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How Cloud is Cooking Up Change in the Restaurant Industry

As more and more restaurant owners look for ways to cut costs, improve customer service and drive loyalty initiatives, application modernization including cloud applications, mobile apps and predictive data modelling are featuring at the top of their personal “must do” menus. Software companies and ISVs that serve the restaurant and hospitality industry are in a race to offer more, by migrating older legacy apps to the cloud and taking advantage of real-time data analysis tools to offer more features and functions to their customers – all while ensuring security and data privacy are still the “special of the day”.

Patrick Albrecht owns and operates four restaurants in Atlanta, Georgia. At one point, he says, he had tens of thousands of receipts, invoices, health department documents and payroll data stuffed into the various offices in his restaurants.

Born in the Cloud is Disrupting the Restaurant Industry

New “born in the cloud” restaurant applications are coming into the market. That is great news for restauranteurs. They will have a choice of vendors to select from – vendors who can offer new capabilities and new functionality that restaurant customers demand.

If you are a team supporting restaurant clients on an existing legacy application, you might need external help if you want to accelerate your own application modernization efforts in order to take on these new competitors.

Legacy restaurant applications, without an achievable plan in place to modernize quickly, are at risk of customer erosion.

By subscribing to [i] a cloud-based mobile app that could organize his overwhelming mountain of paperwork, he figures he’s now saving 2% each month in overhead costs from his four food operations. He can find any document in a matter of seconds and he can compare vendor delivery prices to determine who is giving him the best deal.

Albrecht is one of a growing number of smart restaurant owners who have embraced and employed some of the new cloud-based technologies to make operations more efficient and cost-effective.

Threats Abound

Restaurant chains and food companies that own various restaurant brands know how tough the business is. Competition is fierce, customer loyalty is fickle and profit margins are skinny. The difference between red and black on the bottom line is often as thin as the edge of a knife. Having the right information at the right time from POS, loyalty, vendor management and surveying systems is critical for owners who need to make decisions that can mean the difference between remaining in business and shutting the doors.

Social, Mobile and Data Drive Transformation in the Restaurant Industry

Cloud technology and third-platform innovation accelerators[ii] like social, mobile and big data are changing the landscape for the restaurant industry. Large chain firms and independent operators have experienced how mobile apps can boost business simply by making it convenient for customers to order, pay and review their experience, all with a smartphone.

For many restaurants, they have either directed their internal software developers to modify existing applications or they are looking to their existing POS vendor to do it for them.

There’s just one problem: many of these existing applications were designed long before cloud, social and mobile were part of the landscape. Moving a legacy application into the cloud while taking advantage of new functionality AND ensuring that security and data privacy are paramount is tough to do.

It requires specific skills and knowledge. Few companies can say they are masters of all the aspects needed to modernize.

What to Expect with Application Modernization

Data Available on Any Device

Restaurant owners Matt and Dianne Kraft can now check restaurant sales on their mobile phone while sitting beside a camp fire on a family vacation. “We rarely used to take vacation,” Dianne admitted. “We needed to be at the restaurant to stay on top of everything. But now we can see exactly what is happening in real time; we can even monitor problems as they happen. For example, issues that used to be buried – like a high number of orders being returned – are flagged. We can simply make a quick call to determine if it is a kitchen problem or a server problem, and by working with our manager, get it resolved quickly before customer satisfaction is impacted.

The ability to use cloud to amass multiple points and sources of data is making an enormous difference in the restaurant industry today. Cloud enables data pools to drive data analysis, unavailable before now. Restaurants can profile their customers in fine detail and then design promotions targeted specifically at them. Many legacy apps can’t achieve this sophisticated level of analytics because they weren’t written with current analytic models in mind.

Roughly 60% of consumers are making a restaurant selection – and a reservation – based on what they find on apps like Yelp and OpenTable. Because these apps are using cloud technology, the data these restaurants collect can determine booking patterns, eating tastes, the age of their customers and even their income levels. That’s valuable information for restaurant owners, who can harness this data and use it to drive promotions, communications, messages and offers.

Some cloud-based apps alert a restaurant when a customer is in the area by using what’s called geo-fencing. This creates an opportunity to immediately transmit a mobile ad to that customer.

A POS Cloud Facelift Cuts Costs, Boosts Sales

POS systems are another instance of cloud technology reducing costs.

