Virtual Data Innovation Summit

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The diSummit goes virtual on request of many members and partners of the AI and Data Science Community in Belgium: Virtual Data Innovation Summit (Virtual DI Summit). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is not possible to have an in-person event. However, we are organizing a full year online program starting in September with, e.g., webcasts, videos, blogs, and more. What is on the Virtual DI Summit program in the coming months? 

The theme of the first Virtual DI Summit program is ‘AI for Everyone’. Our objective is to make AI accessible for everyone by showing practical AI-applications from a business- and a technical point of view. Besides, we bring you in contact with global and local market players, as well as the full AI and Data Science Community in Belgium and beyond.

icity.brussels is a technology hub focussing on helping Brussels emerge as the ICT Heart of Europe. Actively participating in the Virtual DI Summit as a strategical partner is a powerful way to achieve this. — Claudio Truzzi

DI Virtual Summit 2020 program 

The Virtual DI Summit program starts with a monthly webcast focussing on meaningful, practical AI applications. Once a month, we organize a live-webcast. It begins with an inspiring keynote by an expert in, e.g., Ethics, HealthTech, Industry 4.0, GovTech, Telco- & EnergyTech, and more. That is followed up by in-depth, purposeful, real-life cases from our partners to provide insight into business problems, solutions, and technology. In September, we start with a webcast about AI & Ethics. You can have a look at the full 2020 – 2021 program planning at vdisummit.org. Besides webcasts, we also plan to create valuable AI content, such as videos, blogs, podcasts, to share with you via social media. 

As the founder of the Data Science Community in Belgium, and one of the driving forces of AI4Belgium, I fully support Desiree in extending the annual, famous diSummit with a full-year Virtual DI Summit program. — Philippe van Impe

Virtual DI Summit committee

Currently, the Virtual DI Summit committee consists of Philippe van Impe, CEO at European Data Innovation Hub, Claudio Truzzi, Senior Executive at icity.brussels, and myself, Desiree Timmermans – Business Owner at HelpToGrowBusiness. You are welcome to partner up with us and become a speaker at the Virtual Data Innovation Summit.

Desiree TimmermansMy goal is to make AI accessible for everyone by providing you AI knowledge and experience virtually. — Desiree Timmermans

Are you interested in partnering up with the Virtual DI SummitContact Desiree

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VR/AR and Virtual Events

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The COVID-19 pandemic urges us to practice social distancing and home-working. We all have to adapt to a new normal. For many organizations, that means focusing on a virtual first strategy. To survive in the short- and long term, it is worthwhile to check if your business events can benefit from immersive technology. Whether it be virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), or mixed reality (MR). During the VR/AR Global Summit Online on June 1-3, 2020, you discover how VR/AR helps you to organize engaging virtual events.

Anne-Marie Enns is an Executive Producer, and Founder of Pulledin specialized in producing award-winning virtual and live conferences. She is also a board member at the Vancouver Chapter of the VR/AR Association (VRARA). The VRARA is an international organization focusing on collaboration between innovative companies and brands in the VR and AR ecosystem. The aim is to accelerate growth, stimulate research and education, and develop industry standards. Additionally, Anne-Marie is the Executive Producer of the VR/AR Global Summit Online taking place on June 1-3rd, 2020.

Using VR/AR at events

Why do you want to organize a virtual event with VR/AR? Anne-Marie emphasizes that it is essential for businesses to answer this question: “It all starts with defining your virtual event objectives, e.g., lead generation, networking, brand advocacy. Moreover, you need to have insight into your target audience and understand how to meet their needs. Besides, what content do you want to deliver to the audience, and is using immersive technology a good fit? For example, I don’t advise VR/AR for a one-off event due to the investment in time, human resources, and money.”

When you decide to organize a virtual event with VR/AR, partnering with immersive technology event experts is crucial. They help you to create a virtual event strategy, design the event experience, and provide information about various virtual platforms. Nowadays, not everyone has a VR headset. So, it is vital to choose a platform that creates engaging event experiences for VR headsets as well as desktops and mobile devices.

