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Writing User Stories for Mobile Apps – Adding Context

I saw an interesting presentation at MobCon 2014 from Josh Bernoff over at Forrester Research on the concept of the Mobile Moment. This is the idea that there are two additional dimensions that you need to account for in your mobile apps: time and space. That is, when are your users using the app and where are they using it?

The Mobile Moment concept struck me as quite powerful: knowing where and when users are interacting with your app can help you craft more powerful, intuitive features. Mr. Bernoff provides examples for Starbucks in which the mobile experience might change if you’re not at Starbucks, standing outside a Starbucks, standing in line, at the register, and even after the purchase. Josh is now even talking about Micro Moments, in which the user is interacting with your app (or maybe, with only a push notification from your app) for a few seconds only. This got me thinking about the mobile apps I’ve been working on, and it made me think that I might be leaving out some important details in my users stories.

dilbert userstories

In the agile development world, user stories are king. They describe who will be using a feature, what they will be doing, and why they are doing it. Typically, they go like this:

As a [user role] I want to [perform some function] so that [some value is realized]

And this works really well as a starting point of discussion when reviewing product backlog items. The development team knows three dimensions of the requirement:

  1. Who will be using the feature
  2. What the feature is
  3. A notional idea of why the feature is important

Knowing these dimensions of the requirement helps guide the team to make the right decisions when there is ambiguity and helps guide the discussion of the story’s acceptance criteria (the how). Other forms of requirement development (you know, those requirements that start with “The SYSTEM shall…”) can often leave these dimensions out.

So the question then is: How do we account for the two additional dimensions represented by the Mobile Moment? The tried-and-true template doesn’t have any placeholders for where or when. Just who, what, and why. The easiest way is just to modify the template, adding the where and the when:

As a [user role], [in a certain mobile moment], I want to [perform some function] so that [some value is realized]

Let’s imagine that you are working on requirements for an urban touring app, and you want your users to be able to see information about different locations on a tour. You might write a story like this:

As a tourist I want to pull up Wikipedia articles about each stop on my urban tour so that I can learn more about each location.

urban street tour

The product development team would discuss that story and they may end up developing a feature in the app in which the user can pull up a map of the tour, choose their current location on the tour, and then tap a button to learn more about that location. While this works, it isn’t ideal. The tourist has to go through several steps to get to the information she wants.

How could capturing the mobile moment in the story help? Let’s re-write the story to include the mobile moment:

As a tourist on an urban tour at a stop on the tour I want to pull up a Wikipedia article about the current stop so that I can learn more about it.

The product development team would discuss this story and decide that the mobile device can detect that the tourist is on a tour, and where on the tour the tourist is, so they may develop a feature that launches the Wikipedia entry for the current location when they launch the app. They have captured that tourist’s mobile moment, providing her exactly what she wanted, when she wanted it.

The problem with including the Mobile Moment in the user story itself is twofold. First, writing user stories that coherently capture who, what, and why is hard enough. It often takes a while to format the sentence in a way that both makes sense and captures the intent. Adding the where and when factors complicates things even more and might frustrate the product owner trying to capture the requirement in the user story format. Secondly, not every story has a mobile moment. In fact, some apps, such as games, will have very few Mobile Moments.

Another approach to capturing the mobile moment is to place it in the body of the user story, near where the acceptance criteria reside:

As a tourist I want to pull up Wikipedia articles about each stop on my urban tour so that I can learn more about each location.

Mobile Moment: While on an urban tour, at a tour site
Acceptance Criteria:

  1. Item 1
  2. Item 2


This method keeps the Mobile Moment in the developers’ minds as they are reviewing the story and helps drive the discussion, but doesn’t get in the way of the user story itself. It may not be as effective as including the moment in the story template, but it also doesn’t get in the way if the story doesn’t have an obvious Mobile Moment.

A third approach is to place the Mobile Moment in the acceptance criteria themselves. I don’t like this option because it intermixes the important where and when with other run-of-the-mill acceptance criteria (i.e. the how). This diminishes their importance and top-of-mind relevance.

Some apps, such as Uber and Lyft, are defined almost entirely by their mobile moments, some have few or none at all (Angry Birds?), and most fit somewhere in-between. If you don’t have a way to capture these moments in your user stories, your development team won’t know about them and you’ll end up missing out on important opportunities. Find a way that works best for you to represent the where and the when in your user stories, and watch your development team turn those mobile moments into killer features.

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Achieving App Store Success – 5 Case Studies

It is pretty rare for developers to reveal how well their projects did. For the most part, the number of downloads and the quality of user reviews is all you get when researching an app. This is a shame because so much is unknown about “making it” in the Appstore. We meet with a lot of indie developers, entrepreneurs, small/medium companies, and even large corporations and they ask us really hard questions like:

“How much is this going to cost?”
“Is this good idea?”
“Will this be successful?”

The answer is almost always “it depends” because every situation is unique and there are so many variables. Thankfully a small percentage of brave developers have been kind enough to share their app’s performances. My hope in presenting these five case studies is to reveal just how unpredictable the Appstore can be.

Recently the creators of the smash hit Monument Valley released a tell-all infographic, exposing both the cost and revenue of the game. Let’s start there.

Monument Valley

Developer: ustwogames (8 core developers)
Time/Cost: 14 months, $852,000
Total Sales: $8,858,625
Release Date: April 2014
Price: $2.99

monument valley screens

Monument Valley is a critically acclaimed and well received puzzle game. I remember anticipating the release of this game ever since I first saw the amazing art style. The game comes from ustwogames which is a subdivision of ustwo a pretty substantial international digital user interface design company. The game division had a total of three games under their belt before diving into Monument Valley. The development and marketing experience certainly helps.

monument valley revenue

Everything seemed to go as expected for them as Monument Valley was a an absolute smash with excellent excellent music, sound, design, gameplay and length. Further solidifying it’s success is how difficult it is to clone or even mimic. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a risk however; the game cost nearly a million dollars to make. I wonder how many $1 million games are not seeing this kind of success… I am willing to bet it’s a lot.


Developer: Jared Sinclair
Time/Cost: 60-80 hours a week for 7 months.
Total Sales: $42,000
Release Date: February 2014
Price: $2.99

Unread is a premium RSS reader sold for $2.99. The app had a strong opening weekend and it was supported by a multitude of prominent bloggers. Sales quickly started tapering off however, even being featured in the Appstore didn’t stop them.


