2017 Google I/O Keynote Highlights

Google hosted their annual developer’s conference, Google I/O on May 17 in Mountain View, Ca.  CEO Sundar Pichai broke down the latest insight on Google’s activity and how their focus will be further defined later on this year.  Here are some of the highlights of the 2017 Google I/O Keynote:

2 Billion Active Android Users

Google’s Android OS continues to stake its claim in the tech industry with 2 billion active users and Pichai threw out even more impressive quantitative data; they have nearly 1 billion active users on Google Drive per month along with 500 million users on Google Photos accumulating 1.2 billion uploads on the daily.

Google Assistant & Google Home Updates

Google Assistant is now not just exclusive to Android but will be available on iOS as well. In addition, Google Home is allowing users to make phone calls directly from the device with a blocked number as default or your personal phone number. For now, they’re only allowing outgoing calls to prevent issues with privacy. But that’s not all, Home can now become a Bluetooth radio and interact with a plethora of apps like Hulu, HBO Now and Soundcloud. Lastly, its debuted “visual responses” can communicate with smartphones, smart TVs etc. enabling your requests to be displayed on preferred outputs.

The Google Lens Puts Life into Perspective

Now with the aid of your smartphone camera and the company’s own AI software, Google Lens, can more accurately perceive the environment around you. Their newly announced “Google Lens” interprets what is detected through their screen while connecting related information useful to its users. For instance, by scanning a Wi-Fi’s network login, Google Lens will automatically sync the data with your Android.

Android O Beta

Although this isn’t the official name of Android’s latest OS, they released the beta with previews of their newest features such as notification enhancements, pic-in-pic abilities etc. It’s recommended to try it out with a compatible Pixel or Nexus device.

Google’s TPU Chip

Acknowledging that AI is the future of Google’s innovation, their new Tensor Processing Unit could effectively merge AI and Cloud as one. This specially designed machine learning chip will operate with the TensorFlow platform in hopes of making Google the leader in AI-based hardware and software.

Android Go

This entry-level device is intended to close the gap between them and 1 billion more users. Google intends to offer more while still using less than 1GB of memory. Aimed at multilingual demographics with lower access to connectivity, Android Go wants to provide users with a quality smartphone experience free from limitations.

 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

500 Startups’ Batch 20 Demo Day:  The Summer of Love

The 41 companies of Batch 20 proudly graduated from 500 Startups three month Accelerator program by pitching to an auditorium full of investors on their Demo Day held on May 12, 2017.  The startups fell mainly into the categories of Digital Health, FinTech and Civic Tech.  With a flair for fun, the theme for the event was the “Summer of Love” and Dave McClure and the 500 Team were dressed up in their groovy getups.  In no particular order, here are some of the startups that I found hip.

 

Outta Sight!

I have two Amazon Echo’s in my house and use Siri often with my iPhone.  Consequently, Mycroft AI was my top pick for the batch.  They’ve developed an open source voice assistant platform that allows companies to create their own voice assistant interface.

Bummer…You Need a Lawyer

The only thing worse than going to a dentist is having to find a lawyer.  Having personally done this in the past, it’s really not fun.  Court Buddy helps consumers find solo practicing lawyers that offer flat rates.

Keep on Truckin’

 Preteckt has developed a platform that uses both hardware and software to provide real time data for big rigs and effectively predicts needed maintenance and minimizes on down time for the trucking industry.

Flashback: It’s Been Done Before But…

With Printivo, you can make business cards, custom stationary, banners, posters via their web site.  Hmmm….aren’t there a ton of companies like VistaPrint and Shutterfly that already do this?  Yes, but Printivo is the only online service that does this in Africa which is green territory worth an estimated $8 B.  I personally like startups that do functions that we find mundane in areas that are underserved.

Head Trip:  Why Hasn’t This Been Done Yet?