“The VR/AR industry has seen a surge in business due to the COVID-19 crisis. Many organizations move from in-person events to virtual events.” Anne-Marie Enns

 

VR/AR Global Summit Online Conference 

On June 1-3rd, the VR/AR Association (VRARA) kicks off the first VR/AR Global Summit Online. It allows you to connect with the best immersive technology market players across industries. Ann-Marie: “You will learn how to grow your business more effectively and efficiently through the use of VR/AR. The fully packed program includes over 100 presentations, an expo with virtual booths, speed dating, and social events. You also have the opportunity to network in groups and meet virtually one-on-one, including sponsors and speakers.” In short, it is the online go-to-conference if you desire to include immersive technology into your operations, such as organizing virtual events with VR/AR.

Are you interested in how VR/AR can help you organize engaging virtual events? Contact Desiree

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VR/AR Global Summit Online

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The VR/AR Global Summit is the flagship event of the VR/AR Association. After several successful editions in North America, it was time to organize the same event in Europe in 2020. The organizing committee decided that Lisbon in Portugal was the perfect location, and started preparations over a year ago. However, due to the COVID-19 crisis, the in-person event had to be changed in March to an online conference. What challenges did they have to overcome to organize the first VR/AR Global Summit Online on June 1-3rd, 2020?

Anne-Marie Enns is the Executive Producer of the VR/AR Global Summit Online. “We had to adapt the event to the ‘new normal’ because of the COVID-19 pandemic. What is the role of immersive technology in the world right now? How can speakers adjust their content? What online event platform are we going to use? Answering these questions in a very short time-span was crucial, as the event is taking place on June 1-3rd.”

Challenges: speakers and online event platform

The VR/AR Global Summit moved to an online conference in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis. Anne-Marie: “We had to shift our focus and look at how speakers can comment on what’s happening in the world and the role of immersive technology. That was a challenge; we had to deal with speakers from all over the globe in different stages of lockdown. However, context and content are essential. Despite the short time frame, we managed in collaboration with the speakers to adjust the VR/AR Global Summit agenda into a qualitative online-only schedule. We were able to set up a COVID-19 specific program about the role of immersive technology in remote work, collaboration, training, education, the economy, virtual events, and more.”

Figuring out the best online event platform for the VR/AR Global Summit Online was also a challenge. “To assess the right way to deliver the content to our target audience, we tested about twelve platforms. Although it seemed obvious to choose a full VR platform, we had to take into account that people are attending the conference from home. Not everyone has access yet to a VR headset. So, we decided to use Hopin, a platform that provides us the most flexibility to reach a broad audience”, says Anne-Marie. Hopin is an online events platform allowing attendees to learn, interact, and connect from anywhere in the world. It mixes various event segments, such as presentations, group meetings, 1-on-1 meetings, and virtual event booths.

“We were able to set up a COVID-19 specific program about the role of immersive technology in remote work, collaboration, training, education, the economy, virtual events, and more.”−− Ann-Marie Enns

 

Immersive technology is part of the solution

Before the COVID-19 crisis, businesses tended to organize in-person events. However, the present social distancing policy prohibits these events. As a consequence, you have to change your strategy. Therefore, many organizations are already moving to an online-first event strategy. It is a highly effective and efficient way to gather thousands of attendees from around the globe. Currently, the immersive industry receives numerous business requests for organizing virtual events with VR/AR. In other words, immersive technology is part of the solution to move your business to a virtual-first strategy. 

VR/AR Global Summit Online Conference

On June 1-3rd, the VR/AR Global Summit Online connects you with the best VR/AR solution providers, such as Lenovo and Unity. It provides you the opportunity to discover the added value of VR/AR for your business: whether you are in health, science, politics, banking, gaming, marketing, or any other industry. The organizers have ensured that attendance to the event is free. Though, if you want to benefit fully from the VR/AR Global Summit Online, be sure to get premium access for less than a hundred dollars.

