By and large, computer programmers are, by both nature and necessity, a detail-oriented bunch. It takes someone who can get down into the weeds, the world of bits and bytes, of ones and zeroes, to craft an effective program to make a computer do something useful.
Recently, we talked in this space about user experience (UX) and why it’s so important to get it right when designing, building, and selling a software product. To recap, Google has come up with a handy way to evaluate and give a numerical value to a product’s UX, which helps guide designers and developers in the right direction to make improvements.
In 2016, Apple found itself engaged in a high-profile dispute with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) regarding the privacy and device encryption features of the company’s iPhone product line. The specific iPhone in question had been in the possession of Syed Rizwan Farook, who was suspected of conducting a terrorist attack in San Bernardino, California. The FBI recovered the phone after Farook was killed in a shootout with police.
Remember the “telephone” game? If not, it went something like this:
Kid 1 whispers a few words in Kid 2’s ear. Kid 2 then relays the message (again, by whispering) to Kid 3, and so on until the last kid receives the message and says it out loud. Usually, that message is not even close to the original, to the short-term amusement of everyone involved.
When you watch a rocket launch—whether it’s a high-profile NASA Mars mission or a commercial satellite launch by the likes of SpaceX—you’re seeing the culmination of months, sometimes years, of design, development, project management, planning, and execution. The bit where the rocket actually leaves the launch pad and goes into space should be the easy part: Just count down to zero, push a button, and watch it go, right?
There are two basic ways to think about new software versions:
Which one you adopt depends mainly on your attitude towards the software to begin with, and how much effort is required to implement it. The first reaction is reserved for software that you like using and for which you look forward to new features and benefits. Software with easy update paths (for example, those that don’t require uninstalling the previous version, don’t break existing files, and don’t require reboots) also fall in this category. The second reaction is pretty much for all other software.
Today we start a series of blog posts that dive into the design and development process we use here at AndPlus.
Our philosophy at AndPlus follows the Agile development methodology. By way of review, Agile breaks down a development project into short (one- or two-week) mini development cycles called sprints. A fundamental principle of Agile is that at the end of each development sprint, the team should have a working (albeit not necessarily complete) version of the software product.
If you’ve ever been using a piece of software that crashed or went into some catatonic state for no apparent reason, your first thought, probably, was “why didn’t they test this?” followed by some choice words for the developers.
Humankind had been cooking rice for over 12,000 years before someone had the bright idea of automating the process with rice-cooking appliances. (Why we needed to automate a process that runs mostly without human intervention anyway is a debate for another time.) Although the electric rice steamer (some models of which could be considered “robots” in the broadest sense of the term) didn’t revolutionize the culinary arts the way, say, fire did, it’s just one small example of the surprising application of technology in an area one might not consider “high tech.”
Have you ever used software whose user interface had some or all of the following characteristics?
If so, you’re not alone—in fact, if you haven’t encountered such software, you are in a tiny minority.
Earlier in this space, we talked about the meaning of digital transformation, both for business in general and for AndPlus in particular. For today’s post, let’s dig a little deeper and explore what motivates businesses to seek such a thing.
In one of the many memorable scenes from Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, heroes Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect find themselves on Earth, circa 2,000,000 BC, in the company of a large population of middle managers, hairdressers, management consultants, marketing people…in short, the “useless” third of their home planet who were sent to colonize Earth. In a committee meeting, they discuss the difficulty they’ve had in inventing the wheel. Ford Prefect, exasperated, exclaims that it’s the “single simplest machine in the Universe,” to which a marketing person replies, “All right Mr. Wiseguy, if you’re so clever, you tell us what color it should be.”
Once upon a time, photography was all about delayed gratification. You couldn’t see the results of your efforts until you had taken the film someplace to be developed and printed—a process that could take a day or more. And if you didn’t take many pictures, the roll of film might stay in your camera for months before you finished the roll and took it in for processing. If the photos were out of focus, too light, too dark, or poorly composed, you were out of luck.
The era of the Internet of Things (IoT) has arrived, if somewhat fitfully. Lots of observers (including this blog) have sung the praises of IoT and how transformative it will be, with compelling benefits for both businesses and consumers.
As if there weren’t enough programming languages out there, along comes one that has gone from zero to one of the most popular languages in only a couple of years. The language is Swift, designed to succeed Objective-C in the world of app development for iOS devices and their numerous relatives.
The world, it seems, is getting dark.
It’s not for want of sunlight or electricity to power our myriad lighting devices. (Indeed, light pollution is considered by many to be a growing problem with environmental and public health implications.) It’s an aesthetic preference for darker colors in our daily lives. Our kitchen appliances have gone from white to black or unpainted stainless steel. Computer cases, for which “ivory” was once de rigeur, are now almost universally black or some shade of dark grey. Look around on our roads and you’ll mainly see cars that are black (even matte black), grey, or some muted shade of silver.
“My fellow Americans,” said every presidential candidate ever, “It’s time for a change.” Not every presidential candidate has said it in so many words, but when you boil down the rhetoric, that’s what it comes down to. The reality, of course, is things are going to change anyway, no matter who occupies the White House. The only thing about it that stays the same is that the occupant will always take credit when things change for the better and blame someone else when they don’t.
The world of business is rife with buzzwords. Some self-proclaimed business guru comes up with a clever term for a concept that forward-thinking businesses ought to adopt, and suddenly companies large and small start dropping that term into their mission statements, business plans, and marketing materials. Examples that have fallen into and out of vogue in recent years include “synergy,” “game changer,” “thought leader,” “move the needle,” and “right-size.”
Washington D.C. based GoodFirms acknowledged AndPlus and placed it among the list of top mobile app development companies and top web development companies on its research and review platform.
“When you’re hot,” observed country singer Jerry Reed in the early ‘70s, “you’re hot.” An astute commentator on the human condition, Jerry also found the converse to be true: “When you’re not, you’re not.” On its face, it seems so obvious, right? But sometimes it takes a country song to set us straight on these things.
Few technological innovations have been both hyped and misunderstood as much as the internet of things (IoT). For many consumers, the scope of IoT begins and ends with smart-home systems that can monitor security cameras and control lights, locks, sprinklers, air conditioners, and other devices from the homeowner’s smartphone. Certainly, smart-home technology is an IoT application that is easily grasped by the average consumer. But it’s only one example of a technology that has wide-ranging applications and use cases, from agriculture and forestry to climatology, biology, zoology, and more.
When Amazon’s Echo product line first appeared in 2014, its user interface was all about—nay, only about—voice commands to and responses from the device’s natural-language processing personality (known in Amazon’s parlance as an “intelligent personal assistant”) called Alexa.
If you live, work, or just drive around in any large city, you know how frustrating it can be to find a place to park your vehicle. Paying for the privilege is a given; it’s just a question of how far away from your actual destination it will be and how much you will be charged.
From the “It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again” Department
Previously in this space, we discussed the relative merits of web applications in comparison with native apps for desktop platforms, such as Windows and Mac. Today we examine the question: Are there similar advantages and disadvantages with regard to native mobile apps?
The robots are coming! The robots are coming!
Okay, Paul Revere, settle down. Yes, robots of various kinds and with various capabilities are in development. Many are already available, in some form or fashion, and deployed in industries from manufacturing to hospitality and security. And there has been more than a little hand-wringing and scaremongering about how robots, and automation in general, will affect jobs, the economy, and the nature of business itself.
Consider the lowly umbrella: A mundane object, often cheaply made and inexpensively acquired, and with a singular habit of failing to do the job it was designed for. In anything but a light rain that falls straight down, an umbrella—even one of those big golf umbrellas—will keep very little of you dry. And if you’re sharing it with someone, forget it. As the Police sang many years ago, “It’s a big enough umbrella, but it’s always me that ends up getting wet.” It’s a wonder anyone uses the dadgum things at all.
It’s hard to believe, but Twitter is 12 years old this year. Remember when it was new? At the time, a whole lot of people wrote it off as a solution in search of a problem. Who, in their right mind, would want to participate in a service whose only function was to enable people to share their most mundane thoughts with each other, and with the world at large, in 140-character chunks?
The grand vision for human-computer interaction in recent years has been mobility: Users with lightweight, low-power “dumb terminals” communicating with cloud services via ubiquitous and speedy wireless connections to perform every computing task imaginable, from email and web surfing to more computationally intensive tasks such as video editing and big-data analytics. All of this, of course, would be courtesy of the cloud; there would no longer be any need, outside of perhaps gaming, for laptops and desktops with super-powerful, multicore processors.
Fun fact: “dogfood” (one word) has become a verb, at least in the business slang lexicon. “Dogfooding” is synonymous with “eating one’s own dog food,” which in turn refers to a business’s practice of using its own products—the same products it manufactures and sells to its customers—in the conduct of its business. This practice is generally considered a healthy sign for a business—how can you trust a business that uses its competitors’ products? It has a dark flip side, however: “not invented here,” the refusal to use someone else’s technology simply because your business didn’t come up with it, even if your own equivalent technology is inferior or nonexistent.
Computer scientists, by and large, are not considered particularly artistic. When you spend your time in the world of bits and bytes, algorithms and loops, and nodes and edges, you may not think much about aesthetics. To the extent that you do, you might think, “How can I get a computer to create an image or a song or a poem by itself?”
In one of the many memorable scenes in the 1987 film The Princess Bride, the disguised hero, Westley (played by Cary Elwes) rescues the captured princess (Robin Wright) from the evil Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) by challenging Vizzini to a battle of wits involving a bottle of wine, two goblets, and the deadly poison iocane. Westley takes the goblets, administers the poison out of Vizzini’s sight, and challenges Vizzini to drink from one. Vizzini spends several minutes overintellectualizing to decide which one is poisoned, and even switches the goblets while Westley is distracted. Finally, he chooses one and they both drink. Vizinni gloats over his superior intellect until he keels over dead.
As mentioned many times in this space, cloud-based services are becoming increasingly attractive to businesses of all sizes for all kinds of applications, from web servers and e-commerce to big data, machine learning, and the internet of things (IoT). With its convenience, security, flexibility, and low cost, cloud has many advantages over building, equipping, and staffing an on-premise data center.
As if we needed more evidence that machine learning is making its way out of the lab and into the hands of “regular” developers and their applications, along comes PyTorch, a Python open-source package developed at Facebook that enables neural network modeling, training, and testing, with a focus on deep learning and high performance.
To the extent that they understood it at all, corporate executives have often regarded talk of deploying critical business applications and data in “the cloud” with suspicion: “How,” they asked, “do we guarantee security when our applications and data are in someone else’s data center, not ours?”
The term “disruptive,” when applied to business in general and technology in particular, has become something of a buzzword since its original coinage by Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christiansen in the 1990s. Companies in all industries now claim to provide “disruptive” technologies or apply “disruptive” business models or processes.
It’s a strange irony: The more we try to make technology simpler, easier, more intuitive, and more convenient for end users, the more complex it becomes.
Consider the personal computer. The earliest PCs were simple by modern standards, with straightforward hardware architecture and minimally functional operating systems. But the user interfaces (C:\> prompt, anyone?) were opaque to anyone who wasn’t a computer engineer or hobbyist.
At the end of 2017, speculators had run the value of a single Bitcoin to over $18,000—a far cry from the pennies that Bitcoins were trading for just a few years ago. But then the Bitcoin price fell back, almost as fast as it had risen, and at this writing has been trading in the $5,000–$10,000 range for several months. The buzz about cryptocurrencies in general and Bitcoin in particular has faded in tandem with Bitcoin’s trading price.
From the “Be Careful What You Wish For” Department
Can it really have been only a year or so ago that commentators, both in this blog and the mobile development community at large, were complaining about how hard it was to write cross-platform mobile apps, and wouldn’t it be nice if there were some way—any way!—to generate fully native apps for each mobile operating system from a single code base?