BenRevo has developed a sales automation platform for the health insurance industry.  This essentially provides the ability for health insurance to be purchased online.  Why is this head trip?  I don’t know why the insurance companies do this themselves.  Kudos to the Benrevo team for recognizing the need and developing a solution.

It’s Hip to be Square

Combine the most boring topics, government, big data, and urban planning and you get the startup, UrbanLogiq.  UrbanLogiq has developed a platform where they aggregate big data into a usable format which really helps out city planners.   A yawn fest for me but, if you’re a city planner, UrbanLogiq is pretty hip.

Nark and Get Paid

Sacramento based Text To Ticket has developed an app where you can report texting drivers.  A good video that catches the culprit will nab the nark $5 (Text to Ticket gets a lot more when they forward the video to the appropriate enforcement agency).

Groovy:  A Fun Startup

Win-Win has developed a platform where athletes can engage their fans by hosting games while raising funds for their charities.  I found their CEO, Mike Tauiliili, pretty interesting.  He was an NFL Player that played for the Indianapolis Colts.  Afterwards, he learned to code and joined the Silicon Valley startup world.

Join Batch 22

How well the Batch 20 companies do remains to be seen, but 500 Startups does have an excellent track record. Producing three unicorn startups (with a fourth, possibly on the way). 37 Centaurs, (valued $100-999 M), and over 300 Ponies ($10-99 M).

If you’re interest in 500 Startups, they are currently looking for applicants for Batch 22.

A good candidate should have:

  • Balanced Team
  • Product Launched
  • Traction with Good Metrics​

If your startup is interested in applying for Batch 22, find the application here.

After applying, be sure to ask your local Startup Grind director for a warm referral!

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

SupportPay Founder Sheri Atwood: Almost on Food Stamps

Sheri Atwood, founder and CEO of SupportPay was named #5 out of the top “50 Women in Tech Dominating Silicon Valley.  In her interview with Startup Grind Sacramento, Sheri discussed her entrepreneurial journey.

Chaotic Childhood.

Sheri’s childhood was chaotic having to attended over 20 schools by the time she received her diploma. After graduating from UC San Diego, she started working with Sun Microsystems and later attained an MBA to sharpen her business skills. Shortly after having her daughter, she parted ways with her husband and put her best forward to end on a good note. She quickly realized that despite her efforts, the side effects of a divorce can complicate things. One day while doing an expense report for Symantec, Sheri started to imagine how such a report could be used to benefit her child support dilemma. She quit her high-paying VP position, learned how to code and started to build her application. Within a year she was able to get her first 100 users and gained valuable insight on the most-needed features and ideal price point.

“The Bigger the Pain, The More They’ll Pay”

It didn’t take long to discover that some divorcees would pay virtually any amount to automate their childhood affairs. But when in the room with Valley VC’s, many had doubts and solidified the price point at $9.99/month. After continual pitches and little response, funds started to get low and Sheri needed to find an investor and fast. Almost miraculously, 2 of the biggest Silicon players, Marc Benioff and Tim Draper gave the greenlight on a $100 k investment. If Sheri wouldn’t have received funding at that precise moment, she planned to apply for food stamps the following day.

SupportPay

Since then, SupportPay has successfully raised an $4 M Series A round and have moved their operation to Sacramento. You can watch her Startup Grind Sacramento Interview here.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

CAL FIRE Ready for Wildfire App

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) fights over 5600 calfireiconwildfires that plague California annually.  CAL FIRE has a new weapon in their arsenal to help prepare the public for when the next wildfire strikes, it’s their new mobile app called CAL FIRE Ready for Wildfire.  The app is currently available on both the iPhone and Android platforms.  The app has three primary functions:

  • Providing Educational Content on how to prepare for and help protect property from wildfires
  • Notifying citizens of wildfire incidents with custom alerts
  • Providing incident information and maps on California wildfires

Education

The main purpose of the app is to help educate residents and property owners in high risk wildland areas on how to prepare for wildfires.  The app has a series of checklists that is broken down as follows:

  • Ready (Maintain Defensible Space and Hardening Homes)
    • Create Defensible Space
    • Harden Home
    • Prepare for Bark Beetles
  • Set (Create a Wildfire Action Plan)
    • Wildfire Action Plan
    • Emergency Supply Kit
    • Design a Family Communication Plan
  • Go! (Evacuation Guide)
    • Pre-Evacuation Guide
    • When to evacuate
    • What to do when trapped

 

The app has nine separate check-off lists that also provide educational material in the form of articles and videos.  The videos can be viewed as part of the checklist or in the video library.

