Altabel Group's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘design

Augmented reality – AR, is a world-known term nowadays. Nonetheless it is not that new as we are used to think. We’ve been seeing versions of AR for quite some time already. The concept is pretty simple: take a real-life scene, or a video of a scene, and add some kind of explanatory data to it so that you can better understand what’s going on there, or who the people in the scene are, or how to get to where you want to go, for example sports coverage on TV.

“AR has been around for ages,” says Andy Cameron, executive director of Fabrica, an interactive design studio which works with Benetton, “maybe going back as far as the 1970s and art installations that overlaid real spaces with something virtual.” He mentions in particular the work of pioneering computer artist Myron Krueger.
 

 
Nonetheless AR changed a lot in recent years. It became much more accessible. AR has come within reach of all sorts of developers – and millions of people gained access to using AR every day, often in the palms of their hands.

The appearance of powerful smartphones and computers with high-resolution photo/video cameras means that you don’t have to wait for the AR effects as you do with sports TV channels. They can simply be added into real life.

Without doubt, in next few years we will see rapid development of AR and experience it in various spheres of our lives.
 
Industry/military/medicine

Industrial, military and medical applications concerning the validation of designs or plans are a specialization of Augmented Reality. When soldiers need information on their surroundings they can receive detailed 3D maps. If a doctor is performing surgery, a live image of a human subject is accessible. Important occupations in need of crucial information use Augmented Reality tools to visually superimpose their solutions.
 
Navigation

A surgeon performing a complicated procedure or a firefighter trying to find his way out of a burning building can visualize a much more accurate and safe course of action with the help of augmented reality. Similarly, you can see a particular place through your augmented reality incorporated smartphone camera, and immediately find out the nearest cafes, bookshops, dining places.
 
Education

Educational resources are emphasized by Augmented Reality systems and can be used to re-create historical events, activate regular books into 3D images, or even present structures of the galaxy; all superimposed in real-time. Augmented Reality is extremely useful for educators in classroom settings or during presentations and allows students to gain a deeper understanding on the topic at hand. By merging content to media the reading experience is enhanced and the reader is fully engaged. The text and images are on a page as usual, but Augmented Reality allows you to see dynamic, 3D computer graphics “hovering” over it.
 
Shopping

E-Commerce / M-commerce applications will offer a virtual fitting room where apparel can be tried on live.
 
Housing/interior decoration

Innovative technology is providing value for all audiences in the interior design industry. Manufacturers, designers, and the end consumer are all finding use in these technologies in relation to traditional methods. Soon new tech will become the standard, as it helps shoppers make quicker, more informed purchase decisions through personable experiences. If you are interested in creating a more interactive and meaningful experience for your clients or customers, Augment offers custom AR solutions to allow your shoppers to bring your products to real life.
 

 
These are just several spheres where AR solutions will be further developed. At Altabel Group we are keeping track of AR innovations and are ready for new challenges in AR development. And what about you?

Feel free to share your thoughts about AR prospects for the near future in comments below!

 

yana-khaidukova

Yana Khaidukova

Business Development Manager

E-mail: yana.khaidukova@altabel.com
Skype: yana_altabel
LI Profile: Yana Khaidukova

 

altabel

Altabel Group

Professional Software Development

E-mail: contact@altabel.com
www.altabel.com

The digital age has changed customer behavior forever. They have no patience with 9 to 5 and they’re shredding the concept of after-hours and weekends. They have a voice, and that voice demands to be heard whenever, wherever.

Working hours, what’s that?

Banks—previously such strict observers of “working hours” all over the globe—have risen to the challenge by embracing technology. Net banking and ATMs have virtually done away with the need to visit those hallowed brick-and-mortar portals. Mobile payments are being made directly from person to person, minimizing the need for even small amounts of cash. While this is great news for all of us as individuals, the risk for the bank is that it becomes a marginal player in the life of the valued customer.

