iPad Apps

A year since its release, the iPad platform continues to gain broad appeal in the design and building product community.  That big, bright, highly portable screen is replacing both the clipboard and the laptop in many meetings and site visits. Businesses in all corners of industry and commerce have found it advantageous to create apps for the iPhone.

As an electronic catalogue, or purchasing device, its big screen can display architectural materials at a pleasant scale, and explain design problems and concepts with readily accessible illustrations.  The iPad-based catalog not only weighs nothing, so it can be carried anywhere, but it can go conceptually where a hardcopy catalog cannot: interactivity, video displays, and far more.

A thoughtfully designed app can be an effective means of interacting with your customers. We believe that developing such apps, is a great opportunity for building products marketers, and we are working with our clients to take advantage of it.

Signs of Change: Our changing cameras

Two articles came out this week that underscore how much camera use is changing in the smartphone era.

First, Cisco announced they were discontinuing their Flip line of camcorders. Flip had emerged as the dominant brand name for ultra-portable consumer grade camcorders; the video equivalent of point-and-shoot digital cameras. For about a hundred bucks you could get a camcorder that fit in your pocket and took YouTube-ready video. Most models even have USB adapters for easy charging and one-button uploads to your website of choice.

I got one last summer, and my experience foreshadows Cisco's decision to end the line. It was a great piece of technology - worked well, easy to use, and took high enough quality video for what I needed - but I could not get in the habit of carrying another dedicated piece of technology at all times. If I need a quick spur-of-the-moment video, I use my iPhone. If I need something more sophisticated, I usually have enough advance notice to bring a full camcorder along. Apparently this was the general consensus, and the Flip is joining the list of useful-but-obsolete gadgets.

The second article shows how design firm Artefact is moving in the opposite direction; their goal is to create the first "smart camera".

Working on the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy, Artefact's plan is to make digital cameras more like smartphones. This would introduce such features as wireless handheld viewfinders (that look suspiciously like a smartphone), touchscreen controls, accelerometers, and dedicated apps.

The idea of integrating apps is potentially the most revolutionary. The primary reason most people use their phone instead of a stand-alone camera is the phone makes it easier to edit, organize, and share photos without having to transfer files to a computer first. If my camera had a direct connection to Facebook (or Picasa, or Flicker, or my company's website) and native photo editing software, the smartphone loses that advantage. Now the decision comes down to the photo quality I need; for most consumers the smartphone will be enough, but for professionals and hobbyists the full camera - complete with interchangeable lenses! - wins hands down.

What is notable about both these articles is that the changes they describe were motivated or inspired by smartphone adoption. We are evolving towards increasingly multi-functional, omnipresent, always connected devices. As marketers this should influence whether you create your sales tools as stand alone resources or dedicated smartphone apps.

Another Magazine goes Online Only

Masonry Construction is the latest trade publication to drop its print edition and become online only. This trend has important implications for advertising and PR.

An announcement from its editor explains:
Being nimble and quick on your feet are necessary when business prospects become challenging. As unpleasant as they may be, sometimes changes are necessary. Masonry contractors know this as well as anyone. The publishing environment has been very similar the past couple of years. So we are moving in a different direction and have ceased publishing the print edition of Masonry Construction magazine. But along with this, there is also good news: Masonry Construction will still appear in various electronic formats to keep you up to date about the masonry industry.
No doubt the Great Recession was a factor, but it also reflects changes in how the industry gets its information. Watch for Masonry Construction and others to start publishing for mobile devices that contractors can read in the field.

Signs of Change: Android is #1

CNN Money reports that Android is now the most commonly used smartphone operating system in the United States. As the article puts it, "a stunning race to the top from a platform that didn't exist just 27 months ago."

Interestingly, most of this growth seems to have come at the expense of Blackberry, and to a lesser extent Microsoft. Apple's market share has decreased slightly, but remained mostly stable. Smartphone adoption also increased more than 10% last year, so I suspect much of Android's success is coming from new smartphone owners that are buying the newest, shiniest model available, rather than abandoning their old phones.

