Barfoot & Thompson have a new (well relatively new) iPad application
out to help people find their next house in New Zealand. It is crisp
and clean and has some very nice features. It’s been selected as a
finalist in the Designers Institute Best Design Awards 2013 and I’m sure it will do well. Here’s my review.
It opens up showing your current location on a map with properties in
your proximity, if you have allowed it to know your location using the
GPS on your iPad. This is interesting even if you’re not looking to buy
in your neighbourhood because you can get an idea of what’s for sale and
perhaps how your property value may be faring.
Tap on one of the map pins and you will see a photo of the house and
tap on the picture and you go into the property screen, where you can
scroll through photos and information. I’ll come back to that.
I was surprised that they haven’t done an iPhone app, nor an Android app, but they do have a website optimised for mobile.
More people have mobiles than tablets and a lot of people have Androids
today. Personally I would have gone for a responsive website rather
than a mobile specific one, but that’s just my opinion.
There is a potential fatal flaw here. Most iPads do not have SIM
cards. This means that unless they have another means of connecting to
the Internet, such as tethering to a mobile, or WiFi, then a lot of the
location based features fail. This is another reason why I would have an
iPhone version. It would need to be rewritten for the form factor,
whereas if they had started with an iPhone app, you can always use that
on an iPad as well.
The User Interface is nice, but the experience will vary based on
your knowledge of apps. There are lots of hidden gems that you might
have to stumble over in order to find them. I would like to see an FAQ
or even a tutorial to make sure that people don’t miss out on valuable
information that could influence their next step.
When you search for a Suburb, Listing ID, or Keyword (and I’m not
going to get pedantic about upper and lower case:) the result is very
smart, similar to using Google Maps, but you wouldn’t know it from the
You can search by number e.g. 119 and it will show you listings
starting with that number. If you enter a suburb, you will first see
properties in that suburb, but if you don’t scroll down, you might not
realise you can also view suburbs, schools and find the nearest Barfoot
& Thompson Branch. If you select School, it will show you the
location of the school you select. As I said, hidden gems.
The Property Filter feature is elegant, I really like it. It is smooth and intuitive. Save or Apply and go explore.
I didn’t find the book marking functionality as user friendly. It’s
obvious when you select it, that it is a book mark, but if you forget
you have used it and are looking at a map, you may wonder where all the
listings went. That’s because it’s only showing properties on the map
that you have bookmarked and if you haven’t bookmarked any yet, then you
won’t see any properties at all. Logical, but logic and user
friendliness aren’t always the same thing.
The listings themselves are full of nuggets and you need to try all
the buttons at the top to find out what they do. It’s also obvious that
some agents put a lot more effort into providing information than
Titirangi buyers for example may find a lot more information than in some othe
suburbs, for example, one property I looked at had a LIM Report, Title
and more. There were photos, floor plans and even Google Street View.
When there are Open Homes, there is an Open Home Reminder, which lets
you choose from available Open Homes and put your selection straight
into your calendar, so you won’t forget.
The arrow on the right hand side at the top lets you email the
property details to yourself or someone else, complete with a “Try the
App” option. If you have AirPrint, you can print straight from your device at home, even if you’re not
there, I like that! You can also select the Agent and get their details
as well as other listings they are personally managing. Finally you can
“enquire” which will open up your email and allow you to send an email
request to the agent.
So what’s missing? As I said up top, a tutorial would be good, it
could be FAQ’s or a video walk through. As IT people, we often assume
that users are more experienced than they really are. Many people I know
will get frustrated and abandon the app, or wish it had features that
it does in fact have. The good thing is that Barfoot will be getting at
least weekly reports on downloads, upgrades and usage and even where it
is being used most.
Points of Interest would be an easy addition. I know schools are important (if you have kids) but as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs,
things like Shopping, Food, Health Services and Public Transport are
also important and easy to get from the Google API’s.
Google now offers real time traffic information on their maps. Imagine if you could
see that in real time to see what traffic is like in the neighbourhood
right now, or when you are planning to go and look at the property.
I don’t expect demographics, at least before the 2013 Census is out.
But wouldn’t it be cool if you could get some information about the
people in the area and find out if they are like you?
Getting around Open Homes can be a chore and I often seem to find an
agent (not talking about Barfoot here) that doesn’t have a great sense
of direction. A route planner would be very cool and that would be an award winning feature imho.