You have to be a little bit crazy to be a C-level IT leader.
The CIO or CTO position is a thankless one at best. The only time you’re noticed is when things go wrong. And whether it’s infrastructure, security, or business systems, there are lots of things that can go wrong.
Ever since philosopher and mathematician René Descartes first set quill to paper to draw a line on his newfangled “Cartesian plane” in the 17th century, people have sought ever-cleverer ways to represent data in a pictorial format. The reasons are obvious: A graph, chart, gauge, or map can, at a glance, show important features and trends of a data set that you might miss by poring over tables of numbers. It’s the reason why Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is still considered the bible of data visualization almost 40 years after its first release, and why firms large and small are demanding software “dashboards” showing the real-time health of their businesses.
Do you suffer from any of these symptoms?
The news around machine learning (ML) just keeps getting better, as new and improved tools and techniques become available and more developers (not just computer science PhDs) can gain experience developing ML-based apps. The latest: Apple recently announced the release of the Create ML framework, a set of methods that developers can use to create and train ML models using Apple’s well-known Swift programming environment.
We talk a lot in this blog about programming frameworks and how they help developers do their jobs in various languages. It seems at times that for any given programming language there is an endless list of frameworks available. This is great for us, because it gives us an endless stream of material for the blog.
“Big data”—the gathering, manipulation, analysis, and reporting of data based on one or more data sets that are too large to be managed by traditional means—has had a big problem: Because of the vast quantity of data to be processed, a single computer, or even a high-end virtual or physical server with multiple CPU cores, is not up to the task of processing that much data efficiently. It’s much better to divide the work among several computers or servers operating in parallel.
An old metaphor, intended to explain the concept of “infinity,” states that an infinite number of monkeys, banging away at an infinite number of keyboards, would write code just as well as we humans can, with better commenting.
For much of its history, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies of all kinds have been relegated to computer science laboratories and arcane academic papers. As discussed many times in this space, only recently has the technology, specifically machine learning techniques, advanced to a state where developers at large can experiment with it without requiring a PhD in computer science.
There’s been a good deal of talk, in this blog and elsewhere, about the brave new world of the internet of things (IoT) and how it will transform our personal and business lives. The talk has been accompanied by no small amount of hype, with pundits proclaiming that there will be anywhere from hundreds of millions to trillions(!) of devices connected to the internet in the near future.
Images in apps and web pages are a bit like electricity, or the internet itself: You don’t notice them until they aren’t there. And when they aren’t there, the experience can be unpleasant.
When an image loads slowly or not at all, it’s easy to blame the network connection or the size of the image. However, there’s actually much more to it than that. An app’s ability to load images quickly depends in large part on the efficiency of its image processing routines, which use complex algorithms to load images as fast as possible without degrading image quality.
In the world of software development, enhancements in development tools and platforms tends to be incremental. Certainly, new tools, frameworks, and platforms that ease the job of software development or software project management come along with sometimes mind-spinning regularity, and we have discussed a good number of them in this space. But after that initial release, revolutionary enhancements of those tools in functionality, capability, and ease of use are pretty rare.
In enterprise computing, somewhere between the era of punched-card computers and the rise of the personal computer, there was the heyday of the mainframe and the “dumb terminal”—a keyboard and a monochrome monitor with no graphics capability, no mouse, no speakers, no webcam, no USB anything. One mainframe computer could support a large number of simultaneous users who logged in via these dumb terminals; they neither knew nor cared where the actual computer was located.
A friend recently shared an item on Facebook that described the top 10 developer excuses, including things like “it worked yesterday” and “you must have a virus.” The number one excuse: “It works fine on my machine!”
In his 2014 song “First World Problems,” “Weird Al” Yankovic sings about someone with issues—among them, “my house is so big, I can’t get Wi-Fi in the kitchen.” A first-world problem if there ever was one. We in developed countries take ubiquitous connectivity for granted, so it’s easy to forget that for over half of the world’s population, internet connectivity ranges from slow to nonexistent.
If you have only recently started hearing about Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto, you may be surprised to learn that the technologies have been available since 2014—almost ancient history when it comes to mobile tech. It seems that the technologies have at last become available in enough new car models to make their way into the public consciousness.
A common theme in science fiction is that of robots who are, or somehow become, intelligent enough to have opinions on the way humans are running things; invariably, the opinion is that they don’t much care for it, and they decide as a group to take action in the form of the violent overthrow of their human masters.
By now, you’ve probably started reading and hearing about fifth-generation (5G) wireless networks, how they will enable lightning-fast download speeds and low latency, and how 5G is a disruptive technology that will change everything for everyone everywhere. Oh, and that every mobile carrier is the undisputed leader in 5G technology.
It's wonderful when startups succeed and burst into the limelight, but one of the sad facts of entrepreneurial life is that startup companies often fail. The biggest reason, according to some observers, is lack of a market for the product or service the company is building. But even in those companies that have a compelling idea and large, strong market, startups often fail to deliver a product that lives up to its expectations—or, sometimes, any product at all—before the cash runs out and investors become disenchanted. Many great ideas have withered on the vine for want of a solid product launch.
As you’ve probably gathered by reading this blog, we’re really excited about the future of augmented reality (AR) technology. That’s especially true now that the two biggest mobile ecosystems, iOS and Android, have development kits (ARKit and ARCore, respectively) that enable developers to bring AR apps to the mass market, without having to fuss around learning the science behind AR.
The events of Sept. 11, 2001—as well as those of many large-scale disasters since then—highlighted the shortcomings of the communications systems used by first-responder emergency services agencies. Various police, fire, and emergency medical services personnel operated on different radio communication channels and thus could not share information with each other. Even within agencies, communication channels became overloaded with traffic. It was clear that the traditional network of dispatchers, command centers, vehicle radios, and walkie-talkies was not up to the task, and a better solution was needed.
Johannes Kepler (1571–1630) was, to say the least, a pretty smart guy... in fact, some say he was almost as smart as me. Without the aid of even a dollar-store calculator, he established the physical laws that describe the motion of planets through the heavens. His work predated and inspired Isaac Newton’s development of the theory of universal gravitation.
In ancient Roman mythology, Vulcan was the god of fire and metal smithery. It’s from his name that we get the word “volcano.” Much later, in Star Trek lore, Vulcan was the home planet of First Officer Spock of the starship Enterprise.
We talk a lot about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) here at AndPlus, not only in this blog but also amongst ourselves and with our clients. These two related technologies are poised to spur some truly innovative, useful applications—and not just in the gaming and entertainment worlds.
Ask the average person on the street what IBM does, and you might get a blank stare, or perhaps “Didn’t they do that 'Jeopardy!’ thing a few years ago?” Once a household name whose mainframes, PCs, and typewriters could be found in nearly every large company around the world, IBM has mostly fallen off the pop culture radar in the last few years.
You’d better sit down for this.
Google has officially ended support for Chrome Apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux versions of the Chrome browser. The Chrome App store is no more.
Shocking, isn’t it? Try to contain your disappointment.
If you’ve been in a bank lately, you’ve probably noticed there aren’t many tellers—perhaps two or three at any given time, tops. Many banks now encourage their customers to use ATMs instead for most of their banking needs. (Don’t weep for the bank tellers, though -- because of the phenomenal growth in the number of bank branches, there are actually more bank tellers employed in the U.S. than ever before.)
We’ve talked several times in this space about cross-platform development, mainly with regard to mobile app development. The software project management, business strategy, and marketing advantages of being able to develop one code base and release the app for both iOS and Android at the same time are manifold: quicker time to market, better resource allocation, easier testing cycle, more consistent application look and feel, and more.
Congratulations! You’ve developed, designed, tested, and now launched your app, which excited users have been downloading since the release date. While this is cause for celebration, your work isn’t over yet (is it ever?).
Even though your app has launched, you still need to continue to monitor its performance. Doing so on a consistent basis can help deter users from deleting it, let alone bad mouthing it on review sites.
Still, while you may be a pro in the design and development department, you may be a newbie when it comes to app monitoring—or could benefit from a crash course. Either way, read on to learn about app monitoring basics.
In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been a whole lot of progress in the last couple of years to make it easier for developers to deliver applications that work the same across platforms, across devices, and across browsers. The business of software development, it seems, is finally catching on to the fact that customers want the same experience regardless of hardware and platform choice, and developers don’t want to develop and maintain multiple flavors of the same app.
The results are in. For the second year running, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has recognized the Boston metro area as tops in the nation for startups.
It wasn’t too long ago when developers like us had to build applications for Android and iOS in entirely different environments, with entirely different enginneering teams. This was soon remedied by frameworks such as PhoneGap, Xamarin and React Native. While we've had success with the three in the past, it always felt like they were missing that special something that makes native applications feel... well... native.
The conclusion of this series is posted over o MIT's blog. Click here to read:
I'd like to take a moment to extend my thanks to the MIT Sloan School of Management, their staff and my classmates. Most of all I'd like to thank the boss man, Sean Mahoney who inspires me to continue learning no matter what.
Thanks for reading along! I'll be blogging regularly here and contributing occasionally to the MIT Executive Education blog.
You ever open up instagram ready to consume some Grade-A content but immediately start seeing posts from '5 Days Ago' at the top of your feed? That's because Instagram sucks at algorithms and want to ruin your life.
You ever have a dream about a specific product then about 20 minutes after your REM cycle is over, BOOM it's on your Facebook feed? Yeah that's also an algorithm.
You ever say something out loud then it shows up as an ad everywhere you look. YEP YOU GUESSED IT MORE ALGORITHMS BUDDY.
There’s been a good deal of chatter in recent years about algorithms. This previously esoteric concept has become a household term because algorithms of various sorts are pervading our lives, in often not-so-good ways. There's some useful ones that make our digital experience much better though, for example: Google’s algorithms that determine what sites show up on that all-important first page of search results are closely guarded secrets and the subject of much speculation among search engine optimization experts. Amazon and Netflix use algorithms to make recommendations based on your past viewing or buying selections. The list goes on...and on and on and onnnnnn.
Quick note: this is the final segment to this series. If you haven't seen all the posts click here to start with the first one. There will be a round-up/reflection post up on MIT's blog soon. I'll keep ya updated.
At AndPlus, we’re pretty excited about recent advances in artificial intelligence, machine learning, and robotics. That’s hardly surprising, considering that we’re a pretty nerdy bunch that digs that sort of thing.... and it's literally our job. Of course, as software engineers, we expect to be designing, developing, and using these technologies in new and creative ways.
Like many industries, healthcare is poised to be revolutionized by the Internet of Things (IoT). We already have the Fitbit and similar devices that incorporate various sensors and work with smartphone apps for fitness monitoring. However, there are many more ways that the medical industry can take advantage of IoT devices, and with good end-to-end development, we can expect to see some innovative systems on the market in the next few years.
Here at AndPlus, both in this blog and in our daily work, we talk a lot about robotics. They may not be quite as awesome as they are in the movies... but we understand their importance in the future of hardware/software integration, a field we specialize in. We believe that the convergence of advanced hardware, standardized software platforms and machine learning will bring about practical, intelligent robots that will help us with many, if not most, aspects of our lives—at home, on the road, in the office, on the factory floor, in the warehouse, and in many other settings.
There’s been a good deal of debate recently in the “knowledge worker” community around whether teleworking is beneficial for the employee, the organization, or both. Teleworking, in case you’re way behind on your LinkedIn feed, is a working arrangement where an employee can work from a remote location (such as home, the beach, a bar, or wherever) instead of coming into the office. Advocates of teleworking (also known as telecommuting) claim that employees can be happier and more productive in this arrangement. Detractors believe it’s a good way for employees to goof off.
