On this episode on Mobile by Design, we are joined by Richmond’s First District City Council, Andreas Addison, to sit with our Marketing Coordinator, Olya, and our host, Mason Brown, to discuss civic innovation and technology as it relates to a fast-growing city. Join us as we dive into topics including city innovation projects and Code for America and what steps government officials are taking to bring a bustling tech sector and a growing city to work together.
Civic Innovation occurs at the intersection of transformational ideas with data, technology, and inclusive engagement cultivated by strategic engagement. Andreas Addison is in the center of this with an impressive list of projects. You can connect with Andreas on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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This show was started by Shockoe, a mobile app development shop based in Richmond, Virginia whose goal is helping companies create better tools to improve utility for their customers and employees. We’re a podcast about all things technology, business, and design.
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by Shockoe | Mobile by design
In this episode you will hear more on:
Civic technologies and larger innovative projects being undertaken by Richmond.
What is Code for America and how have Andrea’s experiences played a role in his political career.
What are the limitations and challenges of embracing innovative technologies as a city?
Open Data and Open Gov – what’s been challenging toward the success of these projects?
How is Richmond distinguishing itself as one of the world’s leading cities for technology development? How will we make Richmond a more technology-driven city?
Which exciting technology initiatives is Richmond pursuing in the future?
Mobile devices are everywhere. Every aspect of the supply chain, from the supplier to the consumer, has been impacted by mobile technology. There is a good chance that you are already using some type of mobile supply chain application, but is your mobile strategy keeping up with the needs of your operation?
Not only is mobile hardware changing quickly, with new phones being released constantly, but the software that runs on these devices is also changing. Device manufacturers are continuing to add more and more features into the operating system of mobile devices as well as giving developers the ability to quickly take advantage of these new features in their mobile apps. In addition to the devices and software improvements, manufacturers have also been producing rugged cases for mobile devices that add superior durability while still being able to take advantage of the latest mobile technology and features.
Barcode Scanners Increase App Adoptability
While barcode scanners have been used with mobile apps for a very long time, there have also been many hardware and software improvements that have increased both reliability and ease of use. A good scanner can make the difference in the adoptability of your app and can make your business more efficient from source to customer. Reducing the time it takes to actually scan an item and adding support for many more barcode types can make tasks like inventory and asset management much more efficient. It complements voice features well by allowing identification of products in environments where speech recognition might not work well.
Related: See how we added product scanning to improve warehouse inventory count and identify packages at delivery checkpoints for AC Moore.
Speech Recognition Tailored To Your Product Lines
Voice and speech recognition have probably have made very rapid advancements in the past few years. All the major players including Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and Samsung, have worked on optimizing and perfecting the ability to recognize and process speech. Not only will you find it on mobile devices, but this past year has seen a large adoption of devices such as Amazon’s stand-alone Echo and Dot products. What used to be a novelty years ago has now transformed into a valuable feature available on almost all modern mobile devices. Speech recognition is able to easily complement technologies like barcode scanning in areas such as inventory management. It also has the flexibility of being as adjustable and powerful as you need by tying a recognized vocabulary with data from suppliers, transportation, sales, and consumers.
Using voice to document quality control inspections
Improving safety by not requiring workers to take eyes off equipment and instead use voice to enter/read data
GPS technology has also improved over the years giving mobile devices much quicker and more precise location information. While traditional mobile uses of GPS like navigation are quite mainstream, features such as geofencing are not as widespread. Geofencing creates a virtual geographic boundary that mobile software can react to. It can trigger a check in when a truck arrives with a shipment or optimize and adjust workflows based on estimated times of arrival. When combined with a smart mobile app, it can also give receiving terminals detailed information about drivers and shipments (eliminating possible paperwork) as well as giving feedback back to drivers about possible gate changes or wait times.
Supply Chain Case Study: See how changes to truck routing and package tracking improved routing and fuel efficiency for JB Hunt.