Application Modernization – Legacy Moves to the Cloud

A large software vendor designing legacy POS applications for more than 30 years turned to Optimus when they needed to modernize their legacy POS. With more than 40,000 global customers to support, their internal IT team not only did not have the time to do the migration themselves, they also did not have the specialized expertise that this migration and design effort demanded. The results? By partnering with Optimus, this client has:

  • Reduced time-to-market and hosting costs
  • Capability to scale on demand to respond to peaks and seasonal fluctuations
  • Rolled out their new cloud app without disrupting existing customers
  • A future-proof roadmap with proximity to PaaS for machine learning, IoT frameworks, Blockchain technology and more.

According to Restaurant Insider[iii], cloud-based POS works for any size of restaurant. Updated sales, inventory, customer feedback and other real-time data can be accessed from the cloud via a mobile device, anywhere. In other words, there is no need for costly on-premises servers, holding valuable and often confidential data.

But moving your legacy application to the cloud is not as simple as a “lift and shift”. You need to assess the code base, making changes to it to take advantage of cloud services while also optimizing the application so that it runs more efficiently in the cloud.

The right upfront efforts mean greater agility and cost savings while taking advantage of trends such as machine learning and blockchain.

Mobile Ready Everywhere

mPOS is a payment system which allows customers to pay by using a mobile wallet –  simply a smartphone that contains encrypted credit or debit card information. Such a system appeals strongly to tech-smart millennials, who control more than 30% of gross income today [iv] and who eat out frequently.

When a food company fails to keep up with the capabilities that modern technology can offer, they are at risk of losing clients and profits very quickly. These restaurants will look for software vendors who can help them.

Software application companies that have legacy applications and cannot quickly make the shift to the cloud will fall behind the technology curve. Their clients will either fall behind as well or abandon them for another vendor.

Plan for Success

Because modernization technologies for the restaurant industry offer so many opportunities that you can take advantage of, it is vital to talk with a company that works in this space every day, delivering custom-tailored solutions and driving cost savings for clients.

Optimus Information delivers cloud-supported application development for the restaurant and hospitality industry. Optimus works on the leading edge and provides your company with full software development and testing, mobile development on any platform, and business intelligence designed to suit your needs and wishes.

Contact us today for more information and let us show you how we can employ our skill with cloud technology to drive your business forward.

 

[i] https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/223562

[ii] https://www.idc.com/promo/thirdplatform/innovationaccelerators

[iii] https://upserve.com/restaurant-insider/benefits-cloud-based-restaurant-pos/

[iv] https://www.michaelhartzell.com/restaurant-blog/how-restaurants-can-use-mobile-payment-technology-to-increase-profits

Power BI for Mobile: Take Your Data on the Road

One area where the Power BI software stack really shines is the mobile space. The Power BI product line includes three apps: one for iOS, Windows Phone and Android. These apps allow you to take anything you can generate in Power BI and make it readily available to any stakeholder with a mobile phone or tablet. With a couple swipes, users can quickly interact with all your analysis. Power BI allows you to bring together the advantages of mobile devices, big data systems and compelling visualizations in a way that permits everyone involved to make better decisions.

The Power of the Dashboard

It’s one thing to produce an informative chart, but it’s quite another to deploy a fully interactive dashboard that can fetch real-time updates. Power BI permits you to tie together data from a variety of sources, including numerous non-Microsoft products. For the end user, the guy in marketing who just needs to see today’s report, the component that makes it all accessible is the dashboard.

Power BI dashboards allow you to publish any type of common infographic, geospatial information or visualization. If you need a bubble chart that displays the YTD performance of your company’s retail outlets, there’s an out-of-the-box solution for that with Power BI. It also allows you to create maps and overlay existing information onto those maps. Instead of just seeing that Store #325 is performing well, an app user can pull up the dashboard and see on the map whether that’s a one-off phenomenon or a regional trend.

Making Information Accessible

In the world of data analytics, a lot of work goes into empowering decision makers who may not have strong technical background. It’s extremely beneficial to give those people an app that allows them to quickly sort through the available data in a clear format. If your buyers can quickly bounce between multiple years’ worth of data and make comparisons, they can make important decisions faster.

