Dumb phones, dumb televisions, and even dumb refrigerators are going the way of the dodo bird, as many objects we interact with on a daily basis are being replaced by “smart” models. It appears that next on the chopping block are dumb cities, because the latest trend in the smart-sphere is the emergence of Smart Cities, which are poised to optimize the way urban populations go about their everyday lives. Behind this transformation is the Internet of Things (IoT), where the deployment of sensors in new and existing machines will allow the collection of greater amounts of data. This, in turn, permits government officials to make better decisions about everything from trash pickup to hospital locations. Plenty of Smart City pilot projects are being carried out all over the world with a focus on improving waste management, healthcare, transportation, parking, housing, and all aspects of energy management from creation and distribution to utilization.   Smart Successes Many small success stories have emerged from these pilot projects. In Houston, for example, the city was losing close to 15 billion gallons of water annually due to leaks in city pipes. Using traditional technology, the leaks were extremely hard to pinpoint and fix. In 2015, the city rolled out intelligent pump controls and sensors to monitor water pressure, detect leaks, and even identify potential sites of future leaks. The roll out was a success, and the city has since saved billions of gallons of water. In Denmark, the City of Copenhagen has undertaken one of the largest upgrades to a public lighting system, switching 20,000 of the city’s outdoor lights to LEDs, which is estimated to have reduced energy use by 57% in 2016. Part of this reduction is the result of dimming smart sensors. These smart sensors can discern ambient traffic and lighting and dim streetlights during times of reduced traffic or when the moon happens to be particularly bright, for instance. The sensors can also detect when a pedestrian or motorist is using the street and ensure that enough lighting is provided, dimming the lights after traffic has ceased.   Analytics, Design, and Security While the merits of a Smart City model are evident, such rollouts are useless – or even dangerous – if a city fails to hire the right people or provide them with the tools needed to succeed. While a city may have an adequate number of sensors deployed with each one collecting mountains of data on traffic, climate, energy consumption, and more, this data is virtually useless if the city isn’t capable of analyzing and implementing solutions based on that data. As Smart Cities become increasingly popular, data scientists will be in high demand. At the same time, the ability for city officials to easily manage Smart Cities is just as valuable. City officials require tools that allow them to understand the information provided by data scientists, and to easily get an overview of trends and current statuses (like power outages for instance). Web and app design and programming companies that can create intuitive platforms and functional dashboards that relay analytics in an easy-to-understand and simple-to-manage format will also be invaluable. The same can be said for security. A takeover of a city’s IoT network could wreak havoc on its infrastructure and people. Hacked traffic lights, for instance, could cause a city to come to a standstill or even cause fatal accidents. Cities looking to implement Smart IoT solutions must be ready to hire the best and brightest security professionals and companies available.   The advancement of technology and the drop in associated costs has allowed IoT to flourish, making the implementation of Smart Cities around the world increasingly possible. City planners have an opportunity to bring about real and tangible change at an unprecedented rate thanks to the adoption of IoT technology, but only if they onboard the right people and companies. Running a Smart City is a monumental task, but the benefits are numerous. Just ask Houston.   Is your city looking to go ‘Smart’? Contact us to learn how an intuitive management platform makes the roll out up to 300% more effective.       Read More
  Iterative design is one of the most effective ways to build software. It’s a design methodology that is particularly popular among UX designers. This is because incremental improvements are the backbone of iterative design. Enhancements to the product’s usability, accessibility, and level of enjoyment experienced by the user are made throughout the design phase, with user feedback typically helping shape those enhancements with each iteration. When done in sprints, software design iterations are made much more agile.   With agility being a major asset among startups, let’s take a closer look at how iterative sprints can enhance the design process.   What is Iterative Design? Iterative design is a cyclical process for creating software, websites, and applications in which the product is designed in several small stages and a tangible result is achieved at the end of each stage. At this point, the design team and/or client will seek out feedback by having others test the features out. The feedback received will be used to shape the subsequent iterative stage.   We can use an example of a geo-social networking app to get a better idea. Let’s say a client hires a software design agency to build an app that allows users to share promotions and sales that are running at local small businesses. By creating a crowd-sourced, up-to-date, centralized listing of current promotions, nearby users are more likely to visit a small business that they’ve never even heard of before. In one iteration, the design team may decide to create filters and categories, allowing users to only view sales that are expiring soon, or to only view promotions belonging to restaurants. At the conclusion of the iteration, the filters and categories tools will be fully functional. At this point, the client will test the product out, and have others test it out as well in order to present the design team with helpful feedback.   