Despite all of these circumstances, Unread still only earned $42K in sales ($21K after taxes and expenses) and is on a course that doesn’t promise much growth. I conclude from all this that anyone who wants to make a satisfying living as an independent app developer should seriously consider only building apps based on sustainable revenue models. I suspect this means through consumable in-app purchases, like those in Candy Crush Saga or Clash of Clans, or through recurring subscription charges, like those in WhatsApp.

I have read the reviews of the app and they are very positive both from critics and users. Personally I feel that a $2.99 starting price point (the app is currently free with IAP) is a bit steep for a service which is commonly free in a saturated niche. However despite that, it is very strange that being featured on the Appstore didn’t result in a huge amount of sales which will become common as we investigate the other apps in this round-up.

Author Takeaways:

I worked on Unread seven days a week, at almost any hour of the day. I think the quality and polish of Version 1.0 is due to all that extra effort, but it was physically and emotionally taxing. It’s not a sustainable way to live, and I don’t recommend it.

Sustainable revenue must come from other sources than the original app purchase, either from consumable in-app purchases, or from recurring subscriptions.

Don’t launch your paid-up-front app at a reduced price. Demand for your app will likely never be higher again. Price it accordingly.


Developer: Marco Arment
Time/Cost: 15 months full time
Total Sales: $234,477
Release Date: July 2014
Price: Free with $4.99 IAP
Relevant Blog: Overcast Sales Numbers


Overcast is a free podcasting app with a $5 IAP to unlock all the premium features. The most notable is Smart Speed which subtly removes pauses from podcasts in hopes to save you time listening. User reviews confirm that Smart Speed is an excellent feature that does save valuable listening time.

Marco claims that his expenses are only about $750 a month and the single biggest cost was spending $12,000 on the trademark for the name Overcast. He does not list any marketing expenses which I find interesting. A late 2014 release of a podcasting app doesn’t seem like an organically buzz-worthy event…

It had a perfect launch that far exceeded my expectations — it was the best launch an indie developer could possibly hope for, with tons of great press, a mid-level App Store feature, and thousands of tweets on launch day.

Marco does have a weighty twitter following of 78k users and Overcast was reviewed by Macworld, MacStories and featured on Daring Fireball. It is possible all of this exposure came from Marco’s personal relationships but it cannot be underplayed. If Marco wasn’t so well-connected, he would have had to buy that exposure and it would have cost upwards of $10,000 to reach even close to that number of users.


Author Takeaways

Overall, I’m very satisfied with Overcast’s finances so far. It’s not setting the world on fire, but it’s making good money. For most people, the App Store won’t be a lottery windfall, but making a decent living is within reach for many.

After the self-employment penalties in taxes and benefits, I’m probably coming in under what I could get at a good full-time job in the city, but I don’t have to actually work for someone else on something I don’t care about. I can work in my nice home office, drink my fussy coffee, take a nap after lunch if I want to, and be present for my family as my kid grows up. That’s my definition of success.


Developer: Matt Rix
Time/Cost: 7 months part-time development
Total Sales: Undisclosed, but likely over a million dollars.
Release Date: May 2010
Price: $2.99
Relevant Blog: The Story So Far

Trainyard is a puzzle game developed by Matt Rix in his spare time. The puzzle game received limited publicity despite the best efforts of the creator. Submissions to major app review sites such as TouchArcade and SlideToPlay fell on deaf ears and the app was not featured in the Appstore. Trainyard sold 2338 copies in the first 4 months providing $3200 in revenue at $1.99 price point. User reviews were very positive.

Matt increased the price of the game to $2.99 and released a free Trainyard Lite version. The free version was reviewed on a popular Italian blog shooting both the free and paid versions to #1 of the Italian app store. Soon after, Apple featured the paid version of Trainyard in the US Appstore. Sales increased to massive numbers.


After a calculated gamble to drop the price to .99 Trainyard overtook Angry Birds, taking the #2 spot in the US Appstore for a few days, then #3 for a few more days before dropping off the top ten.

Although Matt didn’t expose is exact sales numbers he did publish a breakdown of the value of your Appstore rank based on a $0.99c price point, after the 30% apple royalty fee (as of 2010):

  • Rank 300 overall – $1000/day
  • Rank 25 overall – $2500/day
  • Rank 10 overall – $5000/day
  • Rank 5 overall – $15000/day
  • Rank 2 overall – $30000/day
  • Rank 1 overall – $40-50k/day

Flappy Bird

Developer: Dong Nguyen
Time/Cost: 2-3 days
Total Sales: Speculated $1,400,000 ($50k a day for 28 Days)
Release Date: May 2013
Price: Free
Relevant Blog: Dong Nguyen Says Flappy Bird Is Gone Forever Because It Was An Addictive ProductThe phenomena that is Flappy Bird is certainly worth talking about. Contrary to other project-of-passion apps, Flappy Bird was created in just a weekend as a test project. Even moderate success should have been a miracle for a game like this. Everything about it is unremarkable from the graphics to the gameplay.

Flappy Bird was actually released in May and went totally unnoticed, unmarketed and unreviewed. Just another random pick-up and play game littering the floor. I can’t find any reason why it went viral half a year later, but it certainly did.

Everyone downloaded it, reported on it, blogged about it … hated it? It was reviewed poorly both by critics and users. The Flappy Bird metacritic page isn’t something to be proud of with a failing critic grade of 52/100 and a miserable user score of 3.7/10

Despite all of that, everyone needed to play it. So much so, that after the developer pulled the app because “he couldn’t take it anymore” people sold pre-loaded iPhones for… Tens of thousands of dollars.


Don’t get me wrong, Flappy Bird isn’t a terrible game. It had plenty going for it:

  • Free
  • Cute retro graphics with a Mario reference
  • Gameplay takes only seconds to understand
  • Super fast play sessions
  • Fun to compete with friends
  • “Bird” in the title to leech some of that Angry Bird/Tiny Wings recognition

But none of those are unique, there are literally hundreds of games that fit those criteria, why did this one explode? Nobody knows for sure.

What It Means

I am hesitant to draw conclusions from such a small and unfocused sample size. Each app is unique, each released at a different time, under different circumstances and to a different target audience. It is best to take each case study anecdotally and try to learn general lessons from each one.

One important takeaway however is that you probably are not going to make the next Flappy Bird. Getting an app into the app store shouldn’t be treated like a gold rush. It’s easy to look at a simplistic game that is doing well and know you can do it better. Maybe you can, but attaining viral success is nothing more than winning the internet lottery. You can’t make that your goal.