With the introduction of Bluetooth® Low Energy (BLE) beacons, companies have been able to improve the logistics of their business in a much more efficient (and affordable) way than what was delivered with RFID. Early adoption of beacons was often used for indoor navigation, where GPS signal was unreliable. Shockoe has tackled this through a great personalized tour experience app with Anheuser-Busch. Uses have expanded to allow workers to efficiently navigate and locate items in storage, as well as being able to give a customer the ability to find the product they are looking for in a retail store. In addition to location proximity, beacons can also be fitted with additional sensors for light, humidity, and temperature; which expands their many uses to areas such as storage and transportation. A beacons low cost, enhanced battery lifetime, and the fact that they can be used with mobile devices (bypassing the need for specialized equipment), makes them particularly ideal for supply chain operations.
Alert personnel that humidity levels for monitored goods are above acceptable range and direct them to the location using their mobile device
Navigate grocery customers looking for a certain product to the correct aisle for the store
Mobile technologies are being used in all aspects of supply chain management from manufacturing to the consumer. At Shockoe, we are building smart mobile apps that leverage the latest features available. We work to give suppliers, truck drivers, dispatchers, receivers, retail stores, and customers real-time insights and collaboration using an app they love.
Shockoe’s team uses open data to develop useful and innovative civic apps for the City of Richmond during its annual hackathon that measurably impact the daily tasks of individuals and organizations. Check out our full press release on the details of all projects listed below here.
Among the sea of social media apps, news apps, and photo book-making apps I use – I have three kids! – is my mobile banking app. I bank at a “traditional” or “retail” bank, meaning it has branches, versus an online-only bank. That being said, I never go to a branch. Anything I need to do I can do using my mobile banking app: check my transactions, transfer money between accounts, or deposit a check. Believe it or not, these things that users have come to expect out of their mobile banking experience, I have had to figure out rather the hard way with my current mobile banking app. The user experience of my bank’s app has never been truly intuitive, though it has gone through multiple iterations. Banking apps should not make it difficult for customers to complete basic tasks. By continuously putting user experience first and applying the following adjustments to your UX Strategy, your bank is guaranteed to drive revenue through customer loyalty.
The first time I usedVenmo, an app designed solely for people to be able to electronically send money, I immediately noticed the intuitiveness of the app. A few months after I started using Venmo, my bank came out with an identical feature. I could send money to friends or family no matter who they banked with. That’s as much as I know about it because the idea of using my bank’s clunky app for a task I found myself doing frequently seemed overwhelming, so I stuck with Venmo.
As more FinTech companies continue to disrupt, develop and innovate mobile banking applications, it will occur at the expense of lost market share for traditional banking institutions.The rising FinTech sector is making it easier making it easier for their customers to do more with their money.
At Shockoe we have advised our financial industry partners to consider two adjustments to their UX strategy as a result of this changing environment:
Implementing machine learning.
I, like many others, have predictable spending habits. I shop at the same places, I pay my mortgage, and I head to the grocery store at the same time. To keep an eye on my spending, I log into my banking app quite regularly.
The reason I point out these things is that this is all data that the banks can use to help make me a “stickier” client. I get random ads sometimes when I log into my account, but they don’t happen as I take an action, nor are they personalized to me.
Banks are leaving a great opportunity to interact with their customers on the table. They could ask questions about unusual spending to improve security and more importantly learn about shifting habits. e.g. “It looks like you made a purchase at Wegman’s last weekend, was that you?”, the app learns that this is now part of my purchase history and the algorithm changes. Similarly, new products could be touted as client data captures what looks like a night out: “Looks like you left the kids at home and recently went to the movies! Did you pay your babysitter with our easy system to send money electronically to people?”
There should always be a way to turn these kinds of alerts off, but banks know so much about their users, and using machine learning capabilities is one way they can use that data to try to engage more with their clients.
Making banking apps more social.