Let’s take a look at E-commerce. This is the case with several consumer-facing industries, such as cloth, books, groceries, appliances, furniture and such—all of which can be ordered online and delivered while you are away at work. No interface or face-to-face conversation with the company required.  Especially when you’re working from home, you meet the shipping company rep rather than someone from the company you ordered the goods from.  This is perfectly okay for the average buyer, except when something goes wrong!

Say you ordered blue curtains, but what you saw is not what you got. Colors on the digital screen often look different than when seen off-screen. Simply returning what’s arrived is not the solution. Speaking to someone and explaining what you had in mind so you get the right product is. This means that online dealers need to have someone customers can have a live discussion with. Beyond a live agent, online dealers more than ever are finding customers who expect to engage in live conversations any time of the day. Research by Social Bakers, an agency that measures how well brands perform in terms of social customer care, found that the number of questions asked on brand pages on Facebook has increased by 85 percent over the last year, and that airlines had the best response rate of answering 79 percent of these promptly. “Working hours” is not a phrase that works anymore.

Engage, not enrage
Companies selling anything at all cannot afford to be out of touch with their customers. So while digitization may keep the consumer from physically visiting you, it has also forged a path for newer ways in which to meet up through social media. Businesses are following their clients where they go, meeting them where they hang out, not in their offices but online.

Have you noticed that the online store you bought something from recently keeps popping up not only when you google something but also on all kinds of websites that you visit? That’s because The Web knows and tracks your online preferences. Personally, I find pop-ups asking to indulge in a live chat very intrusive—it’s like a store attendant following you everywhere and asking, “Can I help you?”  While it’s good to know there’s someone who can answer your queries, nobody likes to be stalked.

Smart businesses know how to keep track of the customer without being obviously there.

Keeping them engaged is in fact a bigger challenge than ever before since your customer can close that communication window with just a click.

Fly with the experts

Let us take an example of an airline that’s effectively engaging with customers. Lufthansa has its fingers on the pulse of the customer, and potential ones, through an enviable Facebook presence. Contests, events, quizzes all have earned the airline something every self-respecting Facebooker looks for—likes! Over 300,000 likes (on the India page alone), and if even a small percentage decides to fly with it because of the online excitement generated, that’s a big win.

Understandably, retailers and consumer-facing companies have a big Facebook presence. Coca-cola, Starbucks, McDonald’s, Walmart, Levi’s, Target, Nike, Kohl’s are among those that have the highest number of likes. Twitter accounts of many of these companies also have a very, very large number of followers. Clearly, they have managed to reach out effectively to their potential customers using social media.

What to outsource!?

These are still early days for outsourcing social media marketing and engagement, but it makes sense to outsource at least some of your efforts to begin with. Look holistically at your social media marketing plans and start by assessing what skills you have in-house and skills you are lacking. You may decide to start with getting the design and development built by an outsourcer to get your framework up front.

Other areas to consider include:

Savvy social media writers may be a skill your current writing team lacks, so content writing could be a place with clear payback. If you’re content doesn’t attract and maintain customers, you could be doing more harm than good to your brand.

Analytics can easily be done by a third-party and is probably the least vulnerable to subjectivity. That will save precious resources that you can deploy towards strategizing and hiring in-house of local experts to manage the customer community.

Customer experience management or customer care is another area to consider, especially if your customers are global and resident in different time zones. Be cautious to consider outsourcers who understand your business and your customer engagement model.  Since the outsourcer will be “you” during customer interactions, you need to feel confident they can successfully represent your brand.

Needless to say, do monitor what’s going on closely enough so you can step in when necessary. The important thing now is to be open for business all the time. Not just 24/7 but 24/7/365 and even up to 366 in a leap year!  Business process outsourcing companies are gearing up to meet the demand when it arises. That will finally help harried executives to get their well-earned weekend off to do their own personal networking, online or otherwise.

Testing could be outsourced. Minimizing risks and cost either manual testing or automotive one can easily be performed by third party.

Recently we could see the most prospective and fast growing social spheres that potentially need and could outsource a big part of them. There are:

–   Banking /finance

–   Mobile development sectorE-commerce

–   E-commerce

–   Medical/health care

–   Tourism

Has your organization outsourced marketing and customer engagement yet?