What does this mean for marketers?
The field is now more tightly packed. Early in 2010, Blackberry had nearly 50% of the smartphone market, with Apple in second place at less than 30%. Now, Apple, Blackberry, and Android are within about 5% of each other. This means it is no longer as viable a strategy to design a system-specific app unless you plan to make versions for each operating system. Even as the new front-runner, an Android-only app will ignore almost 70% of the market. The only exception to this is if you have done enough market research to know that your clients have a strong preference; this is, however, not likely to be the case.

Instead, look at creating web-based apps. Make these more than dedicated mobile sites by including functionality that clients will need while out of their office, and make it easier to treat it as a "dedicated app" by including instructions to install a shortcut on your smartphone's home screen.

Part of Android's success, in my opinion, comes from the same strategy that helped Microsoft beat Apple in the world of PCs: their operating system is not tied to a specific hardware. This means people can shop around more easily for lower price, and  feature sets that better meet their needs. But it also means there is less predictability about what features any given smartphone will offer. Design your web apps and mobile web pages around the most common features (touch screen, some form of keyboard, cameras, etc.), and do not be overly reliant on advanced features that may not be standard (gyroscopes, GPS, video).

It will be interesting to see how the continued emergence of tablets into mobile computing will effect these rankings. Will iPad's popularity and early technological  leadership help Apple retake the lead, or will Android-based tablets win out for the same reasons their phones did?

App usage overtakes web & voice on smartphones

According to a report released last week by Zokem and GSMA, app usage is the second most common smartphone activity, trailing only messaging.

I have a few issues with these findings, but it still contains a useful message.

I take issue with two points of this report. First, they report usage in terms of "minutes", not "data transfered", "number of uses", or any measure of the utility of the medium. Considering how slowly most people type on smartphones, saying that I spend 30% more time on email than voice calls is not very meaningful.

Also, the dividing lines between these categories are very fuzzy. Many of the apps I use are essentially single-purpose web browsers, and many apps replace functionality I would normally get from a browser as well. So if I can check email using the iPhone's native capabilities (categorized as "Messaging"), from a dedicated app, or via my web browser, how does my time get labeled? What if I make a phone call using an app, such as Skype?

Despite these concerns, there is still an important message. When there are multiple tools available to accomplish a given task, people prefer to use a dedicated app -- especially for tasks they perform on a regular basis.

In other words, if I am looking for information on a company's product, and it is a one time only purchase, I will use my web browser. If I use that company's products regularly, I will use their app.

For marketers, this means there are two situations where you should look at developing an app:

1. There is a specific task related to your product for which you can create a tool (ie, a brick cost estimator app), or

2. You anticipate customers frequently accessing your catalog, guide specs, etc.

If either of those fit your needs, consider creating an app. If not, your app will probably be perceived more as a vanity/marketing project and is less likely to be downloaded or used.

My Life in an iPhone: One Year Later

It seems hard to believe I've only had my iPhone for one year; it's had such an impact on my home and work life that it feels like it's been around for a lot longer. In that year there has also been a significant cultural shift in the way we use mobile, so much so that it's easy to forget only about a third of cell phone users have smartphones.

It is useful, given the predictions of explosive smartphone adoption in the coming year, to look at some of the ways smartphones have changed the game, and try to understand how they can assist a marketing campaign.

First, a word of clarification. From a functionality standpoint, most of the current generation of smartphones are essentially interchangeable. I talk about iPhones a lot because that's what I have - and they are, for now, the most iconic of the latest generation smartphones - but almost everything I say about them applies equally well to Blackberry, Android, Palm, and the rest.

My iPhone isn't actually the first smartphone I've owned. I was one of the first people in Southwestern Michigan to use a Palm Pilot, and as soon as I had the opportunity I upgraded to a Trio. That lasted until I had to change providers, and went to a Windows Mobile device. I stuck with that through a couple incarnations before coming to the iPhone. In some ways, my history as a smartphone user makes it even more remarkable that the iPhone made such an impact; it didn't add any capabilities I didn't already have, so what makes it so much better?

What differentiates the modern generation of smartphones from their predecessors, in my mind, is they were designed with internet connectivity at the core. By contrast, my earlier smartphones felt more like portable business machines with internet capabilities added on as an extra feature, much like early PCs. The difference is that surfing the net, checking email, and downloading new programs is simple and enjoyable, rather than simply possible. I spent more time online in the first month I had an iPhone than in the years I had my older devices.