A big part of Venmo’s popularity comes down to the fact that they’ve tapped into the special sauce of why social media is so popular/addictive. You can interact with people, keep up with their latest transactions and see why they’re sending or receiving money for. Obviously, security is n essential consideration in banking, but for people that are willing to share, this is another outlet for banks to engage their audience, encourage product use, and compete in an increasingly competitive FinTech industry.
Do people want to be able to brag about their savings account interest rate? What else are people comfortable with being able to show off in regards to their banking relationship? We work with our clients to run user group feedback sessions to find the answers to things like this. User feedback should be an essential consideration in designing an engaging user experience that extends beyond logging in and checking on account statements.
Banking apps should no longer think of themselves as a one dimension account statement viewing portal. FinTech will eventually edge them out of services such as peer to peer payments (venmo), machine learning (mint), and potentially edge them out of being a provider at all in lucrative services. I am aproject manager at Shockoe and I’ve worked with two largebanking clients as part of my tenure here, and these thoughts are coming from meetings with them and our approach helping them stay engaged with their user base and attract more users through their mobile app solutions. What’s cool is our clients know we work together to create mobile applications that people use, love, and remember, and that sometimes the problems are even solved by the project management team.
On December 6th, we continued our panel series, this time focusing on the Manufacturing Industry, specifically Industry 4.0. Joined by Phil Naglieri (Director of Technology at Shockoe), Mason Brown (UX LEad at Shockoe), Mike Upchurch (Chief Strategy Officer at Notch), and Will Middleton (CEO at Cloudy Data Systems) we explored the results of the Fourth Industrial Revolution – including predictive maintenance, improved decision-making in real time, anticipating inventory based on production, and improved coordination of jobs and people.
We are currently in the Intelligence Age or Age of Information – The Fourth Industrial Revolution, revolution measured around manufacturing, but really on the impact of everything around us. The one we are currently living is characterized by data, analytics, and the merger of technology with the physical, digital and biological worlds.
A Brief History of the Previous Industrial Revolutions #1 – Agrarian to Industrial (Textile and Industry) & Steam: This revolution took place in during the 18th and 19th century. It was a period marked by the creation of the iron and textile industries as well as the Steam Engine.
#2 – Electricity, Assembly Line, Light Bulb, and Telephone: The second revolution started in the late 18 hundreds and lasted through the beginning of WWI, this revolution was marked by the creation of the combustion engine, the light bulb, the telephone, and the assembly line.
#3 – Nuclear Power, Computers, Computing, and Internet: About half a century later, and really the only revolution any of us lived through is the third revolution, which appeared with the emergence of a new type of energy whose potential surpassed its predecessors: nuclear energy. This revolution also brought with it electronics and the internet—such as the transistor, microprocessor, and computers and the world wide web.
Question and Answer with the Panelists:
Can you give me some insight into the following statement:
“Manufacturing workers are retiring in droves, with an estimated 2.7 million jobs being vacated by 2025. At the same time, the growth and advancement of the industry is expected to create an additional 700,000 jobs for skilled manufacturing employees over the next decade. As a result, manufacturers are scrambling to fill this knowledge and skills deficit with the next generation of workers — millennials.”
Answer (Phil): Mobile is essential to Manufacturing Companies, who are not naive to the process of hiring new generations to fill the roles left by aging workforces as we’ve seen happen in the recent past, Mobile brings a sense of familiarity and allows for quicker adoption. Not only will employers onboard new employees quicker, it will allow them to streamline their processes better.
Question: AI and machine learning are getting a lot of press so can you tell us a little about it? Specifically, as it relates to Manufacturing, where possible
Response (Mike): At a high level, think of AI and machine learning as that you are using machines to do what a human would do if they had unlimited time and capacity. So for example, let’s say you are the production manager at a plant and you are trying to improve yield. You’d look at a bunch of process and machine data in reports, make changes and then evaluate the impact of your change. Machine learning will do the same thing except use math to look at thousands of variables and their interrelationships. The other thing to know is that 80% of the work to use machine learning with be data acquisition and management. To be good a machine learning, you have to be good at data. Finally, the process is iterative and exploratory. For example, a project might start with a question like, “of the 3,000 points of data we capture, what combination of factors cause defects?”. To solve it the data scientist will try different sets and types of data as well as different models to figure out what combination yields the optimal insight.
