The applications we use to make our lives easier have migrated from the computer to the smartphone. And, just like the much smaller smartphone, the name has been shortened to “apps.”
Revolutions in the Middle East, real-time travel information and routes, more ways to connect with friends, family and business contacts than one can shake a landline phone at – the use of apps has become so embedded in so many cultures that we have left behind the joke, “There’s an app for that.” It isn’t a joke any longer. If it isn’t completely intangible, there is likely an app for it.
Businesses have not been immune. As detailed in the pages of earlier issues of this magazine, app development and use have become an integral profit maximizer and business necessity for many Texas companies. Customers expect apps to provide them with high-quality user experiences and enhance their productivity. Executives are likely more discerning than the average user in choosing the apps they use – and promote to employees.
Texas companies haven’t missed the boat in developing apps for use by business executives the world over. These companies are rapidly growing because of their innovative apps in the fields of health and wellness, customer relationship management, executive business travel, business operations and other areas. Here are eight apps developed by Texas companies that business executives can use to make life a little easier when they have only their smartphone at hand.
Take Austin-based Silvercar (www.silvercar.com, iPhone, Android), for instance. Land at an airport in a new city – and no matter how great the commercials are and sincere the assurances of customer service – the rental car inevitably ends up being just up the vehicular food chain from a Ford Festiva (no offense to its fans). Silvercar ensures business executives have access to the sort of ride they deserve. Business travelers can sign up online or via the Silvercar app to reserve an Audi A4 – every time – with free GPS, Wi-Fi and satellite radio. Just scan the QR code on the vehicle to unlock it and it’s business done in – digitally utilitarian – style. The company currently serves the AUS, DAL, DFW, HOU, SFO and LAX airports but is expanding rapidly and has inked a partnership with Virgin America. They have also just recently started offering FCExclusive Benefits’ FoundersCard members additional perks.
While out driving that Audi between business meetings, client dinners and hotel, the car is likely to need gas. Use Dallas-based Bottle Rocket’s FuelFinder app (www.bottlerocketapps.com, iPhone, Android) to find the cheapest station to gas up that sweet ride. With U.S.-Canadian reach, FuelFinder is billed as the most comprehensive source for fuel prices. In fact, Bottle Rocket will likely be going international – it’s recently been acquired by WPP, the world’s largest network of advertising and marketing service companies.
Before the big client meeting, skip the hotel treadmill and clear the head on a jog in one of the many trails in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, El Paso or other cities. MapMyFitness (www.mapmyfitness.com, Android, iPhone, Blackberry) is there to help, especially if the city is unfamiliar – this app comes with over 160 million routes preprogrammed. But that’s not all. It’s really a fitness tracking app using the GPS on a smartphone to track all fitness activities. The app allows recording work out details, including duration, distance, pace, speed, elevation, calories burned and route traveled on an interactive map. The stats can be uploaded to the MapMyFitness Web site for more opportunities to manipulate the data. But there’s more! By incentivizing employees to use a fitness app like MapMyFitness, companies can also save on the increases in health insurance costs and decreases in productivity associated with the national epidemic of obesity – how about giving this app to team members as an employee benefit? MapMyFitness is also perfect for those executives who just wish to work off stress, follow doctor’s orders, are running fanatics or just want to legitimately stick that 26.2 (or higher) sticker on their vehicles. Indeed, the Austin-based company was recently acquired by Under Armour.
EverNote (www.evernote.com, Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, Blackberry, WebOS), the popular collaboration platform’s app, allows sharing ideas, research, images, links, text and pretty much anything else on digital notebooks with others on the team to view and/or contribute. While the company is based in California, its Austin office is growing. Key elements to consider about EverNote are its low price for businesses and robust feature set. There’s also a free version to keep personal notes.
Don’t call Austin-based Handshakez (www.handshakez.com, iPhone) a CRM. They’re devoted to ensuring teams and clients work together, and they’ve designed an attractive app to accomplish just that. It is similar to EverNote, but loaded with more options. Handshakez is a collaboration and analytics platform that combines private, collaborative digital rooms with a highly social focus, the ability to share slides, videos, ideas and other materials (much like EverNote) and analyze analytics from the collaborative spaces built for business relationships. They even allow measuring team engagement by a heat map – from an iPhone. Go even further by integrating the system with Salesforce.
Moving into a neighborhood of heavy-duty apps, the Macheen Mobile Cloud Platform (http://www.macheen.com, BYOD) is the first of its kind in providing universal, untethered mobile connectivity. It provides mobile employees with a constant connection to the company’s most frequently used websites and applications. No more wasting productive hours searching for a Wi-Fi connection. Macheen provides the same connectivity for the device wherever and whenever needed. With services in 80 countries, Austin-based Macheen’s Mobile Cloud has employees connected.
Time for a quick time-value-of-money calculation? How about a cash-flow analysis with NPV and IRR? The heavy-duty app for that is from Dallas-based Texas Instruments. (www.ti.com for iPhone and iPad) This app is called the BAII PLUS financial calculator and it calculates depreciation, book value, bond prices and yields, to say nothing of trig, stats, logarithms and everything a business major holds dear.
Austin-based Spanning Cloud Apps, Inc. (www.spanning.com, iOS, Android), creators of the enterprise-class data protection solution Spanning Backup for Google Apps, added to their inventory with Audit Log for Google Apps. The app allows administrators to monitor their Google Apps domains from their mobile devices. It sends out an alert when changes are made to domain settings – allowing for monitoring domains on the go and in real time. On the way to a client dinner and someone else is monitoring? All audit actions by other administrators are there and it’s possible to review the history of all changes via a smartphone when dinner is done. Then, stand back in awe of the fact that the app was created at a Spanning hack-a-thon.
It’s the creativity that bursts forth from developers at events like Spanning’s hack-a-thon that are keeping the Texas app development community blazing trails. The talent, ingenuity and resources are available in Texas for established companies and startups to take advantage of the growing mobile marketplace. These Texas-developed apps are here to help.
William Pate is a principal and owner of Booda Studio, LLC, a digital interaction design studio based in Austin. He is also Texas CEO Magazine’s social media manager. Contact him on Twitter at @TexasCEO.