Author Archives: Hussain Fakhruddin

How do mobile apps help small businesses?

advantages of mobile apps

 

Nowadays there are an increasing number of people who own a mobile phone, a laptop as well as a PC.

But would you rather use your laptop or switch on your desktop to open a website and then order food, or would you prefer using your phone, and accomplishing the same, by just a single tap on an icon?

Most people would choose the latter.

Over 96% of multiple devices owning people choose mobile phones over other tech devices, Mobile apps have also become the most convenient method for the customers to avail services provided by a business.

The ever-rising prevalence of mobile apps usage has lessened the effectiveness of only having a company website or having business accounts on Facebook, Instagram, etc, to attract the attention of today’s tech-savvy customers, who are always looking for something new, better and most importantly, convenient.

Mobile apps tick all the right boxes in this case.

Here are how mobile apps help small businesses:

  1. Bolsters Brand Awareness 

In this world of cut-throat competition in each and every sector, it is necessary to stand out and grab the attention of the customers, who are constantly being overwhelmed by unending options and offers.

So if you think that your business is the answer to the many ”pains” and “desires” of your targeted customers, then go ahead and create an app. 

When your niche customer searches for what you offer in the app store or says to another, “There’s an app for that!”, your brand’s app would come at the top of their mind – creating awareness and thereby letting other people know about your business as well.

 

  1. Promotes the Business

Nowadays, an app is the solution to all the promotional activities a business has to carry out. Frequent eye-catching updates and offers would serve the cost of the horrendous amount of money spent on billboards and advertisements in newspapers, the latter not being even a fractional amount effective compared to the cost incurred.

 

 

  1. Increases Engagement with the Customer

Mobile apps allow businesses to engage and interact with customers in real-time, via promotional offers and polls. More engagement and interaction on behalf of the customers serves as proof that the customers are interested in what your business has to offer and they are willing to pay for those products or services.

 

 

  1. Improves your Product/Service

Mobile apps enable the business to get reviews from its customers which may be good, bad or ugly. The reviews help the business to improve and better what they are offering to the customers, not only making the happy customers happier but also gaining the trust of the not-so-happy ones too.

 

 

  1. Updates your Product/ Services

The feedback received not only helps in building the business’ customer base but also helps the business gain an insight on what’s trending and what’s not. By paying attention to the feedback the customers have painstakingly taken time out to send, the business can improvise and modify itself by being updated to the ever-changing needs of the customers.

 

 

  1. Encourages Customer Loyalty

Adding value to your returning customer, by providing them benefits that would make them come back to your app and avail your service, in the form of loyalty points or membership scheme, is another way an app can help in building a customer base of the business and ensuring regular flow of customers and revenue.

 

  1. Absence of middlemen

A mobile app can do everything for a business from A to B. A business, which has a mobile app of its own, does not need to employ middle-men and print-out promotional posters nowadays and can instead use the push notification feature to let the customers know about the business’ latest offerings. The business does not need to involve a third-party when the customer can put in the required information seamlessly, in the predetermined environment of the app.

 

  1. Collects data for analysis

A business, through its mobile app, can get hold of a lot of data, for example, the most and least popular products, demographic data of the customers, interests of the customers, etc which are invaluable to the business. These analytics would not only help the business provide an improved and better user experience but also help the business in understanding its customers.

 

  1. Highest Conversion Rate

A research done by Criterio proves that mobile apps have 3x more conversion rates when compared to mobile company websites and 1.5x more conversions than desktop. This is because customers feel irritated when they have to fill in endless details during checkout via mobile sites and abandon their carts, thereby driving the abandonment rate to more than 70%.

However, via apps, customers tend to view more products and thereby increasing the chances of their purchasing products.


     10. Greater ROI

Developing a mobile app may feel like an unnecessary expense at first, but as return on investment, the business would get to connect and engage with their customers, building a customer base, thereby driving sales which would ultimately help the company in improving its turnover as well as it’s brand reputation.

Top 15 Mobile App Ideas For 2020

new app ideas for 2020

 

Apps make life easier – there are no two ways about it. Right from calling a cab for our journeys, to shopping for groceries, and from banking to enjoying salon services at home – the proverbial ‘there’s an app for that’ phrase holds true across practically all phases of our lives. By the end of 2019 Q2, there were ~1.98 million apps available for download in the Apple App Store, while Google Play Store had just a shade under 2.49 million apps (add another 1.1 million apps in the Windows Store and the Amazon Appstore combined). While it might seem that the app market is already overcrowded and past maturity – leaving little room for further innovation – the fact remains that the latest software tools, futuristic technologies and connectivity solutions are disrupting this market on an ongoing basis. Over here, we present a set of new mobile app ideas that might work wonders in 2020 and beyond:

  1. App for truth detection

    This one will be working on the lines of a lie detector machine, and will be powered by voice technology. There can be a ‘General’ mode to record conversations, declarations and other things (for future reference), while the special ‘Verification’ mode can factor in things like voice intonation, volume, delays in answering and a set of facial/neural gestures to determine whether a person is telling a lie or not. For best results with this app, questions should start on a very simple level, and gradually become trickier. It will be very difficult – if not impossible – to ensure fully error-free lie detection, but with this app, getting an idea will become easier.

  2. App for paper evaluation assistance

    The role of technology in education is already big, and growing bigger. Teachers – at all levels – have to evaluate and grade papers – and things can get monotonous after a point of time. In this mobile edtech app, teachers will be able to store a set of common remarks (“Incomplete”, “Give more details”, “Poor”, “Good job”, etc.). While evaluating a paper, a teacher can simply tap on a remark (stored as a tag), to insert it on the paper (of course, this app will be usable only while evaluating answer papers submitted electronically). The app will do away with the need for typing the same remarks again and again, and make the task of evaluating less time-consuming and more efficient.

  3. App for understanding precision agriculture requirements

    Smart farming is growing increasingly popular. Crop-growers are increasingly adopting IoT-powered agri-sensors, platforms and LoRaWAN-powered gateways to maximise soil productivity levels and reduce crop wastage. It would be really handy if there was a mobile app that could neatly summarise: a) the resource requirements and b) the resource availability for a farmer (for optimising yields from a particular piece of cultivable land). This would give the crop-growers a definite target to work towards, while smart city planners and people from urban areas would also get a feel of the challenge ahead. If things are left as it is, the world will face severe food scarcity in the foreseeable future – and apps like this one would make rural production all the more systematic.

  4. App for live interior decor suggestions

    There is no dearth of apps which you can use to purchase furniture and other interior decoration items. But, are you absolutely sure that the chandelier or the photo frame that looks absolutely fabulous on the mobile shopping app would actually go well with your overall room decor? To remove this element of uncertainty, this app will use powerful augmented reality (AR) features to showcase how a newly bought item would look in your room. All that the user will have to do is pick a piece of furniture or an interior decoration accessory, and point his/her device at the spot where it would be kept – and the app will show how well the item has blended in with the room decor. There will be an in-app assistant as well, who will be guiding users regarding choice of interior decor products. Of course, people will able to buy the decoration items directly from the app as well. A great idea for decorating your home ‘intelligently’!

  5. App for new startup entrepreneurs

    On average, 9 out of every new and ambitious startup fail. A big reason for this is lack of proper planning, inappropriate scaling, and not understanding the nuances of doing business correctly. This app will come to the aid of all the wannabe entrepreneurs out there. Depending on the particular niche of any startup (say, software development) – the app will suggest the ideal ways to do everything – right from purchasing and hosting a business domain, to fund requirements, logo designing, initial marketing & invoicing, scaling, and client interactions. There can be a built-in ‘Fund Calculator Assistant’ – that will calculate the revenues and spendings, and alert the user if the ledger is in the negative for consecutive months/quarters. In addition, the app can also have a discussion forum, where people can discuss ideas, view success stories, and share their growth strategies/hacks.

  6. App for learning foreign languages 

    Yes, there are many language learning apps on the App Store and the Play Store. However, most of these apps only teach a set of words or phrases to the learner – instead of providing assistance on how a newbie can actually speak and converse in a new language. This is the problem that this new language tutor app will look to solve. There will be volunteers at the backend, who will guide the new learners on different languages and correct the spoken/written mistakes being made. Also, there can be special sessions where users can have discussions with the locals/volunteers on mutually agreed upon topics. The main point of learning a new language is not just mugging up a few words, but being able to communicate in that language. This new app will help users do precisely that.