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How to Finance Your Mobile App

Before You Begin

The first thing you should do is create a business plan. The process of writing your business plan will force you to answer all of the questions a potential investor will probably ask you. The thoroughness of your answers will be a big signal to your level of preparedness and competence. Here are just a few of the topics that should be covered in your business plan:

  • How will your app make money? Monthly fee, initial download price, in-app purchases, demo/unlock model, advertising?
  • What is the expected revenue?
  • What is the expected profit?
  • What is the total cost of creating the app and all related architecture?
  • What are the recurring costs?
  • What is the project timeline? When will the project be done?
  • Do you have any competition? What are your key differentiators? What are your plans to deal with them?
  • How will you promote your app?

If you need help writing a business plan there is an extensive guide on entrepreneur.com plenty of examples outlines and suggestions. If a person really needs and in-depth look at your project, the business plan is the perfect solution.

kidizen page screen

For people who don’t want to invest all the time of reading a business plan, have marketing site. Your website is a bit like a portfolio. It grants you the opportunity to explain your concept quickly and succinctly. In addition to presenting an engaging demonstration of your application considering showing the qualifications of your team, statistics you have gathered about your audience or market, comparisons to competition, or even a careers section to attract some more talent.

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If you are fortunate enough to be in the position to fund your own app, do it! There is nothing better than having complete control of your project and every decision throughout the entire process. Unfortunately, most people are not prepared to comfortably sink $100,000+ into a new venture. However, you should use all of the resources you have to take your app as far as possible.

Risky? Absolutely. But, how do you expect other people to take a chance on your idea if you won’t? Develop a one-year plan and start putting away a portion of your earnings every month into your new start-up fund. Use that time to create whatever resources you will need once you launch. Of course you need to be responsible, but bank loans and credit cards are another way to help stretch your personal equity to the max.


Submitting your app to a crowdfunding website is a great first step toward getting some financial backing. Crowdfunding has many benefits. Primarily, you get to maintain full ownership of your idea, app or company. Additionally, it allows you to leverage a large social media audience or a viral message to generate funding. Small payments are welcome, which opens the door for many backers. However, without a large social media following it might be difficult to get the exposure you need to really take off.

Crowdfunding sites follow one of two models. The “All or Nothing” model grants funding to projects if and only if the pre-determined funding goal is reached or exceeded. Alternatively, the “Keep it All” model always grants the money raised at the end of the funding period regardless of how much was pledged.

Creating a successful crowdfunding campaign is as much luck as science, especially if you are not already bringing a strong social media following to the table. Sometimes you may actually need some funding to fund your crowdfunding campaign:

It turns out that running a successful crowd funding campaign costs money. In fact, Canary raised the seed money to ensure its Indiegogo campaign went smoothly. The funding helped bring on developers and solidify its product’s design in time for the campaign’s presentation. Why VCs Use Crowdfunding To Make Sure Their Hardware Startups Pay Out, Fast Company

Here are some of the more common crowd funding platforms:

Wikipedia has a comprehensive list along with their focuses and funding models.

Attempting a crowdfunding campaign is essentially risk-free. Either you get funded or nothing happens and you are free to try again. Look no further than the “Coolest” campaign for an example. What was a failure in December 2013 was a $13 million success in August 2014.


Contests Awards

Keep your ear to the ground regarding any competitions that award money for a mobile app or idea. This is certainly a right-place-right-time opportunity, but it does exist. Some contests simply award money, while others only offer exposure and recognition, both rewards are worthwhile. Here is a short list of mobile app contests I am aware of:

  • Google’s Android Developer Contest

    One of the most prestigious and lucrative awards, the Android Developer Challenge awarded approximately $2 million in 2010. Unfortunately there is no official word when we will have an ADC3 … If ever.

  • Apple’s Design Award

    Another very prestigious award will certainly get your plenty of recognition, as well as a feature on the app store front page.

  • Xammy Awards

    Xamarin give awards for best consumer app, best enterprise app, best emerging device app, best game, and a developers choice award. The only catch is you need to use Xamarin for development.


Ask around your local community for similar local events. Chances are, there probably is one within driving distance. At the very least you will meet some people that might help you get funding in another way. If you know of any other contests not listed please let me know in the comment section.

Investor Funding


Getting funded by investors is often the first thing entrepreneurs or inventors think of (after using up their own resources). It isn’t a bad idea, but it does have some drawbacks. The biggest issue is you often need to give up some company control in order to get the financing required. As in the case of the Shark Tank, you are actually selling a stake in your company. On the other hand, an investor’s business-savvy might be helpful in making your product successful.

  • Friends and Family

    Ask all of your friends and family if they know of any investors you can meet with. It is very possible someone knows a guy who knows a guy who is interested. You might even discover that one of your friends or family members are interested themselves.

  • Attend Events

    Attend conferences and trade shows that are relevant to your app; be an exhibitor if possible. Show off your idea to everyone and seek out investors.

  • Social Media

    Use social media to send out some feelers. Search Linkedin and Twitter for investors and make a connection.

  • Websites

    There are websites that specialize in connecting investors and inventors such as Angel List, Flash Funders or Gust. These sites can be a great way to connect with like-minded investors since you can see what project they have funded previously. If you have a medical-themed idea, for example, you can scout for investors in the medical field who can best understand your concept.

Once you find an investor you still need to convince him or her to invest. I spoke with a few entrepreneurs about their experiences with the start-up scene and interacting with investors.

Tony Kramer is not only the entrepreneur behind Spark Starter (MobDemo 2014 Runner-up) and multiple other start-ups, he is also an investor. He has seen this business from both perspectives and he informed me that having a product you can show, and proof that users are engaged is by far the best indicator of a healthy start-up.

Even if you don’t have the knowledge or funding to develop your product, try to get a prototype off the ground. Even a simplistic web version of your app can start generating user interest. Investors want to see where the revenue will come from once the product goes live. They want to see the community backing the idea.

Dug Nichols from Kidizen (MobDemo 2013 Runner-up) adds that investors like to see people with skin in the game, people who are going out on a limb for their idea. They like a scrapper who has quit his job and committed all the way.

“Why should they invest money in your idea if you haven’t given it everything you have? They like knowing someone is out there fighting for their life.”

Dug also adds how helpful it can be to show a track record of success. If you don’t have any successes to show yet, Dug suggests finding someone who does. Bringing someone experienced on as a partner or consultant will give investors confidence that their money will not be mismanaged.