Several of the smartphone's defining features stem from this internet centrality:

  • Extensibility: It is very easy for smartphones to pick up new abilities, or modify existing ones, on the fly. I experienced this at a conference this summer; I wanted to take a picture of the speaker, and needed a better zoom. After a few minutes in the App Store I had zoom, color correction, and photo cropping capability, plus one-button uploads to Facebook. What does this mean for manufacturers? If you make a useful tool, and make it easy for people to find when they need it, people will use it. 
  • Cross-Media Communication: All of my communication media streams funnel through my smartphone, which means I can easily move a message from voice mail to email to SMS to Twitter. Most people don't do voice communication through PCs, yet, so in this way the smartphone is more versatile than my desktop computer. 
  • Constant Communication: In the same vein, smartphones allow essentially around-the-clock (if you choose to let it) connection to all your key communication media. Everything else only allows communication when you're at your desk, or in the office, or have a table, power outlet, and WiFi for your laptop. Savvy marketers appreciate this because it means instantaneous responses to customer inquiries or complaints.
  • Not Just A Mini Computer: This recent evolution has truly separated the smartphone from the "Pocket PC" mentality; that is to say, the idea your smartphone is the same as your computer with smaller, less powerful bits. Instead of looking like a shrunken Windows desktop, the iPhone interface looks like, well, an iPhone. This paradigm change means the message of the smartphone is starting to emerge. Marketers that continue to design "mobile friendly" content as "like normal digital content, but smaller" are making the same mistake as those that think their website is a digital version of their catalog. 
  • Media Center: Again, this is, ostensibly, something my old smartphones could do, but the iPhone made it an easier, better experience. I can fit my company's complete A/V and photo library on my phone with room to spare - and that's not because we have a small library - and take it with me on sales calls. Professional photographers have told me the color is not right, printed photos are still better, but it's good enough for a sales call or an elevator pitch. 
  • Instant Information: I realized one day that teenagers will never again have to ask, "What are the lyrics to that song?" If the answer exists online, it is accessible on your phone. Which means your answers had better be online, in a mobile-friendly format, or prospects will use your competitor's answers instead.
The really cool advances are coming when people find ways to combine these features to create a unique capability or experience. When, for example, a customer can take a picture, use your app to analyze it and get answers, and get a follow-up phone call from a sales rep while they are still in the situation where they need the information. 

Bottom line, the opportunity smartphones provide marketers is to be closer to their customers. You can be a pocket-sized "virtual consultant" for your clients when they go into sales meetings or design sessions. That increases your value to them, which produces more sales.

Signs of Change: Service Providers as App Providers

I have been predicting for a while now that apps would be as revolutionary to the internet as websites originally were.This week an article called "Why Consultants Need to Build Apps" shows we're one step closer to that point:
Services firms...are adapting in new ways to the fast-paced [application] development world. It's not simple but by no means is it as complex as it once was to develop applications. And from our estimations, it will become increasingly important as apps offer increasing business intelligence and the ability to provide self-serve tools any customer can use.
Bullseye. People are increasingly turning to smartphone or webapps as their primary tools for many of their daily activities, and building product manufacturers that understand this trend will have a strong advantage.

A quick definition: I define an app as a small, specialized, single-purpose program. Most apps are easier to download and install than traditional programs, allowing quick and easy ways to upgrade your phone's functionality. Webapps are the same basic idea, but benefit by being housed on a webpage so they will work across multiple operating systems. Disadvantage of webapps is you need an internet connection, and you may miss out on many of the unique features of the individual phones.

Full-scale software development is an expensive and resource-intensive process; many apps, by contrast, are made by individuals in their free time. Software has a high sticker price; many apps are free.

I was joking with a friend who works as a business coach that he needed an iPhone app; how great would it be for his clients to walk into negotiations with him literally in their pocket? We laughed, but he was intrigued by the possibility, and that possibility is exactly what this article taps into.

Many product manufacturers are finding that to stay competitive they have to think of themselves as service providers: we don't sell bricks, we help designers achieve their masonry construction goals, or I don't sell screws, I help my clients figure out why their old screws failed. If you provide a service to your clients, there is an app that can encapsulate and enhance the experience.