  7. App for getting criminal alerts

    The idea of having an app that displays data on crime rates in different neighbourhoods (thereby helping users choose safe neighbourhoods to live in) has already been floated. How about having an app that helps you stay at an arm’s length from wanted criminals? This app will display real-time data on the presence of people with criminal records in the locality – with a built-in alarm system to alert users in case there is a criminal on the run nearby. A special tab for informing the police and/or sending out SOS requirements should also be ideally present. For the app to function as desired, it will need to store updated criminal records, and use GPS technology to track criminals (wherever and whenever possible). 

  8. App for cloud presentations

    At offices, meetings can take up a significant chunk of the overall work-hours. What’s more, a lot of the meeting times are wasted – with people indulging in casual conversations and stuff, with discussions of actual value taking place only during a fraction of the total time. A mobile app for sharing ideas and presentations real-time can enhance office productivity levels and minimise the need for time-wasting meetings. Team-members can easily start sharing their presentations, ideas, feedback, and opinions on the app – and check the things shared by others (the app will serve as a virtual meeting room). Media content, like HQ images and videos will also be sharable – and the app can also have direct connectivity with Dropbox. In addition, a user will also be able to control who will be able to view the files/chats shared by him/her. Since this app will be doubling up as a mobile intranet tool, there can be provisions for 1-on-1 messaging as well.

  9. App for smart shopping

    Daily shopping is a headache for many. Our lives are busy, and forgetting to buy some essential stuff while we are out for work (for instance, on our way home) is far from being uncommon. To help us with our daily shopping needs, this app can prove to be really handy. With powerful GPS, it will store every shop or store or mall or shopping center in our locality – and depending on where a user is present at a time, will remind him/her about the thing(s) (s)he needs to purchase from the nearest store(s). People will also have the option of setting reminders in the app, so that they do not forget anything. From the backend, the app will need to pull updated stock and price information from stores – so that users can access updated information all the time.

  10. App for mental issues

    Stress is an unavoidable part of day-to-day lives. Too much of suppressed stress can have seriously adverse effects on mental health. To tackle this problem, we can have a self-help app – where people can either write about the problems they are facing, or simply record audio messages (basically, the app will serve as a digital medium where users will be able to express themselves and blow off steam). Users will also have the option to activate the ‘Advice Mode’, where they can talk with a backend support staff (mental health expert) and discuss their problems and causes of stress. For people with acute stress/panic attacks, there will be a special ‘Distress’ tab. Tapping that will connect the user with a qualified psychoanalyst on a priority basis. Mental issues and stress are often neglected by us – but with this app, that no longer needs to be the case.

  11. App to share rides

    Not everyone has cars. Hailing a ride-sharing app can be expensive – and not always a safe (particularly when a person is in an unknown city/country) option. A person looking for a ride can view all car-owners offering rides in their vehicles (in his/her locality), connect with them directly, agree on a price, and get in the vehicle. There will be a separate view for car owners – where they will be able to see all the users who are looking for rides nearby. The owners can contact these users and offer to convey them to their destination at a certain price. There will, of course, be an ‘Emergency’ button for both groups of users. No algorithms for determining prices, no surge pricing – everything will be decided on the terms the riders and the car-owners agree on. A smoother way to travel through new cities!

  12. App for keeping wills secure

    Senior citizens make wills. Once the will is completed and read by the lawyers, all relatives and friends know about the components of the will – and that might lead to conflicts. This app will help a senior citizen to create his/her will in an encrypted format. The user will be able to generate a certain number of access keys (3 – 4), and share these keys to relatives of his/her choice. These relatives can use the keys to read the will either after the concerned senior citizen has passed or at a time of the latter’s choice. There will be no chance of unauthorised information access – and once the will has been opened by any of the recipient, a copy will also be sent by email, and the other recipients will also be notified.

  13. App to encourage recycling habits

    Crowdfunding by socially aware citizens will play a big part in the making of this app. Users will have to document the recycling and other sustainable activities they perform in a day, and add photos as proof. Based on the nature of work done, a monetary reward will be given. Over a period of time, this amount will accumulate – and the person will be able to withdraw this money from his/her ‘account’. Graphical representations of the pro-sustainable behaviours of users will also be displayed. The monetary rewards will be crowdfunded by people who truly care for the society and the environment. If implemented, this app can be a great tool for even tackling global warming.

  14. App for informed dating

    A blind date can be a success or an unqualified disaster, right? To help people avoid risks and take more informed ‘dating decisions’, this app will be useful. A user will be able to look up prospective dates on the app, and view their ratings on a 5-point scale on different parameters – style, dressing sense, knowledge, conversational skills, sense of humour, etc. These ratings will be provided by the people with whom that person has gone to date(s) previously. In essence, the app will give users a reference point on who to send a dating request to, and how the date will probably turn out.

  15. App for tracking luggage

    If you are a fairly frequent flyer, you will know the pains of luggage arrival delays. You might have an hour-long departure – but if your baggage is late, you might be in a real race against time to catch the connecting flight. With this app, people will be able to track their bags and baggage on a real-time basis, and regular alerts (regarding luggage status) will be sent. If there are unforeseen delays in transportation for any reason, the app will clearly specify that. As a result, uncertainties and tensions regarding luggage arrival will be removed – and travellers will feel a whole lot safer. For making this app work, it has to be paired with some sort of transmitter/tracker attached to bag(s).

There can be an education technology app that would allow teachers to set assignments, evaluate students’ performance, and offer personalised assistance. On-demand bike riding apps are already growing popular – and it would be great if there was a bike-sharing app for women only (women bikers will be needed for that). There can also be an app that would allow project owners to connect with and recruit professionals for the duration of the project. One thing is for sure: the global app market is not going to slow down anytime soon, and innovative ideas will continue to disrupt this market in the foreseeable future.

 

Top 15 Software Development Trends To Watch Out For In 2020

 

software development trends 2020

 

Change is the only constant, be it any industry. There have been significant technological advancements in the past few years. The industry is growing at a rapid pace and there are always better alternatives to the current technologies. The industry is looking for more, always adapting to new trends. Here is a list of top 15 software trends to look forward to in 2020 and beyond. 

LOW CODE DEVELOPMENT 

Coding has always been a thing of coders. Coding a new application or changing the codes for an existing app is difficult. Moreover, it’s a labour-centric and time-consuming process. Whereas  Low-code development simplifies the process with it’s drag and drop pre-built feature. Also, it has its own set of advantages like low learning curve, no resource constraints and lower time-to-market. And most importantly it gives an opportunity to the non-programmers and citizen developers. 

CLOUD COMPUTING 

The evolution of cloud computing will continue in 2020. Cloud service providers Google, AWS and Microsoft Azure are promoting serverless paradigm for computing. The enterprises are embracing the hybrid and serverless cloud architectures to lower the operational costs and to support different applications. Also, several open source frameworks have geared up and are revolutionizing the way enterprise software applications are developed on the cloud. 

PROGRESSIVE WEB APPS 

It’s very likely that progressive web apps will be growing and would be a trend in 2020. These apps lie somewhere between mobile applications and web applications. They seamlessly provide the best user-experience across all devices, as these apps are much easier to develop and maintain than the standard mobile apps. Moreover, browser script enables offline functionality, smart caching, background updating, push notifications etc. which helps a site load faster after the first visit.

MIXED REALITY 

Many people believe that the scopes for AR and VR are limited to gaming and entertainment. But the fact that the US army and Walmart are using this technology for training purposes is making many companies invest in their own AR application(s). Mixed reality is a combination of twin technologies of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). And it is gradually making its market in the industry.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

AI has been around since 1956 and is widely used. It has already received a lot of buzz in recent years and continues to be a trend in the industry. Last year there were many use cases of AI like automatic voice calls, transcription of voicemails, digital assistants and even self-driving cars on the road. 2020 will also witness huge involvement of AI as many companies, like Coca Cola, are considering the implementation of AI to analyze company’s data and support new product development.

IOT

Internet of Things covers all the devices connected to the internet. IoT has been buzzing in the industry from quite some time. In the area of safety and customer experience, IoT is witnessing exponential growth. Also, research says that every second, 127 new devices are getting connected to the internet. In 2020, over 90% of all automobiles will be IOT enabled – moreover, there are already 26.66 billion devices as of now. Definitely IOT has a huge scope and will continue to be a trend.

PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE TRENDS

JavaScript and its various frameworks are widely used by the full stack developers. A survey shows that 71.5% are already using JavaScript. And this number will continue to grow as languages are being used to build hybrid mobile applications. Github says JavaScript is a programming language with the maximum number of contributors in the public and private repositories, organizations and every region of the world. In 2020 and beyond, JavaScript is surely going to dominate other languages in the frontend and backend.

SINGLE PAGE APPLICATIONS

Requirements change with time. Today no one really looks for an application loaded with too many features. People generally like something with simple UX/UI and friendly interface. Currently, single page applications are becoming more popular. These pages allow you to load single HTML page, updates dynamically and refreshes while interacting. Definitely something people would continue to prefer!

5G 

It is something which is already in the news and people are looking forward to it. 5G-ready smartphones are due to release, which will increase the download speeds over mobile networks and provide much faster internet services than 4G. Also, it is predicted that 5G will accelerate the development of the Internet Of Things, virtual and augmented reality mobile apps, drones and many other things.

ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION 

RPA is used to automate business processes such as interpreting applications, processing applications, processing transactions, replying to mail and dealing with data. RPA automates the repetitive tasks and it’s already automating jobs. While RPA is taking over the jobs more than 230 million people, it is also creating jobs as only 5% of occupations can be totally automated. In the coming years, there will be great career opportunities for project managers, business analysts, solution architects and consultants.

EDGE COMPUTING 

No doubt cloud computing has become the mainstream with huge players in the ground like AWS (Amazon Web Services), Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud. The adoption of cloud computing is still growing – but there are some shortcomings. Edge computing is designed to help solve such problems. It can used to process time-sensitive data in remote areas with limited connectivity. In the coming year, it will increase the number of devices connected to the internet. And by 2020, edge computing market is expected to reach $6.72 billion.

OUTSOURCING SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT 

This might be a trend beneficial for freelance developers. The industry is growing and the software development requirements are increasing in all domains. Businesses are now looking for full-stack developers in fields like software development, healthcare software development and e-learning. Though this is not something very widely recommended, but it might prove to be a trend in the coming years giving more opportunities to the freelancers.

CODE QUALITY 

With low code development spreading it roots in the contemporary software development industry, the code quality is also coming into focus. The area of code trend is becoming an area of focus. Thanks to low code development, companies are hiring non-technical employees for programming software. But the quality of code is the primary concern. Every company starts with a strong strategy for development to ensure best coding is done.

BaaS 

BaaS (Blockchain as a service) allows developers to link their apps to a cloud-enabled backend space. It is used by many businesses and enterprises. Also, it enables features like push notifications, managing users on the app and connecting to third-party cloud services. The scope is high as people are looking forward to more such features.

INSTANT APPS

Instant apps are getting very popular since quite some time. Even the businesses are finding it useful as it helps the iOS and Android developers achieve better conversion rates. Apps like Hollar and NYTimes have managed to increase their conversion rate somewhere by 30%, by using instant mobile applications. Moreover, they don’t eat up space in your smartphones and provide all the functionality of a website. In 2020, we will be seeing more instant apps emerging for all individuals, developers and businesses.

Technology is evolving so are the trends. Microservices, cybersecurity, wearable devices and software security will also gain further momentum in the coming years. Also, the trends of the industry will be changing according to the business and customer requirements.

 

The Biggest SaaS Risks That You Need To Be Wary Of

 

Most important risks of SaaS

 

By the end of last year, software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools had started to drive around 50% of the global enterprise applications market. In the 2013-2018 period, the SaaS industry grew by ~125% – clearly underlining the rapid evolution of this sector. However, as more and more organisations (private and public-sector) are shifting to a ‘cloud-first‘ data storage structure, security concerns are also rising. A recent survey found that, compared to 2002, the total volume of data losses has gone up by a jaw-dropping 400% – while things like data/digital identity thefts, DDoS attacks and ransomware have also risen significantly. For the average small-scale business, a single ransomware attack can cause losses of up to $100000. In what follows, we will highlight some key SaaS security concerns and risks:

 

  • Giving over control of sensitive data

    Trust and reliability play big roles in the adoption of any SaaS tool or platform. While the obvious advantage of moving over to cloud services is not having to manually manage and configure data storage – the fact remains that, you need to give the control of sensitive, personal, even business-critical data to the platform vendor. It is the clients’ responsibility to understand the level of customisation that a particular SaaS platform provides – and how it is going to handle sensitive big data. In case something goes wrong and data accessibility/storage is compromised, you need to know how you can get in touch with the vendor and get a response from the team. If registering a service complaint takes a lot of time, that’s yet another problem.

  • Not understanding the data security standards

    Most SaaS providers offer robust data encryption protocols to keep client data secure. The point is, the random Joe who is using a SaaS platform has very little idea about how these protocols work. As such, there are a lot of uncertainties over how business data on the cloud can be restored, recovered or accessed.  The key here lies in ensuring that your software vendor follows a standardised privacy policy, and it rigorously adheres to it. As a SaaS client, the onus is on you to get the hang of how data security standards and encryption methods work. Moreover, the overall performance of a SaaS platform hinges crucially on the reliability of its server. Server-glitches can undermine the performance of a SaaS tool significantly.

  • Non-adherence to the standard uptime commitment

    On average, a SaaS vendor – or any tech vendor for that matter – needs to be available and functional for 99.5% of the time, on a 24x7x365 basis. System maintenance downtimes need to be minimal, and clients need to be informed about them from beforehand. Given the critical nature of the data stored on the cloud, it is only natural that interruption/unavailability of important SaaS features can lead to serious business operational problems. Unless you are very sure about the uptime commitment of a software service provider, nasty surprises might await. The absence of clear and strong service level agreements, or SLAs, can also prove to be problematic in the long-run.

  • The lack of transparency

    For SaaS solution providers, this one is a double-edged sword. They cannot, of course, divulge too much client info, since that would violate the required data security standards. However, this might make the vendors come across as ‘overly secretive’ about their operations – particularly if not much information about the security protocols is forthcoming either. Clients might have many of their data security-related questions unanswered – and that, in turn, creates an air of distrust, speculations and wild guesses. It’s a fine line between being protective of client data and being an absolute ‘black box’ – and vendors need to maintain the right balance.

  • Not understanding the different layers of risk

    Different types of risks, and consequent problems, can result from improper usage of cloud services. For starters, a business can invest big for storing non-sensitive, non-critical data on a SaaS framework (which will be a waste of resources). If you are not careful enough while choosing your SaaS vendor, day-to-day operational problems can set you back. There is a series of SaaS application risks as well – right from authorisation and authentication, to serious vulnerabilities and faulty access provisioning features – that need to be examined and resolved. Finally, there are the general data security risks. Clients should know exactly how their data is being handled and kept safe.

  • Threats of identity theft

    Arguably, the biggest SaaS risk at the current point in time. In any cloud service platform, the identity management for clients is handled from either the LDAP (lightweight directory access protocol) directories, or the company firewall, or the website of the SaaS vendor. Security loopholes at any of these points can lead to unauthorised data access and digital identity theft. In order to keep these risks at an arm’s length, additional security software is often required – which requires extra service payments. For all of its burgeoning popularity, SaaS is still a relatively new technology – and hopefully, these threats will be minimised over the next few years or so.

  • Risks related to data access

    When you hire the services of a SaaS vendor, you share your personal business information to a third-party entity (the vendor) for security storage. But, do you really know who might be able to access this data? In a bid to cut corners, if you decide to work with a cheap and unreliable software vendor – you open yourself up for probable manipulation, corruption or even deletion of your mission-critical data. What’s more, your data might be sold to external parties, or even leaked to your competitors. This brings to light the importance of carefully checking and re-checking the policies of SaaS vendors. Unless you have a proper idea about the technical side, you will always need to worry about your data getting hacked.

  • Non-compliance with the latest industry regulations

    Before partnering with any particular SaaS service provider, clients need to be very clear about two particular things. Firstly, users have to be sure that all possibilities of data breaches/manipulations/service denials are being handled by the platform. You also need to find out whether the platform complies with all the latest big data protection and storage regulations. Negligence on these count may very well land you in serious legal hassles later, and your data may even get confiscated. Avoid hiring any tech service provider that seems unwilling to disclose its service policies.