Sup y'all Happy New Year! This is part 2 of a series of reflective posts. Missed the first part? No worries click here.
I've rounded out 2017 by finishing my first course with MIT's Executive Education program studying the Business Implications of Artificial Intelligence. I'm happy to continue my musings on what I've learned and the discussions that took place with my classmates. This 2nd module focused on Natural Language Processing. What is that? What the heck does it do and why does it matter?? Well let's talk...
In the last couple of years, if you were asked to list the top augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) development companies, the list would have included names such as Google and Oculus, but probably not Apple. But with the recent release of ARKit in iOS 11, Apple is shrewdly making a bid to establish itself as a player in the AR space.
Suppose you run the shipping department for a company that ships products all over the world. You convinced upper management to buy a device for your department that weighs each package and detects its dimensions—width, length, and height—and shows the results on a display on the device’s font panel. All the shipping clerk has to do is read the information and enter it into the company’s shipping software, which calculates the rate and prints the shipping label.
Think, for a moment, about the dashboard in the vehicle you drive. Whether your vehicle is a 1973 AMC Gremlin, a yacht, or a Boeing 747, the characteristics are the same. They all provide:
We’ve all seen examples of bad design in our daily lives: appliances that break on first use, floor plans that are difficult to navigate, and of course, computer software that makes tasks harder, not easier.
Today, it seems that almost every software development organization employing more than one programmer subscribes to the Agile methodology. In fact, it’s difficult to find one that doesn’t. Given its pervasiveness now, it’s hard to remember that only a few years ago, Agile was a newfangled idea that only a few development shops were trying, while others dismissed it as a passing fad or were “waiting to see…”
Even before there were digital images and image editing software, graphic artists had an occasional need to extract an arbitrary shape (such as the outline of a human subject) from an image so that it could be placed in other images. In the days of chemical photography, this involved complex darkroom techniques or even painstakingly cutting things out of paper prints with scissors. Imagine fitting that into your schedule these days!
Science fiction is littered with sentient, omnipresent computers that respond to voice commands. From the fatally flawed HAL 9000 of 2001: A Space Odyssey to the cool, confident Starship Enterprise computer to the snarky, easily distracted Heart of Gold computer in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, humans have imagined anthropomorphic computers that hear all, know all and control all.
As a society, we have grown accustomed to straight-line trajectories for technology: from concept to practical application, relentless performance improvement, and finally to maturity. The internal-combustion engine, personal computer, and smartphone have all followed this path, and have consistently lived up to whatever hype has been generated around them. It’s so common that we forget that not every technology follows this trajectory.
Companies often have excellent in-house staff and resources, but they don’t have the capacity or the skills needed for a particular project. AndPlus is adept at staff and skills augmentation, and we have the results to prove it.
Some things are more art than science. And while software development is definitely a science, testing it has more than a few artistic aspects to the process. Dan Valderrama, QA Engineer at AndPlus, talks about the typical two-week sprint and how the company ensures a quality, shippable product at the end of it.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the inhabitants had access to advanced medical care provided by robots. The Star Wars medical droids had the ability to diagnose and treat their patients with extraordinary knowledge and numerous built-in surgical tools. They had extra added bonus skills in reasoning and communication with their patients—any species from any planet speaking any language. Their bedside manner was, of course, impeccable.
“What!? Can’t you see I’m busy? None of project development's stories are getting done on time and user features are still lagging behind.”
“I‘m sorry, sir. I know you're busy, but Mr. Petrov is on the phone. He says he may be able to help.”
“Sergei Petrov, our contact in Moscow.”
“Oh, that's unexpected. What’s he want?”
“He said it’s for your ears only. And it’s terribly important. Something about the MoSCoW method.”
You’ve read a number of articles in this space about different types of machine learning, with a high-level view of how they work and the types of technologies that machine learning will enable in the future. “But,” you’re thinking, “What are some of the ways machine learning is being applied right now, to do useful work outside the laboratory?”
Let’s say your latest iOS app (discussed earlier in this space) that you've worked on so hard took off. It’s off the charts at the Apple store and you’re raking in the dough, $1.99 at a time. Great! But here’s the bad news: By not having an Android version on the market as well, you are doing the following:
First there were the VCR wars (VHS vs. Betamax—look it up if you’re too young to remember). Then there were various game console wars (Atari vs. Intellivision, Sega vs. Nintendo, Xbox vs. PlayStation), browser wars (Mosaic vs. Netscape, Netscape vs. Internet Explorer, Internet Explorer vs. Firefox vs. Chrome…), and mobile platform wars (iOS vs. Android). You’d think that, as a society, we’d be getting tired of these belligerent metaphors. In case we’re not, here’s another one: The cross-platform mobile development framework wars, pitting React Native vs. Xamarin. It’s a bit esoteric to begin with and doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, so it’s unlikely to become meme fodder. Thankfully.
Remember when “surfing the web” was a thing? The very phrase seems as antiquated as the dial-up modems we used for that purpose. Once the novelty of the World Wide Web wore off, we as a society spent less time following random links and started more purpose-driven Internet activities, such as shopping for books, buying airline tickets, and meeting people in “chat rooms.”
At AndPlus, we work hard to find the right software solutions to problems experienced by our clients. “When Phoenix Controls identified that the old control system used for their valve wasn’t very functional, they turned to us for answers,” says Max Grayer, a technical architect at AndPlus. “We created a touchscreen controller that displays critical data such as room occupancy, room offset, temperature and air changes per hour.”
Software developers are a funny bunch. Not necessarily “ha ha” funny—you don’t see many developers on the stand-up comedy circuit—but they have certain peculiarities. Although they are generally amenable to learning new things, such as shopping for books, buying airline tickets, and meeting people in “chat rooms.” Witness, for example, the great struggles some development teams had when switching from procedural to object-oriented programming.
Imagine, if you will, a world in which you can do, in a car, all the things you’re not supposed to do while driving: talking on your phone, texting, watching “Laverne and Shirley” reruns, putting on makeup, playing the trombone, etc. You will be able to do those things because you won’t actually be driving the car; the car will drive itself to your destination.
Just ask anyone who owns an iPhone: You will learn that it is humankind’s greatest invention, better than fire, the wheel, agriculture and espresso combined. And it’s the only item on the planet worthy of camping out for—for days on end—to get the latest version.
If you buy into the hype, you might believe an army of intelligent robots is on the march RIGHT NOW, coming to TAKE YOUR JOB.
Lately the term "Machine Learning" gets kicked around like a hackysack in a stoners basement. It's becoming a ubiquitous buzzword because it really is exciting technology that's finally making its way into our lives, but a large majority of the buzz is nothing more than lazy marketing. Apple is one of the tech giants that's bringing machine learning into the mainstream in effective and even mindblowing ways.
The terms “greenfield project” and “brownfield project” are used in many industries besides IT, and usually the meaning is the same: greenfield describes a completely new project that has to be executed from scratch, while a brownfield project is one that has been worked on by others and is now being handed off to someone else for completion. In many instances, brownfield also indicates some type of contamination, which could make finishing the project more challenging.
Cloud computing has been a trendy topic for years. Today the industry is riddled with competition, and consumers have multiple options to choose from. Prices have decreased, while quality has improved as a result of competition in the market. Companies like AWS, Google Cloud and Azure have been advancing their technologies dramatically in an attempt to get ahead. Here’s where cloud computing stands in 2018.
As the Summer of 2017 comes to a seemingly abrupt halt, my time at AndPlus is over... for now at least! For the past three months I have been an Intern working on machine learning, computer vision and artificial intelligence research. Throughout this experience I’ve had the chance to work on various machine learning projects with a number of full time employees here at AndPlus.
We’ve all been told that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but any competent dog trainer will tell you that most old dogs can indeed be taught new tricks, when properly motivated and rewarded. For a real teaching challenge, try teaching a computer to reliably identify a Chesterfield couch (or any couch, for that matter) in a photograph.
Ever since iOS and Android established themselves as the two dominant mobile platforms, app developers have had to make a choice: If you’re going to create an app with both Android and iOS versions, which do you work on first? “Both” has never been a viable option, because developing for each platform is sufficiently different that precious little code can be shared between the two. This means that app development takes twice as long as it should, sometimes longer. In an environment where speed to market can determine commercial success or failure, this state of affairs is a major handicap.
Great engineering doesn't mean compromising on excellent design. In many technological developments, however, the functions of design and engineering are far removed from each other. The design component fulfills the esthetic requirements, but the most critical requirement for a successful app is its functionality and how well it contributes to delivering what the user needs. Let’s look at what the two concepts are and how they can be meshed for the ideal customer experience.
The exciting Summer of 2017 at AndPlus is coming to an exceptionally fun close as we find out that we are now ranked as Clutch.co's top mobile development agency in Boston. Between shipping quality products for our customers and publishing our first machine learning research paper, the AndPlus team is ecstatic to be Boston's leading software development company. Great design & engineering with a transparent and honest process has all culminated in the top spot on the prestigious websites ranking system.
We’re so used to hearing new business “buzzwords” every so often that it has become easy to ignore them. Innovation is a word that’s been around for some time, which refers to developing and implementing new or more effective products, processes and ideas.
Two remarkable developments in the last year represented the brilliant (or unholy, depending on your perspective) union of two inexorable trends: mobile apps and virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR). One was the release of the insanely popular Pokémon Go smartphone app, which brought augmented reality to cartoon character hunters of all ages. The other was Google Cardboard and the virtual reality content that can be played on it, giving anyone with a few bucks, a smartphone, and some free time a taste of the virtual reality experience.
“Artificial intelligence.” “Artificial neural networks.” “Machine learning.” “Deep learning.” “Computer vision.” “Statistical pattern recognition.” There has been a whole lot of artificial intelligence terminology thrown about recently because of the accelerating pace of advancement in the field. These aren't just silly buzzwords we use to sound cool (well, not always). To the uninitiated, all the terms tend to sound alike, and many of them have been used more or less interchangeably in the popular press. However, there are subtle differences, and in this blog I'll sort a few of them out for you.
Most professional software development shops, AndPlus included, have adopted some variation of the Agile development methodology. Among the most important concepts in Agile is that of the product backlog, which is simply a list of items (front-end features and under-the-hood tasks) that need to be implemented in the software product.
Futureproofing software designs and user experience minimizes the risk of ending up with obsolete programs and outdated apps. It’s a challenge facing all software development companies, but by keeping up with trends it's possible to anticipate and prepare for changes in requirements and include them in the planning.
Here are some of the issues we expect to see, and what we’re doing to address them.
We did it! After a summer of filling up every whiteboard in the building with linear algebra, matrices and illegible scribble, our first machine learning paper is DONE!
The Innovation Lab team at AndPlus consists of any employee who wants to create software with up and coming tech. We primarily focus on machine learning, artificial intelligence and computer vision. Andrew Huang, Hirsh Agarwal, and Abdul Dremali (me!) have taken the resources provided by AndPlus and published our very first paper.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: “Virtual reality is coming, and it’s going to be so cool! It’s going to change everything! It’s…”
OK, yes, you have heard it before. So much so that, like the neighbors of the little boy who cried “wolf,” you might not believe it anymore.
So you can be excused if you’re a bit dubious about new claims that virtual reality (VR) is just around the corner and will have all this compelling content and useful applications. Every time these claims have been made, the actual results have been disappointing at best and stomach-churning at worst.
For as long as most of us can remember, we have interacted with our computers via some variation on the theme of the graphical user interface (GUI), keyboard, and pointing device. The advent of touch-sensitive displays, and their popularization via smartphones and tablets was not really a radical departure. It eliminated the mouse and clumsy stylus sure, but there seems to be obvious missing piece.