Polina Mikhan

Polina Mikhan
Polina.Mikhan@altabel.com 
Skype ID: poly1020
Business Development Manager (LI page)
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development

For some years, Agile methodologies have been widely adopted within the information technology software world to bring new products and services to market quickly and efficiently, increasingly taking over from more traditional approaches such as ‘waterfall’. While it may have promised much, Agile has not been without its critics, who say that it does not live up to expectations, that users can become too bogged down in the processes and lose sight of the end goal. They also fear Agile projects become siloed into teams, rather than being visible to the organisation as a whole.

However, as an increasing number of companies are finding, Agile CAN deliver on expectations, if some simple principles are followed: what might be called “pragmatic agile”. Supporting tools also have a role, such as SCM (software configuration management). SCM can help ensure that a project remains visible to all the key stakeholders, while supporting Agile-related tactics such as Scrum.

Agile explained

So exactly what is Agile? First introduced in the late 90s, Agile methods are well established in the software development world as tools to accelerate time-to-market. They aim to emphasise the items on the left below, while still appreciating the value of the items on the right:

– Individuals and interaction – over processes and tools
– Working software (or product) – over comprehensive documentation
– Customer collaboration – over contract negotiation
– Responding to change – over following a plan

Taking these elements individually, let’s look at what they mean in practice.

Individuals and interactions – over processes and tools

This does not mean that there is not a place for processes and tools – of course, there has to be – but Agile is very much about people communicating with each other, ideally verbally and not just via email. A common communications element of Agile methods are daily meetings, or “stand-ups,” to review the current status of a project and to iron out issues before they escalate. In Scrum processes (see later), planning meetings provide an environment in which to understand requirements of the backlog and how to address them with collective support on the effort required. This approach helps to engender more creative thinking, because people have an environment within which they can safely suggest ideas.

So given this environment, how might tools provide support? As an example, a strong SCM system is invaluable in two ways. First, it provides visibility into how all the work fits together to deliver a working product. Second, it allows features to be developed in parallel across Scrum teams, or to move changes between sprints if work has not been completed as expected.

Working software (or product) – over comprehensive documentation

Whatever the project – whether in mainstream IT, games development or embedded software design – all too often, projects can become unwieldy, with the temptation to ‘over engineer’ and lose sight of the original goal and deadlines. Agile encourages teams to maintain focus on the outcome. This can mean delivering a working version of the software that may not have 100 percent of the features originally planned, but the product still has usable functionality. A central tenet of Agile is to take an iterative approach: it is more effective to deliver a product early and then continue to improve, rather than delay time to market.

One common Agile method is Scrum. Scrum is an iterative and incremental Agile software development framework for managing software projects and product or application development. Here’s a quick overview of the Scrum framework from the Scrum Alliance:

A Product Owner creates a prioritised wish list called a product backlog. The Product Owner is a proxy for the customer when determining features and priorities.
During sprint planning, the team pulls a small chunk from the top of that wish list, a sprint backlog, and decides how to implement those pieces.
The team has a certain amount of time, a sprint, to complete its work – usually two to four weeks – but meets each day to assess its progress (daily scrum).
Along the way, the Scrum Master keeps the team focused on its goal.
At the end of the sprint, the work should be potentially shippable, as in ready to hand to a customer, put on a store shelf, or show to a stakeholder.
The sprint ends with a sprint review and retrospective.
As the next sprint begins, the team chooses another chunk of the product backlog and begins working again

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

In this context, customers can be internal colleagues, not just external. In any design process, there is always a danger that once a brief is agreed, the team then goes away and develops the prototype, only to find that it no longer meets the requirements of the ‘customer’. An Agile approach includes regular communication with the customer, to get his or her ‘buy-in’, so that once the product is developed, they know what to expect and have been involved throughout the development process. This can mean working with non-technical colleagues, perhaps in the product marketing department, on a level not experienced before.