  • Financial risks 

    Vendor lock-ins are something that SaaS clients across the world are increasingly worrying about. Many software vendors demand long-term or upfront payments – and we are talking about big money here. Even if a client is not sure about whether it would use the service for a significant period of time, the money gets stuck (particularly if advance annual payments have to be made). Once you get into a contract with a SaaS vendor and make the initial investments – you can do very little, even if security glitches emerge, there are problems with the encryption methods, and data compromises happen. The security standards, and quality of service (QoS) can be modified over time – but the payments remain locked in. That’s precisely why you should never collaborate with a SaaS vendor with low credibility.

  • Outdated data security standards

    At a time when data storage and protection standards are evolving rapidly, many SaaS vendors are still stuck with old and vulnerable security standards. Since the service quality of these software companies are not mature (read: improved with time), problems are more than likely to emerge in the long-run, and serious data losses might happen. In case you get into a contract with such a SaaS vendor – the problems are further compounded, since your payments are locked-in. Be very particular while checking whether a SaaS provider indeed uses updated software and high-performance, fully reliable servers. Otherwise, you will be inviting trouble.

  • Uncertainties over the location of data

    In order to protect data integrity and prevent unauthorised access, SaaS providers typically do not publicly mention their data centers. This ‘secrecy’ can lead to further uncertainties – since clients have no idea about how and where their data is being handled and stored. As and when required, client data might have to be moved from one data center to another – and manipulations/losses can occur during this transit over cloud networks. There are also certain country-based regulations on where and when data can be accessed. The client is often not aware of how his/her data is being handled and whether there are any risks.

  • Doubts related to Terms of Use

    Hardly anyone has the patience to read through long pages of terms and conditions, that are listed on the websites of SaaS vendors. All that people do is quickly scroll to the bottom, and agree to these clauses. By doing so, they actually agree to certain things that they do not understand - and in many cases, a random client is unable to understand the technical jargons on these pages. As a result, when complications and conflicts of interest occur later on, these clients have no idea what to do – since they had already agreed to the vendor’s terms earlier. It is impossible to over-emphasise the importance of going through the terms & conditions of a SaaS vendor, clarify your queries, and then avail its service.

  • Stability of the platform

    The global SaaS industry is growing all the time, and it is fiercely competitive. In a scenario where every SaaS provider is striving to stay a step ahead of the competition, some vendors will lag behind. Over a period of time, if the losses mount up and there are no changes in fortunes, a vendor might even be forced to shut down. Clients of that vendor have to face significant monetary and data security risks – apart from the general unpredictability – in such situations. At the time of signing up on a cloud platform, no one thinks of what might happen if the platform shuts down – but it’s a very real possibility. To stay prepared, you need to check the policies of the vendor well in advance.

 

With the help of a solid SaaS platform, clients can reach new customers, manage data more efficiently, and take their day-to-day operations to the next level. SaaS also facilitates greater scalability and faster deployment – which are both big advantages. However, since the technology is still fairly new, you need to tread with care, stay informed, and be careful while choosing a SaaS vendor. Avoid the risks discussed over here, and use SaaS in the best possible manner.

The Rise and Rise of Precision Agriculture: Opportunities in 2020

 

raphael-rychetsky-li9JfUHQfOY-unsplash

 

‘Sustainable development’ is the key phrase in every industry these days. And why not, if humans keep producing the way we have, the imminent catastrophic effects of global warming will hit us sooner than expected. Changes had to be made in the technology we use, and we did that – using newer, better technology. This is also happening at a fast pace in the oldest industry known to mankind- agriculture. 

Primitive agricultural practices involved manual labour. With the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, farming techniques became more automated. However, that technology was not sympathetic to the environment. It would go on to cause tremendous damage to the ecosystem, an evil that continues to haunt us. To overcome the negative consequences of the past and present, we are battling against time with sustainable agricultural tech. Precision agriculture is our best bet for the future.

 

Farming Revolutionised With Tech-Based Agriculture

 

Smart farming has transformed the food production industry at its core. North America is leading the way with a market share of 37.34%, followed by Europe and Asia. The approximate market value of precision farming is expected to reach US$ 9.53bn, and that’s just in the USA. These statistics show that developed economies are readily adopting sustainable and high-tech farming techniques. However, agri-tech is being taken up in developing countries too, albeit on a much smaller scale. Farmers are more aware than before about practices that improve soil quality and increase their yield.

In an earlier article, we had roved about and discussed the challenges facing precision agriculture. The limitations we talked about included the lack of proper infrastructure for rural areas to access this new tech. Additionally, the AI at work should also have a huge capacity to scope out, analyse, and present statistical data in an intelligible manner. The good news is, these problems have been resolved for the most part. What has IoT-enabled agriculture facilitated for the modern-day farmer? 

 

Precision Agriculture: Opportunities for Today’s Farmer

 

In developed economies, farms are huge. If farmers were to follow the obsolete methods of farming that involve personally inspecting their land and crops, food production would stop. Automation in farming helps these farmers to take better care of their farms by integrating satellite mapping, sensors, and other analysis tools. Here are the opportunities that have opened up for today’s farmer.

  • Monitor Farm Health: The health of a farm is a constitution of many facets. The minerals present or absent in the soil, the nutritional condition of crops, moisture and temperature levels, et cetera. Scientifically-advanced agriculture is possible after measuring all these physical factors and making the stats available for the farmer to evaluate. 


Sensors attached to farming machines can compute soil, crop, and air quality in real-time, as they move around the farm.

  • Accounting for Variable Factors: Remote sensors that help monitor the farm’s health provide detailed statistics that are specific to smaller grids. Armed with this information, automated farming vehicles can do more than just collect data in real-time, they can solve problems too. 


These vehicles can spray fertilizers where needed while holding it off in plots that are already healthy. Farmers play the role of a supervisor as the technology works for them. Variable-rate technology has taken precision agriculture to the next level.

  • Advanced Crop Protection: Crops that require extra care are also not left out from the benefits that precision ag offers. The fertility of the soil can be closely monitored so that pests and insects don’t infest the crops. With automated tools in place to stay on the lookout for risks, crops are in better shape, and losses due to infestation are avoided.

  • Reduce Wastage, Increase Profitability: The expenses that farmers have to incur to kickstart modernisation of their farms might seem daunting. But this capital investment can go a long way in increasing the profit margin over a period of years.
    Wastage of raw materials is decreased as their usage is monitored and regulated as per their requirement. As precision agriculture makes it easier for farmers to manage their large farmlands and increase its productivity, the revenue graph goes upwards.

 

The Pressing Need for Higher Yield

 

The world population has crossed 7.7bn and is expected to reach almost 10bn by 2050. The demand for food can grow by up to 98%. Land is a limited resource and clearing it for agriculture to increase food production has been proven to be a bad solution. The only way that farmers can meet the food requirements of this world is with the help of technology that makes sustainable farming possible.  

Precision farming enhances the productivity of existing agricultural lands. Millennial farmers are at the helm of this change. The use of AI will definitely shoot up, relieving farmers of most of their decision-making roles. However, the amount of e-waste generation will also rise and without proper management, we will have another big problem at our hands before one is solved. The challenges are aplenty, and it remains to be seen how well we prepare ourselves to face them.

Li’l Champs – mLearning School App By Teksmobile

 

Li'l Champs is a digital school learning app.

Everybody uses mobile apps. While we continue to speculate on whether the mobile app market has reached maturity, 9 out of every 10 people, on average, download new apps on a regular basis. More interestingly, nearly half of all newly downloaded apps are educational in nature (in some form or the other). Clearly, the edtech market is on the rise – and the mobile platform is right at the heart of it.

Over the years, Teksmobile has built up a proud record for itself, as a creator of high-quality children’s apps. Launched in 2013, Story Time For Kids – a digital storytelling app – notched up well over a million downloads. We also worked on several other kids’ apps, like My First Words, I Can Write, and more recently, Soccerman – among others. Till now, however, we had not worked on any app that directly helped kids in their school studies. With Li’l Champs, our team has plugged that gap.

The Idea

“Present-day kids are overburdened. It’s a sore sight to see children trudging along with bags heavier than themselves. We wanted to come up with a solution that brought back the fun element to learning…something that made kids look forward to school.”