How will you find yours?

Signs of Change: Sony Retires the Walkman

Please remove your headphones and join me in a moment of Volume Down to mark the passing of the cassette tape-playing Walkman. While the Walkman was officially ejected from Sony's line on October 25th, the stop button was pressed on production back in April of this year.

What was most striking to me about this announcement was that I didn't even realize the cassette-based Walkman was even still in production! Once I got my first CD player, the cassette collection I had spent so much time building quickly started gathering dust, and I can probably count the number of music CDs I have purchased in the past decade on both hands. The only cassette player I still own is in my car; I only ever use it to plug in my iPod adapter. 

Walkman once defined the category now ruled by iPod. Digital music aficionados highlight the benefit of "infinite adaptability" of digital music, meaning that if (when) MP3 is dethroned as the file of choice, converting your entire music library will be a relatively  simple software solution, as opposed to the cost and effort of replacing cassettes with CDs. There is a certain truth to that, but also a certain naivete; CDs were also heralded as the ultimate eternal medium, but now laptops are being sold without any optical drives at all!

What lesson does this teach building product marketers? 

Do not confuse the medium of your sales literature with its content or its structure. We are seeing the death throes of the architectural binder, and the packed-with-literature CD and even flash drive will eventually follow. The best philosophy now is flexibility. Everything in your binder or on your CD should also be available on your webpage, ideally as text and graphics as well as PDF, and as new formats become widely used consider the best way to convert your documents to reach these new users while not abandoning the existing ones.

This is not a perfect solution, nor is it intended to be. It is more of a mindset; change will occur, and to maximize return on the investment you should be making in your sales literature, your media choices need to change too. 

nora Rubber Flooring's Blackberry App

Rubber flooring company nora is offering a free Blackberry app aimed at helping designers make color selections while on the road. Their page also offers an online color selector and, impressively, a QR code to download the app with instructions on how to use QR codes!  

I have not gotten to use the app yet, since I do not have a Blackberry, but I like what they have done. It shows they know their target market makes decisions in the field, and has a certain amount of tech-savvy. Presenting this with the online color selector is also a great idea because it expands the ways designers can use the tools and interact with the product.

Having the QR code is great; it skips the multi-step process of downloading the app to your computer and syncing to the phone, or the annoyance of typing a complex URL on a Blackberry. Providing links to instructions and a reader is very helpful and demonstrates, to me, attention to customer support.

There is no word on the site about upcoming iPhone or Droid versions; if these are not in the works it seems a surprising choice. Blackberry users are not the strongest app adopters. I wonder if nora's customer profile shows a strong preference for Blackberry, or if this is a choice that will prove limiting.

Based on my limited view of the program itself, it seems to be basically a digital catalog. It provides no tools for doing anything except choosing nora product colors and contacting a sales rep. This type of branded utility works great for loyal customers, but may not do much to bring in new customers or create a viral spread.

Still, creating this app makes nora one of the social media leaders and innovators in the flooring market and I applaud them for their commitment to innovation and customer support.

Tag Used (Almost) Correctly

In last month's ASHRAE Journal, Price Industries ran a full-page ad including a Microsoft Tag - their proprietary version of QR codes - and used the Tag almost exactly correctly. Unfortunately, the one rule they broke is the big one.

Here's the ad:

At the bottom is the tag, with instructions on how to use it. Including instructions is a smart move, and I like that they used the black & white version so it would still work if someone made a non-color copy of the ad.

Scanning the tag brings you here:

Very cool; the site's good looking, and it's information about the project I was looking at in the ad. That gives it relevance, which is essential to a successful QR Code campaign. [Note: I use QR Code as the "Kleenex" of the industry, because it's a more resonant term than "Two-dimensional Bar Code"] Users want information about their current task at hand, not a webpage they might be interested in later.

Where this fails, though, is the landing page itself. Look at the screenshot above again. Here's a link to the same page on a full-size browser. You need that second link, because most of the screen from my iPhone is too small to read! It is essential to have all your QR Codes point to mobile friendly sites!