Do not be discouraged if your first round of funding isn’t as successful as you hoped. There is plenty of chance involved and being at the right place at the right time has a lot to do with “making it.”

This XOXO presentation by Darius Kazemi is relevant to this topic. The presentations begins with parody of a successful start-up, but instead of a launching product or service, his goal was to win the lottery. It’s funny and clever but also surprisingly poignant. He points out the similarities in buying lottery tickets and trying to make as a tech start-up.

It might not be the most optimistic story, but it is a sobering look at just how much luck is involved. The positive take away is that not making it right doesn’t mean your idea isn’t viable, be persistent!

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Discovered Wearable Experiences and the Future of Healthcare

MentorMate CSIO Stephen Fluin gave this presentation at MobCon 2014, a national mobile technology conference. In his presentation Stephen describes his most memorable experiences with wearable devices and makes predictions on the future of this technology, specifically in the field of healthcare. We are now making this presentation available to you in it’s entirety.


Stephen Fluin: Welcome everybody. Seems like lunch was pretty good because we got a lot of stragglers here, more, every minute here.

I’ll get started and as people file in, well, things will ramp up here. This is really going to be a presentation about three parts. Where first, we’re going to talk a little about my journey, my experiences, where I’ve come from in terms of technology, then, we’ll talk about just discovered wearable experiences in general. How to build them, how to assess them, how to judge them on their qualities and then I’ll turn it a little bit and we’ll talk about healthcare and what this could mean more globally for healthcare and for wellness for individuals.

First, a little bit about me. My name is Stephen Fluin, I’m head of strategy and innovation as Alex said. My role is really sitting at the nexus between the business side of things and the technology side of things.

Whenever you’re launching a product, whenever you’re building a business, there’s a lot that you need to know both from the business end terms of how do you address a market, how do you bring products and launch them successfully, how do you iterate on those pieces but then also a lot of those decisions need to be informed by technology.

There’s a huge number of opportunities that are coming with mobile and with wearable and actually being able to understand both sides of that coin makes the decisions that you’re going to make on both sides much more effective and so that’s really where I try and sit.

I have actually worked with something like 600+ companies now, trying to help them advise on their strategy and advise how to turn that strategy into effective tactics.

Just a little about MentorMate, the company I work for. We work with really small, medium and fortunately 500 size companies to help them imagine, design and deliver mobile and web applications.

We have the fortunate job of helping companies solve their problems using technology and trying to launch cool products and cool ideas.

I’m going to start a little bit with my story. If you think back to your first wearable device, or even your first smart watch. This was mine. This was an old Casio watch which has a lot of different cool features on it. You can set reminders or notifications. You can do calculations. You can even look up what time zones there are. A lot of capabilities here but for some reason this never caught on. My theory is that usability ends up being a lot of that.

If you flash forward a few years, then I got my first cellphone, during high school. If you remember these little audio box phones that are about that big and fit in your pocket, much smaller than any cellphone you got today.

Then, I have the Krzr which is the unpopular cousin of the Rzr. Then, a little bit further forward, we look towards on May of 2013; I had my first wearable. This is me wearing Google glass.

I participated in the Google IO Conference at 2012 and I heard about glass when they’re sky diving into the room which is a really exciting experience and I said, “Wow! I have to get a pair of this and try and experience and see what’s all about”.

For me, day 1 was all about learning, what it is, how to use it. Oh, my God I was spending about half the day staring up in the upper right hand corner of my screen and then day 2 was all about learning not to use it. Learning to let the technology get out of the day of my everyday interactions. Then, it was about two months after that, that I really integrated into your workflow.

I wear glasses everyday, a lot of people say, “Do you really wear that?” If you see me at a restaurant, if you see me out in about a target doing grocery shopping, I’m probably wearing glass. Part of the reason I do that is I’m turning myself into a robot so that you guys don’t have to.

This is a short circuit if anybody remembers that really antique movie.

What’s happened over the years though is I’ve tried giving up glass ever since I got it for the first time but it doesn’t work because what ends up happening is, I will have a situation or event like going to the grocery store, I’ll say, “Well, I don’t need glass.” I’m just going to the grocery store, why would I need a piece of technology? But then, I’ll be trying to figure out whether or not these plantains are ripe and I’ll need to ask a friend.

How do you ask a friend? You got to pull your phone out, take a picture send a message or give him a call or I can just take a picture and send it. I’ll try and do this right now.

We’ll give this a try. Okay glass, everyone smile. Take a picture. Okay glass, share this with Tweeter and then okay glass, add a caption, “Wearables at #MobCon”. It looks like it went out. You should see that shortly.

This has happened to me a huge numbers of time. In situations where I didn’t really think it would happen. I was in the garage cleaning out things a few weeks ago and I ended up coming on [cash that I had stored of jewel cases of games 00:05:31] that I had over the years. I was like, “Well, I want to throw these away but I also want to capture the moment, the memory”.

I could have very easily pull out a cellphone but that’s a little bit more hustle, it interrupts the workflow but instead I was able to just … As I was grabbing each piece of technology, take a picture of it and then throw it away and learn to move on.

I was really able to capture a lot of priceless memories.

Before I move on, I want to ask a question, how many people here have tried glass on? Okay, about half of you here.

How many people attended my session last year about wearable technology? Okay, quite a fewer number of people.

One of the things that I might want to understand is how deeply you guys want me to go into understanding the experience of wearing a piece of technology like a smart watch or Google glass because understanding that experience is inherently important to understanding how they design for it.

If we look forward now, so that was 2013. Now, it’s 2014, 2015 is coming. This is the beginning of the end for Google glass. If you look back in time, we had a long long period where we had regular watches, thousands of years. Then, we have these brief glorious period where our wrists were free.

Then, 2014 is coming, we got Fitbits, we got android wear, we got the Apple watch coming and now it’s the reign of smart watches’ beginning.

There’s a lot of different options when it comes to wearable technology that are going to continue to change and continue to load ourselves up with technology. It’s always going to be important to understand why am I doing that, what’s the value I’m going to be getting out of that.

Here’s a really interesting picture. This is after I got my Moto 360 which is one of the first round smart watches. I got really poorly targeted email from Motorola saying, “Hey! You should buy a Moto 360.” And I got this notification on my wrist which was a little bit awkward.