Question: With the recent addition of bitcoin to the Chicago Board Options Exchange and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, bitcoin and blockchain are in the news today more than ever. How are these different and is the hype really worth it?
Response (Will): I have been heavily involved in the bitcoin and blockchain space for over a year now and recently became the chapter leader for the Government Blockchain Association Richmond Chapter. Bitcoin and blockchain have been a wild ride this year and the hype is most definitely worth it. The technology provided by the blockchain and the decentralized value exchange of bitcoin are both extremely transformational and disruptive.
Blockchain is one of the underlying technologies behind bitcoin. Though public and private key cryptography, it allows different entities (i.e. an organization, a person, or even a machine) to prove that it is the owner of some data stored on a public database. In Bitcoin, the user can prove they are the owner of the account that sits on the public ledger.
Question: Earlier you talked about machine learning can you tell us how it’s being used in manufacturing?
Response (Mike): There are three common categories of use – predictive maintenance, improvements in things like yield, capacity, and quality, and systems optimization.
Using machine learning for predictive maintenance has proven to reduce downtime, in some cases as much as 50% and increase machine life by 20% to 40%. An example would be predicting part failure and fixing the issue before it happens. Improving yield/throughput/capacity and quality – studies have shown a wide range of results. In some industries, the increase can be in the 10% range, but in others, like semiconductor manufacturing, where they are already good at yield, the results can 1%. However, in that business, a 1% improvement in yield is worth $100M. This is accomplished by looking at the end-to-end process and understanding not only how each machine contributes to defects, but also the interdependencies of each machine to each other as well as environmental factors; such a factory temperature fluctuations. As for systems optimization, think of looking at the entire process from sales through manufacturing and delivery. An example would be using 1,000 variables and 10,000 constraints to figure out how to optimize system performance. The company that did it raised earnings 50%. Quite dramatic. A lot of simulation is used here. An example would be that large oil and gas companies have simulations of their entire plant so they can do things like see how changes in maintenance schedules affect the entire system using software and then optimize the schedule before doing any physical changes.
Your workforce’s process is structured, efficient, and tested, but over the past few years, your workforce’s technology may have become outdated. Change can be terrifying, especially when changing an established process.
You’re probably asking yourself, “Is the upgrade worth it?”
We’d like to help you answer that question. Here are top three reasons why an upgrade to your workforce technology should be your priority for 2018:
1. Intuitiveness. Today’s recruits — your new employees — live on their mobile devices. The outdated user experience of older devices may be a hassle for newer recruits to learn. Providing familiar experiences via mobile solutions may speed up training time and productivity.
2. Mobility. If your supervisors currently only have a desktop solution, it may be time to mobilize them. By converting to a mobile solution, your supervisors will be able to spend more time with their team on the floor and reduce their paper trail by using a mobile digital device. Mobility also includes freeing up the hands of employees who handle products, which may allow minimizing steps in a process’ workflow.
3. Credibility. When showcasing your warehouse or workforce to clients, having up-to-date technology would demonstrate the high-tech baseline of your company. Clients want to know that their product is being handled with the utmost care. Stay competitive by removing chaotic manual processes and motivating the workforce with mobile technology. Apps create a better customer experience, which in turn leads to repeat business and long-term revenue growth.
Case Study: Arrow Electronics
In 2015, Shockoe began to develop mobile solutions for Arrow Electronics’ Warehouse Management System (WMS). Arrow’s core mission is to be “five years out”; they strive to incorporate new technologies and electronics to become innovators of the tangible future. They service over 125,000 original equipment manufacturers, contract manufacturers in over 90 countries/465 locations. Arrow looked to build a strategy to extend its WMS into Mobile Solutions to increase productivity in its distribution centers and beyond.