When I started researching QR codes, a simple search of the app store brought me over 20 readers in a few seconds. Looking for a reader that works reliably from my desktop took days. Most people will use QR Codes with a phone, so the content needs to be optimized for mobile screen sizes.

In summary, Price did a great job of using Tag in their ad; it was clearly displayed, looked good, and had relevant information. But they failed to use a mobile-friendly landing page; that's a big enough sin to almost erase everything they did right.

DuPont's iPhone App

DuPont's iPhone app, mySurface, bills itself as a full catalog of "full-sized samples you can take anywhere you go". I would love to see an app like this with more augmented reality capabilities, but the app does a good job of taking you from color selection to sales rep in one easy package.

User reviews are largely positive; pay special attention to the users that claim they decided to use DuPont products because of the app:

I was always thinking of Corian a
nd now, after flipping through these Zodiaq selections I am thinking of doing the bathroom not just the kitchen!

...easy, smooth, simple process...good for business!
This app does what B2B smartphone apps should do: it makes it easy and attractive to use DuPont's products. I can only imagine that an iPad version would be even more effective, as the larger screen could allow larger sample photos and maybe even side-by-side comparisons.

iPad Apps: Channel to Reach Designers

The arrival of the Apple iPad on April 3 was followed, just 5 days later, by the arrival of the first BIM app for the iPad. Structural Engineering & Design reports that goBIM is the first iPad-compatible app to enable users to navigate models and review data tagged to model elements (such as materials, manufacturer information and volumetric information). www.gostructural.com/news-ipad_to_unlock_power_of_new_app_for_building_designers-435.html.

Apple's iPad has a large, bright, colorful screen that is likely to be very useful to design professionals.

This early entry of A/E tools to the iPad platform is, perhaps, an indication that the device will have broad appeal in the design community.  That big, bright, highly portable screen could be replacing both the clipboard and the laptop in many meetings and site visits.

Businesses in all corners of industry and commerce have found it advantageous to create apps for the iPhone.  Some of these apps are simply brand promoters, such as the brilliant sponsoring by Charmin toilet paper of a free app that locates public restrooms in the user’s immediate vicinity.  Some serve a function directly related to doing business, such as a dedicated insurance quote app for a particular insurance carrier’s agents.  Some serve as an electronic catalogue, or a purchasing device.  This last idea lends itself far better to the big-screen iPad, where it can display architectural materials at a pleasant scale, and explain design problems and concepts with readily accessible illustrations.  The iPad-based catalogue not only weighs nothing, so it can be carried anywhere, but it can go conceptually where a hardcopy catalogue cannot: interactivity, video displays, and far more.

Apps have powered the mushroom-like growth of the iPhone, and can be expected to have a big effect on the popularity of its larger sibling, the iPad.  The device will in all likelihood attract design professionals, which will attract developers to make apps for those designers to buy.  This means the device will probably be in their hands in large numbers by this time next year. Put the pieces together, and it suggests that iPad apps could be a golden road to the hearts and minds of architects and engineers.  

A thoughtfully designed app that is both useful and free will always be popular. We believe that developing such apps, to give away from promotional purposes, is a great opportunity for building products marketers, and we are working with our clients to take advantage of it.

My First Sales Presentation on an iPhone

This may be old news for many of you, but a watershed event for me occured yesterday.

A building product sales rep said, "Let me show you how my product works." He then handed me his iPhone on which a video about his product was being shown. The screen was large enough, and the resolution high enough, that several people were able to see it simultaneously. The one minute video was well produced and provided a convincing demonstration of his product's performance.

Welcome to the brave, new world.

Social Media in Trucks, Exams, and SEO

Three posts that, taken together, reveal the extent to which social media is changing our cultural landscape:

1. Tweet While Driving Hands Free: Ford CEO Alan Mulally is bringing innovations that will make Ford trucks a part of your mobile media life. Major changes include live streaming of Pandora internet radio, iPhone-like customizable controls, ability to send/receive Twitter posts using voice-to-text software, and major overhauls of the truck buying experience to make it a highly personalized "design your own" experience reminiscent of online shopping.
"What is striking to me about Ford is that many people often ask about the ROI of social media. With the great work of Mulally, James Farley and Scott Monty at Ford there is something that can’t be measured; a cultural change."