Responding to change – over following a plan

Of course, solid planning is usually essential, however within that framework, Agile prescribes that it is important to be able to respond to change and be flexible. After all, when a project can take months or years to deliver, it is not surprising when market or customer requirements change.

Some deadlines, like manufacturing lead times, are hard stops in the schedule. Does that mean the project can’t respond to changing requirements? Quite the opposite. It means that, until the project hits that deadline, the team has to be as Agile as possible, embracing continuous delivery principles.

Agile – how SCM helps get it right

So far so good, but Agile can – and does – go wrong. Here are three pain points that organisations typically face and how version management (or software configuration management) system can help:

Latency – while the intention may be there, in practice it is easier said than done to prevent delays. One of the biggest bottlenecks can be retrieving source files from a repository or opening in dynamic views. Continuous integration (CI) can help address this, by ensuring that the software works at all times, not just as it is being released.

Far-flung teams – this is one that Agile didn’t see coming, at least at first. The movement emphasised co-location and collaborative programming, with daily-stand up meetings and shared workspaces. However, thanks to outsourcing, the need for differently skilled teams, particularly when building hardware and software products, and high-speed connectivity, vastly distributed development is now commonplace. Again, SCM can help support this, enabling distributed teams to keep track of what has happened and what is happening, collaborate with colleagues, but carry on working on their own projects.

Varied workflows – during the development process, multiple teams will be involved working on different elements and each team may have its own workflows. For example, the process used by the software development team is likely to be different to that used by the documentation team and the hardware design team. These teams will also be working on very different asset types – source code text files, large binary files for hardware designs or documentation PDFs. The best SCM systems should be able to handle all the different content types and workflows such that all teams work the way they want to and have visibility in all parts of the project.

Agile lessons from the games industry

The game development industry hit a number of the same roadblocks, yet many have been very successful with Agile methods, not least Perforce customers. Game developers are successful with Perforce because the tool actually increases collaboration and communication: a key Agile principle. SCM – or version management – lets the entire team, no matter the discipline, store and work with their data in a common repository.

Hardware engineers can manage their huge design files, while firmware engineers can work with their driver code, and the software developers can of course participate fully. Each team can work semi-independently, yet still make their work visible and useful to the rest of the shop early on. For example, a firmware engineer can always load the latest approved hardware simulator designs for testing.

Given that the cross-functional teams may not be at the same location and may use very different schedules and workflow, it is important to build communication into the tools and processes. The SCM system should lend itself to modern task management techniques, like task branching and pull requests. These processes improve quality and build communication into the way the organisation works.

Conclusion

Time to market has never been a more critical element of product development than it is today. Ensuring that products fit customer demand is what makes products profitable. Agile methods, particularly Scrum, offer a chance to address both challenges. A strong SCM tool is required to enable distributed, multi-skilled teams to fully exploit the promise of Agile methods.

 

Kristina Kozlova

Marketing Manager

 

altabel

Altabel Group

Professional Software Development

E-mail: contact@altabel.com
www.altabel.com

Today Internet abounds with infinite number of collections which tell about applications for iPhone. In general they tell about the same – the popular, free and even useless widgets. Considering the app industry is less than a decade old, it’s become one of the fastest growing markets in the country. We’ve all heard the stories of developers coming up with an ingenious idea for an app, then going on to rake in mounds of cash after it becomes popular in the Apple App Store.

How many times has a friend showed you his or her favorite new iPhone app, and you lamented: Why didn’t I think of that? With total application downloads from Apple’s iTunes app store topping three billion, and monthly sales of upwards of $200 million, the marketplace for apps is booming. If you’re a designer or programmer, how can you afford not to be creating apps? Well, it’s not quite that simple.

Greg Trefry, a veteran game designer, says “There are so many apps out there, it’s an extremely crowded market so that the barrier to entry is so low and the barrier to success is so high. But you’re not necessarily aiming to have the biggest game out there, so there’s still room to make a business out of it if you’re trying to capture a certain audience.”

Therefore, here are several tips for those who choose to start their own business and succeed.