Improvements Arrow saw by upgrading their tech:
Intuitiveness. We replaced warehouse operators’ bulky 7-pound RFID Scanners with lightweight, handheld Bluetooth scanners that can be carried throughout the warehouse and kept in constant connection with their devices. In the upcoming phases, we plan to have the operators be completely hands-free via wearable technology. By exercising our knowledge in the latest user experience research, we were able to bring their processes to color and implement a simple color language for operators to more efficiently understand their app. We also translated supervisor data into easily consumable graphics that allow for easy sorting and customization.
Mobility. Supervisors are no longer tied to their desks; they can now walk along the floor with full access to their data. Within the apps for the supervisor and operator, we implemented a communication tool to allow for easy messaging and scheduling. When an issue arises, operators can easily message their supervisors and supervisors can walk over to resolve issues.
Credibility. By upgrading to bleeding edge technology, Arrow is living up to their mission to be five years out. They are setting themselves up as an ideal example for mobile warehouse solutions.
Deciding to upgrade?
Whether it’s your clients or your workforce, people love when you step up their experience. Ensure user satisfaction throughout the process by developing a schedule for introducing the upgrade, creating a training plan, and introducing a system reevaluation process to minimize the need for larger upgrades down the line.
Here at Shockoe, our team has aided multiple clients with mobilizing their workforce’s technology through mobile apps, Bluetooth technology, and hands-free technology. From rough sketches on paper to launching the final product, we maintain an intimate relationship with our clients to guarantee that their workforce is content and comfortable with changes to their processes. Check out our awesome case studies for upgrading technology: Arrow, ONEOK, A.C. Moore, and J.B. Hunt.
During the course of publishing a pro-bono mobile experience for the non-profit Roatan Marine Park out of the Bay Islands, Honduras, something struck a chord with the Bill Nye bobblehead that sits on my left shoulder. Where’s the category for Changing the World? it whispered.
There isn’t one. For the Roatan app, RMP iPatrol, which allows citizens to report illegal activity harmful to the surrounding Mesoamerican reef – the world’s second largest – our best options were Education or Travel.
In the process of writing this post, I went to the Play store to see what showed up. Following the games and ‘entertain yourself’ recommendations, this is an example of the apps displayed:
Granted, this was on my work account. As a designer at Shockoe, I work on a lot of enterprise apps that often aren’t accessible via the app store, but I also download, assess, test, and work on all types of consumer mobile applications, including those for rewards programs, tasty drinks (still can’t get over that callout), financial and social. It makes sense that I’d have a very commercial constellation of recommended apps.
There are roughly 2.5 – 3 million apps available on the respective app stores and, based on sheer volume, gaming still smashes all other categories. It’s not a leap to say that in terms of engagement the winners are those that could be referred to as “bored now” – games and social apps that are designed to fill your time and attention when you’re in the waiting room, lunch break, or refusing to fall asleep.
The popularity of gaming, social, and entertainment apps isn’t likely to change, but what can is our commitment to bringing effective mobile solutions to the Davids out there battling on our behalf.
I have kept an approving eye on things like Civic Hacking, Citizen Science, and Tech for Good, but my appreciation for how powerful mobile could be in the non-profit, changing the world space – particularly for reporting, data collection, and community building – has me convinced that David’s slingshot is primed for an update.
Based on conversations with a non-profit client and my own experiences, here are a few considerations for those looking to do their part in making mobile apps for good.
1. Make sure you are willing (and able) to commit to the problem, not just an app
Firms should pursue issues that they care about and that the company will wholeheartedly get behind. Coming into a non-profit project with a one-and-done type mindset – swoop in, build a quick app, slaps on the backs, then it’s back to work as usual – at best will provide temporary fixes. At worst it will alienate users with sub-par experiences due to being outdated and unsupported. We need to be taking these projects on like we normally approach apps – as products that require constant improvements, maintenance, and validation that we are indeed solving the problem we set out to solve.