There’s not just android wear and there’s not just Google glass. There’s a lot of technologies that are coming out. One of the most exciting ones that I am sure many of you here has heard about which is the Apple watch but it’s not just glasses and it’s not just watches. There’s a huge realm of wearables that are going to end up being a part of our lives.

One of the things that I kick start and I haven’t yet received, we’ll see if they ever ship, it’s a headband called Melon. What it is? Is it’s actually an EEG that measures focus.

This is not intended to be worn everyday but the idea is that you wear this for a day for example and you figure out, “Okay, when do I focus best and when do I focus worst”, because sometimes for some people, maybe it’s first thing in the morning. I know a lot of people are not early risers. They need coffee, they need about four to six hours to get going. If you can understand that about yourself and if you can actually chart that on a quantitative way, you can rearrange your schedule and rearrange your lifestyle so the things that deserve attention actually get attention.

There’s a lot of cool ideas around wearables. We’re going to continue to see expand over time.

I want to give just a little bit of insight into some of the experiences that you have while wearing Google glass and some of the thoughts that have been put into building a piece of technology like this.

Everyone has seen glass, this is actually a headphone earbud that you can wear, which … It’s a very cool experience because it’s very hands free, you listen to everything by gestures and voice but it’s not very practical due to the technical limitations that have been built in the glass today.

The battery life it lasts about 16 hours but it completely depends on your use. If you are filming all the time which is a privacy concern a lot of people have is, “Are you filming me the whole time? No! I’m absolutely not, because my battery would last about half an hour.”

That’s not really a usable piece of technology if filming is part of my job. If we look at the companies that we talked to in terms of whether it’s airlines, whether it’s medical device companies, when they talked about adapting a technology like Google glass, it’s not ready yet just because the camera is not good enough to be doing scanning on a dark night, on an airport tarmac without a light and a better camera and a lens of some sort and it’s …

We have to wait for the technology to catch up. It’s the same thing with electric cars. If every electric car today had a 600 mile range, we probably see adaption a lot faster.

Flash forwarding a little bit into the experience. This is one of the most common things that I do with glass which is sending messages often while driving. It’s legal in the State of Minnesota as well as in California, I’ve checked. I’ve checked with a couple of police officer friend and they said, “Yeah, you should be fine.”

What’s really interesting about how they built this interaction is, I have about 2,000 context in my Gmail account and they’re not trying to expose those 2,000 context just because speech recognition is not really good enough for that but what they do is they try and figure out what am I most commonly trying to access and that’s really your favorite context as well as anyone you’ve recently conversed with.

This is a really nice laid out screen where you’re actually able to see and preview the list of acceptable people that you can reach out to, all with a voice command. Then, you are able to send a message to them or reply to a message in that same way.

Once you have passed that, you are actually able to send a message or take a picture. This is a really cool idea of not just being able to have words but also because there’s a camera integrated here I can send a picture. I almost find myself sending pictures about as often as I send text messages because I can send a message very easily but sending a picture, it really tells a story in a different way.

One of the things, so it does all voice transcription. As you say, “Okay glass send a message to blank”, and then you really just talk. What has happened to me is, a user of this technology is I stop reading the little preview, as you’re speaking you can see the words in white are those that have been confirmed by the system and the words in black, it’s still trying to figure out. When I said, hashtag Mobcon, it actually, it took like six guesses before it got it right and I didn’t have to interact with it at all.

It’s just looking at what is being said online and the symantecs of the words that I used to get there.

This is a case where I don’t really have to think about what I’m saying but if you compare that with a different use case, where I’m not just sending a spontaneous on the spot message, it maybe taking a note. This is something where I actually spend a lot more time crafting it, thinking about the way I’m saying it so that the speech recognition is higher quality. Then, I actually read the preview and if necessary I’ll actually take the time to swipe down if there’s a mistake and I’ll repeat it. That gets in one of the things that I’ll talk a little bit later about which is the reliability of these technologies where if you are trying to build a discoverable wearable experience, it has to be reliable because if your product mistranslates or captures information in the wrong way, it’s basically dead in the water.

The first time a user experience is that they’re going to give up. This is a great example with Evernote where they are just relying on Google and Google does a pretty good job in taking care of things.

If you want to look now a little bit, I want to talk through expanding that model from Google glass now down to smart watches. I’m going to talk a little bit about some of the experiences that ended up happening to me. I do want to contrast this. This is actually Windows 95 running on an android wear smart watch which I do not recommend you do.

If you look back at how Windows and Windows 95 and really all of the desktop operating systems work and even smart phone operating systems today, it’s a very personal action that gets a response. I choose to install an app. I go to the website. I go to the app store I say, “I want that app, give it to me now.”

What ends up happening is that this model does not extend well into wearable experiences. If I’m asking user to say, “Hey! Go download my watch app and install it.” Why would a user take the time to do that? You’re going to lose a huge percent of your market share.

I want to contrast that with what a lot of different companies have done, in particular Google is trying to improve the market place. They’ve got a lot of great examples.

This first example is the Google play music application. I’m a subscriber, I got a free subscription from whenever I go. It gives me access to all the music. I can trigger it with my voice and what ended up happening was I was on my phone listening to music one day via headphones and I looked down to my watch to see the time and there instantly without me ever have to choose to install an app or configure anything, I could see a control.

It both told me who’s playing in case I was listening to a radio and then I was able to stop the music and then if I swipe I could actually use a gesture to say next song, next song, next song.

It’s a magical experience the first time you see that because you didn’t choose it. Just by the nature and the virtue of having these devices, you got all of those benefits.

Here’s another example. I was using my phone again to stream to my comcast Netflix, so I’m watching Futurama. Again, I looked down at the watch to check the time after, for coming back from a snack break or something and there’s the controls again. There’s all the information I need so that I don’t have to pull things out of my pocket.

It seems that it may not be a big deal to pull your phone out of your pocket but in terms of how the human brain processes information, it can only handle about seven things and the 14 seconds or so that it takes for you to pull your phone out, turn it on, unlock it if you have a pass code or a touch ID and then launch an application and then make a choice, that uses up two or three little slots and pushes other things out of your brain.

If you can achieve these kind of interactions that are unexpected but then just kind of take care of themselves, you’re once again creating a magical experience.

Here’s a very similar use case. I was talking about Evernote on glass. Here’s me taking the same note or a similar note on my watch. Again, using a hot word, saying a note and then the default action here is to automatically save that. I can cancel it, I can redo it, I can undo it in case it’s misinterpreting what I’m saying but the default case is just going to take care of almost everything.