All of that may change sooner than you think. Augmented reality and virtual reality are rising in popularity as the tech continues to advance.
Companies are progressively realizing that IT and software have a critical role in their business strategies, and this makes it essential to align a custom software program with business goals across the organization. Before engaging in a development project, it’s important to have a clear idea of how the new software will support their strategic objectives in the long term. This enables us to understand the larger, operational context of the project, and helps at project level to spot potential roadblocks. JD Roger, project manager, explains how AndPlus works with prospective clients to ensure that we do just that.
By this time, you’ve probably heard a whole lot of thought, talk, and speculation about the coming revolution in intelligent machines, from self-driving cars and other robots to facial recognition systems andmore. It’s not just science fiction anymore. We really are gettingcloser to a new reality where it will be harder to tell the difference between “natural” and “artificial” intelligence.
In the past few years, the term “outsourcing” has accumulated some unpleasant baggage, becoming associated with the idea of eliminating domestic jobs and shipping the work to much cheaper overseas providers. Worse yet, the quality of the products and services of these “outsourced” resources is often regarded as inferior to what was provided domestically.
At some point in the recent past, you may have heard someone mention the term “API.” You probably recalled hearing this term before, and had some idea of what it meant. Perhaps you nodded knowingly, making a mental note to look it up when you got back to your desk. Maybe you followed up on it, or maybe you were distracted by the coffee brewing in the break room. It happens.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) is everywhere now, from headphones to peripherals to advanced medical instruments. Being hailed as a game-changer by the industry, it’s a wireless personal area network that is able to send data short distances with low energy consumption. BLE was built specifically to power the Internet of Things, and its ability to operate using minimal energy makes it suitable for devices running for long periods of time on batteries or energy-harvesting equipment. Inexpensive and easy to work with, BLE’s adaptable architecture offers developers unlimited potential.
The Internet is a powerful tool for commerce, enabling organizations and individuals around the world to do business with each other. We are now able to engage in cross-border trading in goods and services in ways that were cumbersome or impossible just a few years ago.
Picking a software development shop is a bit like buying a used car. With a used car, you have certain features in mind, but you can’t special-order anything; you have to select from what’s available. Similarly, all software development shops have their strengths and weaknesses, and you usually can’t cherry-pick parts from different shops to assemble a team. You have to see what’s available and evaluate them on what they bring to the table.
New trends in web technologies have made high performing, fully functional web applications a reality. The days of stand-alone desktop applications are long gone, and there’s no longer the requirement for users to download bulky software.
“One size fits all” has never been a great concept, and in the business computing environment it can be particularly limiting. Every business has specific challenges, and it’s impossible for generic solutions to be a perfect fit for every company. That means off-the-shelf software applications created for typical scenarios usually can’t compete with custom software, which is developed to address a company’s specific needs, but they are often chosen because of the belief that it’s complex and costly to tailor-make a program. What business owners don’t always note, however, is the effect custom software has on a business and the benefits it brings to the table.
The world has long needed a method of creating secure, unalterable digital records. Developed in 2008 to form the backbone of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, blockchain is a digital ledger technology that fills this gap. It stores data in records called blocks using a decentralized structure, which enables users to make secure online transactions or value exchanges.
Admit it: When you read “MVP” in the title of this article, you thought “most valuable player." Huh? Sorry to disappoint, but in this context, MVP has nothing to do with sports and everything to do with the success of a software development project. In software development, MVP stands for minimum viable product.
Finding the right software development firm for your business can be challenging, and it’s often easier to identify what you don’t want in a vendor than what you do. If you’re experiencing any of these issues with your current service provider, it might be time to consider looking for a new one.
Hint: We mayyyyy know a team that specifially avoids these pitfalls.
Inexperienced users routinely get confused between web development and web design, and that’s understandable because of the fine line separating them. Both functions are equally important to a successful website, so we’re going to unpack the terms for you to create a deeper understanding of each.
In the fast-paced world of the internet, trends come and go, but one thing remains constant: Developers relentlessly pursue new and improved tools to do their work better and faster, with fewer bugs. Developers depend on modern web development toolkits the same way carpenters or plumbers rely on what’s in their toolbags, and they tend to gravitate towards the newest ones in pursuit of more capability, better usability, and faster development cycles.
When you commission an artist to create a painting or sculpture, typically you own the end product when it’s finished, to do with as you like. The artist can’t come back a year later and take it back. If you have a custom-designed house built for you, it’s the same thing: You—not the builder—own the house.
Even before there was such a thing as a digital computer, science fiction authors and other dreamers imagined sentient machines that could see and understand what they saw. Just the “seeing” part—identifying objects in an image—has proven to be one of the thorniest problems in computing. However, with recent advances in machine learning, we are now a step closer to realizing that goal: Google has released its Google Photos Cloud Vision API for developers everywhere to use.
From an application-development standpoint, one of the shortcomings of HTML is the fact that it is, first and foremost, a markup language, not a programming language. Although HTML5, the latest version, lends itself more to interactivity than previous versions, it is still mostly about presentation and not so much about applications.
Perhaps you’ve decided your company needs a flashy mobile app or a slick web application. Or maybe you need something more mundane, such as a hardware driver for a device prototype. Whatever the case, you have contacted several contract developers and received software development quotes that vary widely in both price and detail.
At AndPlus, we are firm believers in building a minimum viable product (MVP). One of the best ways to make sure your contract software developer is going in the right direction with your project is to see an early prototype—the earlier the better. A thoroughly documented requirements specification is important in end-to-end development, but it’s all rather abstract and conceptual until you can see something on-screen.
The term quant means a few different things; short for “self-quantifier,” or Quantitative, More commonly the latter. It is a relatively new buzzword that you will be hearing a lot of soon, if you haven’t already. Quants are people who measure all kinds of metrics about their given industry, from health to business trends. The quant movement has gained momentum recently, enabled by technological advances in smartphones and sensor devices such as exercise monitors, heart-rate monitors, sleep monitors, and other gadgets.
Your business is different. Even though you have competitors in the same industry, the way you do things makes you unique, and using off-the-shelf software simply isn’t the right option for everyone. When you’re facing the build-vs-buy decision, challenging questions arise that can often be answered only by fully exploring your options. If you decide custom software offers you the most efficient system, here’s how to go about choosing a software shop to develop a distinctive solution for your company that will take you to the top of your game.
The debate rages on, in the technical press, mass media, social media, and philosophical circles, as to whether computers will ever be considered “intelligent,” and whether it would be a good thing if they were. Much of the debate hinges on definitions of what it means to be intelligent and how human-like a machine would have to be before it was considered intelligent. Arguments aside, much progress has been made in recent years on two technologies that together bring us closer to the goal of “artificial intelligence” in general, and intelligent robotics in particular: machine learning and computer vision.
Modern product development in general, and software product development in particular, have adopted end-to-end development principles, in which the conceptualization, market analysis, requirements specification, design, building, testing, release, and post-release support and maintenance are managed as a single, well-documented, cross-functional project.
The first two stages—conceptualization and market analysis—are the most important, because together they define the scope of the solution and thus all of the subsequent steps. Perhaps even more important, they determine whether a project should be pursued at all.
“Big data” has generated quite a bit of excitement recently, largely because of its promised ability to solve large business and scientific problems. Organizations large and small are eager to use smart, analytical algorithms to make sense of their large data and obtain useful information about their customers, their competitors, climate change, financial markets, and a host of other topics.
One of the key principles of end-to-end software development is the concept of the user journey. A user journey is a description of how a specific type of user (known as a persona) interacts with a proposed software solution to perform a specific task. (If you’re more old school, you might refer to this approach as a “user story” or “use case.”)
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a good, cross-platform mobile application. It can be built in a few weeks, however, if you have the right tools and experience. When you need a quality, high performance app that works seamlessly on Android, Windows and iOS, Xamarin is a good option to start with. As a fairly young tool, Xamarin uses .NET/C#, native libraries and is based on the Microsoft technology stack. The existing community of more than 1.4 million developers (and growing dramatically!) makes it a safe bet that it’s not going away anytime soon. Quality output begins with quality input, however, which means following the right steps is essential for a successful Xamarin project.
With several years to adjust to using electronic health record software, any lingering problems your hospital is having are likely here to stay.
Instead of forcing hospital staff to continue using electronic health records that don’t work well, it’s time to reevaluate your systems and see if developing new solutions for your electronic health records are right for you.
For patients in remote or rural areas, a stroke can easily cause permanent damage because treatment is too far away or their local hospital doesn’t the equipment or expertise to treat them. But new video conferencing apps for hospitals are dramatically improving the odds of a successful recovery for patients.
With the help of a video conferencing app, specialists are able to treat patients in smaller, underserved areas. Specialists can now share their expertise whenever and wherever it’s needed without smaller hospitals having the expense of keeping a specialist on their staff.
There’s nothing more damaging to a medical company than to spend months developing new features only to have them become obsolete by the time they’re delivered.
Medical companies that use traditional waterfall development processes often see their projects go months over their deadlines, with budgets doubling or even tripling. Often when projects are finally delivered, their intended users no longer need those features or functions. These repeated failures make it nearly impossible to keep getting funds or buy-in from the staff or executives for future projects.
But software development doesn’t have to be a long and expensive process. By moving to an agile software development process, medical companies can more quickly and cost-effectively create software that meets their users’ needs.
Electronic health records are a required part of U.S. healthcare, but this doesn’t mean they have to stand in the way of quality patient care.
With the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act making EHRs a requirement, many healthcare practitioners have spent years learning how to use EHRs. While they’re becoming a familiar part of the healthcare system, they’re still far from perfect.
Hospitals don’t have to be satisfied with a one-size-fits-all EHR. Custom software can take a standard EHR and customize it to better fit the processes and unique needs of every hospital.
The move to EHRs was designed to improve the safety, quality and efficiency of patient care. While some hospitals and physicians’ offices have successfully implemented hospital information system software, many more are struggling.
The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH Act), created in 2009, created a mandate that hospitals and doctors’ offices adopt EHRs by 2018 or face penalties.
They offered incentives for healthcare organizations that could meet “meaningful use” guidelines from 2011-2015. After that, healthcare systems and physicians who didn’t use EHRs or couldn’t show that they met Meaningful Use standards would face penalties.
More than half of the doctors who bill Medicare are facing penalties of 1 percent of their 2015 payments because of a failure to comply with Meaningful Use, according to Dr. Steven J. Stack, president of the American Medical Association.
This legislation, combined with the Affordable Care Act, makes it critical that hospitals can access and analyze patient data, including population health data, healthcare costs and readmission rates.
Mention the EHR adoption process to a physician and you’re likely to hear a groan. After spending much of the past five years implementing the electronic medical health records software, many will say it’s still not living up to its goals.
The push to adopt EHRs is being driven by the U.S. government in an effort to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of patient care. By implementing an approved EHR, hospitals and physicians will increase care coordination, protect patient privacy and improve the overall health of the community, according to an article on HealthIT.gov.
Faced with a barrage of regulations, a growing case load and a lack of effective technology, even the most dedicated physician can feel like they’re not able to deliver the quality of patient care they’d like.
Medicare’s readmission penalties are hitting a new high over the next year, according to an article on Kaiser Health News. More than half of the hospitals in the U.S. are facing Medicare penalties, making monitoring patients and improving their compliance with medication and other treatments more important than ever.
Couple this potential loss of Medicare payments and a hospital’s already tight budget, and physicians are feeling the pressure to not only quickly diagnose and treat patients, but also to ensure they follow their care plans.
One of the most important tools for any healthcare provider isn’t his or her knowledge of the latest medical breakthrough - it’s their ability to listen and communicate effectively with their patients.
While it seems like a simple skill, communication (and the lack thereof) is at the core of many serious patient care issues.
