update password, update profile details, etc. are common in more than ninety per cent of the existing applications.

Backend Developers: Before the launch of Firebase
Image Source: Google
Backend Developers: After the launch of Firebase
Image Source: Google

Firebase comes with a set of pre-existing APIs, instead of creating APIs from scratch; you can merely plugin into your application. This eliminates the tedious and over-head expenses of hardware procurement and database management. The prime functions of Firebase are data analysis, database management, user authentication, user authorisation, cloud storage, sending push notifications, configuration and so on.

It “hosts the application on the Google cloud”, this implies that the backend components are completely managed and operated by Google. Client SDKs directly interact with Firebase; there is no need for setting up mid-wares for data transmission.

There is no need of writing separate front-end and backend codes; the APIs provided by the Firebase is invoked at the client-end itself, contradictory to the traditional method. Firebase is not a substitute for the human backend developers; instead, it is a set of tools for the human backend developers. Apart from Android, Firebase is even compatible with Flutter, Unity, C++, ionic, Cordova, etc. For easy access Firebase comes with a library known as Firebase UI, so that the developers don’t struggle with the API location.

Firebase comes with a set of pre-existing APIs, instead of creating APIs from scratch; you can merely plugin into your application. This eliminates the tedious and over-head expenses of hardware procurement and database management. The prime functions of Firebase are data analysis, database management, user authentication, user authorisation, cloud storage, sending push notifications, configuration and so on. It “hosts the application on the Google cloud”, this implies that the backend components are completely managed and operated by Google.

Client SDKs directly interact with it; there is no need for setting up mid-wares for data transmission. There is no need of writing separate front-end and backend codes; the APIs provided by the Firebase is invoked at the client-end itself, contradictory to the traditional method. It is not a substitute for the human backend developers; instead, it is a set of tools for the human backend developers. Apart from Android, Firebase is even compatible with Flutter, Unity, C++, Ionic, Cordova, etc. For easy access Firebase comes with a library known as Firebase UI, so that the developers don’t struggle with the API location.

The servers present between the SDK and the clients are eliminated.
Image Source: Medium

How to integrate Firebase?

You don’t have to take the burden of writing boilerplate codes for Firebase Integration. Firebase can be easily accessed by invoking the cloud functions from the Admin SDK by integrating libraries. The Google Cloud or Firebase creates some events that expect a response from your functions; these events are referred to as “triggers”.

The triggers are of various types:

  • Real-time Database Triggers: In this case, the users are allowed to respond and interact with the real-time database in the Google Cloud.
  • Firebase Authentication Triggers: Until the Firebase authentication releases the triggers for creating or deleting a user account, the user can proceed. Authentication triggers are also issued when the password is updated, or for the verification of details like the mobile number and the e-mail, etc.
  • HTTP Triggers: When an HTTP request is made from the application, these triggers are issued.
  • Cloud Storage Triggers: When any manipulation like deletion or upload of any media in the Google Cloud Storage takes place, these triggers are launched. It also supports several other triggers like Cloud Pub/Sub Triggers, Crashlytics Triggers and Cloud Firestore Triggers.
An example of Cloud Storage Trigger
Image Source: firebase.google.com

Top features and usages of Firebase

  • Provides Real-Time Databases: The first service provided by the Firebase package was its real-time database, from the year 2011; it has been a stable, efficient and expanding service. A real-time database is also referred to as a “NoSQL” database, as data from these applications are stored in the cloud storage so that it can be accessed and updated at the real-time only. The delay between actual data updation and registered data updation is NIL.
    In cases where the target device is not connected to the internet, the updations are stored offline in the cache memory of the device and later when the device is reconnected to the internet services; it gets synchronised with the cloud. Applications from the e-commerce, banking, communication industries highly avail this service. The data can be queried by the user and is stored in the usual JSON format.
  • User-Authentication: To make the platform secure, Firebase Authentication is used, that provides access only if the correct user-identity is entered before data manipulation. It comes from the Google Authentication Libraries,  that is reconstructed for applications using Firebase, you can analyse its reliability now! It provides a bunch of in-built User-interfaces for authentication via user-credential, Google- credential, social media credentials like Twitter and Facebook. These in-built UIs are further customisable; to give you the platform for showing your creativity.
  • Hosting Services: Developers often need hosting for web-applications, progressive web-applications and mobile landing pages. For applications developed with HTML, CSS and Javascript, Firebase provides static web-hosting services. It uses the usual HTTPS and SSL for securing the data transactions.
  • Eliminates Servers: It allows us to sink our applications directly with the Google cloud, which eliminates the need for setting up third-party servers. It uses a tool for running the backend code on an event-driven basis, directly from the cloud. This architecture is popularly known as “serverless architecture”. The clients are entirely isolated from each other, having distinct functions, even in the cloud and can only communicate via APIs. With this, Google is emerging as one of the top service providers, globally.
The devices are only connected via cloud APIs
Image Source: firebase.google.com
  • Machine Learning Libraries: Although this feature is currently is in the beta version, it is the most opulent feature of Firebase. Firebase allows integrating machine learning libraries with Android and iOS applications. “ML Kit” is the feature of Firebase that is widely used in intelligent applications like the Google Lens.ML Kit can support both cloud services and on-device services with the help of APIs. It is widely used for face recognition, voice recognition, bar code and QR code scanning, natural language processing and other AI techniques.
  • Data Analysis: When a project goes live, the feedback mechanism is very important for its improvisation and stability. It includes Google Analytics that gives you a detailed statistical report about user retention, user engagement rates, or the various user behavioural data that assists you in the overall operation of your business. Firebase has a collaboration with fifty-two analytical companies, that allows user to avail unlimited and unpaid reporting capabilities.
Analyses the data stored in the cloud
Image Source: firebase.google.com
  • Testing Services: Firebase comes with an integrated Test Lab, that allows you to test your app ecosystem with a number of virtual and tangible devices. You can integrate the Test Lab with your pre-installed testing tool or the Android Studio itself. Along with the usually provided detailed test summary report, Firebase also provides the screenshots of the bugs encountered or system crash instances. Alas! The Test Lab is incompatible with iOS devices yet. Crash reports are also well aligned; the issue with the highest priority is placed on top of the list, along with the bugs their corresponding root causes are also mentioned in the report with the exact row and column number. Apart, from the application ecosystem, it also tests the server connectivity and the turnaround time of any thread.
  • Cloud Notifications & Predictions: With the help of Firebase Google Analytics, cloud messaging analyses a pattern among the users, and sends them push-notifications and messages. It allows the developers to customise the messages or notifications based on the user profile, their subscriptions, behavioural patterns, services availed, etc. For sending push notifications, you don’t have to write any source code; this feature comes in-built with Firebase. You can even change the messages or notifications dynamically, without pulling down the application or re-publishing it.
Push Notifications and messages for user-retention
Image Source: firebase.google.com

Prediction service comes from the Machine Learning bucket; it divides the users into specific sections depending upon their actions or the services that they use. For Example- Netflix recommendations or Google Ads. These predictions help the business in retaining its customers and works as an implicit marketing strategy.

Prediction analysis for offering discounts
Image Source: firebase.google.com

After going through the features and the simplicity of accessing Firebase, none of the backend developers can create further applications without using it. It ensures the most reliable yet unpaid web-services. As innovation goes on, the Beta version of Firebase will be launched soon with advanced Machine Learning Extensions.

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By Vanshika Singolia

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