Getting Approved
In a market where everyone wants in on the action, as an app creator, you have two big hurdles. The first is creating an app worthy of a favorable review upon submission to the Apple iTunes App Store. The second is promoting your app so that it breaks through the pack and sells well. Though there’s a lot of negative hype concerning the first hurdle, developers generally say that getting their app approved isn’t the struggle it’s made out to be. Apple’s standards for apps do restrict some racy and pornographic content, and the company excludes apps that, in its view, do not enhance the iPhone experience or that duplicate existing iPhone features. When it comes to fresh, inventive content, however, most apps are readily approved.

Promoting Your App
After an app has been approved and is listed for sale in the iTunes App Store, your next goal is to get customers to download it. To some extent, this process becomes a chicken-and-egg scenario. Vaulting into a top-selling category is the best way to encourage sales – but you first must have sales to rank highly within a category. Fortunately, the process of gaining exposure isn’t completely out of your hands. Apple features new apps daily. What does it take to win over Apple’s support? Good design is important.

Looking good is a matter of solid design. Enlist a designer to help create the interface a user will experience, as well as the logos and screen shots that will appear on the Apple iTunes App Store. This collateral is the first thing a potential buyer will see, so maximizing its impact is crucial.

Besides design, being polished includes being technically solid. If you are developing the app yourself, you may want to consider bringing on a programmer who is well-versed in Objective-C to help you; though apps can be built using other programming languages, this version of C++ is the standard. You should also be sure to give your app the full battery of beta-testing it needs before you make your submission. An inexpensive way to test it is to distribute it among friends and solicit feedback. Just remember: Without smooth functionality, your app will be dead in the water.

Leveraging Your Existing Business
If you already have a business, creating an app – or multiple apps – to enhance your clients’ experience can be a tremendous opportunity. Often, a small business is already filling a niche – and can also do so when their client is on the move. Take the case of Yelp, the online review site. Its iPhone app not only provides its standard customer-reviews, but can also tap into GPS to allow a user to find nearby businesses.

So, thinking along the lines of “what do we already do, and how can it be used on the go?” is a great place to start. Look for an area that will be a natural extension, or a macro view of what you do.

Think Big or Think Tiny
Some of the most successful apps are the most complex: Location-aware, social-networking-capable apps such as Whrrl, FourSquare or Glympse. And some of the most successful apps are very simple, one-off jokes. It may be that the best app for you is limited in scope.

Simple apps, the kind people whip out at parties to emulate chugging a beer (iBeer) or wielding a light saber (Lightsaber Unleashed), require far less up-front time designing and programming. And if you haven’t invested a lot of time into developing a simple app, you can afford to make it inexpensive. In a best-case scenario, with minimal marketing such apps can go socially viral. Then again, if it doesn’t sell, no biggie: just try again.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, complex, multi-faceted apps that are born most often out of an existing business or business model, and can require a team of designers working for weeks or months. This model is best for existing websites and businesses that can add value through creating an app. With these, you’re going for polish, perfection, and possibly a higher price-point. What’s more, complex apps need to be sticky to be effective. That’s where marketing comes in.

In the middle ground stand a host of simple-concept games with great graphical interfaces. If you look at the App Store’s top 10 sellers for paid apps at any given time, most of them are games (as example Poker App). Games that either educate or temporarily amuse, especially ones that anyone from age 4 to an adult can understand and appreciate, are almost always in demand.

Flaunt What You’ve Got
Once your shiny new app is available in the App Store marketplace, visibility is vital to profitability. Getting into the App Store’s top 100 – much less top 10 – list is of course the best way to see sales soar. If that’s just not happening for you, start small. Build an audience from the ground-up.

Trefry says “It’s not necessarily the day that comes out that it needs to have blockbuster sales. Think about what audience you’re going after, and how that person interacts with their device.”

So that wish you good luck and patience to achieve your goal! 🙂

Thank you for your attention and as always you are welcome with your comments!

Best regards,
Elvira Golyak
Altabel Group – Professional Software Development


%d bloggers like this: