The Computer in Your Pocket

September 6, 2010
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Apps for smart phones have been multiplying exponentially, including several introductions to the HVAC industry. Is this a revolution, evolution, or a flash in the pan?

“There are two major revolutions taking place,” said Daniel Burrus, technology forecaster and business strategist. The most apparent is a hardware evolution. “We’ve gone from main frames to desktops, and then laptops be- came our main tool.

“Another major hardware shift is taking place,” he said, that has resulted in smart phones and smart pads. “The main computing tool is becoming our phone. The power of the computer is in your pocket.”

On the software side, “We have apps that you can download,” Burrus continued. “They’re easy to install or delete, they’re highly focused, they’re not hard to make, and you have the ability to personalize your phone.”

Companies that may still be on the fence regarding having an app presence need to answer one key question: “Are you changing as fast as your customers, and your customers’ customers, are changing? Taking a wait-and-see attitude is not an option,” said Burrus. “You don’t want to be like a Polaroid camera.”

HVAC RELEVANCE

HVAC contractors, he said, tend to have more personalized relationships with their customers. Apps can be used for better customer communication. Users also could apply video conferencing for iPhone® and iPad®. “It’s a mountain of opportunity,” Burrus said. “Consider a mountain the size of Everest; we’re in the foothills.”

Naturally, some apps are better than others. “I think good planning is the key to developing a good app,” he said. Bad apps are those “where you have not researched it well. Instead of throwing it together quickly, plan it so that it’s intuitive and fun to use.” (The NEWS is developing a special app for cutting-edge contractors that want resources on the go.)

“If you can’t think of the fun factor,” he said, “find young people to look at it from outside the industry - high school or college kids.

“If you look at the types of apps currently available in the stores, you can see that most of the companies developing apps are focused more on the present than the future … In fact, if you look for business apps in iTunes®, the largest app store, you’ll find [many] on such things as document scanning, creating to-do lists, and document sharing.”

Standing out in the business world, he said, “requires you to be more than a commodity - you need to be a unique solutions provider.” So how important is it to have an app presence? “I think the waiting period is over,” Burrus said. “This, too, will not pass.”

PRODUCTS

The following apps have recently been introduced that are specific to the HVAC industry.

The Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), (www.acca.org), has released its first app for the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad. Search for “ACCA Today” from your device in the app store, or download directly from iTunes.

ASHRAE’s (www.ashrae.org) Standard 62.1 app, developed for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, makes calculations in the field possible. It performs outdoor air calculations found in the Ventilation Rate Procedure, and the interactive 62MZCalc spreadsheets. The app can also be used to determine 62.1 compliance of simple ventilation systems (single-zone, 100 percent outdoor air and changeover-bypass VAV), as well as more complex ventilation systems (single-path, multiple-zone recirculating).

Other features include the ability to store and access multiple projects within the app, and to e-mail inputs and results for use in a spreadsheet at a later time. It’s available through the online iPhone App Store.

Goodman Global Inc., (www.goodmanmfg.com), released a mobile app that provides immediate parts lookup, product information, and specifications. SmartContractor™ is a web-based application accessible by any mobile phone with an Internet browser. Techs can locate product information by setting the browser on their phone to http://mobile.goodmanmfg.com and entering the serial number of a Goodman® or Amana® product. The app can also be used with any computer equipped with an Internet browser.

Intuit (www.intuit.com) helps small businesses process credit cards outside the office as soon as the job is done using Intuit GoPayment, which provides a way to process credit cards on the go. Clients can use their mobile phones to accept credit card payments. They need to establish a GoPayment merchant account.

Ridgid (www.ridgidconnect.com) launched RidgidConnect™, a subscription-based, online business tool that allows contractors to share and store digital assets such as diagnostic jobsite photos and videos, job reports and histories, maintenance records, customer lists, and other business files, which in turn simplify external and internal communication, as well as recordkeeping. Its functions focus on its ability to share and store data, therefore simplifying these activities for contractors, especially in their customer communications.

Service Experts (www.serviceexperts.com) developed proprietary handheld devices, named FAST, which links specialized devices. The company said the devices, “which look like large walkie-talkies with screens,” offer a dispatching and central documentation application, including quick, electronic access to customer files. It allows technicians and dispatchers to communicate in real time. A GPS within the device ensures that techs are given the most efficient route to the next appointment. Once there, the tech can access a customer’s history and service electronically and document details from the current visit.

U.S. Energy Group (www.use-group.com) announced that the USE-Mobile application provides property managers with the ability to control their buildings with their mobile devices, including iPhones, Blackberries, and other smart phones. The app allows building owners and managers to know exactly what is happening in each building of a large portfolio and take action, remotely and immediately. It integrates information from the USE Controller™ energy management system and the USE Verifier® digital fuel gauge. Features include real-time status of critical boiler information, remotely turning the boiler on/off, full system integration with the USE-Controller (EMS) and Verifier digital fuel gauge, and a strong user-interface design.

WennSoft (www.wennsoft.com) announced the availability of WennSoft Classic 2010, which includes a mobility module, MobileTEC. In addition to being able to remotely update schedules and record expenses, the app enables field staff to capture multiple signatures, generate invoices, and accept payments in the field.

For more information, contact Daniel Burrus through www.burrus.com.

Publication date: 09/06/2010

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