Hussain Fakhruddin
CEO, Teksmobile

Gamification of education was the core idea on which the Li’l Champs app was built. We believed that – given how much children love to play mobile games – the app would automatically appeal to the young learners, and would offer an intuitive experience to them. The challenge, of course, was to come up with games that were interesting enough.

“Active learning modules are what Li’l Champs sets out to achieve. Instead of the often ineffective one-way chalk-and-talk classes, the app can be used to get the children more involved in the learning process. It’s an ideal learning companion app.”

Dr. Maria Bohari
Child Psychoanalyst; Co-owner at Li’l Champs

Li’l Champs has been designed for the iOS (iOS 9.0 and later) and Android (Android 4.1 and later).

The App

We did a lot of background research to understand how kids prefer to learn, and how a mobile solution could really help them in grasping new topics and subjects. The focus was on making the learning process more enjoyable than ever. Finally, we zeroed in on the idea of making a learning app for kids that had a large number of exciting educational games.

“Li’l Champs currently has more than 60 educational games – each with around 10 questions. We have gone in with questions in MCQ format for most of the games. Both singleplayer and multiplayer games have been included.”

Hussain Fakhruddin
CEO, Teksmobile

A recent study revealed that mobile-based learning structures help kids complete their lessons up to 45% faster (compared to only computer-based learning). Li’l Champs would also be instrumental in making learning faster and more effective.

The entire rationale behind the creation of the Li’l Champs app can be summed up as:

FUN + LEARNING = EFFECTIVE LEARNING!

The Development

For everyone at Teksmobile, every new app is like a new dream. Once the project is complete, we let that dream fly off – only to move on to the next one. Even so, it will be safe to say that we probably had the most fun while finalising the games for the new mobile educational app for kids. Everyone pitched in with ideas, we created a shortlisted, and from these – the final set of games were selected.

“It is very important to think like a kid…to understand what a child would like…while coming up with ideas for mobile games. If a game fails to engage a young learner, it’s useless as an educational tool. The key lies in maintaining the right balance between educational benefits and sheer gaming fun.”

Dr. Maria Bohari
Child Psychoanalyst; Co-owner at Li’l Champs

Once the games were finalised and we had more or less decided on the gameplay, development started in right earnest. The iOS and Android versions were worked on simultaneously – and the coding was completed in 5 weeks flat.

The Coverage

“I have personally seen many kids’ apps…including educational ones…that get repetitive after a point. That’s precisely why our team created a huge database of questions for the app. Every time a child launches a Li’l Champs game, new questions wait for him or her.”

Hussain Fakhruddin
CEO, Teksmobile

For the initial version we created a database of more than 6100 questions. Over 30 subjects – under English, Mathematics and General Knowledge – have been covered in these questions. We have plans to include more questions and cover more subjects over the next updates. The Li’l Champs application is meant for students from kindergarten to Class IV.

Keeping the target group of users in mind, fun and immersive graphics were implemented in the educational games, along with cute little animations. Our UI design team went into overdrive, coming up with a series of cool and funny characters – which would feature in the games. From racing piglets and horses, to climbing plants, buzzing bees, and running elephants – there’s everything in Li’l Champs – and then some more.

The Innovation

Over $5 trillion is spent across the globe on students’ learning activities (including all levels). By the end of this decade, the value of the worldwide education technology market will be comfortably more than $250 billion. The market is competitive, and the onus was on us to make our mobile educational tool unique. Augmented Reality (AR) came to our aid in this regard.

“After lengthy discussions with Maria and the development team, we decided to incorporate a set of fun AR-based games in the app. These games were mainly focused on simple things like alphabet and object identifications. Children would also be benefited by getting a first-hand feel of this immersive technology.”

Hussain Fakhruddin
CEO, Teksmobile

Artificial intelligence (AI) is another cutting-edge technology that has a strong presence in the Li’l Champs app. In the single player games, a child plays against the system – which is powered by AI bots.

“Li’l Champs establishes an ideal learning environment for young kids. The feeling of healthy competition that grows when the entire class plays learning games together is beneficial in a big way. As all the little ones try to clear levels and win games, they start to learn more and know more automatically.”

Dr. Maria Bohari
Child Psychoanalyst; Co-owner at Li’l Champs

Note: Li’l Champs has been made with the Unity game engine.

The Gameplay

While adding the games and features in Li’l Champs, we never lost sight of the fact that the final users would be kids in the 4-9 age group. As such, the gameplay had to be simply yet enticing, and the app needed to have kid-friendly controls. There was no point in making an app for kids which was overly complicated.

“Kids can select their class, choose a subject and pick a game to play. He or she can join a room, or play against the system. Questions would appear, with multiple answer options. The child has to pick the right question to move his character/avatar forward in the game.”

Hussain Fakhruddin
CEO, Teksmobile

Li’l Champs is a mobile learning game for kids that gives equal importance to 3 key elements of children’s education – KNOWLEDGE, SPEED and ACCURACY. On the basis of these factors, the performance of the kids is calculated. As more and more games are played, levels get cleared, and the players get on their journey from being a ‘Newbie’ to becoming a ‘Li’l Champ’.

The Smart Teaching Tool

Li’l Champs is a school app that doubles up as a mighty useful teaching tool as well. There is a dedicated admin panel, from where teachers can set assignments, track student performances, set deadlines, and do a lot more. There are unlimited practice tests to be assigned – ensuring that the little ones have more than enough learning resources, at all times.

“As a psychoanalyst and academician myself, I am confident that teachers would find Li’l Champs to be a real handy tool. We have included plenty of customisation options, and teachers can even add their own questions to any game. The ability to monitor the kids’ performance on the games is yet another advantage.”

Dr. Maria Bohari
Child Psychoanalyst; Co-owner at Li’l Champs

By regularly tracking the students’ performance on the different games in Li’l Champs, teachers can easily find out what each individual student is good at, and what topic(s) (s)he is struggling with. Personalised help and guidance can be provided accordingly. Once again, this makes classroom teaching all the more effective.

For parents too, Li’l Champs can be a smart monitoring tool. They can follow the performance of the students on the different games – and watch along as the knowledge pool of their wards grow. In a nutshell, Li’l Champs holds out benefits for students, teachers and parents. A true 360° digital learning platform.

The Subscription

“Li’l Champs offers an easy subscription plan for both schools and individual users. Displaying disruptive in-app ads was never an option – particularly in an app made for kids. Instead, we have gone in with a very competitively priced subscription.”

Hussain Fakhruddin
CEO, Teksmobile

Our new m-learning app comes with a free trial period of 14 days. Following that, users have to subscribe, to continue getting access to all the learning resources and backend admin panel. The annual subscription fee of Li’l Champs (app+backend) is $1.99.

The Final Word

The iOS version of the Li’l Champs application is available for download at https://apps.apple.com/us/app/lilchamps/id1434375701. The Android version can be downloaded from https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lilchamps&hl=en. Li’l Champs is a breakthrough school app that we have made with a lot of love – and we are sure it will do its bit to help students become faster, smarter learners.
Note: We do not believe that any digital tool can obliterate the need for expert human teachers. Li’l Champs has been designed as a learning tool that complements classroom education.

A Day In The Life Of A Tech Startup CEO…

 

The average day for a tech entrepreneur

 

Every other day, you come across an article outlining the inspiring story of a young and happy startup owner or CEO – an achiever in the world. From personal to professional, he or she seems to have the best of both worlds – with smiling team pictures at workplace and jaw-droppingly beautiful snaps from exotic vacation destinations (somehow, the CEO will have time for 3-4 such holidays in a year) adorning their social media profiles. On a more personal front too, you must have seen the pictures of startup owners who look charming – at times, nothing short of being model-like.

 

Being the owner of a tech startup – or any startup, for that matter – is exciting, there are no doubts about it. But the job is also stressful, something that these ‘motivational articles‘ so conveniently forget to mention. Every bit of achievement is accompanied by dark circles, every successful day dotted with gulping down tasteless pizzas with a soda, every fruitful business collaboration coming after hundreds of rejected connection requests. As the CEO of Teksmobile and Eventify – the new 360° event management software platform – here’s what my average (invariably hectic) day looks like:

 

Getting The Day started

 

I love interacting with clients from around the world. There is one obvious downside though – Skype calls are scheduled at odd hours, there are meetings to attend and chain mails to reply to, and by the time I hit the bed on most days, it’s past 2 am. So, when the alarm clock goes off at 5:00 am in the morning, I am all bleary-eyed – and more than likely to hit the snooze button.

