Look Ma! No Hands! Autonomous vehicles are coming

Autonomous Cars

Autonomous vehicles are coming. We’ve enjoyed numerous safety features added to our vehicles over the last 25 years, including anti-lock breaks, lane departure warnings and back-up camera systems, but the next generation of cars will be able to help us to eliminate or eradicate driver errors caused by fatigue, distraction or dangerous driving.

I sat down with Levi Sinclair on this week’s edition of BCIT’s Plugged-In and had a chance to discuss the benefits of these systems and how they will work.

This is not a drill: Emergency notification management apps for lockdowns

Lockdown App

Lockdowns have become the go-to safety measure for student safety when medical emergencies, online threats, and/or random acts of violence occur in our schools.

There are two types of lockdowns. The first, is the full school lockdown. This occurs when the school’s principal or otherwise designated school official decides there is an active or imminent safety threat to all the students and teachers in the school. When this threat is broadcast to the school through a coded phrase, such as “Please return to your classroom immediately and await further announcements,” this requires the teachers and students remain or return to their last class, and remain quiet or out of sight by people walking down the hall. This is meant to protect against individuals who have entered the school with the intent to harm, and is meant to isolate that individual in a way that allows the individual to be easily identified and targeted by police entering the building.

The second is a hold and secure, which is generally designed to lock out access to the school from the outside of the school, but students can be moved freely to allow emergency personnel to move through the school, generally in the case of a medical emergency.

Due to the random nature of these acts, we will likely never be able to fully predict or protect against the random nature of these events. What we will be able to do, is put tools in the hands of those responsible for calling for lockdowns to increase the probability and speed of a swift response from the necessary authorities.

One of our customer’s, School District 42 in British Columbia, has developed an app with us that captures the calling tree information needed to contact the correct authorities when a lockdown needs to be called.

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Whether that is a school’s principal, the fire department, the police/ambulance, school board, or adjacent schools, the school district has collected all the up-to-date phone information into a single app along with the the ability to perform PIN protected broadcast push notifications to all users of the app in the event of an emergency.

Calling trees allow principals to not only make the call for direct aid to notify authorities of a lockdown, but if they don’t get connected to that individual, they immediately see who is the next responsible official they need to call until they get the word out.

These capabilities are available now, packaged as a turnkey service, for your school district. We can have your school district trained and operation in a matter of days. Please don’t hesitate to call us, we would be glad to get your school board setup for our emergency notification service.

Looking For A Great Restaurant? We Talk About Restaurant Apps!

Urban Spoon

With Canadian Thanksgiving just behind us and American Thanksgiving fast approaching, it’s time to think about food, and what apps we are using to find restaurants today. For this episode of Evolutions 107.9’s Plugged In, I spoke with BCIT’s Zach Hodder and discussed mobile apps and services for finding and rating restaurants! I even share the story about the time Mario Batali told me what to order in his restaurant in NYC! Tune in and listen to our podcast on Soundcloud.

Nimble Quotes: Look Smarter, Without Working Harder

I remember finding a copy of my father’s 637 Best Things Anyone Ever Said by Robert Byrne when I was just entering the workforce and consuming these brainy, and often witty quotes, from people as diverse as Hemmingway, Plato and Einstein.

My father used to use these quotes in speeches and talks he’d give to make his audience ponder the wisdom of the wise and famous while he shared the latest business innovation of his firm.

This is the premise behind the service we developed for our customer Nimble Quotes. Nimble Quotes is a web service that automatically tweets famous quotes on your behalf on a random or set time interval. It’s based on five very easy setup pages, that allow you to choose the categories of quotes you want to draw from, the hashtags that go along with the quote, and the pictures and colours to go along with your quotes. No need to leaf through thousands of pages of quotes to find that bon mot … Nimble Quotes has them all.

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It’s a set and forget service! So along with your standard marketing tweets sharing your latest news, you get to add in some quotes from your favorite author or historical figure to add some wise words that can capture the imagination of your followers.

That’s because we quote connoisseurs all know … “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” – Albert Einstein.

When To Replace Your Responsive Website with a Native App

Our customers often ask us when is it best to replace their responsive website with a native app. We tend to answer this question with a more end-user experience question.

How frequently will the end user access the service or information you are presenting?

A native app will give a superior user interface speed and smartphone integration experience over a responsive website. Always. So if your user is going to be accessing your service or information frequently, they are going to become annoyed if the information loads at web-speed, and doesn’t easily integrate into services supported on the native device, such as location services, cameras and database services that allow offline use of the information.

So if the information or service you are offering has a high traffic rate, and a high utility to users on the go, a native app will make the most sense.