VR/AR Global Summit Online Conference 2020

Do you want to know how VR/AR can help your business organize engaging virtual events? Contact Desiree

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Euroconsumers International Forum

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Euroconsumers: the digital era requires you to change your mindset

On November 12, 2019, the first Euroconsumer International Forum took place at the Claridge in Brussels to bridge the gap between consumers and businesses. The digital era has many opportunities for consumers as well as businesses — for example, easier and faster access to products and services. Besides, there are also challenges, such as data privacy and data security. Effectively handling digital opportunities and mitigating risks requires a change in mindset by consumers and businesses.

Luisa Crisigiovanni is the Secretary-General of Altroconsumo and a Fundraising Manager at Euroconsumers. She explains: “Euroconsumers is a network of five national consumer organizations that cooperate to empower consumers in their daily lives. We are a critical market player giving voice to more than 1.5 million people by promoting consumer information, defense of their rights, and personalized services in Belgium (Test-Aankoop/Test-Achats), Italy (Altroconsumo), Portugal (DECOProteste), Spain (OCU – Organisation of Consumers and Users), and Brazil (Proteste). We aim to build relationships with institutions, media, and companies to empower individual consumers and to develop fairer and more efficient markets.”

Three key takeaways

At the Euroconsumers International Forum, there were many panel discussions on how to bridge the gap between consumers and businesses in the digital era. For example: how can market players and consumer organizations work together; the benefits of technologies such as artificial intelligence, internet of things, machine learning and blockchain versus data privacy issues; and mobility trends in a digital age. Luisa: “I want the audience to take away three talking points from the Forum”:

Takeaway 1: Accelerate the pace to create guiding principles and a legal framework
Rapid technological changes have led to many new disruptive companies who often have incorporated a culture based on the premise: move fast, break things, and say sorry later. Besides, regulators and policymakers are lagging in understanding the fast-changing environment and being able to create guiding principles and a legal framework that creates a win-win-win situation for consumers, businesses, and governments. A solution for this is to establish stronger relationships between private- and public organizations.

Euroconsumers focuses on building relationships with institutions, media, and companies to empower individual consumers and to develop fairer and more efficient markets. – Luisa Crisigiovanni 

Takeaway 2: Establishing stronger relationships between public- and private organizations
Consumer insights are essential for consumer organizations as well as for companies like Amazon and Google. “We need to use this common interest to build strong partnerships to serve consumers better. How do we achieve that? By having a continuous dialogue between public- and private organizations to build trust and to make change happen through, e.g., sharing knowledge, best practices, and launching events and campaigns together.

It can start, for example, with being transparent to consumers about data privacy and data security. The ultimate goal is that businesses and consumers are aware and act according to a standard set of digital rights,” says Luisa.

Takeaway 3: Building consumer communities
In the online world, consumers rely much more on information and advice from their peers for buying products and services. They are connected via social media platforms such as Facebook and are not necessarily aware of or take advice from national or European consumer organizations. So, it is up to these organizations to create communities and platforms where consumers can share their experiences and exchange information to increase their awareness and to stimulate advocacy.

Changing the mindset of consumers, businesses, and governments to adapt to the opportunities and challenges of the digital age is a step-by-step process. Luisa: “Euroconsumers is a crucial market player that supports this digital transformation process.”

Do you want to contribute to the empowerment of individual consumers and the development of fairer and more efficient marketsContact Luisa Crisigiovanni – Secretary-General of Altroconsumo and Fundraising Manager at Euroconsumers.

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AWS Dev Day Belgium 2019

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AWS Dev Day Belgium – November 13 in Mechelen

Enterprises are looking for efficiency and the desire to gain and keep a competitive advantage through faster innovation using Artificial Intelligence technology. Yet, there aren’t enough IT professionals with the necessary expertise in the cloud. 

One of Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) mission is to make machine learning accessible to all developers by removing the barriers to build these systems. It is now possible to integrate machine learning services directly into your mobile- and web-application by calling application programming interfaces (APIs) for AI services like Amazon Rekognition, Amazon Lex, and Amazon Polly. All are intended to put the power of computer vision, conversational agents, and text to speech into the hands of all developers. That increases the accessibility: now, how can you ensure that machine learning accelerates your time to market?