 

Except, I don’t. I know that I cannot let the day get a headstart on me – particularly when there is so much to be done. I get up, get my two toddlers up (that’s not a particularly easy thing to do), and have a 30-minute meditation session. On certain days, there are early-morning conference calls to attend to – and these typically eat into my meditation time.

 

“Without passion, you don’t have any energy, and without energy, you simply have nothing”

 

Out & About

 

Breakfast (the most important meal of the day and all that) is complete in 15 minutes flat – and then, it’s time to get my elder kid ready for school. More often than not, it’s literally a race against time to get her in the school cab on time. If she’s late (thankfully, that ain’t often), I drop her off to school.

 

Before I leave for office, I try to give myself about an hour – which often turns out to be way less – to prepare for the day ahead. I revisit and revise my day’s plans, list out the meetings to conduct, training sessions to organise, and speeches (if any) to give. This is the thing: I like my days to flow along like chalkwork. They don’t always – but I try.

 

Planning done, breakfast done, car key in hand – it’s time to head for the office. The time? Around 8:40am.

 

“No man can be successful, unless he first loves his work.”

 

The Boss Comes To Dinner Office

 

Do I want to take a detour on my way to office, and grab a coffee at Starbucks? Yes. Do I manage to do that every day? No. On 4 days out of 6, I won’t have the time for a 20-minute ‘coffee break’ at the beginning of the day. Placing my full trust on the coffee vending machine at the office, I drive on. On most days, I play music on the way and hum along. On others, thoughts of upcoming meetings cram my head, and the music takes a backseat. 

 

As a rule of thumb, I try to reach the office before anyone else (trying to set an example, you see). At times I succeed, at times I don’t – with a couple of app developers beating me to the…well, arrival line. 

 

After the exchange of ‘good morning’-s with everyone, I head for my cabin, stash away my bag, and switch on my Mac. Filtering through the scores of marketing emails for that one free app quote request or a proposal for collaboration or a client feedback is not particularly easy – and it takes me quite a bit of time to find the important mails and respond as required.

 

“You don’t need to be a genius or a visionary, or even a college graduate for that matter, to be successful. You just need framework and a dream.”

 

Communicating With Everyone

 

You know the biggest pain point for any organisation? A lack of clear and regular communication between a CEO and his/her employees. If I sit in my cabin thinking Person X is working on Project Y – while Person X stays glued to his/her seat and keeps slogging on the non-urgent Project Z, things will never move forward. At my mobile app company, I strive to ensure that this is never the case. 

 

My method for engaging with everyone is pretty simple. Right at the time of getting someone onboard, I categorically state that I do not want to come across as an archetypical ‘boss’. Instead, I would like more to be a ‘guide’ or a ‘mentor – someone who they can speak with at any time, look for help, and optimise their productivity. 

 

And so, after the email-checking is done (and I am sure that there are no meetings for at least 15 minutes), I go around speaking with my team-members. I generally ask about what project(s) they are working on, and whether they are facing any difficulties. If it’s a Monday, I often ask about their weekends. At times, and IF there is time, I pick someone to deliver a quick motivational speech. These little things help.

 

“There’s nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team.”

 

And…Back To My Seat

 

On an average day at the office, I hardly leave my desk. Not because I don’t want to (wait…do I want to?), but because I don’t get the time. As the founder and CEO of a tech startup, I have to wear multiple hats – from delegating tasks to others, analysing and troubleshooting projects, and suggesting website design changes, to attending meetings and webinars, and generally keeping track of everything. If I don’t have somewhere to go to – then (excluding loo breaks and pantry visits), I am at my desk pretty much the whole time.

 

A pro tip for all the new startup founders out there: Never, never be afraid of multitasking. As the proverbial ‘captain of the ship’, you have to look out for everything – every possible contingency, and solutions for problems that might (but hopefully won’t) arrive. As your company grows more stable with time, you can start delegating more tasks to others.

 

“An entrepreneur is someone who has a vision for something and a want to create.”

 

Lunch Hour Beckons

 

It’s less of an ‘hour’, and more of ‘a few moments’, really. As I wash down a cold sandwich with a soda or some caffeine, I read up on research articles or resources that talk about the latest trends, developments in the software industry (in general) and the mobile app industry (in particular). According to me, being a successful startup CEO is all about maintaining the right balance between ‘astute leadership’ and ‘keen willingness to learn’. 

 

At lunchtime, I generally attend a couple of calls as well. Once those are done, I come back to my desk and quickly glance through our company’s social media profiles. If I have something to post, I do. If there’s a new post that I don’t like that much, I tell the team to make the relevant changes. And just like that, it’s late afternoon!

 

“Anything that is measured and watched, improves.”

 

Team. Strategy. Product. Growth

 

I do my best thinking after lunch (the mornings are too busy, anyway). I take stock of how my team is performing – whether a review session is due, or if there are some really well-done tasks that I need to appreciate. Following that, I sit with my core team to discuss strategies to handle clients – and even how to reach out to new ones. Once these in-house meetings are over, I try to give the next hour to LinkedIn.

 

Of all the social media portals, I like LinkedIn (and maybe, Twitter) the most. I check the connections from the influencers and accept most, and send out a few connection requests myself. It’s a delightful place for networking – and it’s very useful for startup owners like myself.

 

“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you’ll always lose out to a team.”

 

The Final Stretch

 

There are meetings to attend, product demo-s to be given, and emails to be sent in the evening – so that’s what occupies me for the next couple of hours or so. If there’s a new project, I brief the app designers and developers about it. From creative designing to technical aspects, and from finances to business development strategies – I try to play an active role in everything. The CEO of a startup always needs to keep in mind that there are no ‘guides’ or ‘superiors’ for him/her. The responsibility of getting the company off the ground lies squarely on his/her shoulders.

 

Right through the day, I also have to track the different time-zones. If Client A wants a demo at 4pm London time, Person B schedules a meeting at 1pm Canada time – and I mix the two up – there will be chaos!

 

“Risk more than others think is safe. Dream more than others think is practical.” 

 

Back To Home…And Work

 

While driving home, I pick up some daily essentials, visit the medicine store (if required), and listen to some music. If it’s a Friday, I try to catch up with my friends (although, sadly, that too often gets shunted due to lack of time). Once I am home, I freshen up in record time – and the family sits down for dinner. Over food, the girls tell me about their day, I tell them a bit about my own, and a couple of jokes are shared.

 

Dinner gets over in half an hour, and I am back on my laptop – logged in and planning for the next day. Sometimes, I have demo-s to deliver at night, to overseas clients. On others, I do a bit of reading. Before signing out for the day – and I’m talking about well after midnight here – I plan out the next day’s tasks. As I mentioned right at the start, I like things well-planned.

 

“Chase the vision, not the money; the money will end up following you.”

 

The Sacrifices

 

I have often caught myself shaking my head at the TV commercials showing young startup owners – all dressed up and smiling and spending uber-awesome vacation pictures and saying all the right things about work-life balance. As much as I hate to say this, it’s never this easy – and building up a company from scratch involves sacrifices. Some of the things that I have had to give up are:

 

  • Adequate sleep – I sleep about 4-5 hours a day. If there are no 4 am conference calls.
  • Laid-back weekends – And I don’t get the time for ‘catchup sleep’ on Saturdays and Sundays. There are still mails to answer and client queries to address.
  • A ‘cool’ social life – You see those ads with dapper CEOs grooving at parties? Well, I haven’t been to one of those for years. There’s simply no time!
  • Day offs – If I start sending sick leave requests, what will junior employees do? 

 

Whether Elon Musk worked more than 100 hours in a workweek remains open for debate. However, the lion’s share of all the hours I am awake, I am involved with office work. Really, I don’t feel startup owners have any other option.

 

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

 

Routine Is Good

 

Celebs keep harping on ‘exciting new challenges’ and how much they are looking forward to them. Not my cup of tea, I believe. As a CEO, I prefer having a routine and sticking to it as much as I can. In the world of startups, it’s never about ‘doing something new’ everyday. Following well-defined routines builds up efficiency – and personally, a bit of monotony in work is not a bad thing.