On the flip-side, responsive websites are good for displaying information or services on smartphones that copies what is already on the website. They are also useful for driving content to a type of native app called a wrapper app, that simply presents responsive webpages inside a native app container. What wrapper apps don’t do is tailor the information for more efficient access. It simply mobilizes what is already there.

Mobile efficiency is becoming the benchmark for successful native apps, and has shown how it can lead to increased app utilization rates. Take for example the first mobile applications launched by the banks. They offered the ability to view your balance, and to perform the same transactions you could on the website, but if you wanted to deposit a cheque, you still had to find your local branch and go deposit a cheque. Adding in the ability to deposit a cheque by using the camera increased the utility of the app, and caused a surge in mobile banking. Now banks are starting to consider if they need ATM machines and/or branches at all.

So if you have a service or set of information that will improve the way your end-users interact with your firm online in a mobile context, don’t just make your website mobile, but look at how a native app may improve on the efficiency of how your business operates.

That all being said, we’d be glad to review your requirements, and we offer both native app development and custom responsive web design.

How Mobile Apps Improve Government Inspector Productivity

A July 2013 Deloitte University Press article shared the following 5 ways for how mobile application deployment can improve the productivity of government mobile workers:

  • Reduce time spent on data entry
  • Enable better situational awareness for frontline employees
  • Enable work from any location
  • Improve accuracy and reduce the effort involved in performing tasks
  • Enhance collaboration and data sharing among employees/agencies
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Depending on the workflow of the job being performed, the Deloitte article suggests as much as a 45% improvement in productivity for the workers involved. The Deloitte article focused on workflows for caseworkers, emergency responders and the police. At 14 Oranges we have focused on mobile applications for inspectors as our primary target market based on our work with the BC Safety Authority, an agency that performs inspections on all manners of electrical and mechanical devices, including boilers, elevators and amusement rides. Our Mobile Workforce Management Service addresses each of the five key value points above with the following feature sets:

  • Deliver simplified, customizable forms to mobile inspectors for rapid data entry
  • Provide heads-up maps for managers and inspectors to find the next inspection site
  • Complete workflow and schedule visibility in both offline and online modes
  • On-device data validation and required data enforcement
  • Push notifications to field workers with important updates

Our experience with the BC Safety Authority points to a 40% improvement in productivity, and an improvement in the job satisfaction of the mobile workforce. Being able to do a job well apparently makes a job more pleasant! Who would have thought that!? Not to mention the added benefit of being able to serve more businesses and the public in a given day helps to highlight how government processes, no matter how onerous they appear, don’t have to take forever to complete.

Any a happy, well served public tends to re-elect their officials! Food for thought if your council is up for re-election this year.

Both Sylvain and I will be attending the GMIS Event in Atlantic City at Caesar’s Palace, starting on Monday August 14, 2015 and look forward to sharing our solution with CIOs from across governments in the US next week. See you there!

Tour de Delta Part of BC Superweek - the 14 Oranges Connection

BC Superweek is one of the most prestigious pro-cycling events in North America and we at 14 Oranges are the proud website sponsors of the headlining Tour de Delta races which run from July 9th to July 11th 2016. BC Superweek then moves onto Gastown (July 13), Burnaby (July 14), Port Coquitlam (July 15) and wraps up in White Rock on July 16th and 17th.

The Tour de Delta itself features three different events. The first is the MK Delta Criterium event on Friday night in North Delta around a tight 1.2 km route. The second is the Brenco Criterium on Saturday night in the heart of Ladner. The last is the White Spot | Delta Road Race, an internationally sanctioned Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) event running through the streets of Tsawwassen.

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Professional racers from around the world make their way to BC for these races. Because the the road race in Tsawwassen is a UCI sanctioned event, racers will be pushing to earn points towards qualifying for international races, including the Tour de France. You and I can expect to see some world-class racing!

As the Community Engagement Director for the Tour de Delta, I have been working hard this year to help bring awareness and engagement to this wonderful event. Along with my fellow Tour de Delta board members, we came up with and executed a number of new ideas to this end including a photobooth and school sports day packages.

Both the North Delta and Tsawwassen events have community events attached to them including food, entertainment, and lots of family friendly activities. All three events also feature kids races and the North Delta and Tsawwassen events will feature a Rotary Bike Obstacle park including teeter-totters, ramps, and tabletops perfect for kids between the ages of 5 and 13.

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When I joined the organizing board this year I was made aware that there were some issues with the website. It had recently been hacked, and was in need of a facelift. It made sense to offer our website development services to resolve both these issues and now their new website is ready to roll!

The website features a parallax wordpress theme that has been customized to suit the Tour’s needs. It incorporates responsive (aka mobile-friendly) design making it look great on both mobile devices and desktops.

So check out our new website for the Tour de Delta and come out and enjoy the races with me! This community event really allows you to get up close with some of the best racers in the world, and I hope to see you there!