Poor doctor-patient communication has been linked to increased malpractice risk, lack of patient compliance with treatment plans, poor health outcomes and dissatisfaction for both patients and their healthcare providers, according to an article on the Institute for Healthcare Communication’s website.
Few healthcare providers are receiving training on effective communication, making it clear why this remains an issue in healthcare.
Read on to learn more about improving communication and the benefits healthcare providers can realize by strengthening their communication skills.
The global medical device market is booming, with sales reaching $381 billion in 2015, according to Kalorama Information.
Many companies are jumping into the market, creating software and mobile apps for use with the wide variety of devices on the market. Mobile apps and software are changing the face of healthcare, putting more information and control into the hands of users.
Popular medical apps such as MyChart and ZocDoc are driving demand for innovative ways to manage healthcare needsand the market is only expected to grow.
There’s a growing divide between technology that enables healthcare providers to do their jobs better and technology that creates an obstacle between a physician and great patient care.
Healthcare technology has gotten a lot of attention in recent years with the mandated use of electronic medical records. Add this to the growing app culture and you can see how important it is to introduce the right technology that helps - not hinders - physicians looking to deliver a higher quality of care.
Hospitals and healthcare groups are rolling out hospital information systems in an attempt to streamline every facet of their operations, from medical to administrative. But too often these systems are contributing to the problems they’re supposed to be addressing.
Implementing the right medical technology platform can dramatically improve not only a hospital’s internal operations, it can also streamline patient care and improve patient satisfaction.
Clinical decision-making has changed drastically in recent years. An influx of information, available to patients via the web, mobile apps, and distributed information, has made it crucial for HCPs to adopt modern ways to service their customers that are seeking better quality care from their physicians.
Whether it’s for quick emoji replies or useful function key access, the new MacBook Pro Touch Bar provides the end user with endless possibilities to boost productivity. The OLED strip just above the new MacBook’s keyboard provides a fully customizable touchscreen interface that changes depending on the context of the active application.
If commercial flight put everyone on Earth within reach, technology has set each of us on one another's doorsteps. It's now possible to collaborate with others across the country or around the world as effectively as you can with the people in the next office. What that means for businesses is that they are no longer held hostage to the service providers in their city. Using technology, you can hire and work with developers anywhere in the world.
What are the pros and cons of hiring developers in remote locations, as opposed to those in close proximity? Let's explore.
If you think an MVP is the most valuable player in the Super Bowl, you haven't been introduced to the Minimum Viable Product in relation to a software system. Minimum Viable Product, or MVP, is the most basic version of a product that has only enough of the essential features to be marketed. Through this early marketing, the company can glean valuable insight from early adopters, which then guides the development of the fully-featured product. Inevitably, the final product is far better because of that input.
When it comes to adopting medical technologies, healthcare has acted swiftly and decisively. But when it comes to adopting technologies to improve their own business operations, hospitals and other medical organizations have been rather slow. This is understandable in an environment where money is tight and patient care is critical, but it's also slowed down the advancement of medical software development.
Even after Apple's iPhone exploded in popularity upon release, there was still this prevailing idea that apps were not to be taken serious. "Software" was a term that described a productivity suite like Microsoft Office. You could use it to create word documents. It could create spreadsheets. It could help you craft that next big multimedia presentation that you were about to give in front of the entire office.
The IoT is revolutionizing the world. It is making a tremendous impact across numerous industries and sectors, including manufacturing and supply chain management, insurance, banking, energy, agriculture, and more. However, its impact is perhaps nowhere more obvious and compelling as in healthcare. During a time of enormous challenges (tight budgets, even tougher regulations), the IoT is helping to improve patient care while simultaneously lowering costs. Here's how.
Victor Conesa is Product Manager at Justinmind, where he uses his business, tech and UX experience to refine and promote Justinmind's interactive prototyping tool.
There are well over 5 million apps available at the top app stores (Google Play, Apple App Store, Windows Store, Amazon Appstore, and BlackBerry World). Yet, less than .01 percent will be successful to any real degree. What does that tell us? Does it mean developers just aren't that good? Nope. Does it say there is no chance for an outsider to break into mobile development? Not at all. It simply means that the mobile app development world must rethink how apps are developed and brought to market. Here's how.
Any software used to enable a medical device for use on human patients in the United States is subject to FDA medical software compliance regulations.
Agile or waterfall?
What is the best way to develop custom software? Agile is like the cool new kid in school. All the popular start-ups are doing it. Definitely very “lean.” But why?
Agile is easier and has less risk than other software development methods. How? It is collaborative. It is “plain English,” not techie speak. It is transparent and removes “the black box” from software development. Agile provides value quickly. And it is very flexible.
Agile software development is a flexible framework, that is implemented through a set of methods and practices.
What steps should you be taking to ensure your agile software project is a success?
In this post, we share the 6 step methodology that we use at AndPlus to implement the Agile software approach.
There is one surefire way to tell if you are dealing with an amateur app developer or a seasoned pro. The amateur will almost always insist that they can do all of their research, testing, and release of an app with a stellar user experience(UX) out of the gate, the first time.
We've all seen it. Applications that are so overloaded with features that what should be extraordinarily simple becomes overwhelmingly complex. This isn't just complicated software, such as Photoshop, which has excellent reasons for its complexity. It's apps that should be relatively easy to learn and use, but aren't, because there are just too many features to make sense of it all. That's feature bloat. Feature bloat hogs unnecessary system resources, adds to the cost of app development, and deliver no incremental benefit. Feature bloat also makes a relatively straightforward app become infuriatingly complicated for some people to use.
If you thought the only Moscow was the capital and most populous city in Russia, you'd be only half right. For web and mobile app developers, MoSCoW is also a system for prioritizing what features and functionality to include in an app development project.
A quick scroll through most any app's feedback on pretty much any app store out there reveals the truth: people are schizophrenic. For every, "Great app! Love it!" you'll get five, "I hate this app! It's garbage!" comments. It can be difficult to determine which comments you actually need to pay attention to and learn how to turn user feedback into useful fodder for actually improving your app (and your reputation as a developer). Here's how an app developer can prioritize and implement user feedback for inevitable success.
The most efficient, effective way to get your app to be downloaded and used by the general population is to make it available in the Google Play Store. Though the competition there is intense (there are more than 1.3 million apps there competing for downloads), it is the biggest market (by far), and actually makes it easier for developers to get their apps accepted than some of the competing app stores do.
From 1967 through 1976, eight-inch floppy disks were the latest and greatest thing. That was before Apple computers was even founded, before Jimmy Carter became President, and before the world even had home video consoles or personal computers. Many of today's generation don't even realize that the reason they called the old, hard-cased 3.5 inch discs "floppy discs" is that the original 8-inch and 5.25-inch discs were, in fact, floppy, if you held them up and waved them around. That was a long time ago.
Are you a small to mid-sized business looking to build your perfect application or software? Where do you start?
Building an app for Android devices gives you access to a far larger potential market than developing for just Apple devices. However, developing Android apps comes with great challenges, simply because of the vast array of different devices, screen sizes, specifications, and other variables of Android devices. This is even more of an issue now that there are so many popular Android tablets to be sure your app works on, in addition to the array of smartphones out there. Here's how to be sure your app is thoroughly tested across the Android universe.
Not all software development projects meet their intended goals. In fact, the bigger they are, the harder they fall. Some go over budget, are not delivered at the specified time, or are not suitable for their intended purposes once delivered. How can your company assure that the project will be a success? The key to a successful development project is evaluation. Evaluation should be both the first and the final steps in any custom development project.
Nobody is arguing that there isn't room for improvement in TSA's processes. Anyone who's waited in line for hours upon endless, wasteful, boring, frustrating hours to pass through security and make it to a flight on time knows that there has to be a better way. But the 'cure' the TSA blundered upon is inarguably not that better way.
Ready to develop an app for your business and distribute it via the immensely popular Apple App Store? Awesome! Let's get started.
First, you'll need to read about all of the required technical specifications. There are also guidelines regarding content, as well as some limitations on the design of the app. The Apple App Store guidelines are conveniently broken up into 22 separate sections, varying in length. Keep in mind that, due to the sheer volume of apps that Apple receives regularly and the complexity of the guidelines the App Store requires, many apps will be rejected upon the first submission.
Mobilegeddon. That's the sensational name that Google endowed its April 2015 algorithm update with - so named because it was designed to reward sites that work well with mobile devices and, conversely, punish those that are not designed to offer mobile users the optimal experience. That's how crucial mobile is to today's Internet.
Once you decide to build a custom software, you need to determine how you’re going to build it. Hiring a software development team is your best bet, especially if you’re a small to medium sized business.
Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, a content marketing and social media firm. She's written three business books, and blogs about small business on sites including Forbes, AllBusiness, and The Marketing Eggspert Blog.
In the software and IT world, you hear a lot about the miraculous cures of the Agile process. It's the fix for projects that get off the rails. It's the solution for long-winded meetings that accomplish nothing. But Agile is the next thing since sliced bread...only if it works.
“How do you go about getting a price on an app like this?”
“What information can I gather that will help you put a price tag on this for me?”
These are the types of questions we hear every day from people looking to build mobile apps and custom software. It’s common that this is their first time buying custom software. And we know it can be a scary process.
As an IT executive, you may not have the resources or the manpower to immediately handle every small business problem related to technology that arises. Consequently, you might have plenty of small issues that need to be resolved before they develop into larger problems. Here are some common small business technology headaches and tips that will help you resolve them quickly and efficiently.
No matter which niche or industry your business belongs to, chances are you need to purchase software for some aspect of operations. For example, you may need software to handle the finances of your business or to track the results of your marketing campaign. While off-the-shelf software seems attractive, custom software is usually best choice for businesses, as it is developed to meet their specific needs.
Are you writing a technical requirements document for a software development project? You better brew another pot of coffee. Not only are requirements documents a time consuming and tedious task, they also require a good deal of technical knowledge from the author and honestly, aren't very fun to write.
AndPlus was recently ranked among the best Boston app development companies by independent ratings and review firm, Clutch. The rankings feature hundreds of firms, but AndPlus stands out as a firm that focuses on complex and serious app development, serving clients looking for the highest-quality outcomes. The list of app development agencies includes criteria from references and reviews, customer feedback, and market presence.
The product owner is the person who is responsible for a software product on behalf of their company. The key to building a successful product is having a product owner who understands the product, the products users and their role in shaping the product for their users. In this blog I'll discuss how a influential a product owner is when building a piece of custom software.
After the completion of a sprint, there are two Agile activities that occur - the sprint review and the sprint retrospective. In this post we'll be covering why the sprint review and why it is so important.
At first glance, a sprint review could be viewed as a show and tell for the developers to show off what they completed in the previous sprint. But, if you dig a little deeper, you find that it is one of the most important meetings in the agile process. A sprint review drives the incremental development of the entire product.
Test Driven Development is the idea that by writing the tests for software before the implementation of any executable code, we can ensure maximal test coverage and code quality. The following blog outlines the process of test driven development as a how-to/guide, as well as benefits to a test driven development process.
When developing mobile applications for our clients, a common question asked during the scoping process is "Should we build a native application or explore a cross platform solution?". The answer isn't always a simple one and usually starts with "Well it depends on...". While there are definitely some trade offs in developing a cross platform mobile application compared to a native app, there are also some benefits.
In this blog I'll discuss what a native app is, what a cross platform app is, and the advantages and disadvantages of both. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
You have an important custom software project. Maybe it is a new mobile application. Or perhaps it's a web application for customers and employees. You have done the hard part. Researched potential vendors. Received input from others who have done this before. Solicited proposals and chosen your new software development partner. You are ready to go. And you want the project to start strongly and give you confidence that you made the right decision.