 

Of course, bad things…unforeseen events happen. There are the odd days when internet is painfully slow, or there is a power failure. An employee can hand in his/her notice and quit any time. The key lies in staying prepared for all emergencies, staying updated at all times, and always taking the big picture – the long-run – in perspective.

 

Before signing off, I would like to share a thought with my fellow tech startup owners. Please remember that, while everyone loves a success story, not many know – or are even interested about – the hard work that fuels that success. Keep your focus, put in the hard yards, make sacrifices…and most importantly, keep at it. 

 

 “It’s not about having a specific set time; both personal and professional lives are 24/7. It’s simply, more about making the right allocation to each one and recognizing that it’s going to be different every single day.”

 

All the best!

 

Data Protection 101: 3 Important Strategies To Make A Secure App

tips to handle mobile app security

 

  • 2013: All 3 billion Yahoo! accounts compromised. Names, birth dates, phone numbers, and passwords of users were compromised in this huge data breach which Yahoo! confirmed in 2017.   
  • 2016: 412 million Friend Finder accounts breached. Usernames, emails, and passwords compromised.
  • 2017: Equifax hacked, data from 146 million accounts stolen. Sensitive information like addresses, social security numbers, and driver license numbers were leaked along with names and birth dates. 
  • 2018: Marriott/Starwood database attacked, over 500 million user accounts compromised. That data included names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, dates of birth, gender, Starwood Preferred Guest loyalty program account information, arrival and departure times, and reservation dates, of their clients. 

 

Have you ever experienced fraud? A shopkeeper overcharging you, a scammer calling you, or an online store selling you damaged products- these are everyday occurrences, and some may even go on with their lives without acting against the defrauder. However, when you read the events mentioned above, you surely didn’t count any of them as minor frauds. Digital security continues to baffle tech experts and as a developer, it should be something you have to take very seriously as well.

Millions of apps and websites go online every year. Very few make it big internationally. Greater the popularity, mightier the security risk. Look at Yahoo!, for example. It’s a huge domain, even after Verizon acquired it. Yet, it had security flaws that enabled hackers to steal data. You don’t want to put your users at risk like that. The question is: “How?”

App security begins not after your users start using your app and share data with you, but way before that – when you begin to write the code. In this article, we will look at the 3 important strategies you must adopt to fortify and protect your apps-

  • Source Code
  • Database
  • Network

 

Protect the Code: Does Programming Language Matter?

Developers, mostly those new to the scene, spend a lot of time looking for the most secure coding framework. Every language has security practices that you can learn and then code accordingly. A good app developer is one who adapts with the different languages and their vulnerabilities to write a code that cannot be reverse-engineered. Obfuscation software can also help in preventing the source code from being visible.

GitHub has free tools that you can use to scan your code if you’re not that familiar with a language. These vulnerability scans have helped to rectify flaws faster. Many app development companies also employed automated scanners that help their developers to check their program as they write it. Always use updated code packages to enhance this security further.

 

Protect the Database: How Much Information Are You Storing?

 

How much user data does your app need to operate? That’s the basic question that you have to ask yourself when setting permission requests and in-app forms. A basic utility app does not need as much information as an online payment app would require. If you are collecting sensitive information such as bank account details, identification numbers, and the like, then you have to store the data in such a way that doesn’t give a hacker any lead even if one manages to breach your database’s security perimeter.

Scrambling the data is a great option that many big companies are now opting for. The SHA-3 method hashes the data and makes it unreadable. To make it more secure, add a hashed password in the mix. You don’t have to scramble everything, just the sensitive bits. This way only the appropriate data is available for market analysis and other purposes. Identities should be protected at all costs.

Where do you store the data? A central storage server seems like a comfortable option as it is easy to maintain and extract data from. However, your data becomes a sitting duck for attackers. It’s better to categorize your data according to sensitivity and store them with better encryption methods. For example, you can store only the hashed versions of passwords, instead of the original characters. Secure the data before it leaves your users’ devices.

 

Protect the Network: Is it secure enough to transfer sensitive information?

 

The best practice when it comes to network security is to encrypt the traffic with end-to-end protection. Engage automated checks to inspect the communication, ensuring that every request is going through an HTTPS connection. Your app should not accept untrusted and/or self-signed certificates. Certificate validation is an important aspect of TLS communication. 

There is no scarcity of steps and strategies you can pursue to make your app and website a secure place for your users. However, even with everything you do, someone might just find a loophole somewhere. Which is why your codes should be easily patchable. Have protocols in place to tackle hacking attempts. To conclude, this is what Neil Armstrong had to say about getting overconfident:

“Well, I think we tried very hard not to be overconfident because when you get overconfident, that’s when something snaps up and bites you.”

 

Software vs Humans: The Pros and Cons of Online App Builders

 

comparison of online app builders and human developers

 

How often have you felt like not cooking on exhausting workdays? You are aware that even if you don’t cook, you have options available in the form of going out to a restaurant or ordering food online. That way you get the elusive resting time you yearn for, while also calming your stomach’s calls. Alternatives surround us, and they are a testament to the fact that we have rapidly evolved the technology we use to fulfil our needs in a better way. 

Talking of technology, the mobile app sector is witnessing exponential growth. Your business, without a mobile app, has little chance of growing beyond the proverbial glass ceiling. Isn’t it relieving that there are alternatives to hiring human developers to build your app? Yes, there are, what we can simply call “mobile app building software”. These operate in the same way as website builders, (like how WordPress functions). However, there remains a question: How viable of an option are these app builders?

Let us consider their pros and cons, and then we’ll see when and to what extent you can use app builder software for your products and services.

 

The Pros of Using App Builder Software

 

    • Beginner Level Approach

      Depending on the software you use and the level of customisation freedom it allows, you’ll find that you can get by with just beginner level coding knowledge, or even none. App builders usually offer a drag-and-drop interface for which you can choose a built-in template. Bonus points for you if you have some experience with app development, but it’s not a prerequisite.

    • Economical Process

      Hiring developers, freelancers or full-time, is an option that requires a big budget. Human app developers don’t come as cheap as an online app building software does. The inexpensiveness of this tool is the biggest deciding factor when an entrepreneur sets out to build an app. 

    • Faster Development

      With the easy-to-explore user interfaces the best app builders offer, you can get your app up and running in a day or two. Even the fastest coder might not be able to make a functional application that fast. Such a high speed of development is mostly because you don’t have to build an app from scratch. Adding features and content is easier too, minus all the coding.

 

  •            Quick Updations

    An app requires updates. Some need it more frequently than others, depending on the data they serve. Making updates available is fast and easy with the app building service you used for creating that app. You can even do it for different platforms your app is on simultaneously. 

 

 

It’s not all roses and butterflies when you develop an app with software. You should know the bumps that you’ll encounter on this road.

 

The Cons of Using App Builder Software

  • Cost of Beginner Level Approach

    A chief advantage that app builders offer is the ease of development, which is great for beginners. However, this approach blocks access to a lot of tweaks and modifications that could enhance your app. The service providers don’t usually share the source codes which is a big bump.

 

  • Shared Ownership

    Keeping the previous point in mind, do you think that the app is all yours when you build it using a third-party tool? It isn’t, no matter how persuasively they claim to give you complete ownership. You share data with them, they store it and share the app’s ownership with you. It’s not an entirely bad thing, but you should know what you’re getting into.

  • Non-Transferable

    Once you build your app on a platform of your choice, you cannot transfer it somewhere else. You have to build the app again on another platform to shift there. It’s wise to choose an app builder carefully.

  • Rising Charges

    To build an app on any online developer tool or platform, you have to subscribe to a package which allows you storage of data, processing of queries, and other features to launch your app. However, if your app gets good reception, you would have to buy a bigger package to handle it. The software company might also release new features that you would have to pay for. 

 

Weighing the pros and cons against each other leads to interesting observations. It also helps you understand when to use an app builder and when to rely on human developers. 

 

When should you use an app builder?

  1. When the app is for a temporary purpose. For instance, an event app is a great way to organise and keep track of your attendees. Eventify is a great tool for that purpose.
  2. When you don’t plan for major changes in the future. You can build an app just to offer a basic service which would remain constant.
  3. When you just want to test the waters. The volatile app market is not for slackers. You can build a small app just to gauge the market and get a feel about the audience you would target in the future with your planned app.