Power BI also allows you to determine how the dashboard accesses the available information. Rather than simply presenting users a static set of reports, you can configure queries that allow them to sift through in a self-guided fashion. If someone needs access to a real-time inventory report, your dashboard can be configured to fetch that information from the company’s SQL Server installations. This allows members of your organization who might not be data scientists to rapidly develop insights that can guide their choices. 

Cross-Platform Compatibility

Keeping everyone in your business on the same page can be a challenge. Microsoft has gone to great lengths to ensure that the Power BI apps display information faithfully on every platform and function in a similar fashion. Our hypothetical data scientists in our example will have no trouble grabbing an art department iPhone and finding everything they need.

Data Sources

Any data source that can be access inside Office or Power BI can be presented within the app’s dashboard. If you need to present data from an Excel sheet in an appealing manner to someone on the other side of the planet, the app can make that happen. It also allows you to connect to commonly used data sources, such as SQL Server Reports, and outside sources, such as Google Analytics, Salesforce or MailChimp. You can even mix and match functionality, for example, overlaying Salesforce data on Google Maps.

Conclusion

Business intelligence is about putting the right information in the rights hands and in a format that makes a visually compelling case. Your company will likely invest a lot of effort in the coming years into producing analysis and generating insights. With Power BI’s mobile app, you can ensure that the people who need those insights have access to them with the touch of a finger. The app allows you to pass along analysis to stakeholders in a secure environment that makes interacting with the data easy. In short, it makes all your data analytics faster, more appealing and more accessible.

If you have questions about getting started with Power BI or want to push the toolset further, give us a call. We’re always happy to answer any questions.

 

 

5 Ways to Improve Mobile App Testing Quality and Efficiency

Mobile device application development faces significant challenges, which pass through to their testing. Though the obstacles appear daunting, there are ways to mitigate such complications, improve your team’s testing effectiveness and also raise app quality.

Mobile App Challenges

  • Mobile device fragmentation is rising. There are a myriad of hardware platforms, OS versions and network connection options across devices. Trying to maximize market coverage for a single app requires spanning this ever-increasing matrix of combinations with a concomitant increase in testing complexity.
  • Testing budgets are not expanding, which means doing more with less, which in turn leads to deciding between in-house or outsourced testing. Outsourcing infrastructure to the cloud often reduces capital and maintenance expenditures, but outsourcing test personnel and processes is a riskier proposition that is usually hard to unwind later. Outsourcing pressure is also increasing because new expertise and sophistication is required by leading edge test frameworks and tools.
  • Adding insult to injury, mobile app development requires ever faster development/release cycles. That is due to heightened competition and to end-users’ progressively shorter attention spans. Users more and more expect defects and improvements to be available in near-real time. That means testing has to constantly play catch-up so as not to become the bottleneck in the next upgrade.

Dealing Effectively with Modern Mobile App Testing

Before deciding you might be in the wrong line or work in the face of these looming challenges, let us consider five approaches that will improve your organization’s abilities to operate more efficiently while improving the quality of released apps.

1. Embrace Agile Development

This step is global to the organization. Fundamentally, it means involving all the stakeholders in the project from business managers to architects to production personnel. Depending on the delta between what you do today and how far you want to take agile development determines the size of the steps you take, but every step gets you closer to a more successful testing organization. Agile methodologies are proven to improve the ability to adapt to change, improve customer and stakeholder engagement, create more useful documentation and higher quality deliverables.

2. Value Your Automation Properly

Are you accurately measuring the value you derive from test automation? Often, more automation simply bloats maintenance tasks and increase test run times in the absence of ongoing evaluation of the tests contained within a framework. For instance, effort is commonly wasted automating tests that are better done manually, such as exploratory testing. The correct approach, customizable to your particular environment, is to measure your tests along a value spectrum. Tests such as build smoke tests are relatively easy to automate and provide high value. On the other end of the spectrum might be compatibility tests, which are necessary but probably should be lower priority.

3. Virtualize Your Testing Resources

Virtualized services and virtualized platforms are both relatively inexpensive in terms of infrastructure, setup and ongoing cost. They can be used on both the client and server sides of mobile applications. You will use less costly hardware and gain the ability to scale almost linearly, which is especially valuable for performance, load and stress testing.