Patrick Sard, Solutions Architect at Amazon Web Services (AWS), has many years of experience with cloud and cloud services. “The cloud makes it easier to quickly build, deploy, and scale your machine learning (ML) models. Additionally, our AI services help you incorporate image recognition, video recognition, natural language processing, and speech to text in your app without requiring deep knowledge of AI or ML. AWS has the broadest range of AI services and has released more than 200 machine learning features and capabilities in 2018 alone. In fact, 85% of TensorFlow projects in the cloud run on AWS,” he says.

Building your Machine Learning capability

The AWS machine learning stack consists of three layers: top, middle, and bottom.

• The top layer has ready-to-use AI-services based on pre-built data models. Ideal if you miss deep ML expertise. There are six categories of services: vision, speech, language, chatbots, forecasting, and recommendations. Each of these categories has one or more services (see figure 1). You bring along your data and effortlessly fuse these services into your application. In other words, you consume the AI services immediately without having to think: how do I build a model first?

 The middle layer of services, Amazon SageMaker, focuses on data scientists and developers with prior knowledge in ML. You conveniently build, train, and deploy better machine learning models at scale. How? By using pre-installed optimized algorithms (or bringing your algorithm if you prefer), one-click training, and automatic model tuning to achieve the most accurate predictions. Last but not least, one-click deployment ensures that deploying your model becomes a straightforward task.

 The bottom layer of the stack handles the complete infrastructure such as servers, compute power, and storage. It is also the layer where you manage the installation and deployment of machine learning frameworks. Patrick: “This is for engineers who want to set up the infrastructure and machine learning framework themselves.” 

Figure 1: The three layers of the AWS machine learning stack

Customer Cases

To better understand the advantages of machine learning for your business, Patrick shares three examples of customers who are already using it in their applications.

1. Healthcare
SkinVision, a Dutch company, built a mobile app to self-assess your skin health. One out of five Belgians is having skin cancer at some point in their life. Therefore, it is crucial to monitor your skin. However, that is easier said than done. The SkinVision self-assess app allows you to take pictures of your skin, and the AWS machine learning-based algorithms assess those in thirty seconds. After that, staff dermatologists examine the image to control accuracy.

Patrick explains: “Although the app does not make an immediate diagnostic, it indicates if your skin cancer probability is high, medium, or low. That helps you to determine if you have to schedule an appointment with the dermatologist. Besides, the data collected by the app provides dermatologists better insights into skin cancer. The app even has the option that a dermatologist contacts you if your skin cancer probability is high or medium. SkinVision has already analyzed more than a million different images and uses this to improve the accuracy of its data model. The Department of Health and Social Care in the United Kingdom recognizes the SkinVision app as a means to self-assess the probability of skin cancer.”

2. Transport
Convoy, a company in the United States, realized that 40% of the trucks on the road are empty (by the way, the same proportion also applies to Europe). “To improve the truck’s efficiency, they came up with the idea to create a platform that better matches shippers and drivers. So, they created a mobile app, a digital online marketplace that uses AWS AI services to analyze shipping jobs along with trucker availability. That gives them the information to recommend matches that are timely and cost-efficient. As Convoy works with many shippers and drivers, its AI can take advantage of more data from the entire freight network for demand forecasting,” says Patrick.

3. Finance
Davinci, a financial organization, based in the Netherlands, has a software as a service for loan and mortgages. They provide this software to financial institutions in the Netherlands. The customers of these institutions use it for the online processing of their loans and mortgages requests. Patrick: “If you apply for a mortgage, you have to upload official documents like your identity card and salary fiche to support your application. Davinci infers the data on these documents with the AWS machine learning services. The algorithm learns how to spot the right information in the right place and optimizes the data model accuracy. That helps to reduce the repetitive manual tasks performed by the financial professionals, although they are still in charge of the final decision to approve a loan or mortgage”.

Do you want to accelerate your time to market by putting machine learning in the hands of every developer? Register for the AWS Dev Day Belgium on November 13 in Mechelen.