Executing on Feedback Gathering feedback is a core component of iterative design. Expanding on the example above, once the iteration is complete and the design team has gathered enough reactions and comments, the team will then plan the next iteration out. Perhaps, those who tested the features added after the most recent iteration, find that they enjoy the filter tools but would like to see businesses assigned a color based on their category. For instance, gyms will appear green on the map, while restaurants will appear purple. If the client and design team decide that the criticism is valid and executing on that feedback will enhance the user experience, then the design team will incorporate those fixes in the next iteration.   What are Sprints? Like the name suggests, sprints are all about speed. Sprints are a type of iteration that typically last 5-15 days. They are popular among startups because they reduce time-to-MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and increases agility. At the conclusion of each sprint iteration, a tangible and functional product or result is delivered. For sprints to be effective, the design team (or ‘sprint team’) should be made up of experts that can each contribute something unique to the sprint. For instance, a sprint team may include a project manager, two designers, an engineer, a copywriter, and a QA expert. This way, everyone can focus on their specialty, making the entire team more agile.   It’s not always possible to implement every suggestion made, however. Some suggestions won’t be feasible, some will be too costly to incorporate, and others may not enhance the user experience at all. That’s why it’s important that the client and design team carefully assess the feedback, and determine if there’s value in implementing it. With time posing a restriction – most clients want the app built within 4-6 months – and budgets needing to be adhered to, it isn’t always feasible to make every little change suggested. Therefore, the client and design team are encouraged to prioritize changes and only execute those that truly add value.   Here are some questions the client and design team should ask themselves when deciding on which changes to prioritize: What percentage of users will benefit from this change? Will the change bring in additional revenue? Is it possible that some users may benefit while others will be negatively affected? Does the change enhance the usability, accessibility or level of enjoyment? How long will the change take to implement? What resources are needed? How much will it cost?   Running through these questions will give the client and design team a clearer idea of which changes should be implemented in the next iteration, and which can be put aside.   When agility is crucial to your business, iterating through sprints is your solution. You’ll reduce the time it takes to test out functionality, find it easier to stay on budget, and go to market faster.   Ready to start your first iteration? Schedule a strategy session with us.   Read More
You’ve poured your heart and soul into making the best game possible. You’ve play tested, found all the bugs, made sure your code executed perfectly across a wide range of devices and platforms, put in great art and animations, and made sure that your payment gateway is responding properly. However now comes the part that every mobile game startup both looks forward to and dreads, getting people to play their game. While there are many potential marketing strategies that a mobile game startup can use, one of the most tried and tested methods of making any product successful is through the use of referrals. Read More
  Everything you do, from your daily routine to long term business development - is a decision. With every decision, comes risk.   Only by utilizing a reliable process can educated decisions be made, poor decisions identified faster, and risk mitigated.   Decision making is a science, and that is where we come in. Having designed and fine tuned our process, we have established our way of getting things done. Using smaller decision intervals, faster iterations, quicker pivots, we come up with quality results - faster.   Utilizing standardized procedures, we function powerfully as a team. Once we pair with a company, we don’t start a new process from scratch. Instead, we adapt our ways to fit your needs. The process is customized to your product, yet structured in such a way as to enforce timeliness, organization, and guaranteed results.   It is through iteration and re-evaluation that secure decisions are made.    Offering time proven techniques, we walk through the design and development stages of your company with you - step by step - making decisions along the way.  As product specific data is gathered throughout the process, it is utilized to measure and re-evaluate the decisions, going through as many iterations as needed to arrive at a top quality product. Discover our approach to decisions making - you won’t be disappointed. Read More
 Fantasy sports is big business. According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, 32 million Americans take part in the pastime, spending $15 billion on playing. We sat down with Chris Tisler, Chief Operating Officer of White Tie Fantasy, to hear how they got their start in the industry. White Tie Fantasy partnered with NapkinBetaBeyond, to take its idea from go from Napkin ➤ βeta ➤Beyond℠.  Read More