So what does a "good kickoff" feel like? At AndPlus, we have kicked off hundreds of custom software projects over the years. In our experience, there are 3 important things needed to have confidence in your project right from the start.
Agile is a collaborative approach to building custom software. Not only is collaboration important to the development team (with approaches like swarming and paired programming), it is also critical across all groups involved in the development process.
The Agile software development process may seem complicated at first. But when you look more closely, there are 4 key areas to focus your attention. These include:
What is a user story?
A user story is the building block of the agile development process. Agile user stories normally follow a specific format – As a (role), I want (some goal) so that (some reason) – but more importantly open up a series of conversations about desired functionality within a piece of software.
As businesses have continued to integrate mobile applications to improve core business functions, they have also begun to incorporate mobile applications for use behind the scenes, in the form of building automation applications. Today’s building automation systems have advanced far beyond the HVAC-centric systems of the past, handling such functions as lighting, security and safety. All of these functions can now be handled by facility and building managers using a mobile device such as an iPhone or Android handset.
Measuring success is the final critical step in implementing a mobile control application. There are often obvious metrics regarding efficiency improvements (often supported with time and motion studies) and corresponding cost improvements. Or perhaps inventory management or repair time metrics. However, there can be other important metrics. Budget for the project is critical. And that means having a clear understanding of when the project is “done.” The timeline of when users actually interact with the application.
The User Interface enables a person to interact with the application. The User Experience is how the user feels after he or she is done using the interface. This is often thought to be the most high profile and exciting step in developing the application. Users and project resources begin to see the result of the hard work and implementation.
Now that the relevant discussions have been had regarding data management and use cases, the project team can begin to determine the technologies, platforms, and implementation details which will provide a solution within the boundaries identified in the previous steps.
The architect plays a key role in this step because they factor in the requirements of the current project and also where the application is likely to expand post-project. Engineers have the role of writing code in ways that solve the problems defined by the use cases. They also must ensure that they code in a way that can benefit customers later by easily accommodating expansion to the application.
On the surface, this provides a great opportunity for a unified experience across Android, iPhone, and other major platforms; but it also includes a bit of performance degradation since layers are added above the system level to support the additional common code bases. As you can see, there are often trade offs with decisions regarding application architecture and technologies utilized. It is important that the use cases, approach to data management, and overall problem statement are supported by the architecture decisions that are made.
Data integrity is the #1 focus in this step. Lost data is absolutely inexcusable. Every project stakeholder and production resource needs to ensure that they’re focused on a quality approach to data access and management.
An analogy would be the postal service. There’s standard mail; it requires a stamp, and you only know that it was delivered when the recipient tells you that it was delivered. If the mail didn’t get there, there’s really no way of knowing where that piece of mail is, what happened to it, and if you’re ever going to get it back. Sometimes the mail is a little bit more important and you need to verify that the mail was delivered. In these cases, we have opportunities to verify the delivery by using certified mail, FedEx, UPS, etc.
In mobile control applications, we need to make sure that we’re thinking of our user data being delivered to our information systems in the same way that we think of our mail. It’s important to ensure that our user’s data is not lost in transit. For this, there are mechanisms that ensure that it gets delivered. These include response based transits, API level authentications, and other low level socket communication protocols. These ensure that we never lose data.
Automation and control systems often produce and use data differently than other application types. Many times, there is risk of information overload.For example, If we are using a text-message based delivery of information for controls that are delivering information 5 times a second, that’s going to be too much information for people that have these devices in their pocket. It’d be pretty overwhelming to these users, and not exactly a very good use case.
Some controls measure data information thousands of times a second, and it would literally
be impossible to send all this data to mobile or tablet devices as it comes in. In these cases, we need to develop business logic algorithms which report only the changes in data that would require user interaction.
Many projects will often not invest the time necessary, or sometimes even completely skip, this step. In our experience, it is one of the most important ones on our list. Use cases define how the end product will be used.
The important first step for adding mobility is to clearly define the problem you are trying to
solve. We always want to start with the end in mind. Defining the comprehensive, measurable
problem statement sets the foundation for discussion among the key stakeholders on how the
problem can be solved.
There is a growing trend to add mobile to automation and control systems. Companies across industries are realizing the benefits of cost savings, efficiency, and safety.
Walking through your local mall, you would find it nearly impossible to see somebody using a iPhone or Android smartphone. But tell me this; How many Windows Phone have you seen out in the wild? One or Two? None? If it goes Microsoft's way, this will soon change.
I remember the first phone i ever had with a camera on it; an LG VX 8300 flip phone. The ability to take
awful photos with my phone gave me the power that at any place or anytime, I could capture a photo of myself, my friends or my surroundings and send it instantly to my friends. It was pretty cool.
School is back in session. In the past few years one thing has become very clear. Backpacks are shrinking.
As the world is slowly unchaining themselves from their desks and becoming more reliant on mobile computing, most companies are beginning to realize the necessity of creating a way to reach their customer in this new mobile world. Some companies are turning to mobile websites, which are in essence a condensed version of the companies full website modified to display nicely on your phone. Other companies are developing mobile applications that are made to utilize features of your phone for added usability (like the GPS, accelerometer, camera, etc…) and also create a unique user experience that mobile websites can’t deliver.
The verdict is in. Samsung has been ordered to pay Apple one billion dollars for infringing upon several of Apples software and design innovations.
I'm sure by now everyone has heard of NFC technology. With 30 million NFC equipped phones shipped in 2011, and an expected 700 million phone equipped with NFC to be shipped by 2016, NFC technology is proving to be here to stay. With companies, such as Google, Samsung and (eventually) Apple, backing NFC technology with chips within their handsets, it's becoming seemingly obvious that this technology is just getting started. More importantly is that these companies are giving consumers a way to use the NFC chips built into their phones.
We've discussed in the past how businesses are using mobile applications and cell phone attachments to receive payments from customers using credit cards, but today we are going to be talking about the opposite of that. I'm sure by now, if you have a finger on the pulse of the technology industry, that you have heard of Google Wallet. Well Google Wallet is really starting to show its worth now that more Android phones are packing NFC technology. So lets take an in depth look at what Google Wallet is all about.
There are hundreds of thousands of mobile apps in app stores. Some of them are completely useless. Others, are fun and entertaining. And a few are helpful in your professional life.
Ten years ago, the term 'mobile applications' meant very little to the general population. Today, there seems to be a mobile application to do just about anything. From personal banking to tracking ones health. You can do just about anything using mobile applications ...even hail a cab.
When I was a kid, the closest thing I did to learning during summer vacation, was create an erector set machine to get my baseball back from the other side of the fence. Or was that the movie 'The Sandlot' (2 minutes and 10 seconds in). Either way, back then things were different. Kids played outside from early in the morning until the sun went down. There were no cellphones, iPads, or internet. But today, kids social lives revolve around the internet. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children 8-18 spend 7 1/2 hours a day in front of one form of media. An even crazier stat, Kaiser also found that these kids have found a way to cram in a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes of media content into those 7 ½ hours. So either this new generation of kids have found a way to expand the amount of hours in a day or they are heavily relying on media.
When Apple released Siri last year it was love at first sight for Apple fans. With her helpful answers to some of your daily trivia, her recommendations on where to eat, to her witty replies to users silly questions, Siri sure made a wonderful virtual companion. But soon, Siri may be put into retirement.
Earlier this week I wrote about 4 things to keep in mind when developing enterprise mobile apps. Today i would like to shift my attention to consumer facing apps. While enterprise apps are built for internal use within a company, consumer facing apps are built for anybody. Apps like Nike+, Starbucks Mobile, and the Dominos Pizza are perfect examples of branded mobile applications for customers. They are helpful, useful, and do a great job of expressing each brand. So you want to make an app that creates more engagement with your customers? Here are four things to keep in mind when you develop your consumer facing app.
So your company has finally made the decision to build a mobile app for your mobile workforce. After months of decision making, you finally found the value in creating a mobile app. So what are you waiting for! Build it already! Slow down. Their is more than meets the eye when developing an app. Here are 4 key things to keep in mind when creating a enterprise mobile app for your company.
This list was compiled by AndPlus. AndPlus is a custom software development company specializing in mobile application development and design, mobile web design and development, and custom software solutions to meet the changing needs of your business.You can contact us at www.AndPlus.com or on Twitter @AndPlusllc.
It's a well known fact that PC users usually spend anywhere from 100 to 500 dollars less on their computer than Mac users. Something people may not be aware of is how Mac users spending habits have transcended from spending more on their computers to spending more on other items. Just this week, Orbitz released information that shows that people who use Apple Inc.'s Mac computers spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels. In turn the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see. Although this is a legitimate business practice, is it ethical? Orbitz has been known to practice some deceptive advertising practices in the past. In October 2011, Orbitz was hit with a $60,000 fine for not displaying all the hidden fees in its airline ticket prices.
This list was compiled by AndPlus. AndPlus is a custom software development company specializing in mobile application development and design, mobile web design and development, and custom software solutions to meet the changing needs of your business.You can contact us at www.AndPlus.com or on Twitter @AndPlusllc.
A recent stroll down Main Street earlier this week took a turn for the worse. I was whistling my way down the sidewalk, sipping a nice cold Ice Coffee from Dunkin Donuts, when my phone started vibrating in my pocket. I quickly switched my ice coffee into my other hand and reached into my pocket to grab my phone. To my chagrin, the condensation from my Dunks Ice coffee left my fingertips slightly slippery, causing my phone to fly out of my hand to about eye level, twirling in a 'you can't catch me' manner and fall screen first to the concrete. Now, a similar scenario has occurred in the past (minus the dramatic details), leaving my phone slightly scratched and scuffed. But this time, as I turned my phone over, I saw small shards of glass trickling from the face of my phone. Crap.
This list of Best Apps for The Family Vacation was compiled by AndPlus. AndPlus is a custom software development company specializing in mobile application development and design, web and mobile web design and development, and custom software solutions to meet the changing needs of your business.You can contact us at www.AndPlus.com or on Twitter @AndPlusllc.
OLED (organic light emitting diodes) isn't a new technology. In the early 1950s, French scientists first observed that organic materials created an electroluminescent light when they applied a high-voltage AC current to the materials. Just in the last 5 years the process for creating and utilizing the technology has exploded. Television manufacturers like Samsung, lighting manufacturers like GE, and electronic manufacturers like Sony have used OLED technology in their products. What sets OLED screens apart from LED, plasma or LCD screens is the fact that LED, plasma and LCD screens all need a light source (lamp) to emit a picture, where with OLED screens, each individual diode emits its own light. This allows the screens to be much thinner and use a lot less power than traditional flat screen technologies. Also, they offer SUPERIOR brightness, viewing angle, response time and contrast ratios. OLED screens also allow you to use different materials to construct the screen itself. They can be constructed with flexible materials to allow all sorts of different screen shapes, sizes and formations. See the video below to get a better idea on what makes OLED so unique.
This list was compiled by AndPlus. AndPlus is a custom software development company specializing in mobile application development and design, web and mobile web design and development, and custom software solutions to meet the changing needs of your business.
An article recently posted on Mashable (in which AndPlus CEO Sean Mahoney was quoted in) spoke about how mobile development companies are making it more affordable for small businesses to have a mobile application developed. It mentioned that not all businesses required diverse and expansive functionality to their mobile app. They need more a lean approach to a mobile app for certain functions that would help them and their customers do business together. These small businesses that are looking to stay engaged with customers through mobile applications, may not know there that mobile developers have tools that they can use in order to develop cheap mobile apps, but still deliver a similar experience as some of the large corporation's mobile applications. Below is a list of the tools that are helping developers keep prices relatively low while still offering an excellent experience for mobile end users. Directly below the list you will find a link to the article which has a quote from our CEO Sean Mahoney!