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European Data Privacy: Citizens own their Data

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On October 1, 2019, the Digital Twin Belgium community kicked off at DigitYser in Brussels. Collecting, processing, and storing personal data has become standard practice in the digital era. We are leaving an ever-increasing digital footprint. The consequence is that managing your data privacy is creating multiple challenges. Many organizations have an interest in your data with the intent to better serve you as their customer or citizen. However, besides advantages, there are also disadvantages like data- and identity theft, unauthorized data selling, and data leaks. That raises the question, who owns and controls your data?

Christophe Cop, Manager, and data scientist at PricewaterhouseCoopers Technology Consulting is passionate about web decentralization. “I am a firm believer in creating a European data privacy business model where citizens control their data. In the United States, corporate organizations own and manage your data and in China its the government,” he says. To get insight into the solution and technology that helps you manage, store, and commercialize your data, Christophe created the Digital Twin Belgium Meetup.

GDPR
On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect. It regulates the protection of natural persons concerning the processing of personal data and rules relating to the free movement of personal data. In other words, the GDPR protects the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals and in particular, their right to the protection of personal data. 

The GDPR triggered Christophe to think about data privacy: “Suppose you regain control of your data. How do you create your digital twin, a virtual identity that contains personal data, including criteria for commercialization? What kind of applications do you need to manage your data? What are the criteria for third parties to get access to your data?” 

Data Privacy business model
Reclaiming data control requires that you start to manage personal data. How can you do this efficiently and effectively? Besides managing it yourself, a virtual identity company might be the solution. Such a company, for example, a data broker start-up, manages and invests your data just as a money broker.

The advantage of working with a virtual identity company is, e.g., that supermarkets interested in personal data can check with the company who is willing to sell their data to them. They get authorized access to the available data and in return pay for it, provide discounts or extra services. Besides, they can receive enriched data if you decide, for instance, to share data about your overall buying behavior at supermarkets. That provides them with extra valuable info to improve your personal customer experience. Overall, it requires supermarkets to add value and act trustworthy as otherwise, they risk that you revoke their data access. 

A point of attention is the jurisdiction to hand-over your data, or part of it, to a virtual identity company. What data are they able to see? How do they get access to your data? How do they know which data you want to sell to third parties, and how do they give third parties access to it?

The Digital Twin Belgium Meetup aims to realize a sound European data privacy business model that provides citizens control over their data.”

Technological data privacy aspects
Data privacy-wise it is crucial to separate data from applications. Additionally, you need a technology that enables you to structure your data in a standardized way so that it is transferable.

Solid, an MIT project led by Prof. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, proposes a set of conventions and tools for building decentralized social applications. It uses Linked Data principles, a collection of best practices for publishing structured data on the web. If you apply it to structuring personal data, you have to create a meaningful link between two elements. For example:

Person (element 1) – has name – Christophe (element 2)

The above structure results in an overview of connected elements, with each having a different meaning. To perform searches on data sets build on this principle, you use SPARKQL, the standard query language, and protocol for Linked Open Data on the web or semantic graph databases.

Another technological data privacy aspect is the storage of your data transactions. Here, blockchain might be the solution as it is a distributed ledger. It is a control mechanism to track, e.g., which person or company has access to what data for which time-period.

Digital Twin Meetup 
To implement and further develop the legal framework and technological aspects of the European data privacy business model, individuals, businesses, and governments have to join forces. Christophe: “Currently, we have a basic framework. The next step is to put this framework into practice and to improve it. Regaining control of your data, improving data privacy, and authorized access to (enriched) data is a win-win situation for all involved stakeholders. The Digital Twin Belgium Meetup aims to realize a sound European data privacy business model that provides citizens control over their data.”

Are you passionate about data privacy? Do you want to contribute to the creation of the European data privacy business model? Join the Digital Twin Belgium Meetup  

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The Future of Mobile Apps is Offline-First

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On April 16 and 17, Mendix World 2019, the world’s largest low-code development event, took place in Rotterdam Ahoy. The session ‘The future of mobile apps is offline-first’ had a fully packed room. Although the motto mobile-first is common sense when you build an app, there is a growing demand for offline-first apps. Hence, Danny Roest, Mendix product manager for mobile, and Marcel Groeneweg, certified Mendix expert at ITvisors, inspired the audience to start building offline-first apps.

