Case Study: FIRSTLight Drug Reference Client

Company: Black Pear Software
Contact: David Jehring
Products used: Data Abstract for .NET and Cocoa
Project: The FIRSTLight Mobile drug reference client is a new and innovative point of care decision support tool from First Databank, the UK’s leading provider of electronic drug databases. Packed with features, FIRSTLight has been developed to provide healthcare professionals with instant access to reliable drug information at the point of care. Available on the move via your iPhone or iPad, FIRSTLight helps you to make informed clinical decisions faster, ultimately reducing medical errors.




An online drug information system gives healthcare professionals mobile access to the latest drug information. RemObjects Data Abstract makes it easy to share information from a centralized drug information database. Keeping the drug database centralized means healthcare professionals always have access to the latest information.


First Databank’s centralized electronic drug database is maintained in a Microsoft SQL Server database. A custom RemObjects Data Abstract for .NET middle-tier server provides FIRSTLight clients with access to the database. The iOS clients are created with Data Abstract for Cocoa. The clients use the briefcase support in Data Abstract to cache the data to a local SQLite database for access when the user is unable to connect to the central database.

Data Abstract for .NET

The .NET Edition of Data Abstract is a great choice for building a custom Data Abstract middle-tier server. It has support for features like DA LINQ and DA SQL, which provide unparalleled flexibility in the client while still respecting the business rules and schema in the middle tier.

FIRSTLight uses a custom Data Abstract for .NET middle-tier server to provide the bridge between the Microsoft SQL Server database and the iPhone and iPad clients. Not only does it organize and provide access to the data in the Microsoft SQL Server database, but it also protects the database from unauthorized access and malicious behaviors.

Data Abstract for Cocoa

When developing multi-tier database clients for the iPhone or iPad, Data Abstract for Cocoa is the framework of choice. As a native Objective-C framework, it shares many proven patterns from the Cocoa and Cocoa Touch frameworks. This gives developers tight integration with core Cocoa technologies such as Key-Value-Coding and Key-Value-Observing (KVC/KVO), Cocoa Bindings, and Predicates.

Thanks to Data Abstract’s wire compatibility, the clients created with Data Abstract for Cocoa easily share data with the server created with Data Abstract for .NET. This also allows for the easy addition of new clients on other platforms in the future.


A new technology introduced in 2008, DA SQL provides clients created with any edition of Data Abstract the full flexibility of SQL queries to describe their data needs, without giving up the control held in the middle tier. While traditional client/server applications allow clients to write SQL that runs directly against the back-end database, DA SQL statements sent from the client application are processed and run against the data as published by the business tier, allowing that tier to keep full control over data access and updates.

Offline Briefcase Support

It is the nature of mobile devices to occasionally be offline. In these situations it is important to have an offline briefcase mode using cached data. Data Abstract supports a briefcase mode where specified data is cached locally. When connectivity returns, conflict resolution can occur to synchronize any changes. FIRSTLight persists a local briefcase into the SQLite database providing offline access to data.

The Move to Data Abstract

This was David Jehring’s first project using Data Abstract. He previously used the lower-level RemObjects SDK framework in other projects. RemObjects SDK is the basis for Data Abstract, and both frameworks share a consistent architecture. This consistent architecture made it straight forward to apply his previous experience in moving from RemObjects SDK to Data Abstract.


Data Abstract provides all the features necessary to access a remote database from mobile clients. It provides the ultimate flexibility of DA SQL in the clients, while maintaining total server security thanks to the schema and the middle tier. After his success with FIRSTLight, David Jehring would certainly recommend RemObject’s Data Abstract for Cocoa and .NET to anyone needing to access a remote database from an iPhone or iPad.