I'm a huge sports fan. I love basketball, baseball, and football. I'm also a huge technology guy. I might as well have my phone surgically attached to my hand. There are certain times where the two coincide perfectly, for example, fantasy football. But at times I have a hard time finding the news I need on my favorite team (I'm looking at you Celtics) and would love to turn directly to an app for all the information on my team in one place from a reliable team source. A custom mobile application is a great way to give fans information on what is going on with the team at all times. Apps can send out information like:
The world is a mobile world whether businesses are believing it or not. Gartner is predicting that by 2015, 70% of your customer interaction will originate from a mobile device. The shift is real, and companies need to adapt by developing and then executing a mobile strategy. Why is a mobile strategy so important today? Read these facts and I guarantee that developing a mobile strategy will be on top of your to-do list.
It started with the Palm Pilot, the first PDA (Personal Digital Assistant), and has evolved to the iPhones that we have today. For over 25 years people have been using handheld devices to keep organized with their day to day tasks and stay connected when they are away from their desks. Just in the last few years the way that people do business when they are away from their desks is changing. People have shed laptops for easier to carry tablets or smartphones, and have not lost anything in terms of productivity when making the transition from laptop to mobile. Why you ask? The power of the applications being built for mobile devices.
The cell phone revolution is almost 30 years old and to say that it's had explosive growth throughout the years would be an understatement. The first transmitted cell phone call was recorded on October 13, 1983 using a phone that most of us wouldn't recognize as being a cell phone. These early phones were usually part of an automobile system with a trunk mounted radio system that was connected to the front dash control system (the actual phone handset). Satchel units soon followed (Indiana Jones carried one). These satchel units gave portability to the massive units that were once only trunk mounted. Not soon after the satchel units, Motorola introduced the DynaTAC Handheld unit. It was a two pound unit that resembled a brick that could be carried in an attaché case. While this may not have been the ideal situation The evolution toward the pocket phone had begun.
The very first restaurant in the world was opened in Paris in 1765. A tavern keeper, Monsieur Boulanger, served a single dish -- sheep’s feet simmered in a white sauce. (Yum?) The restaurant was different then any other establishment at the time because it's business was primarily centered around the food, while taverns and coffee shops were centered around their respective beverages. Over 200 years after the first restaurant opened, not much has changed in terms of how restaurants attract customers. Restaurants are still centered around their food and they get most of their business from word of mouth. Most restaurants have a website with their menu, address, and phone number. But how do these technologies drive customers to their restaurants? Well....they don't.
If you're new too social media and wondering to your self "How is social media going to help grow my business", then you are in the same boat as many other companies. Social media is becoming the norm for marketers and small business owners as a way to market your company to the world. It has become an integral part of marketing for some of the biggest companies in the world too. Companies like Coca-Cola and Nike use Facebook to engage with their tens of millions of fans, as well as offer customer support to any unsatisfied fans. But companies like Nike and Coca-Cola have fans that are built in to the brand and are eager to engage with them. How is a small business suppose to grow a following of highly engaged fans that not only are interested in what you have to say, but are also fans that will someday be customers.
The newest invention to come out of the king of search is one that is sure to impress any one that lays their eyes on it. Google's augmented reality glasses, codenamed 'Project Glass', are wearable glasses that project certain information pertaining to your environment. The glasses gather information from computer generated input such as a built in video camera that analyzes surroundings, microphone that is used for voice commands, and GPS which is used to gather information about your location, and project it onto your glasses directly into your line of site.
Earlier this week, AndPlus' CEO Sean Mahoney had a chance to sit down with VC Editor for the Boston Business Journal Kyle Alspach, to discuss the types of projects AndPlus has been focusing on, where Sean sees the company going in the future, and a progressive move into the Boston market.
A number of manufacturing systems can potentially benefit from a mobile application. Sales teams that use mobile devices to access CRM ( customer relationship management) systems have found that it increases their efficiency when out of the office, as well as helped them stay in touch with what is going on with each specific order they may have in process. Mobile applications are also helping the workers on the shop floor and in manufacturing plants to keep track of inventory and work in progress on a daily basis. Management has also benefited from mobile applications in terms of staying on top of time critical orders, targeting and resolving problems in production and updating information all in real-time. Inevitably, a manufacturing company would benefit from implementing a mobile application into their business, allowing it to react faster to problems, improve productivity and get better insight into their business whether they are in their office or on the road.
With the new Facebook pages for businesses things have been a little difficult to figure out. Features that were simple to integrate with the old business pages are missing from the new timeline business pages. One of those features that I loved to use was the default landing tab for your Facebook home page. It allowed you to set a custom page that users would see as soon as they looked you up on Facebook. It was great for posting promotions, calls to action and asking fans to like your page.
The business case for developing a dedicated mobile website is strong. Recent research from Aberdeen Group has shown that companies that optimize their websites for mobile devices outperform those that don’t by 80% in terms of increased web traffic. Additionally, these companies achieve a 55% greater increase in the number of repeat visitors.
Mashable - PayPal unveiled its new PayPal Here, a small business mobile payment system. First shown on Thursday, it’s a combination of a free mobile app and thumb-sized card reader, putting a PayPal cash register in the pocket of anybody who wants one.
Times are changing....again. Similar to the early 2000's when it became apparent to small business owners that they needed a website, a new shift in technology is about to affect business owners and how they communicate and interact with consumers, businesses and their day to day activities. Instead of hearing the question "Does your company have a website?" like I'm sure you heard in the early 2000's, you'll be hearing "Does your company have a mobile app?". Businesses, whether small or large, are becoming more mobile and it has become important for business owners to take advantage of the applications available for mobile devices. Mobile apps can be custom made to suit your businesses needs. Whether it be inter office communication, communication with customers such as sending out promotional material, coupons, or other marketing material, or an app that allows a business to track their inventory, we can build an app that helps your businesses day to to tasks.
In the wake of one of the most viral videos to hit the internet, KONY 2012, I decided to examine a few videos and ask the question "What makes a video go viral?". AndPlus' CEO Sean Mahoney would claim that there is a science for a video to become viral, In which I would agree. It takes a few ingredients for a video to become viral. Dynamic Logics, an internet analytics company, studied this topic and concluded that the acronym LEGS can describe what makes a video viral.
Before we get to social media, first consider your website. It most likely includes a wealth of great content like blog posts, white papers, and detailed information about your industry. Many businesses have tailored their sites to meet the exact specifications of their clients who use their sites to find out more information about the product or service being offered. One of the most common problems that business owners have with their websites, however, is converting these viewers to customers.
Google has long prided itself on innovative design that captures the imagination of its users while staying fresh, clean, and useful. Although Google's aesthetic is based on its own unique style, the fundamentals of Google's design are applicable to any website.
Highlight is the forerunner to take the crown at this years SXSW. Highlight is a mobile app that uses your phones GPS to track the whereabouts of you and other Highlight users. If you cross paths with another Highlight user it will show you their profile, common interests, mutual friends, and photos. The app uses Facebook as its sole login method, which may be a selling point for some, but for others, it may be the reason they don’t use the app.
Although the iPad still has market share, you may have heard of the Kindle Fire nipping at its heals. This ultra-cheep tablet promises users an easy way to surf the web, listen to music, and even read books--the intention of traditional kindles. Is the Fire ready to compete in this saturated market with tablets that have built their brands on more than just e-reading? Let's see.
If you've been on Facebook lately, you know that the social media giant has rolled out its latest update: timeline. If you haven't been urged by Facebook to make the switch yet, then you're in for a surprise. Ever wondered what you posted to Facebook in 2007? Well, Facebook's new timeline format give you easy access to your past and the past of your friends. In addition to its chronological component, timeline allows users to display a giant "cover" photo.
So you have a website, great. That's the first step in creating an online presence for your small business. In today's web-centric world, a website is an invaluable aspect of any serious business, but simply having a website is only the first step in finding new customers. Viewers need to be converted to buyers. Your website should not only inform, but also sell. The easiest way to establish this connection is through an electronic commerce section of your website devoted to selling your wares.
As we all wait, with bated breath, for the release of the Lumia 800 (see our earlier post comparing it to the iPhone here), let's discuss its operating system: Windows 7.5 or "Mango." Now, if your already a Windows phone user, Mango is probably old news to you. Your phone should have received the update at least a month ago. For those, however, with Android or Apple phones, Mango might be a whole new ballgame. If you're thinking of making the switch to the Lumia 800 once it drops in the US early next year, here's everything you need to know about Windows technology.
Asus has recently announced its new tablet: the Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201. One of the key components of this table is its detachable keyboard. Although many tablets have separate keyboards available for sale, the Transformer Prime is one of the first to be promoted almost exclusively with the keyboard attached, which also features a track pad.
According to a study conducted by Google, half of smartphone users that see a mobile ad take action. Thirty-five percent of these users visit the website associated with the advertisement. In other words, 17.5% of users that are exposed to a mobile advertisement, make the effort to visit the website associated with the service or product. This is an astoundingly high number, especially when compared with click through rates for non-mobile web advertisements, which generally fall below 1%.
According to Neilson's Q3 report, Android has captured 43% of the smartphone market (and 18% of the total market for all mobile devices). In other words, almost 1 in every 5 people walking down the street with a cell phone in their hands are sporting an Android phone. With this extremely high market penetration, one would think that most media coverage would be directed toward Android products, especially in comparison to the Apple IOS, which is actually much less popular but hyped more.
It's no no surprise that quarter three's numbers bode well for iPad. In that time alone, Apple sold 11.1 million iPads, which accounted for thee-fourths of the entire tablet market. These are truly outstanding numbers for a product created over a year and a half ago. One would think that by now a competing company would have been able to create a product to challenge it. Not so.
Gartner's analysis for quarter three is out and it doesn't look good for the iPhone. Incredibly, it only captured 3.9% of the market for 2011's quarter three. Ahead of Apple are Nokia (23.9%), Samsung (17.8%), and LG (4.8%). Of course, these numbers refer to the total mobile phone market. While smartphone use is growing rapidly, it has not quite reached the point where one phone can completely dominate the market.
In today's day and age, everyone is concerned about Internet privacy. We are all too aware that our search engine history, personal pictures, IP addresses, and email are less than private these days. Although companies like Facebook and Google claim to respect certain aspects of users' privacy rights, there is still lingering anxiety over many of their practices. As it turns out, some of these anxieties are well founded.
Have you heard the news? Adobe has stopped development of its mobile Flash plugin. Translation: flash in its current iteration is not going to be a part of the mobile revolution. Instead, it has succumbed to the power and influence of Apple's HTML5 agenda.
According to Mintel, the U.S. mobile gaming market will grow by 82% between now and 2015 to reach $1.6 billion in sales. This prediction is in line with the exponential growth of the mobile market which is forecasted to increase by 538% in smartphone sales between 2006 and 2011 and 327% in tablet sales between 2010 and 2015. By 2014, analysts predict that mobile subscribers to the Internet will grow by 140%. The trend is painfully clear: mobile is going to take off within the next four years.
If you're a faithful reader of this blog, you'll remember our post last month predicting Google+'s decline. The post cited Google+'s limited user demographic and general lack of momentum as reasons for its lack of success. On November 7, the social media site launched brand pages for companies wishing to promote their wares and services. Will the recent addition of brand pages save the declining Google+?
Do you remember the days of Internet Explorer? That blue "E" on the task bar was the ubiquitous symbol for Internet connectivity. For many of us, it seemed like the only option for browsing the wonderful world of the web. Of course, most of us have left behind this naive idea that only one browser is capable of effectively delivering content to our computers and mobile devices, and this trend is reflected in recent statistics complied by NetMarketShare.