This is not me, I don’t have pants this nice but I was going on a biking journey in Europe a few months ago and what ended up happening was just like this gentleman, I would keep pulling my phone out to check my stats, because we were doing this bicycling ride through the mountains and so I kept going slower and faster and I really wanted to see how far we have left because it was like 15 miles and it was new for me.

What ended up happening is I got to the near, the end of the journey and I turned my wrist over to check the time again, and there was the same information. I didn’t need to be dangerously, shakily pulling up my phone, unlocking it and looking at that information. I could have just been looking at my wrist.

Direction is another great discovered experience. I think Apple is going to do a fantastic job with this but what Google has works quite well. You are able to both initiate navigation as well as to send all the instructions that are coming from your phone to your watch which you don’t think you need that until you put your phone back in your pocket. Again, that initial triggers, well, wearable experience is glanceable and it’s going to be faster and it’s going to be a better experience.

This is one of the weirdest apps I’ve used. Can anyone guess what app this is? This is actually the camera app. As soon as I launched the camera app on my phone, my watch allows me to have a remote shutter. What this does is this has two parts, first is I press the one button, this is the entire interface, it’s a button. You press the interface, it gives you a three second countdown and then your phone takes your picture.

I can set up phone up if there’s a group of us for example, and I can say, “Okay, take a picture.” What ends up happening is you get the preview of that picture on your watch.

Just think about that group picture taking scenario and how powerful that could be not having to ask someone to take your picture and not having to guess, take the picture, go get it, check it again, do it again. Again, it has no UX, it’s just a circle but because I’m already taking a picture, because it’s relative to the context I’m in, it makes sense.

I want to turn these examples and I’ll try and help you guys achieve some of these wearable experiences.

The first, the one thing I want everyone to take away from this is, don’t make the user choose you. If at all possible, your application should be launching itself, it should be attached to an existing application that may already have or already installing. These things do not have keyboard unless you’re Microsoft. They actually did release a keyboard for android wear which is an interesting choice on their part but you’re never going to ask a user to login. You should automatically be coming in the door with that context and then taking that and extending that, doing something useful and interesting with it.

The framework that I want you to think through really has four parts. Any application, any experience that you’re developing should be short, simple, context sensitive and reliable.

This is a slide that Google put together and I made a couple of modifications to it. What this tries to do is this tries to tell the story of an interaction with the phone.

Green is when the phone is sitting in your pocket, which is most of the time and then as we’ve heard a few times throughout the conference, 150 times a day you’re pulling your phone out of your pocket and then your launching and interact with the applications.

If we look at how this can change with the advent of wearable technology like glass or smart watches or headbands, there’s a very interesting piece of technology called the Motorola Hint.

How many people here have heard of Hint?

It’s a little bit like Google glass but it’s … Do you remember the bluetooth speakers? It’s exclusively a bluetooth speaker that sits entirely inside your ear. There’s a really funny episode of the office from about four years ago where they made up this idea of a bluetooth speaker that fits entirely in your ear and it was just a funny idea to them but now, Motorola has actually gone and built it.

What it does, is it actually extends the glass experience in a way where you don’t have the heads up display and everything you do is via voice and via audio. You can tap your ear and say, “Get directions” and then it will read directions to you just verbally, but then when we look at the glanceability that’s created by this experience, you’re going to see the same moments again but so much shorter.

What happens is there is an order of magnitude shifts. We used to have to go to a desktop computer, that was an order of magnitude worst than when we had to go to a laptop. A laptop is going to be much faster, it’s going to boot up, it’s going to be with you wherever you go, but then we have another shift from laptops down to cellphones and what we’re going to see is that we’re kind of going to hit the last order of magnitude shift down to wearable devices where it doesn’t feel like a lot but in the same way going from a laptop to a phone was a big deal.

Going from a laptop to a wearable was a big deal because it really lowers the barriers to engagement. You’re going to make different choices in terms of how you interact with brands and products.

We saw a lot of … There’s a talk going on right now for a company called Inboxstallers as well as … There’s a lot of other companies where they’re trying to monetize short brief interactions. Inboxstallers, you get an email or a survey and by responding to that survey you’re giving that information and you’re getting paid in exchange for that.

Imagine if that experience could go on a watch, I might do it a hundred times in a day rather than spending five minutes sitting down and doing it 20 times. That type of shift in the way that you engage with your customers can actually have a huge impact on the engagement and the results that you’re going to see from using that technology.

The second concept here is simple, you’ll note … Once again just like that camera application, not a lot of UI UX here. There’s basically one button on the screen at any given time, because a user of a watch is not going to be spending a lot of time poking, there’s not going to be a stylus for a watch, at least I hope nobody tries to release a stylus for a watch.

Making a combination of swipes and taps is going to be a really easy way for users to interact. When you think about, hey I want to give my users a menu of options, you have to try and think about how do we convert that menu of options into a consumable series, a small series of actions and then really sort it, use that context, use that information that you’ve got about the user, about the application in order to make it approachable.

Context sensitive, this is an application that is installed, called Coffee Time. How many people here have a Starbucks card or use the mobile app? Okay, a few people. This is an application designed for those people. It does one thing and it does it really well, which it takes your barcode that you have from the Starbucks app and it makes it available on your phone.

By saying, “Okay Google, start Coffee Time”, it will actually pull up on my watch my Starbucks card and then I’m able to swipe it.

You see the same thing with the Delta App where they’re trying to give your boarding pass automatically on your phone although I have had a terrible experience with Delta. I don’t know if anyone else has tried using that but the first time it ever came up for me, it had the wrong ticket. That was not a fun experience which is actually a great segway into the last piece which is your experiences have to be reliable.

If you’re Delta and you take an experience out into the wild where even 20% if your users fail to use the application successfully, you’re not going to win. You have to go back and rebuild those experiences before people will give you another chance.

This is actually one of the more common screens on Google glass today. I call it the SAD cloud. What this means is that there were some sort of error along the way and they weren’t able to reach the cloud in order to process your voice or display an action.

When you move to a wearable experience where I’m not just tapping a phone, it ends up becoming a much more public experience. I’m tapping in a phone, you don’t really know what app I’m running, you don’t really know what I’m typing.

Whereas if I’m saying, “Okay glass, take a picture”, everyone in this rooms is aware of what I’m doing. If I asked to that multiple times, it’s shame and embarrassment and I’ve been walking through a target and saying, “Okay glass, take a note. Hey! I should pick up that thing next time.” If that fails, I’m not saying anything again because everyone around will look at me funny and that would not be good.