4. Improve Your Ability to Test on Both Emulated and Real Devices

Testing a multi-platform mobile app on real devices is probably a non-starter for in-house deployment depending on the complexity of the instance matrix combining devices, platform capabilities, OS versions and network connectivity options. On the other hand, you cannot achieve a sufficient level of quality confidence with only emulators, which should by the way be deployed as early as possible in the development cycle.

The increasingly obvious answer to this situation is to employ cloud testing services that provide real-time access to a wide collection of new, sometimes unreleased, mobile devices and network operators along with built-in test and collaboration frameworks.

5. Gain Deeper Insights into the End User Experience

Simply reviewing comments and ratings in app stores is not enough anymore to evaluate how apps are performing in the field. Consider compiling in one of today’s sophisticated crash/analytics SDKs, which have vanishingly small run-time overhead. These provide real-time insights into how users are interacting with your app plus detailed reports on crashes that pinpoint problems immediately, especially if used in combination with a hotfix insertion tool.

Conclusion

Testing mobile apps gets harder every day, although new tools and techniques are always coming along to mitigate the difficulties. Seeing ways to improve development/test turnaround times, to optimize test automation capabilities, employing test resource virtualization and cloud-based device testing services are effective methods for maintaining the pace. Above all, keep your app’s user experiences squarely in your sights and utilize new tools for evaluating their behaviors and problems.

Mobile Breakfast Series April 2016 Recap

On April 28th, 2016, we were overwhelmed by the response to Vancouver’s Mobile Breakfast Series! Optimus Information brought this event to Vancouver with Chetan Sharma Consulting and was met with a completely packed house.

The event brought together four executives from leading brands to discuss IoT, where it’s heading and how their different organizations are approaching it.

Speakers:

Shahid AhmedManaging Partner – Emerging Technology and IoT at PwC

Gonzalo Tudela, CEO and Co-founder at Vandrico Solutions

Rob Tiffany, Global Technology Lead for IoT at Microsoft

Rob ChandhokPresident and COO at Helium

Chetan SharmaCEO, Chetan Sharma Consulting (moderator)

We would like to extend a big thank you to those that joined us! For those that couldn’t make it, we have captured a few highlights for you:

IoT is not just about technology

One also should look at the business impact of IoT. For example, IoT stands to impact the pricing model of some industries.

  • Sensors accurately measuring risks means that actuaries in insurance companies can more accurately price insurance products. This is a big change for the insurance industry.
  • Rolls Royce aircraft engines charge their customers based on hours flown. The hourly cost is dictated by data collected from various sensors in the engine. They are now also collecting the maintenance history of various components.

Fog layer/fog computing

The fog layer means processing transactions locally rather than transferring to the cloud. For example, instead of transferring all the raw data from the device to cloud, only relevant or processed data is transferred.

Encryption doesn’t equal security

People confuse security with encryption. Security has many more aspects in addition to encryption. For example, for a sensor that only sends data when a door is opened or a motion is detected, simply the presence of data being transmitted can be a breach of security.

IoT + Cloud

This is a leading technology trend with two camps. One camp includes companies like Microsoft that offer complete solutions from the device to the backend and analytics. The other camp includes companies specializing in specific parts of this value chain, such a sensor manufacturer or a platform for processing big data.

Pictures from the event:

20160428_083130-1030x579 Mobile Breakfast Series April 2016 Recap

20160428_094236-1030x579 Mobile Breakfast Series April 2016 Recap

20160428_102358-1030x686 Mobile Breakfast Series April 2016 Recap

20160428_102722-1030x687 Mobile Breakfast Series April 2016 Recap

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20160428_102309-1030x687 Mobile Breakfast Series April 2016 Recap

20160428_1022261-1030x378 Mobile Breakfast Series April 2016 Recap

 

 

Industry Spotlight: Mobile Apps Modernize Trucking Industry

The Trucking Industry Catches Up to the Digital Age

With over half of adults owning a smartphone or other mobile device, the assumption is that online technology, especially mobile app technology, has permeated every aspect of our personal and commercial lives. Yet, a few areas exist where technology is still catching on. One of these laggards has been the trucking industry, which according to TruckingInfo.net employs more than 3.75 million truck drivers in North America of which one in nine (> 400,000) are owner operators.

The most obvious area where online, mobile technology is starting to play a big role is in solving truckers’ “deadhead” problem.