Cal Fire education

Notifications

The user can sign up to receive custom wildfire alerts for a physical address and/or for the user’s device location.  The user can opt-in for push notifications and/or SMS messages for wildfires that are reported in selected California counties, or within 30 miles of the user’s device, using location services.

Push Notifications

Push Notifications require the user to have the app.  The push notifications are generated using integration with Urban Airship.

SMS

The user can also opt to receive text messages about latest wildfires.  The advantage of using this option is that the user doesn’t need the app to receive the notification.   The SMS messages are generated through integration with Twilio.

CAL Fire alerts

Information

Basic information from CAL FIRE can also be found on the app.  The app has embedded CAL FIRE’s mobile website for incident information, and there’s a feed from CAL FIRE’s Twitter account.  In addition, there’s a Statewide Fire Google Map that displays all the active wildfires in California.

Cal Fire Info

CAL FIRE launched a campaign to promote the app that directs residents to this resource as tool to prepare their Defensible Space in advance of the 2017 wildfire season. The campaign also includes an incentive for user downloads through an App Sweepstakes that is available now through May 21, 2017. The Sweepstakes offers users a chance to win a home hardening prize package. The Sweepstakes is co-sponsored by Apptology and iHeartRadio. No state funds are used for promotion or prizes. The CAL FIRE app was developed by Apptology as a contractor to CAL FIRE’s marketing agency, Sagent. For more information on the Ready For Wildfire Campaign, visit www.readyforwildfire.org

2017 Aging 2.0 Sacramento Startup Competition

Sacramento-CA-USA

Aging 2.0 held its third annual Startup Pitch completion April 18th at the KVIE Offices.  The mission of Aging 2.0 is to accelerate innovation that improves the lives of older adults.  From a pool of 12 companies that applied, 8 startups competed in this event this year.  Here are the results:

Envoy America

1st Place

First Place went to Envoy America which is a ride sharing platform for seniors.  They train seniors to provide rides for other seniors.  Their service can be described as non-medical care for seniors.  Envoy America will go on to compete at Aging 2.0 Optimize event in San Francisco on Nov. 14 for the $10,000 grand prize.

funeral360

2nd Place and Audience Choice

Second Place and Audience Choice (determined by votes from the audience goes to Funerals360).  Funerals360 is a resource for end to end planning for funerals and it also is a market place for funeral vendors.

The other startups that competed were:

HomeZada: a digital home management platform

Storyglory:  a tool that helps seniors preserve their family stories

Aspire 211:  an organization that combats financial elder abuse

MEDpense:  a device that is a smart medicine dispenser and telemedicine platform

Livpact: an IoT collaborative care platform

OraChill: a mouth piece that provides drug-free oral pain relief.

As a side note, Stack Labs which won the Aging 2.0 Sacramento competition last year, went on to win the grand prize at last year’s Aging 2.0 Optimize event.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Eric Yuan / Founder of Zoom Communications: Make Products that Make the Customer Happy

Eric Yuan has been deeply involved with engineering since the 90’s with a knack for innovation and collaboration. He was one of the founding engineers and VP of engineering at WebEx for over a decade. Interestingly enough, Eric and his team of engineers laid the foundation for SaaS web conferencing technology almost by accident. In the early years, WebEx was originally a custom development shop until one of the co-founders felt productivity would improve if they monitored the engineers via video conference. This sparked the idea that other companies would benefit from such a concept as well and thus the pivot to web conferencing occurred.