2. Danish pupils use web in exams: Fourteen schools in Denmark are experimenting with allowing students to surf the web during exams. They are allowed to access a wide range of sites, as long as they do not send or receive messages or emails. Supporting this change,
"Students are no longer required to regurgitate facts and figures. Instead the emphasis is on their ability to sift through and analyse information."
Says one of the professors involved,
"As a nation we've been really good at embracing technology - we've been really at the forefront of doing this well in the classroom. Then they go into the exam room and all that's taken away and they're given a fountain pen and a sheet of lines paper and a three hour time limit. It's time to get real, isn't it?"

3. The Battle Between SEO and Social Search: As social media results are popping up more and more in search engine results, the way we think of SEO needs to change. People tend to put more stock in their friends' experiences, rather than paid ads or third party reviews, meaning these social media results could be disproportionately influential. On the other hand, Google is still far and away the first stop for most inquiries.
"Ultimately choosing the right tool for the job is as important as ever. SEO, social media, and all of the other facets of online marketing (don’t forget email marketing) will continue to be relevant for some time to come."

Taken together, these three articles make a powerful statement about the extent to which social media is now influencing our "real lives" - even our digital real lives! When my family got our first car phone - the size of a modern netbook - it was strictly for emergency purposes only. And ordering pizza during the commute home. We could barely imagine needing to talk to anyone so badly that we needed to take the call in the car. But now there is such an expectation of constant connection that "I'm busy driving" feels like too weak a reason to turn off Twitter.

The shift in educational styles reflects this, too. The knowledge of the world is at our fingertips 24/7; locating, analyzing, and processing information is a far more valuable skill than rote memorization.

The integration of social media into every aspect of our lives will continue, and probably even accelerate during the next few years, limited only by the availability of high-speed wireless networks. Even as specific technologies come and go - someday even Facebook and Twitter will become passe - our culture has permanently changed.

How will you integrate social media into your sales and marketing plans this coming year? Which technologies do you see as most important for your company?

Mobile Web and the White House

How important is mobile web browsing becoming? Even the President now has an app.

A post at ReadWriteWeb this morning discusses the White House's new iPhone app and mobile website. I love the post's title too: US Government in Your Pocket.
The White House announced the release of a new White House iPhone App via a late night blog post on WhiteHouse.gov. Included in the mobile application are features like news items, photos, blog posts, videos, and even live video streaming. That's right - live video.

Granted, the Obama tean have been strong tech adopters since the early days of the campaign, but the underlying message here is there are now enough people expecting they can get their news via their phone that major speeches like the State of the Union can be streamed live to your iPhone.

Still think your business can afford to ignore the mobile web? Later in the article they provide some interesting statistics [the bold emphasis was added by me]:
Also of interest: the White House states that mobile web use has grown over 100% in the last year in the U.S. and higher worldwide. That's putting it mildly. Over the past year, we've heard from numerous companies and analyst firms regarding the explosive growth of the mobile web. For example, in spring of 2009, Opera [manufacturers of a popular alternative web browser] reported a 157% increase in usage of their Opera Mini web browser and a 319% increase in year-over-year data traffic. AdMob release a report in October revealing a 19% increase year-over-year in iPhone/iPod Touch data traffic alone and last month, analyst firm IDC predicted over a billion mobile web users by 2010. Ignoring the mobile masses at this point would be a mistake and it's clear that the White House understands that.

Mobile web is changing the game. No; better to say it already has changed the game. Within the next couple of years, companies that ignore mobile computing will wind up looking like the companies that ignored the internet in the early 90's; behind the times, out of touch, and racing to catch up.

Masterformat Meets iPhone

CSI is offering an iPhone app to convert MasterFormat 95 section numbers to Masterformat 2004. This is not only handy but timely, since CSI has announced it will discontinue support for MasterFormat 95 on December 31, 2009.

They are also offering a MasterFormat 2004 Search app. See their website www.csinet.org for more details, or go directly to the
iTunes app store.

If you have not already converted your product literature to MasterFormat 2004, call Chusid Associates for help converting.

New iPhone Software Benefits Building Product Industry

New iPhone 3.0 Software is finally here!