I was also surprised to not see any social media links in the app. I
would have thought that the ability to share a property for sale with
family and friends via Facebook and Twitter at least would have been a
big plus. Word of Mouth is an important and social media is a free
All in all, I really do like the app and congratulate Barfoot on
creating it. They have set a standard that realtors will have to equal
or better. It is not only useful for people in New Zealand, but also for
expats and people thinking of coming from overseas. It isn’t the only
app on the block, but his review is just about them.
Location based or general notifications would be great for the
serious home buyer. You could set your criteria of price and features,
maybe a timeframe when you are open to be notified. You might be looking
in Browns Bay, but there could be an amazing property in a totally
different part of Auckland, where you happen to be driving on a Saturday
afternoon that you would never have considered. You could have an alert
for Open Homes near your real time current location, again based on
the saved criteria of price, bedrooms etc that you are looking for.
What other features would I like to see? Watch out for more blogs
and also for the eBook on using Location Based Services to buy real
estate, which is a few weeks away. The following eBook will be for
In the meantime, if you have an iPad, try the app out and leave a comment on this blog to tell me what you think of it.
Following are a number of blogs I have written that might give you some ideas.
1. Last week I blogged about retail. I shared 10 thoughts about how to engage with people going into retail stores. They are using their mobile phone GPS to aid in their shopping decisions. They are looking to find somewhere to spend their money using their mobile. Will they find your business?
Foursquare? Did someone tell you it was a waste of time? Did you know they have had over 3.5 Billion Check-ins? Did you know that most of the marketing tools on Foursquare are free? If you have a destination business, go and search for it on Foursquare and see if it is there. Claim it and check out the awesome tools that can help generate more business for you.
3. If I had a coffee cart, I would so make use of GPS and location based services to really generate some serious profits. Here are 10 things I would do if I had a coffee cart. I have to wonder why a company like Starbucks is closing stores in New Zealand instead of looking at how to make them more popular and profitable. Sometimes its hard to see the opportunities when you're looking at spreadsheets on a computer.
4. Tracking business mileage. Do you use your car for business and for personal use? How do you track this so that you can claim the maximum amount of tax back for business use? This used to be a major struggle for me until I found the GPS Log Book. Now it is a breeze. I just plug a little device into my 12 volt power socket in the car and then connect it up to my PC every few days and I have a full record including Google Maps of all my trips and a spreadsheet for my accountant. All this for $129 or even less if you follow this link and get a special discount! Check it out!
5. Your grocery store and GPS. Supermarket owners are very much aware of the importance of location. They buy land either to build on, or to stop competitors building on it. Now they are developing apps. Countdown has done a pretty good job on theirs for starters. But I have a number of ideas on what they can do better.
6. Gamification is not new, but using game mechanics with GPS in retail malls is. Check out this video and see how a shoe store is using guerilla marketing to hijack business from a competitor. The application knows when they are entering the perimeter of a retail store and has them running for the competition, pardon the pun.
7. GPS catches thieves. Do you have a shrinkage problem? Almost every day I read stories about how people are catching thieves by planting low cost GPS trackers on product. This story is about catching thieves who were stealing hay from farm. Sound like not much of a deal? Think about how hot it is this summer in the USA. Feed for livestock is a big deal if you want milk or meat on your table.
8. What is the best GPS Car Navigation product to buy? This story was written for the New Zealand market, however the fundamentals are the same wherever you go. There are many opinions, mine are based on 8 years in the industry, so I think I know what I'm talking about. This is one of my most popular blogs ever.
Location becomes far more important because you are continuing moving around as opposed to tied to a fixed location in the world. He said that one example is the trend towards not owning a home, perhaps ever. I always hear talk about how hard it is to get into property, I don’t think it has ever been easy. When we bought our first home (to give ourselves and our children some long term security) we bought in a cheap neighbourhood and at one stage were paying in excess on 20% interest. For a couple of years in the beginning, we went without pretty much anything, just to pay the interest. Today many don’t want to restrict their lifestyle, making it a choice, their choice is to live for today.
The ‘office’ is for many people today, especially knowledge workers, not somewhere we need to be a lot of the time and the cost of maintaining an office, commuting, car parking (you could almost rent a room for the cost of my Auckland City car park). We go to the office when we need to, for meetings, teamwork etc, but otherwise I can be much more productive from my home office.