WebEx became the market leader in Web Conferencing and later got acquired by Cisco for $3.2 B.   After the acquisition, Eric stayed on as head of WebEx Engineering.   He realized that in order for WebEx technology to evolve, it would have to be re-engineered from scratch which was something that his upper management would not allow.  Frustrated, Eric left Cisco and started Zoom..

Despite competition from a plethora of web conferencing solutions (Cisco, Microsoft, Citrix), Eric fearlessly began to develop a new solution. As Eric enlightens, “Startups [and smaller companies] are much better for building up individual products. In larger companies, it’s a little bit harder.”

His team of over 100 engineers worked around the clock for 2 1/2 years in developing Zoom’s video conference platform.  Since their launch, Zoom has achieved unicorn status and has a valuation over $1 B. In explaining the success of Zoom, Eric declares, “You can be successful if you make a product that makes a customer happy even in a crowded market.”

You can watch the full interview with Eric here.

Understanding UX and UI Design

I’ve read a number of articles referencing “UI vs. UX” design, including blogs asking the question “which is better?” There is no “versus” or “better” when it comes to User Interface and User eXperience. A professional mobile app developer will tell you that the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are equally important.

User Interface Design (UI):

I’ll begin with the User Interface Design (UI) because it includes some of my favorite app elements! UI = the visual design, the colors, the layout and the typography. A successful UI is efficient and easy to use. Tasks and navigation should visually appear to be simple and intuitive, and the technical functionality should balance nicely with the visual elements to create a system which is usable (and also flexible as the users’ needs change).

“Good user interface design facilitates finishing the task at hand without drawing unnecessary attention to itself. Graphic designand typography are utilized to support itsusability, influencing how the user performs certain interactions and improving the aesthetic appeal of the design; design aesthetics may enhance or detract from the ability of users to use the functions of the interface.”

In User Interface Design, we ask: what are we making? Then we apply the visual elements, making it appealing with a focus on the tools. It’s basically the stuff the user sees. However, we cannot get to this piece and have a great UI without the UX.

User Experience (UX):

With UX, rather than asking “what are we going to make?” we focus instead on “what are we trying to achieve?” It’s in the name! The User eXperience Design focuses on the experiences and the feelings you get while using the app. With development expertise guiding the way, design collaborates with development to focus on the interactions (the broad scope of the project). In fact, I usually describe the UX Design as the interaction process. To be more precise, the COMPLETE package is what makes a good UX; whereas, good User Interface Design is essential, but only an element of a successful User eXperience.

Understanding the User

To get a sense of how UI and UX work together, we first require a complete understanding of what the user needs before we even get to the UI process. This includes a lot of the behind-the-scenes work: wire-framing and prototyping, the information architecture, research and the scenario interpretations. We identify functionality and goals for our clients’ app through significant communication and research. Looking at the broad scope of the project, we tie everything together to translate the client’s ideas into a successful UX.

Then, moving into the information architecture and wire-framing phase, we essentially create the framework and “bones” of the project. We strip out everything and focus simply on content, flow and navigation. With the client’s approval, we then have enough information to move through the User eXperience foundation to create the User Interface Design (the stuff you see).

Once the UI is complete, we continue through the UX process and support the UI with development, API integration, QA testing and finally an upload to the app store.

Both are Critical!

It’s not UX vs. UI! If a mobile app looks great but is difficult to use, this means it has a great UI and a poor UX. On the other hand, if the app is very usable but looks terrible, it has a great UX and poor UI. And if you’re in the business of creating successful apps or websites, User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are equally important, delivering the best product to clients and users.

By Shellynn Finstad, Apptology Chief Creative Officer

Christopher Johnson / Rapid Brands: Fear vs. Faith

Chris Johnson is an accomplished entrepreneur founding Rapid Products and the Johnson Group Inc.   With his roots firmly grounded in Sacramento, Chris grew up with a diverse duo of family members. His mother was a small-business owner consulting for major corporations and his father was a senior special agent for the Federal Government.  At the age of 16, Chris started down the entrepreneurial road and started a teen dance club and held the first event at Dante’s where he hosted 400 local high school students.