When an independent trucker drops off a load, he or she heads back to home base. Without a return load, however, they are stuck with the gas and maintenance bills for that trip. Long gone are the paper and pin methods of finding loads at local truck stops, but the system still relies on brokers and manual methods to a great degree to find those loads.

Because of the inherent inefficiencies of the old-style brokerage system, drivers must share up to 30% of their gross fee to find a return load via a broker. Brokers have a vested interest to keep things as they were, but the truckers with the help of new mobile app start-ups are changing the way the game is played.

For instance, Keychain Logistics makes an app already in use by 20,000 drivers that serves as an online, automated exchange for drivers and shippers to match their respective needs. For this, Keychain takes only a 6 to 12 percent cut. Other tech companies, such as Trucker Path, Inc. are branching out from route assistance apps to creating their own shipper-carrier exchanges.

Trucking is now set to take full advantage of a digital world that promises to make trips smoother, utilize previously unused cargo space, streamline regulatory paperwork and help shippers and carriers make more money.

Driver Route Assistance and More

Trucker Path, is the most popular travel planning mobile app used in the trucking industry. It displays a route map that highlights every site of note for a long-haul trucker such as rest areas, truck stops, parking sites, truck washes, Walmart stores that allow parking, hotels, restaurants and weigh stations. It runs on both Android and iOS.

It is used by more than 200,000 drivers and boasts the most up-to-date and accurate information because the database is constantly updated by the drivers themselves. Driver rely especially on weigh station open/closed status and traffic conditions to help them forecast an accurate ETA. They also know ahead of time which are the best restaurants and hotels to stay in because other truckers on the app can leave detailed reviews.

Recently, a large Chinese social media company, Renren, invested $1.5 million in Trucker Path, which they will use to develop a new social media platform for the trucking industry. This will connect all the players including brokers, shippers, carriers and the truckers themselves. The new app augments their new mobile brokerage platform that is already released in beta with over 140,000 users.

The Uber Model Applied to Trucking

Cargomatic, has developed a mobile, local-market logistics app that matches up shippers with local, short-haul carriers who have partially loaded trucks. Think of it as the defrag app on your PC or laptop that fills in the empty spaces between files. Retailers and manufacturers utilize Cargomatic to make small shipments without the expense of hiring an entire truck and truckers make money by filling up that space.

Since everything is done online via Cargomatic’s desktop and mobile apps, they eliminate the hassle of hard copy paperwork and payments are expedited between shippers and carriers. It is ideal for small truck fleets that normally ship within a 200 mile radius. It is a great way for ecommerce retailers to get their products out to distributors, retail shops and individual customers.

Keychain Logistics, is another new tech startup designed to remove the inefficiencies in matching carriers and shippers with an app that displays between 40,000 to 200,000 load opportunities a day. They not only provide the app but have a brokerage license and carry cargo insurance to enable background checks and for completing all the necessary paperwork.

They have built up an impressive brokerage marketplace that matches fleet managers and owner-operators on loads via a variety of 3rd-party online boards. Origination and destination zip codes are all that are needed for computing the price. Their brokerage fees are half to one-third of manual brokers.

Convenience, Efficiency and Tracking Apps

In 30 states, drivers use the Drivewyze app to breeze through Drivewyze-capable weigh stations. Running from an Android or iPhone device, Drivewyze exchanges data electronically with the weigh station according to the local state’s regulations. The station can verify the driver’s credentials and history, truck weight and the truck’s operating history. Assuming no red flags pop up, the driver is free to pass through the station without stopping.

Other transportation-related apps are surfacing as the trucking industry finally comes into the digital age:

  • MercuryGate’s phone app tracks loads, reports, rates and captures sign-offs.
  • XRS Corporation logs hours-of-service, truck speed, CSA scorecards and compiles fuel and productivity data.
  • KeepTruckin provides a fleet management app that includes electronic logs, tracking information and sends out alerts if there are hours-of-service violations.

Custom Mobile Applications

Optimus Information has experience developing and testing custom mobile applications for the transportation industry. Optimus has worked with fleet management applications for GPS vehicle tracking, dispatch applications for freight management, and other custom applications.

Contact Optimus Information to learn more about our experience with transportation applications and how we can help with your next project.