Hugo talks about shared mobility. This is not a new concept, but certainly one that is coming back with a vengeance. Back in the 1960′s the Provos introduced white bikes that anyone could use. The idea was that you grabbed a bike, rode it to where you wanted to go and left it there for the next person to use. Their concept, same as today was to reduce pollution and traffic congestion and promote community engagement. They were certainly engaged as very quickly the bikes were stolen and repainted, but the idea was very good.
Today carpooling continues to grow, Zipcars, recently purchased by Avis, which is currently being debated as to whether it was an anticompetitive manoeuvre, is an example of car sharing, which in principle makes a lot of sense. People share ownership in boats, holiday homes and other items and many people are travelling around the world using the services of portals like Airbnb. There are loads of companies sprouting up like Whipcar, which lets you rent out your own vehicle when you don’t need it.
Globalisation is also an area that is changing rapidly. I remember reading history books about the great depression and how people moved from town to town looking for work. Mobility today is something far more international and international borders are being crossed continually by people in search of work, whether it is because they can’t find it at home, want a better life, or simply enjoy the itinerant lifestyle. Over a million Kiwis are working and living overseas, while British and other nationalities are moving to New Zealand to work on projects such as the reconstruction of Christchurch.
Hugo points out there are pro’s and cons. “Unfortunately, some areas may become abandoned because they lack competitive advantages. The war for talent between countries will increase, but regions that offer good living conditions may gain an advantage.
I note again that knowledge workers, one of the biggest industry segments today can often work from anywhere and travel when required. I know many journalists and developers that live in small towns for the lifestyle, but can still perform on a global stage.
This mobile society opens up huge scope for innovation and disruption, particularly with location based services, applications for mobile use, which can support the new mobile lifestyle. Kiwi developers can and are developing applications used globally, despite those that say you can’t be successful unless you are in Silicon Valley, things are changing. The money may be there, but they don’t have a monopoly of good ideas.
If anyone knows about a mobile lifestyle its Kiwis, anywhere is a long way from New Zealand. We know how to travel, we absorb and learn and we love new technology. Where we need help is harnessing our smarts, to help our innovators and entrepreneurs to learn how to scale and think big. That’s a tough ask and I don’t think our Government is doing anywhere near enough to ensure that smart people are able to grow from small concepts to large global enterprises.
I was just asking myself how I suddenly got on my soap box, but then I’m not sure I ever get off it:)
What is game mechanics and how is it relevant? Playing games is part of who we human animals are. Games are a natural part of entertainment and education, whether it is a child doing its first jigsaw puzzle, or the All Blacks heading into a rugby match at that international world competition for a cup. Yes, ultimately no matter how passionate we are about success, Graham Henry and the NZRFU themselves said “It’s just a game.”
Games are immensely popular and computer and mobile offers massive revenue potential. Gartner predicts that the global video game industry on its own will generate revenues of over US$112 billion by 2015. That doesn’t even take into consideration mobile. Application developers have been all over Facebook, now on Google+ and on devices such as iPhone, iPad and Android and now developers of smart location based games and marketing applications are heading the same way.
Developers are looking to use our interest and passion for playing games to influence the behaviour of consumers and it is working. One obvious area is in the retail, travel, tourism, attraction, hospitality and entertainment industries. Of course as I have outlined in many recent blogs, loyalty is a key aspect that all of these industries are looking for, or in other words, profitable repeat business.
So what aspects should a loyalty application include. A major one is achievements. I’ve talked about reward and that rewards don’t have to be tangible items. A reward can be points such as the points used by Foursquare when you check into a location. They also have badges and mayorships which are either the reward itself or their may be special deals or offers made to those people who come in regularly. The new Tap City game allows you to earn virtual dollars for checking in. One of the great things about group loyalty operations is the ability to cross market, for example using a passport concept where the more locations you check in to, the more rewards you get.