2. Think Enterprise and Platform
Regardless of what issue your app seeks to solve, other non-profits are probably working in the same space and on similar problems. Consider the benefits of building an adjustable/scalable framework that could be tailored for specific needs. Time spent on APIs and scalable architecture is almost always time well spent. If you want to track the health of monarch butterfly populations/migrations it wouldn’t make much sense to gather data in one county. You build a monarch tracking app, make it publicly available, and have a central database with easily surfaced data that researchers everywhere can access.
3. Consider the lessons from models in the community and contributor-driven apps
There is a subtle power in the give-and-take nature of community-driven apps. Waze has a huge and fanatic volunteer contributor community. The app works almost entirely on the goodwill of the driving community (and some algorithms, GPS, and other cool stuff). Benefitting from the contributions of others creates a compelling feeling to return the favor and an emotional reward for doing so. You see the same type of situation in plant identification apps, car repair forums, and countless others. It pays to study up on the mechanics of people helping people to do a collective task.
4. Be a good coach
Especially if you’re working with a smaller non-profit, it’s likely that there is no CTO, CIO, IT department, or perhaps anyone who has done a technical project. This is an opportunity to be a great coach (and evaluate your own process). Be clear about how the project will work and what you need from them. Explain acronyms and jargon. Your goal, as hopefully, it is with every project, is to share knowledge and impart confidence. 5. Resist the temptation to experiment or deviate from your standard process
Steer clear of using your non-profit project to experiment with your process or throw a junior team into a sink-or-swim, figure-it-out situation. I have heard it from more than one person working in the non-profit space that they rarely receive the same quality or level of professionalism from companies that are donating services. The standards you hold to yourself shouldn’t be variable. Don’t make an exception.
6. Respect each other’s timelines and responsibilities.
During research for this post, one NGO employee told me, “people seem to think that people who work in NGO’s are running around hugging trees all day, that they don’t have deadlines, that they don’t have the same if not more administration to do as any other business.”
In my experience, employees at non-profits often do have more responsibilities than their counterparts at standard businesses. Lack of resources forces everyone to wear more hats. Be cognizant going into a project that the folks leading the charge often have so much on their shoulders that even if they love the project it can turn into one more burden on a pile of others that leads to stress.
If that’s the case, our approach as consultants should be either to 1) assume as much ownership over the project as can be done without jeopardizing the expertise/institutional knowledge the NGO brings and/or 2) be hyper-aware of (and plan for) client-side deadlines/responsibilities.
I am convinced that mobile can play an important role in bringing about the types of changes that would benefit us all. Consider the following (in a non-judgemental, shame-free way): in 2017 we are projected to hit nearly 5 billion mobile users worldwide. [source]. As of last year, we were collectively spending over a billion hours a month on mobile games alone, second only to social media usage. [source]. Imagine the impact we could make if we all had at least one app on our phones that allowed us to contribute to solving a community issue, or if we spent just 1% of our gaming hours on cataloging invasives or mentoring young folks, or, as residents of Roatan now can, reporting damage to coral reef systems.
Better yet, find what you care about and let’s make it happen.
[Note: I acknowledge that things are rarely as simple or black and white as some of the references or points above. Mobile isn’t a silver bullet, but it also does a lot on its own already – apps bring healthcare to rural populations and information to the underserved, Waze cuts drive times which in turn cut down CO2 emissions, business apps cut paper waste and improve efficiencies. But still. We can do more.]
Editor: Learn more about the Roatan Marine Park project and how Shockoe is contributing to saving the world’s second largest reef.
Read what our partner, Axway, is saying about RMP iPatrol.
If you’re interested in getting started on your own idea, reach out here for more information.
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