The Power Of Apps and how they become a business
Mobile devices have become ubiquitous. Whether it is a person’s phone being scrolled through while sitting in a waiting room or watching the latest movie on a tablet, such as an iPad. There are apps for just about everything. Everything is going mobile, from sports, to companies using them for marketing from the nearly insane, like GEICO’s app, to the more normal small businesses. Even dating is being changed with the swipe of a finger thanks to Tinder. Along with these app experiences there is also the new “on demand” economy with the likes of Uber & AirBnB disrupting the taxi and hotel space, respectively based on apps. It is hard to ignore the successfulness of mobile businesses, but how exactly does an idea become a reality?
As a dreamer, I’m sure you have thought about some daily task that “would be awesome if it were available”. Combining the inherent functionality of your phone’s camera, accelerometer, and other hardware functionality in concert with existing products online, you too can create that “awesome” dream into reality. First, though you must know how to combine things and how to think about making a unique product.
Smart devices are very powerful and combining them with pre-existing solutions already developed by popular (and not-so-popular) companies in the form of API and SDK (see our video for more information about APIs & SDKs) has nearly limitless possibilities. What do these parts do? How can you use them? Below is a list of some common pieces apps use to make startup dreams come to life.
- Sure we all know that camera’s take pictures and videos, that is a no-brainer. However, the capability can be utilized to do a number of things. The camera can be used to take a picture and share it with other people using the app (users). The camera can also be utilized to take video on demand and share with people or post a video to YouTube that embeds in your app and your users don’t ever leave your app and your branding.
- Have you ever wondered how your phone knows when you take a step, or more simply, when the phone is in portrait (upright) or landscape (horizontal)? The secret isn’t magic, it’s just gravity. Sparing the technical details, a piece of silicon is “etched” to create a structure like the one shown below (a). This sits still when your phone isn’t moving, but as soon as the phone moves, the heavier (blue) section move between the stationary partitions (b). This movement inside Silicon (because it is a special class called superconductors that can transmit electricity) creates an electric current and the phone can then interpret the orientation of the phone. If you put on in the x,y,z orientation you can then know to a very high level of accuracy, the phone’s (or other device’s) orientation in 360 d
(a) Silicon etched accelerometer (b) Close-up and current
Step counters and drop sensors seem pretty obvious armed with this knowledge, but there are other applications that aren’t so obvious. For example, if a football player were to have their iphone (protected) in their pocket under their pads, they could make use of the accelerometer to gauge the angle, force, & acceleration of the tackle or juke. This could lead to better and more importantly more technically sound and safer, play on the field. This is just one example, the possibilities are nearly limitless.
- Like the Accelerometer, this is utilized to detect forces on the phone through a gyroscope. The added benefit to this is the ability to tell direction. In the example under accelerometer, a football player would know where the hit came from (thanks to Newton’s laws) and even tell where and where the player that hit them came from with different data on the tackle itself. Gyroscopes have been used forever, from ships, to airplanes, to the space shuttle, gyros utilize the uniform gravitational field to sense directionality of “flight’. In your phone, this “flight” is much more metaphoric, but still is accurate.
- GPS is a pretty familiar concept. Apps such as Facebook let you “check-in”. Have you ever wondered how that happens? When you press that check-in button, the Facebook app tells your phone to access the GPS. The phone’s GPS is represented by the coordinates the GPS tells the phone. So, how does it know that you are in your favorite place? Facebook’s app accesses a database of all the coordinates of all the businesses it knows. When you check-in, the app scours that data to match it with your position (or your phone’s to be precise). If the search (which happens in less than a second) comes back with a match, you “check-in”, make your comment and post.You can easily see how GPS can help your users. If you are a small business, the GPS can be used ( with Google Maps) to guide people to your business. If you are looking to let people check-in on your app, they can share the information and updates. Even private investigators (and untrusting spouses) can track the phone, giving near pin-point results.There are obviously a lot of privacy and other concerns with some applications involving GPS. The user is notified that GPS tracking is on and must accept this to use that functionality. If there seems to be a privacy concern, our advice is to ALWAYS err on the side of caution, the golden rule fits well here.
- Mobile phones gave us text messaging. Text isn’t just a way to communicate with contacts, it is also an integral part of many apps. Facebook, Twitter, & most other social media apps, for instance, offer them in the form of private (or direct) messages. Messaging is more than just sending text, images, & videos with mobile, however.Push messaging has enabled a brand new feature (see our post “10 benefits an app can have on your business” For more info on small business benefits). Apps can utilize push messages for any number of activities. The app can send out a message that has details on a special offer (complete with your logo in their notifications bar at the top of the screen). Touch this message will take the user to your app and not just that, to the exact screen you need the to be on to take action! Have tickets to sell? Send a push message out and have it take the user to the purchase screen and get their payment in a couple clicks.
These are the more common uses, many other options are available for innovation. Basically anything you can think, you can make. If you can find a way to use the existing hardware or other people’s products through APIs & SDKs, you can have an app that makes others want to use it. If you are able to find a unique idea, we can help you sculpt it with our decades of product and development experience. Don’t waste time, someone else could develop your idea.