One company that has decided to focus solely on designing mobile applications for the HVAC industry is Carmel Software Corp., located in San Rafael, Calif.
According to Stephen Roth, principal at Carmel, “We were developing desktop applications, but we sold all of our desktop software intellectual property to Autodesk.” After selling off the desktop software portion of the business, Carmel decided to build software for mobile devices.
“In the mobile world, we’re an old-timer,” Roth joked, “because we’ve been developing these apps for almost two years now.” He added that Carmel’s app sales are increasing every month, and this has been a profitable direction for the company to pursue.
HOT SELLERSCarmel’s hottest sellers are its load calc apps. “When a technician wants to find out how big of an air conditioner or furnace the customer needs, [using a load cal app] they can do it within 10 minutes,” Roth said. He added, “And they can do it accurately as opposed to relying on rule of thumb. Plus, they can do it right in the field and can e-mail the results back to the office. It really makes it convenient.”
Carmel offers load calc apps for both commercial and residential work. All of the company’s apps can be purchased and downloaded through Apple’s iTunes store. The company also hosts a basic overview of each of its apps on its website at www.carmelsoft.com. Carmel’s apps for specific tasks such as duct sizing or gas pipe sizing are available for individual purchase or in a bundled app called the HVAC Toolkit.
When it comes to platform, Roth noted that currently Carmel’s apps for the iPhone are most popular. “Most of our apps are developed for the iPhone, but Android is definitely becoming more popular. That’s why we are developing all of our apps for Android as well.”
He added that Carmel is also in the process of migrating all of its apps to iPad format, although none are available for the iPad yet. “If you want to develop a native iPad app, you have to change it so it will fit the screen,” he said.
In addition, Carmel receives requests for developing apps for Blackberry and the new Windows phone. “Whatever people want, we will do it,” Roth said.
As an example, Carmel was hired by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) to custom develop mobile apps for its various standards. Also, the company was recently hired to create a custom app for a large utility’s equipment operations and maintenance staff.
GROWING MOBILE MARKET“The thing about the mobile world is there are apps that are unique to a mobile phone that wouldn’t be possible on a desktop computer,” Roth said.
For instance, he pointed to the GPS features now common on many phones. “Smartphones know where you are,” he said.
Because the phone’s location can be determined by GPS, Roth said, Carmel has designed an equipment locator app that will tell a user everything he needs to know about the equipment he is standing next to. This app is primarily geared for commercial contractors working on preventive maintenance, and Carmel plans to release it within the next few weeks.
Users of the app will have to enter information about the equipment they regularly work on in a central database. Then, from that point, Roth said, “You can use your smartphone and stand next to a piece of equipment, and using location services it will download information about that equipment to your phone immediately.”
Roth pointed out that this instant access to the right information will eliminate the need to “search for it in a desktop app or a ream of paper.”
As more apps like this are designed specifically for mobile users, the mobile market will continue to heat up. And along with that, the competition among developers will also heat up.
Acknowledging the competition, Roth said, “It’s definitely cluttered if you type ‘HVAC’ [into the search bar] in the iTunes store.” He noted that many of the apps on the market are fairly simple and aid the user with just one task “like calculating airflow real quickly.”
In contrast, Roth said, Carmel’s strategy now and in the future will be to make each app it develops “as powerful as possible, yet easy to use.”