According to Strategy Analytics, Samsung shipped more smartphones than Apple during the third quarter of 2011. Samsung smartphone sales increased by 44% over the last quarter and sold an incredible 117 million units. As a result, Samsung now holds 24% market share in the smartphone category compared with Apple's meager 15%.
Have you updated to Gmail's new look yet? The innovative email client has once again changed its interphase to a "more modern" design. New updates include fresh HD themes, a cleaner icon-based toolbar, a customizable lefthand menu, easier access to advanced search, and a revised conversation view.
AndPlus is excited to offer our readers the following guest post by business blogger Margot M.:
Nielsen's third quarter social media report is out for 2011, and the findings are significant. Americans now spend over a quarter of all of their Internet time on social media sites and blogs. We are becoming obsessed with these psuedo-social means of virtually connecting with other people. Incredibly, US Internet users spend more time on Facebook than on any other web brand. Close behind are Blogger, Tumblr, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
A few days ago, major mobile competitor Nokia announced that its new high-end smartphone, the Lumnia 800, will be available in the U.S. by early 2012. Many are saying that this is the first phone that will be able to truly compete with the iPhone. Let's see how its killer specs compare to the iPhone 4S.
We've all seen them sitting in Starbucks and lounging on park benches. They're casually swiping their fingers on high resolution screens and using specialized styluses to create detailed graphics and notes. You won't see them toting a New York Times or a planner. They have eschewed such paper-based products and deemed them "oh-so-twentieth century." They are the infamous, eco-friendly, and tech-savvy tablet user.
Google has long been criticized for its invasiveness. Just thinking of thousands of Google servers housing all of the search queries associated with our user names is, on face, concerning if not outright alarming. This lack of privacy, however, has always been the trade-off for receiving search results customized to our preferences and ads tailored to our perceived interests. For many, what we give up in privacy is worth the service that Google provides.
By now we're all familiar with the fatal BlackBerry outage that occurred last week. Interrupting email and Internet services, the outage left many BlackBerry users unconnected to the digital world around them. This outage, worldwide in effect, reached not only US phones, but also mobile devices in Africa, Canada, Europe, and Asia. How did RIM reply to user's dissatisfaction? The company issued an apologetic statement focusing on its efforts to repair the damage and only alluding to compensation.
When you're searching for a business in your area, do you pull out your trusty yellow pages book, scan through its many pages, and search for the listing, or do you fire up your smartphone, tablet, or laptop to find the business online? If you're using the physical phone book, you are squarely in the minority. According to Yelp, three quarters of business owners felt that yellow page phone books were no longer relevant to their customers.
When the first generation of the iPad was launched a little more than a year ago, we couldn't have predicted that it would revolutionize the way we interact with the Internet. Today, however, its impact is widespread. A plethora of competing tablets have emerged, many e-readers are switching to touch-screen technology, and even several desktop computers are integrating this technology into their screens and operating systems. In a decade, the word "mouse" might come to only refer to the mammalian creature rather than a necessary navigational hardware component. Our fingers will do the clicking.
At Apple's last media event "Talk iPhone," the almost mythical technology innovator introduced Siri, an application that allows users to ask questions and receive intelligent answers from their new 4S iPhone. Now, we've all seen some iteration of this software before. Even the most basic cell phones include voice activated command technology. Tell many regular cell phones to "call Mary" and Mary will be called.
According to Demandware, although 23% of consumers currently use mobile applications when they shop and 50% expect to do so in the near future, only 12 percent of retailers currently have a mobile application available for download. The way that customers shop and purchase products or services is changing. They expect to be able to access a wealth of information about your product in the palm of their hands. How can you capitalize on this trend? The answer lies in the custom development of a mobile application that consistently promotes your brand to customers and potential customers and allows them to buy your product or service in a simple and convenient way that fits with their busy lifestyles.
Although Google+ was all the rage only a few months ago, the much hyped social media site has all but vanished from our lives. When was the last time you had a conversation at the water cooler about Google+? If you were an early adopter of Google+, when was the last time you logged onto your account? Chances are, you've used Facebook much more recently.
With sales of mobile devices on the rise, it is no wonder that use of programming languages--like HTML5--designed to be compatible with these devices are becoming more popular. One of the biggest and most notable strengths of HTML5 is its ability to embed movies directly into code, eliminating the need for third party software like Flash, which is not compatible with Apple products.
The way we think about our cell phones is changing. We are no longer satisfied by a phone that simply places calls. More and more, we expect that our phone will allow us to schedule our lives, browse the web, use social media, and access information. This means that prolonged interaction with our phone is increasing. For example, mobile video watching has increased by 41% over the last year. According to Neilson, 38% of mobile owners in the US own a smartphone and during the past three months, 55% of cell phones purchased were smartphones. The “traditional” cell phone is quickly loosing ground to mobile devices that provide users with increased functionality.
Before 2010, web design was scaling up. With monitors increasing in size and resolution, graphic designers were interested in making the web browsing experience as rich and expansive as possible. Now, however, designers are rethinking the way they are creating websites. Although only 5% of Americans own a tablet according to Neilson, the market is growing and many companies are predicting that this percentage will only increase. In fact, PC sales are already declining in measurable numbers. This growing market is putting pressure on developers and designers to tailor their style to fit the parameters of the new tablet specifications.
According to Flurry's latest studyworldwide inventory of mobile applications is now at 600,000. This number represents an explosive growth of the market in recent years. As users are adapting to smartphone technology, they are downloading more and more mobile applications. Flurry estimates that each smartphone user has downloaded, on average, 65 apps.
AndPlus is revolutionizing the face of interactive music web software. Developed for the Berklee College of Music, AndPlus' software engineers and designers have created a interactive keyboard that allows users to test their ability to correctly identify musical notes and intervals. The software plays a melody that the user is expected to replicate by either clicking on the keys or typing the the letters associated with each note. By using this software, students can train their ears to recognize and differentiate pitches--an essential skill for music majors.
A recent study from Nielsen reports that Android users spend 38 minutes per day using mobile applications and only 18 minutes surfing the mobile web. This means that users spend about twice as much time interacting with apps in comparison to their mobile phone's Internet browser.
AndPlus' President and CEO Sean Mahoney was featured as a part of Grant Cardone's Mastermind group in his live webinar last Thursday. Focusing on Cardone's 10x rule, which encourages "massive action"--determining and acting on concrete steps to achieve individual and company-wide success--the webinar was attended by hundreds of business professionals from across the country.
User stories are a collection of 'stories' that a service provider could expect to hear from a client, for the purpose of describing and fully understanding a product-to-be. User stories are short sentences that describe, in non-technical terms, what a user wants to do on a website (or any piece of software) and why. In larger projects, it is not unusual to expect over a hundred user stories.
The cell phone community has lost two of its kin rather quickly the past week. The Microsoft Kin One and Kin Two were not even two months old before Microsoft decided to pull the plug and discontinue them. The Kin One and Kin Two were social media mobile phones aimed at the younger generation of people in their teens and twenties, focused on keeping people in the "Loop." The Loop consisted of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Windows Live, and other web feed updates. There is also Kin Studio, a cloud service for uploading pictures, video, and text off from the phone onto the internet. All of these things sound great, don't they? Not really.. which is why sales were lacking and why Microsoft decided to discontinue the project.
There's a common expression "Better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission." In the world of software engineering, taking this motto to heart can lead to robust and stable software. Far too often, we try to verify every possible prerequisite before performing an action.
We have all heard that joining social media sites can greatly affect your company’s business growth. I am trying to figure out exactly which ones to do and why. There are thousands of different networking websites, so obviously we need to choose the top sites to benefit from. It probably depends on what country your company is from and what countries your target audience may be from. I learned this when I decided to search multiple sites for lists of all social media sites. Sites like Wikipedia have a chart of all sites listed and how many people in which countries are signed up. This was very interesting, but I needed a site that narrowed my search.
When it comes to your company's data, nothing is more valuable, yet often it is taken for granted. Taken for granted, that is, until a hard disk fails. Many companies set up a simple policy to mirror their data on an external drive every night. This works great until the wrong file gets published, and then nobody knows which version should be on the server, and the backup already mirrored the incorrect one. I've even seen companies who just hope that "somebody has a copy" and ignores the idea of backups until something heavily breaks.
Over the past three years, mobile traffic has spiked exponentially. Since the advent of devices like the iPhone and Android phones, and now tablet computers like the Apple iPad equipped with 3G connectivity, mobile browsing is becoming a quick alternative to using traditional computers for browsing the web. ABI Research revealed a study stating that mobile traffic is expected to increase eightfold from 2010 to 2014.
HTML5 is the next major revision of HTML. The last major revision, HTML4, has been a W3C Recommendation since 1997. The HTML5 draft was started in 2004. Development of HTML5 has fallen a bit behind and is still in the Working Draft stage. It should have been in the Candidate Recommendation stage by the end of 2010, but it is has now been pushed back to 2012. It is not even expected to reach W3C Recommendation until 2022 or later.
If you have a website, or an online store, internet marketing has many advantages for your company. Companies of any size should want to create an internet presence and have the ability to increase visibility to the international and internet community. Internet marketing can help your company be found on popular search engines like Google and Yahoo. Choosing a domain name that has your company’s name, the product, or the service that your company is selling will help people search for you. Companies should take advantage of social networks and chatrooms for business opportunities. From the convenience of your computer, you will be able to connect with other businesses or people. Through these connections, your company can gain potential clients or gather information about solving business problems. Networking is a great tool for success, and the internet supplies many means of it. Marketing your company on the internet can be easy to do and potentially less expensive than buying ads on television or radio. There are many different ways for your company to advertise on the internet. Some may choose to use Google Ads or email marketing. You should choose to spend what your company can afford to result in the most profit. Buying marketing ads on the internet will also help your company’s website ranking on search engines. Having internet exposure will increase company’s sales and let your customers have access to your company 24/7. If your company is easy to find, clients can keep updated on current news, discounts and sales. This will help your communication with anyone interested in your business.
While content generation is important on websites, an oft overlooked issue is that of usability. A site can have great content that is valuable to its visitors, but if it is difficult to find this content, it will rarely be seen. And if visitors cannot find the content, it is unlikely that bloggers will come across it either which will prevent them or other websites from linking to it. This will keep your PageRank low, and reduce traffic to your website.
Google made an announcement today through email that Internet Explorer 6 is no longer going to be supported. This is a fantastic first step and it's great that a giant such as Google is making the first step for us all to follow forcing Microsoft to phase out their Internet Explorer 6 on different machines. Thanks, Google! Read the press release below:
As you are probably well aware, Facebook is growing rapidly every day. It started off as a networking tool for college students and now is one of the largest social media networking sites in the world. Businesses small and large are taking advantage of this accessible source to grow their business. Facebook has given businesses a chance to create a “page” for themselves which allows “fans” to support them. Any individual that is currently using Facebook can choose to add any business to their profile. When this happens, they become a “fan” and that business will show up on their personal profile. Every new activity the business creates will show up in the newsfeed on their home page. This allows businesses to share any information to their supporters that they please. For example, company news, blogs, events, status updates, comments, answers, and photos.
Girls, Inc., a national organization with a strong presence in Worcester, MA, recently held a Wine Tasting event at 55 Pearl right here in the city. They provided wine and food samples from four different countries, with local "celebrity" servers! The event had food and a silent auction, and was attended by roughly 75 people.
There are thousands of web firms in this country all trying to tell you why they are better than the next. The truth of the matter is, First impressions are everything in the world of websites. When putting together your presence on the web, you are going to want an identity which includes your logo, your content, and things that are specific to your business. You are in business because there is a particular niche that you are filling, not because you are the same as every other business out there. Using free templates is a good way to fall through the cracks and show your customers that you are no different than the next company.