The appointment dynamic is extremely powerful. This is where you want people to do something at either a predetermined time or an ad hoc time. For example a restaurant that is always quiet between 3PM and 5PM on a particular day of the week might offer incentives within the application to get more business at that time of day. The concept I like the most, is pushing deals when you have inventory you want to use in a hurry. An example might be the special of the day in a restaurant where you haven’t sold as much as you catered for. The classic story I often use of a jet boat that is going out in 20 minutes with 5 empty seats. This is a perfect opportunity to push a deal to people who are close by and have opted in to be offered deals. The cost differential between having 4 or 9 passengers is negligible but the fun and entertainment factor of 9 people screaming as the boat does a 360 degree spin is significantly greater for all, including the 4 who paid full price. There is also a potential dynamic of more people seeing them having fun and therefore wanting to have a go themselves. The same could apply to any attraction, like the luges in Auckland and Queenstown.
I can come up with a hundred concepts for different types of locations for cafe’s, restaurants, attractions, theatres, travel, accommodation, entertainment, retail, sport, tourism and so can you.
I will continue this blog next week with more thoughts on game mechanics or gamification that you might like to consider in your location based application. Remember, GeoSmart has all the data and tools you ned to make these ideas possible and whilst we don’t develop these sorts of applications ourselves, we have many partners who are keen to assist you if you want to take advantage of the opportunities now possible because of the large number of people using location aware mobiles. The question is how much extra business would you like?
GeoSmart has collected and continues to collect information about all the places that people would like to visit, and unlike other databases, includes a lot of information that has importance but isn’t necessarily business related. For example beaches and bays, public toilets, boat ramps, parks etc.
Our latest service is called the Point of Interest (POI) Web Service V2. We have full time staff focussed not only on collecting quality spatial information about places you might want to find for an LBS Service or Application, but also making sure that it is current. Where relevant we use ANZSIC Codes which are a standard supported by the NZ and Australian Governments. These offer a layer of categories from high level to more specific, so you can look at food and beverage or Italian Restaurants at either end. We have a browser tool to help you find the correct category here.
Our comprehensive database which is used in various forms and subsets on websites such as AA Maps, Bayleys, Winejobs Online and many other sites has a wide range of POI. These include shops, petrol stations, banks, ATMs, schools and where relevant, make sure you get to the right place at the Point of Interest. For example if you are going to a hospital, you probably want the Accident & Emergency entrance. If you are going to the golf course or a school, you want the official entrance and so on. Our data, where relevant includes information such as contact details.
The POI Web Service can also be used for geocoding street addresses in order to display them on a map, using our geotagged web map tiles, which can be used on a mobile or normal PC browser. We have a comprehensive database of New Zealand street addresses, which you can try out on the AA Maps website, using our autocompleter.
The range of parameters are wide and varied and you can find more information in the Developer Page.
A key commonality in successful LBS applications overseas is the ability to find the service you are looking for nearby. For example, you are in the city and want to find a nearby cafe for some lunch. The POI web service would let you specify how close you want to find one and even give them to you in order starting with the closest to you. Our POI database is also used in products such as TomTom and Navman car navigation devices.
Because the database is very comprehensive and constantly growing and being validated, you can pretty much develop your application and populate it with our data and be up and running in no time.
Another service that we offer in conjunction with the NZ Automobile Association is the AA Maps Bizlocator. This is a free service which allows any New Zealand business to register their location with us and at the same time get a free web map to put on their website to show people where their office, shop or other business location is, assign it to ANZSIC Categories and then be available for addition to our POI database, all for free. The only condition is you have to go online at least once a year to confirm that your data is current. Once the map is up, you can even get and print turn by turn driving directions from anywhere in NZ and print them neatly on A4 paper. All for free. For more information on that please go to this page, where you can set up an account and ‘Add Your Business’.
Mike Watson, chief executive of the New Zealand Business Excellence Foundation said "In finalists we look for organisations that demonstrate they have robust processes in place to address key business and stakeholder/customer requirements. The delivery of products and services should be based on sound processes and the business should demonstrate clear direction and specific objectives to achieve success. Most importantly we look for evidence of success via the outputs and outcomes from business processes."
GeoSmart General Manager, Phil Allen said, "This is an excellent start for what may well be one of the most exciting years in GeoSmart's 30 years in business, with a number of major product launches to be announced early in the year. We are delighted to be recognised for our work and this is a significant pat on the back for the entire team at GeoSmart who are passionate about our business and the benefits we are delivering to businesses and consumers."
An interesting story originating from the Sydney Morning Herald last week, and doing the rounds in New Zealand, says that ‘Privacy Experts’ and Unions are saying that vehicle tracking systems used by companies are an invasion of staff privacy.