While in college, Chris developed the idea for the Rapid Ramen Cooker when he accidently cooked the perfect bowl of Ramen in the Microwave.  Chris dedicated his time and efforts to creating the ideal ramen cooker; it was his questions that connected him to the right people. He knew what he could do himself and creating a prototype was not one of them. His attorney actually referred him to a group of students at Chico State and they produced the first working prototype. Later, he landed a deal with Walmart and was highlighted on KCRA News. Eventually this attracted enough demand where he was able to successfully pitch it on Shark Tank where he successfully negotiated an offer from Mark Cuban.  Rapid Ramen (now called Rapid Brands) has grown into a full line of microwave cookware with sales at estimated $100 M.

Fear vs. Faith

His advice to entrepreneurs is to know the difference between fear and faith.   Fear is that you’ll be a failure.  Faith is that you’ll be a success.  What they do have in common? Neither has occurred so Chris encourages entrepreneurs to embrace faith and to to not allow fear to dominate your life. Don’t even think about fear.

If you would like to hear more nuggets of entrepreneurial wisdom from Chris, you can view his entire interview with Startup Grind Sacramento here.

6 > 7 = 8

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Okay, I’ll admit it… I have not yet upgraded to an iPhone 7 Plus. In fact, I love my iPhone 6s Plus so much, I don’t even want to upgrade! I know, I know… I’m in the business of apps, I need to upgrade for testing purposes, I need to have the latest and greatest, etc., which means every once in awhile I’ll ask myself if I need to upgrade. However, the iPhone 7 Plus is going to have to send me flowers or do something pretty amazing to convince me to abandon my little 6s Plus buddy, my handheld link to the world. We’ve shared so much!

For the skeptical holdouts like me, I’ll share some of the research I’ve read if you’re still resisting as I am:

No Headphone Jack: This really is a dealbreaker for me. I can’t imagine driving without a little Joy Division, Foxy Shazam or some Hendrix, and I’m simply connected by a $1 cord adapter while I simultaneously charge my phone. It works, okay? But now the iPhone 7 Plus has the “haptic engine” and it’s “faster.” Have I joined the ranks of “Old Dogs?” Give me back my headphone jack, please. I’ve read that I can use Apple’s $159 wireless AirPods or Bluetooth headphones, or use a Lightning to 3.5mm adapter bundle. Sigh, but it works now, and I’m happy. More accessories = more money, or maybe a new car? Hmmm…

Processor Speed and Graphics Speed: In my research, I’ve read that the iPhone 7 boasts up to twice the Processor Speed of iPhone 6s Plus, and a Graphics Speed up to three times faster. Apple claims a substantial CPU increase of 40% and a significant GPU increase of 50% over the iPhone 6s Plus. I was blissfully unaware these were issues, but I can be logical. It is technology, after all. Faster = upgrade. Got it.

  • iPhone 7 Plus – Apple A10 Fusion chipset: Quad Core CPU, 3GB of RAM
  • iPhone 6S Plus – Apple A9 chipset, CPU: Dual-core 1.84 GHz Twister; GPU: PowerVR GT7600, 2GB RAM

Water Resistance: Okay, this seems like a big deal, but when I purchased my 6s Plus, its water resistance claim was also appealing to me. Knock on wood, I’ve been lucky with this phone and have never had to test its swimming capabilities; however, the 7 Plus features mention a full submersion for up to 30 minutes.