Going to Construct 2009 or another trade show? You can now record a speaker's presentation with Voice Memos, create meetings and subscribe to other people's calendars. You can also take notes and sync them with your Mac or PC while using a horizontal keyboard!

Forget your schedule at home? The Safari browser is now much faster so you won't waste precious minutes between presentations.

Forget your internet air card or don't want to pay for public internet? Use the internet tethering through your bluetooth to get connected (or maybe you're reading this through a tethered connection)!

Let us know other ways technology is making your building product life easier!

iPhone Apps for Construction

Benjamin Moore on your iPhone
Painting your home is often one of the least expensive ways to make a noticeable--even dramatic--change to an interior. And if you'd like to match a paint color you see in a picture, Benjamin Moore's new iPhone app is ready to come to your aid. Load the picture into an iPhone or iPod touch, click match and scroll through an assortment of related paint colors, including light and dark shades.
Excellent demonstration of the potential of mobile phone computing. Sure, you could use paint chips, but why bother?

What apps could you create for your customer's phone? BuildIntel has some interesting ideas; what are yours?

Building Better with iPhone Applications

Green iPhone Building Apps
from BuildIntel by Building Experts Team

We recently read about the new Benjamin Moore iPhone application on Charles & Hudson and it got us thinking. So we created a list of suggested iPhone applications that are cool, practical, and would help your job. We’re pretty sure that they all would work too. All of these are building related, of course. The names are subject to change, so please use your imagination for now.

  • Is it green yet? Calculates your LEED score for you during construction. (there is currently a training application for your exam)
  • Gopher. Calculate the amount of materials you need by the size of the project. Some examples include siding, decking, flooring, roofing, etc.
  • Hero Hotline. Find a subcontractor in the area and locate them through GPS.
  • In the Zone. Find everything about the area including fees, codes, ordinances, regulations, etc.
  • Carbon Counter. How big is your footprint? Chart your activities and receive a score.
  • Find a Product. Find a Distributor near your project by product availability.
  • Materials Pricing. Pretty self explanatory.
  • I Need Green. Locate green product stores, recycled building products sellers, architectural salvage yards and more.
  • Job site Trainer. A library of how-to construction articles and videos.

They already have a CAD program and the tape measure, so we crossed that off our list. And we know that there are similar applications, but they’re more general, not industry-specific.

From: http://buildintelblog.com/2009/05/27/building-better-with-iphone-applications/

Three Advertising Stories

1. Augmented Reality: "Gimmick" with major potential applications (see http://www.t-immersion.com/ for examples). A webcam locates specific targets that are used as reference points to generate an interactive 3D model. I took a guided tour of the USS Enterprise by moving around a piece of paper, and saw what I would look like in a dozen different pairs of sunglasses. Mostly consumer-focused and “Wow!” effect for now, but think downstream. Imagine getting a postcard in the mail, holding it in front of your iPhone, and seeing the BIM of your new product; turning the card shows the product from all angles, tapping a target changes the model’s color, and another displays the relevant technical details. Now imagine a few years down the road when we have readily available Heads-up Display (HUD), and you get the same effect just by looking at someone’s business card.

2. Good Ads Cost Less: Digg is charging less per click for ads users like, and conversely will charge more for unpopular ads. Increased potential for a successful ad to become very successful, and for bad ads to disappear more quickly. More than that, it shows a continuing change of paradigm; users are now participating not only in content creation but also in advertising. The old one-way model of “We design it, you see it” is fading. Jay Adelson, Digg’s chief executive, notes that “users like advertising that is different and more relevant and more directly targeted better than distracting, boring, traditional ads.” How can you bring your clients into your advertising process?

3. Kindle Ads: Showtime is using Kindle, Amazon’s e-book reader, to advertise new shows. Beyond the details of the new show and the strategy they used, this represents the opening of a new medium for marketing. We have helped clients write and publish books to establish them as the leading expert in their product category; the largest expense and difficulty has always been publishing. This drastically simplifies the process. Sponsorships, give-aways, and
author credits are just the beginning.

And a fun video to round out the list: The Year The Media Died http://tinyurl.com/q465kv (a long but funny parody of print media’s recent troubles).

With thanks to PSFK.