 

Building an app from scratch is no joke. So when you have a groundbreaking idea, it’s advisable not to use an app builder. Human developers might charge more but the product would be more like you want it to be. You would have more control on the UI and UX of the app. You would also have to pick up some coding knowledge and best practices for yourself in the process. The app would belong to you, truly. Having your own developer or a team of developers is your best bet to converting a big idea into a great app. For everything else, there’s an app builder.

 

Do SaaS Companies Need Mobile Apps? Oh Yes, And Here’s Why

importance of mobile apps for SaaS companies

 

The much-talked-about – and often overhyped – ‘global app boom‘ is over. Growth in total time spent on mobile apps by the average user is going down on a YoY basis (11% in 2016; only 6% in 2017), there is a definite unwillingness to install apps that do not serve a particular purpose, a lot of applications are being integrated in the mobile wallets ecosystem, and even the biggest of mobile apps are being consolidated. IoT-enabled wearables, like smartwatches, smart glasses and more, are set to take over – with individuals remaining content with a limited number of apps on their handsets. 

The gradual slowdown in the worldwide mobile apps market does not, however, mean that they can no longer serve key business purposes. For software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies in particular, mobile apps are still indispensable – as confirmed by a recent survey of a select group of software entrepreneurs. In the discussion that follows, we will highlight why mobile apps still matter for SaaS companies:

  1. Mobile app should serve a purpose

    If a SaaS business decides to build a mobile app just because everyone else is doing so, that’s a bit of a waste. Instead of creating an app only to keep up with the trend, a company needs to analyse and identify the precise needs for such custom mobile software – and the key purposes it can serve. The key lies in realising that, although a majority of end-users prefer mobile apps – unless these apps are ‘useful’ and deliver value, no one would be interested to install it (or at least, retain it on their devices). SaaS businesses require mobile apps that can be relied upon to resolve a series of requirements. Proper research and groundwork is imperative, before getting down to actually making an app.

  2. Bringing down communication and marketing expenses

    A mobile SaaS app can be used to perform several important manual tasks, and that too, in a more efficient manner. These tasks include regular software marketing/product marketing, and client communications. With the help of in-app marketing & sales platform integrations, mobile applications do away with the need for manual tasks in this regard. Push notifications, in particular, are particularly useful for driving up overall customer engagement levels. Reports have shown that marketing campaigns carried out through mobile apps have higher probabilities of bringing in more potential buyers than manual marketing efforts (which have limited reach, are more time-consuming, and involve higher costs). Push notifications have also been found to be more effective on the mobile platform than the web platform. This highlights the importance of mobile apps all the more.

  3. The mobile app vs responsive website debate

    The need for a fully responsive business website for a SaaS company can hardly be overemphasised. However, while responsive websites are NECESSARY, they are not SUFFICIENT for such companies. For starters, a mobile website cannot provide personalised UI/UX features to a user in the way a custom app can. Software entrepreneurs need to realise that responsive websites are not an alternative to mobile apps – and for best results, having both is essential. Through the mobile platform, buyers can enjoy round-the-clock availability. In comparison to mobile websites, apps are faster – and they play an important role in making customers feel ‘involved’ in the business. In a nutshell, a mobile app is way more immersive than a mobile website.

  4. The convenience factor

    Before making a mobile SaaS app, it is important to understand its benefits properly. Unlike traditional business operation tools and equipments, apps are not invasive in nature – and they offer a welcome break from the buggy, low-performance, and often outdated hardware systems in a company setup. The fact that mobile apps are easy to maintain and update, and do not require sizeable maintenance charges is yet another advantage. As more and more SaaS business owners across the globe are realising the need for prompt and reliable service delivery automation, the demand for mobile SaaS systems is going up. People look for convenience, and mobile apps deliver that in a big way!

Note: SaaS has already emerged as the biggest sub-sector in the cloud technologies market. In 2019, the worldwide SaaS industry is expected to grow by nearly 18% (a $86+ billion market).

  1. Mobile apps bring greater flexibility to SaaS operations

    For SaaS companies, dynamism is the name of the game. Tech entrepreneurs and software vendors simply cannot stick to old and outdated trends. The onus is on the marketers to stand out from rivals – and mobile apps are a great tool for that. If a SaaS company has a mobile app, it is likely to be able to provide much smoother, faster and more secure services to end-users – compared to a company that does not have an app in place. However, companies need to realise that making a mobile SaaS solution is not a one-shot game. Regular adaptations, upgrades and fresh content are required, in order to fulfill (and even surpass) customer expectations. Apps also serve as a powerful platform for SaaS companies to receive feedback, and act on them.  

Note: Mobile apps are also instrumental in maintaining high overall performance levels, and ensuring robust data security.

  1. Gaining competitive advantage through apps

    There is very little room for doubting the usefulness of mobile apps for SaaS businesses. Even so, many companies stay away from using apps – and the many myths and underlying doubts are a big reason behind that. On the other hand, however, an ever-increasing section of the total number of final users are expressing their preference to interact with mobile apps. As such, there is a definite opening for a SaaS company to take the plunge, make a customised mobile app, reach out to a bigger-than-ever target audience, and build up customer loyalty. A well-thought-out mobile app strategy can hand a SaaS company serious competitive advantages over its competitors.

  2. Mobile apps help SaaS businesses to do more…with less –

    A SaaS company can easily follow a simple workflow for creating a mobile business app for itself. The actual deployment can be quick and straightforward, and a single version of the mobile application can be used to support the entire customer base. In general, native app development is the better option (rather than hybrid or cross-platform tools) for SaaS companies. A smart mobile app strategy can significantly reduce average customer acquisition costs – and pave the way for higher ROI figures. 

Note: In order to reduce the average costs associated with mobile SaaS applications, several useful APIs can be used – for implementing authentication, analytics tracking, authorisation, and other key functionalities.

  1. User acquisition and retention made easier than ever

    One of the biggest reasons behind the popularity of mobile SaaS apps is their 24x7x365 availability. In a recent survey, it was found that close to 90% people prefer apps over a business website. If a SaaS company relies only on its website to do business, it is unlikely to be able to respond to queries and complaints generated at odd hours (outside office hours). A user-friendly mobile app does away with this problem. Business owners can, through the app, stay connected with customers round the clock, get more leads, and ensure a steady growth of business (the user-ratio also becomes more favourable). Competition levels are increasing all the time, and a tech entrepreneur cannot afford to be functional only during a few hours in a day.

  2. Direct downloads and cloud technology advantages

    With mobile apps, SaaS companies can do away with the problem of desktop downloads and related accessibility problems. Since these apps have powerful cloud storage options, all downloads happen directly inside the app. As a result, accessing the service never becomes an issue for final users (since there are no local downloads). SaaS companies should ideally look to build ‘offline cloud apps’ – which would not rely on network connectivity for performance, and will be available to everyone. Of course, the security parameters of the apps need to be carefully tested, along with the other important app features. 

Note: For loyal users, an interactive app facilitates smooth mobile-centric engagement with the SaaS business.

  10. A SaaS app or a standalone app?

This is something that SaaS startups need to consider very carefully. Both standalone mobile apps and integrated SaaS apps have their respective advantages – and the precise requirements of a company should dictate the type of app it finally opts for. If a business is looking for a software platform that offers secure cloud data storage and real-time communication, then SaaS apps are the way to go. However, the cost of these apps varies with the number of users (fixed for standalone apps), and downloads are mostly indirect (standalone mobile apps have direct downloads). SaaS professionals need to pick the solution that would be best suited for their requirements.

 11. Multiple features for higher engagement 

A mobile app can go a long way in helping a SaaS company build a huge customer base automatically. Some of the most essential features of such apps include reminders, GPS-powered location services, push notifications, and developer services. It’s vital to arrange all of these features (and others) in a way that would enhance usability and deliver optimal user-end experience (UX). Putting in another way, the two things that SaaS companies need to be very particular about in their apps are the NAVIGATION and PLACEMENT of the features. New features, of course, can be added later.

Note: The best mobile SaaS apps can, in fact, serve very well as virtual assistants to end-users.

By the end of 2020, the value of the global SaaS industry will soar to well over $131 billion. It is high time that businesses in this domain come up with innovative solutions and strategies – things that will keep them in the game and help them stay a step ahead of the competition. SaaS companies can use mobile app platforms to connect with their customers better, understand their requirements, and deliver customised solutions. One thing is for certain: mobile apps do matter a lot for SaaS businesses, and things will remain that way in the foreseeable future.