It goes on to talk about a former Telstra employee who committed suicide shortly after having a vehicle tracking system attached to his company vehicle. The employee was being treated for depression and the story infers that his suicide was in part a consequence of Fleet Management equipment being installed in his vehicle.
Over the last decade I have been in various ways involved with Vehicle and Personal Tracking technology and only once have I come accross a company that wanted it to be able to check up on the honesty of their staff.
There is no question that some companies have found a sudden increase in profitability and decrease in vehicle costs since they put FM systems in place, but monitoring staff integrity was not the reason the system went in. This particular company wanted to know which vehicles were close to clients that needed urgent service so that they could allocate the nearest vehicle to provide a quality reponsive service.
A few years ago I met the CEO of a rapid response plumbing firm. They guaranteed a minimum response time for people who needed a plumber in an emergancy. He was able to manage this as a consequence of using Navman Wireless technology to locate the nearest vehicle to the job.
They also wanted to compare time based service contracts to the actual time the vehicle was parked at the client site. They wanted to know if they had under or overquoted because there was sometimes a gap between the sales person’s enthusiasm to win a contract and the reality of the job being done.
What did happen was that a number of staff people whom they had suspected of taking liberties with the vehicle on the job and after hours, left the company within a month or so of their own volition. They were under no pressure, in fact their employer said to them "We don't care what happened in the past, this is not a big brother situation, however we do expect a fair day's work for a fair day's pay". In fact the CIO of this company absolutely hates and deplores the concept of big brother and would fight tooth and nail to stop the system being used to monitor the staff to see if they were skyving off. It was never about that. They did know that a couple of the people were abusing their employer's trust, but nothing was ever said to them about it and basically what happened was that those people knew they couldn't continue in the way they were used to and resigned.
I am against (and it may well be illegal) tracking people and their vehicles without their knowledge. The only people able to do that should be the Police and even then, only with a legal warrant produced through the courts.
On the other hand there are many potential benefits. In the courier and freight industry, Fleet Management means that people can easily apply track and trace to good being picked up and delivered without needing additional staff to place calls to drivers.
In the security industry it means that security guards on patrol can confirm the safety and location of their staff and also provide clear evidence to clients that their premises have been visited when they said they were. It can also mean that these people can be backed up in an emergancy. This technology is used internationally to track and protect the safety of VIP’s such as politicians in government vehicles.
Another area that is becoming popular is using this technology to keep track of a personal vehicle’s location. For example, when Dad lends the car to his son or daughter who is just popping down to the shops or a mate’s place, who could be boy racers. There have been a number of occassions where a stolen vehicle has been recovered with the thief still inside, such as the case earlier this year. Sometimes a car is irreplacable such as a classic, or sports car. Insurance money can’t always allow someone to recover the time spent in restoring or bulding a vehicle. This technology can also be used to secure trailer water craft and motorcycles which are often easy targets for criminals.
Another area which is becoming very popular and which I have written about a number of times before is tracking elderly people. With the Baby Boomers living longer and being more mobile, there is a growing population of elderly people, some of whom are sprightly of mind, but less of body and at risk of breaking hips or other body parts, while others are sound in body but suffering onset of Alzheimers Disease or other forms of dementia and likely to wander off and not remember where they live. Whether it is the Retirement Village or Rest Home, or their children, this common problem becomes much easier to manage if you can send a text message to the device they are carrying and receive one back with the nearest street address to their current location.
So a couple of night’s ago I was at the NZ Wireless and Broadband’s Forum’s Wireless Wednesday. I was there to pre announce a Location Based Services application development competition. If you have read my Bio, you will be aware that I was a founding member of this organisation in New Zealand and the first elected President. I still remember the day we were working on a name for our monthly get togethers and I came up with Wireless Wednesday. Well the name has stuck and Steve Simms, the current president said that there have now been around 163 of them!
I haven’t been to the Forum for a while because it wasn’t relevant to my current activities, but with this upcoming competition and a new focus on bringing LBS into the real world, things are going to change.