Offline-first apps
Why do we need offline-first apps? “In city centers, you expect reliable public internet connections, says Danny. In the summer, I like to listen to music via the internet when I cycle to work. However, I discovered that there is no reliable connection near the famous Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam where our Mendix office is. Suppose I travel to work by car and get an accident. I open the online insurance app to record my claim. Unfortunately, the app needs a connection, so I get an error message due to the lack of network coverage. That is frustrating. Therefore, at Mendix, we make it possible to build apps that work regardless of the network connectivity status.”

An offline-first app works because it interacts with a local database on your device. Mendix handles the eventual data synchronization with the server. To start building an offline-first app, you have to create an offline navigation profile. Based on this profile, Mendix performs consistency checks to ensure that your app will work. Besides, Mendix also supplies the mechanisms to run on your device the wire logic, interaction logic, business rules, and so forth.

Benefits
The main three benefits of offline-first apps are an increase in user experience (UX), reliability, and battery performance:

  • UX

When you open an online app, and the internet connection is weak, your app doesn’t work well as it frequently tries to connect. As a result, your UX reduces even if the app has a fancy user interface. Offline-first apps are the solution because you don’t need a connection. That improves your UX.

  • Reliability

Field service engineers, for example, use apps when they visit remote locations (e.g., factories, basements). These locations often have bad or no connectivity at all. Offline-first apps are a reliable resolution because these apps enable field service engineers to synchronize their data before, and after, visiting a remote location.

  • Battery performance

Online apps rely on an internet connection and drain the battery capacity of your mobile device. Offline-first apps enable you to work without an internet connection and save your device’s battery life.

“At Mendix, we make it possible to build apps that work regardless of the network connectivity status.”

Mendix 8
Mendix 8 offers lots of capabilities that empower you to build better offline-first apps faster. The five capabilities worth mentioning are:

Capability 1: Automatic sync improves your data synchronization. It determines all the entities synchronized to your device, and it also applies security constraints.

Capability 2: Configurable sync gives you control over the data you want to synchronize. You get an additional syntax dialogue in your profile that shows which entities you can synchronize. Also, you can add your entities, determine which entities you want to control, and create sync activities yourself.

Capability 3: Full control is still in the planning phase. It allows you to call a microflow from an offline app. For example, fetching data from an SAP system.

Capability 4: Pluggable nanoflow actions are JavaScript actions that allow you to build custom activities inside nanoflows.

Capability 5: XPath support in offline apps helps you to query data for your offline database.

It is crucial to handle all Mendix 8 capabilities gracefully. Danny: “Like in Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. When calling a microflow from an offline app, you have to handle the instances of poor or no connection. For example, be aware to catch exceptions and ensure that pluggable nanoflow actions do not make your app less robust.”

Do’s and don’ts
Marcel has extensive hands-on experience with building offline-first apps. He shared a couple of do’s and don’ts during his presentation with Danny.

Offline-first apps do’s:

  • Do double check your business processes. “If your online and offline app users insert the same type of data, you get conflicts,” says Marcel. “Although Danny mentioned a module and patterns for conflict resolution, this error might be hard to solve. It’s better to check your business process for handling data upfront and to align it with the requirements for offline-first apps.”
  • Do double check your entity access. Generally, users have more rights than you realize. It is essential to review these rights to understand and solve the problems.

Offline-first apps don’ts:

  • Don’t rename a module or entity offline. An offline-first app in production breaks when the offline user renames a module or entity and the only recovery option is to undo the renaming and have all users synchronize again.
  • Don’t just delete data. If an online user deletes data on the server and an offline user changes the same data, you get a synchronization error. Marcel: “Solving this error requires that users do not physically delete data but put a status on it. That assures that the data still exists, although it is not visible anymore for the user.”

Do you want to know how offline-first apps can help you to build and deliver apps faster, and ultimately grow business? Contact: Danny Roest, Mendix product manager for mobile.

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