The Look: Other than the glaring removal of my beloved headphone jack, the iPhone 7 Plus and the iPhone 6 Plus are visually very similar. I am a fan of the color options for the 7 Plus, though: Jet Black, Rose Gold, Gold, Silver and Black (on the 128GB and 256GB models). Additionally, the displays are 25% brighter on the iPhone 7 Plus, but the general specs are the same:

  • iPhone 7 Plus – 5.5-inch LED-backlit IPS LCD, 1920 x 1080 pixels (401 ppi), 67.7% screen-to-body ratio
  • iPhone 6S Plus – 5.5-inch LED-backlit IPS LCD, 1920 x 1080 pixels (401 ppi), 67.7% screen-to-body ratio

Better Earpiece Speaker: the iPhone 7 Plus has louder dual speakers compared to the iPhone 6s Plus which has just the mono speaker. This is great, but doesn’t have me running to AT&T just yet.

Battery Life: Will we ever be happy? The iPhone 7 has an hour longer of battery life, but the remaining battery features are pretty much similar to the iPhone 6s Plus. In fact, it seems the 6s Plus gives you more audio playback time and 3 more hours of talk time than the 7 Plus.

And Finally, the Camera: I’m a mom, which means by default I am a self-proclaimed photographer and videographer, right? How can I say no to better pictures, a better flash and improved digital zoom?

Think I’m going to have to pass on the iPhone 7 Plus. They almost had me with the camera, but I think I’ll wait for the iPhone 8 rumored to release in September if I’m going to spend $1,000. The possibility of a front 3D camera, wireless charging and a Touch ID sensor integrated into the screen are exciting if they can navigate the delays. Also, a rumored bigger battery could significantly increase the battery life features which in my opinion did not overwhelmingly improve with the iPhone 7 Plus.

If the iPhone 8 lives up to its superphone status, the wait will be worth it… gives me time to properly retire my iPhone 6s Plus friend.

 

Shellynn Finstad is the Chief Creative Officer for Apptology and Project Manager for Apptology’s Custom App Division.

How Do You Turn Your Idea Into an App?

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I will always remember my first convention as a vendor representing Apptology. As we set up our booth, I was nervous for a number of reasons: Did I understand our technical services well enough to answer questions? Would convention-goers suspect I was new at this? Should I have worn the Apptology-branded baseball jersey versus the outfit I’d purchased specifically for this event?

In short, none of this mattered. As people slowly migrated to our booth, they watched our video presentation and read our marketing materials… it was surprisingly comfortable. However, what I noticed more than anything was that most of the people stayed to chat! Some even waited in line simply because they had an idea and they wanted to talk about it.

If you have an idea for an app but have no clue how to get to the next step, it really is easy to have the conversation. Don’t be intimidated! It’s okay if you aren’t tech savvy. It’s okay if you have only jotted down a few notes. Of course, it’s wonderful if you’ve come fully prepared with a wireframe, a flow and navigation document and an architecture diagram, but in my five plus years in the Mobile Application Project Management world, very few clients actually come to us fully prepared. It’s okay! That’s our job!

To get started, we will want to have a clear understanding of your vision for your app. If you have sketches or samples of things that inspire you, we can begin there. If there are functions in other apps that you love, but they have nothing to do with your product and you’re not sure how that could translate to your specific app specs, we can help you get there. In fact, many clients come to us with their ideas and ask us to collaborate with them. We are happy to research and suggest solutions that will enhance the performance or user experience of your app,

Once we are ready to move forward, we can initially provide a package that helps define the project scope and creates the “bones” for your app from concept through submission. With the client’s constant input, we provide:

• Page Schematics with explanations of page-by-page functionality and features required for all screens.

• Site Architecture (both user and admin when applicable)

• Presentation of Final Site Architecture

Once these documents are created, we have a clear and precise roadmap to move forward with design and development.

If you plan to develop an app, my advice is to have fun! Research other apps to see what is out there! Find colors and designs you like! Our job is to adapt our development methodologies to meet the technical specifications of your project by helping you determine resources needed depending on your app’s complexity. Whether you have Post-It notes or detailed digital files, it’s okay! YOUR job is to be the expert of YOUR idea.

 

Shellynn Finstad is the Chief Creative Officer for Apptology and Project Manager for Apptology’s Custom App Division.