What was really cool for me is that it is around 10 years since the Wireless Data Forum (as we were called then) launched it’s first developers competition for wireless and mobile applications. Even more so was the coincidence that this week’s excellent presentation was made by Ghanum Taylor of The Hyperfactory. The Hyperfactory won that first competition all those years ago. At the time they were an enthusiastic family group, Derek and Geoffrey Handley and a few other people who were equally passionate about the potential of mobile cellular technology.
These guys never wavered from their passion and commitment and I think it is worth a mention that passion imho is the single most important factor in their rise to success. They worked tirelessly and dragged the advertising and direct marketing industries, kicking and screaming into the future.
Just like many other technologies I enjoy, the market has slipped into the mass adopter phase without anyone noticing. If you saw a txt to win coupon on a product, you would simply txt the coupon number to a short code today and think nothing of it. LBS marketing is coming big time.
I’m not going to talk about their campaigns, because they can do it far better than I. Just go to their website and it is full of video’s and campaign success stories.
I didn’t start this blog as a kudos story for The Hyperfactory, but I do think that they can take some credit for helping to change the face of tomorrow’s advertising world. Check out a few of these names and I’ll wager (their first application concept was designed to allow people to bet against each other at sporting events via their mobiles) that you have seen or participated in one of their mobile campaigns:
- Coca Cola
- Jim Beam, and the list goes on.
I’m not big on advertising. Most of the time I don’t pay attention to TVC’s at all, with rare exceptions like the Vodafone commercial where the guy folds up his life and puts it in his pocket (I really like the song and the dobro guitar) or the new Ford adverstisement where all the instruments in the orchestra are made of car parts.
In general, I hardly ever read print ads. I read a book during the TV commercials and these days rarely listen to broadcast radio as I am educating and updating myself in podcasts. Advertising is creeping surrepticiously into podcasts, in fact there are companies specialising in ads for podcats, but they tend to be well targetted which means that I am probably interested in the products, or I can fast forward my iPod anyway.
Anyway, watch this space for news about an exciting new competition in New Zealand for LBS Applications.
We will have official announcements in a couple of weeks but if you are in Auckland, I will be making a prelaunch announcement at the Wireless and Broadband Forum's Wireless Wednesday this evening at the Floating Pavilon in Auckland.
Otherwise watch this space.
If you are in Auckland this evening, the guest speaker is Ghanum Taylor of The Hyperfactory, one of the pioneers of mobile applications and winner of the original Wireless Data Forum Mobile Application Competition of which I was a judge, back in the day.
GeoSmart Maps has rebuilt the NZ Automobile Association’s Roadwatch web site and re-launched it to inform motorists about events taking place on New Zealand roads; this includes road works, accidents, road closures, delays and incidents such as slips and washouts, which are very topical given current weather conditions.
The original web site had generic maps which showed the general area where incidents had occurred, whereas the new site has dynamic maps allowing people to view the incident location on a map at region, suburb or zoom right down to street level.
A pop up window on the map provides in depth information about the incident including its anticipated resolution date and time. The site dynamically updates information every 5 minutes and indicates whether the incident has been verified. The service also includes Future Notifications such as events and other known issues.
“The service will be fully managed by the AA and a call centre which is operational 24/7 will feed public information into the system. The system will also soon have the ability for local authorities to enter information about planned road works,” says GeoSmart’s General Manager Phil Allen.
“AA Roadwatch is about informing motorists so they can make better decisions on the roads, whether it’s’ taking an alternate route or leaving half an hour later.”
AA Roadwatch may be found at http://www.aaroadwatch.co.nz
GeoSmart Maps is the leading provider of mapping data in New Zealand and has been in the business for 30 years. It is the leader in the provision of Car Navigation data as well as Fleet Management with a client list including Navman, TomTom, Siemens VDO, Honda, Ford, BMW and more.
It is also the leader in cartographic and web mapping with clients including Wises, the New Zealand Automobile Association Inc, Bayleys Real Estate, St Johns Ambulance, Ministry of Education, Heart of the City, and many more. Over 300 web sites in New Zealand use GeoSmart’s SmartFIND web mapping API’s and data. GeoSmart also supports solutions in many overseas countries including the Middle East and Asia.
In 2007, GeoSmart was purchased by the New Zealand Automobile Association Inc. The AA brings many additional resources to GeoSmart as well as being a major user of geospatial data, giving away more than a million maps a year to its members.
For more information, please contact Business Development Manager, Luigi Cappel email email@example.com or phone 09 966 8768