This is another example of a wearable where reliability is really important. Does anyone recognize this? One, right. So this is called the Myo band. The idea was it actually sits on your arm and reads the neurons in your arm, the muscle and it can actually sense when you’re about to flex your muscle because before that muscle actually moves, your brain signals down your arm.

What’s cool about that is if you can read muscle movement at a [granular enough pace 00:24:53], you can do cool things like give someone volume control of their speakers. By just twisting my wrist, I’m turning the volume up or down or I can swipe music forward back presentations, things like that but I had both the alpha version of this and now the [correction 00:25:08] version of this and it’s got about a 30% error rate. That 30% error rate, it’s completely unacceptable.

I can not wear this band. I’ve not wanted it since day one. As an application development shop, we’re not going to build applications for it. The same thing really applies to if anyone seen delete motion. It’s a little sensor that sits in front of your computer. It’s the coolest idea ever. In the video they have chopsticks where they are playing Angry birds with chopsticks which … It’s such a magical experience to connect the real world and the digital world but if those experiences aren’t going to work and if they’re going to fail, it’s never going to be successful commercially.

I want to turn things now away from the general case and talk more specifically about how this can operate in a healthcare world. When I talk about healthcare, I’m primarily talking about it from a patient perspective. There’s a huge number of efficiencies that can be gained from physicians, clinicians, practicing nurses, things like that but those productivity gains are a little bit different than the ones in the consumer based because this to use as a consumer, that’s a social and that’s a personal choice.

Whereas if you can mandate that in a corporate or business or hospital environment, then there’s a completely different realm of possibilities. A hospital might have 30 pairs of these for their surgeons, so that they can get consults, they can get real time information about the actions they’re doing.

For example, we did a project with the company where … I’ll talk about this little bit later. Critical messaging can come in. Someone requests a consult for me, I don’t have to pull out my phone or reference information about that patient, I can actually pull it up in real time via glass which for a physician who’s trying to interact with a thousand of patients a day, that’s a big deal because the more patients you can interact with and the better the information you have, the better the outcomes are going to be.

I’m going to talk through a few examples, the first is building a reminders experience for wearables. Imagine if your watch or your glass, pair of glasses told you, take three units of insulin. That’s the short. Tell them exactly what they need to know. Simple.

There’s really only two actions a user should ever be taking. Whether they took it now or they didn’t take it now. That could be as simple as a swipe. You’ll see that a lot in any sort of reminder applications or you’ll see that in calendar notifications, things like that, even incoming phone calls.

Make it context sensitive, based that on sensors. There’s no way to know whether I should take three units of insulin unless you have data, both about the patient, about their history, about their trends inside their blood.

Did we actually detect high blood sugar? Is this the correct response for the right moment for this patient?

Lastly, use those screen based interactions and make it reliable because this is life and death. If you tell a patient to take three units of insulin and they’re not needing that, this could kill them.

Another example is exercise. This is much more on the wellness fitness side of things where imagine a golf application that you’re using to track your scores and then your watch is automatically tracking what you do.

Imagine it says, your last swing was 3,280 pounds of force. That’s a very short, concrete to the point interaction. Simple, tap to delete. Otherwise, just save it, no interaction.

I could play an entire round of golf without having to think about what I’m doing but then I get that data which might help me make become a better golfer. Make it context sensitive. Use the geo location. I should only see this if I’m on a golf course and if I’m actually swinging. Use that detection and then save that information.

Then, the last piece is make it reliable. Don’t miss a swing because if you are putting in false swings, if I’m just waving to friends or if the information is not useful, once again, I’m not going to use your application. You’re going to lose a huge opportunity.

The last example I referred to a little bit is this idea of clinical intervention, imagine if you could start a code blue just by saying that. Make it simple. If I’m a physician or a nurse that is called the code blue, show me the steps one at a time.

At Google IO they show a lot of examples of cook books and things like that but the exact same idea applies here. Figure out what I should be showing the user on the screen and then show it to them and then make it simple, they just go next next or dismiss the entire interaction.

Make it context sensitive. figure out, “What are the relevant doctors that I should be communicating with, what are the relevant symptoms that we’re detecting, what other sensors we have in the body, what interventions have we performed?”

One of the hardest parts of a code blue scenario is that there supposed to be a person sitting there whose entire job is to write down everything that’s done. Imagine if we didn’t need that person because we could collect that data with the appropriate sensors.

The last, they kind of pull in the patient history. Is this the fourth time this has happened? What did we do last time? Was it successful? Was it unsuccessful? What do we need to know to be effective in the moment because every second that passes there, if I have to pull out a phone or if I have to grab a tablet off of the cart, I’m going to be less effective.

Then, last, make it reliable. Don’t necessarily ask someone to use this, maybe automatically trigger it if sensors go into a certain range for a certain time and then maybe ask for permission or say, “Hey! We noticed the code blue, we triggered it, do you want to cancel that?” Making sure that the technology is doing the right thing in any situation.

I want to talk a little bit about the future of healthcare and where we’re going with this. If you add everything up, we’re going to have more sensors and more types of sensors.

If you look at a common smart phone that you get right now or common wearable, they add a barometer … Does anyone know why they add a barometer in a cellphone? What they’re actually doing is they’re measuring pressure change to figure out altitude which actually gives them a better lock on your GPS.

It’s very counter intuitive sometimes how we can use these sensors and the more sensors that we’re going to have, the more effective we’re going to be.

I’m going to walk through a little story here, imagine that you care about your health and so you’re exercising regularly. You’re wearing your Fitbit and maybe you’re hitting your 10,000 steps everyday. That can be an application. That’s going to be making you more effective.

Then, using that data and extending on that, you’re getting reminders about your own personalized goals and motivations. “Hey! I want to be healthy for my kids.” Telling a patient or persons care about wellness, why they’re doing something instead of just you hit 10,000 steps, show them a picture of their kid.

Show them, “Hey! This is why you’re doing it and you’re being successful.” Reward those experiences. Then, imagine you have visibility into your own progress.

Now, it’s not just a moment in time. I’m saying, “Oh, wow! I’ve made the right choices 16 days in a row and I should keep that up.” Then, imagine something starts changing, imagine your blood pressure starts going out of sight of your normal range, and that’s your normal range because everyone’s range is going to be different. We’re going to have data and we’re going to have information on that and then we could build an application or we can build an interaction that tracks that and informs user, “Hey! Somethings happening here, we should do something about it.”

Imagine, I see this and I say, “I should go to the doctor.” I schedule an appointment but then I’m using that same technology to share that information with the relevant physicians that are going to be taking a look at it. Then, the day comes for my appointment and my watch shows me, “Hey! I know where the appointment is. You should leave by 6pm to get to your appointment on time.” That’s a great information. It’s going to make me actually maybe go.

Then, I sit down with my doctor and I pull up my Evernote, whether it’s glass whether it’s wear, you pull out the information, say, “Hey! There’s four things I’ve been wanting to talk to you about. I’ve captured these over the last six months.” I know personally, if I don’t have that information, I kind of get in the doctor and I’m nervous and I forget to ask about things and I say, “Oh, Okay, well, I guess I’m fine, I’ll just leave then.” But if you can say, “Hey! Yeah, I had a really weird pain that came up after I went jogging.” Maybe, you end up having a conversation about that.

Lastly, imagine if your doctor could make better diagnosis. What’s ending up happening, in my perspective, this is not a medically validated opinion but I think doctors are guessing about 80% of the time. You come in, you just talk with them for about 5 minutes. You give them a really terrible description of what happened and then they’d say, “Yep! This is what’s happening. This is what you should do about that.”

Imagine if we could have more data, more information and say, “Hey! Here’s my last three years of blood pressure. Yeah, I was going crazy it’s not really a problem.” They can make better choices based on that and they can have better decisions and then the idea is using technology and using this data, we’re going to move away from that guessing universe into a universe where we’re actually making good choices.

Then, finally, imagine if we could do the follow up. “Hey! We found out that my blood pressure has been going up because I haven’t been exercising enough. Maybe we tweak my goals, maybe we tweak my motivation.”

All those other pieces and steps along the way, they automatically update with that new information and the new choices that I’ve made about my own healthcare.

When I think about healthcare, there’s really kind of three pieces. It’s the inputs to your body. This is everything from what you eat, to the medicines you take, to the air you breathe.

I for example, I have a scale called a Withing scale and that scale measures the CO2 in my house and you can see when it goes up and it gives you a little warning and says, “Hey! We are at 3,000 mg of CO2.” Anything over a thousand is associated with kind of fogginess and mental slowness.

Second is the activities. What am I doing? This is where the fitness trackers come in to play hugely but they can also be surgical interventions.

The last piece is the processes. So these internal processes that happen within our body and what’s going on. Our bodies are not the perfect machine. Some thing is going to go wrong along the way but the idea is that if you can combine all these things into one, via this personalized big data then we’re going to be more able to take control of them and keep them all in sync.

With that I want to thank everyone for coming. I want to turn it over a little bit to questions.

Audience: Would you expect wearables to do innovations with the implanted diagnosis?

Stephen Fluin: Sure. I have a personal rule on implanted diagnostics. I will do only the 10th version of an implantable. If the first 9, no good.

I personally will wait on any sort of implantable diagnostics but I think it’s a very exciting space that we have to try because every human being is different and we have to get that information in order to make positive choices.

I find it interesting that a 100 years ago, people would die of old age but that was just the name they gave it because they didn’t know what’s going on. Now, we had cancer for 20 or 30 years, where it was just cancer because we didn’t really know what’s going on.

Now, we have 70 different types of cancer and as more and more information comes out about the human body, we’re better and better reacting to those things providing treatment and taking care of patients, providing them better quality of life which is huge and I think at some point, there’s only so much data you can gather from outside the body and you have to turn that in.

Audience: [So the two part, the number one, it’s personalized big data. Where does that reside and absolutely I’ve … 00:36:56]

Stephen Fluin: Great question. It’s interesting because I don’t think we know where it’s going to reside right now because every single company wants to own that data.

You saw this on a much smaller scale with Fitbit and Jawbone and Microsoft where they all have their own fitness network and then, they build one by one connections to all the others because they both want to be the soul source of data but they want to get everyone else’s data.

What’s ended up happening is it actually created a very democratized environment where I can connect all of these different systems and networks any way I want and then you have huge players like Apple and Google that are trying to succeed here.

The thing I’ll say about their efforts is that they have materially failed in my opinion.

Healthcare which I’m very excited about … I think long term has a lot of great prospects, today it’s a failure. My iPhone sit on my pocket, counting my steps and pulling in my weight data from [inaudible 00:38:06] but that’s it.

I couldn’t access it online, I couldn’t access it on any other device. It was for security reasons completely lock down and completely useless for me.

Whereas if you turned that on to more Fitbit, I actually get dashboards, I’m seeing information I’m able to make personal choices.

Whether or not the healthcare companies will be able to build a platform or the providers themselves are going to be able to own that data, I don’t think that’s going to end up happening.

I think it’s going to end up being, the user has a relationship with one of these or many of these that ultimately even though their data is residing and stored by another company, they’re going to be the ones in control because of this platform capability, because we’re all rushing in there. It’s a little bit supply and demand.

We all want it which no company has all the answers which gives us all the power. Does that answer both parts of the question?

Audience: [inaudible 00:39:02]

Stephen Fluin: Do you have a better answer? Yeah?

Audience: [So with regards to the platform … 00:39:11]

Stephen Fluin: I think that’s already happening today.

There are insurance companies that whether or not they make that decision or whether they make it clear what’s happening, they will look at your Fitbit data. They want you to share your Fitbit data with them.

I don’t think they can own it though because unless they can take care of your whole healthy lifestyle from everything from inputs, the foods you eat to the interventions and the activities you’re doing. They can’t own that entire experience and so there’s going to maintain some level of portability.

Just flash and forward five years, think about how Tesla collects data around what your [Cardots 00:40:17] That’s much more appealing to a consumer than progressive snapshot.

I would much rather have the data that Tesla gives me about when I drive, how I drive, where I drive than what progressive gives me because progressive they offer me 100 bucks offer, whatever amount that is, but Tesla gives me something actually interesting and something I can make choices based on.

Other questions?

Thank you all for coming so much.

Saving Lives with Mobile Literally mobcon2 729x423

Saving Lives with Mobile, Literally

MentorMate Creative Group Director Jay Miller and David Meyer Director of Product Development, Spok, Inc. gave this presentation MobCon 2014, a national mobile technology conference. Together they presented a case study on how developing a seemingly simple mobile messaging application for hospitals transformed a fifty-year-old workflow.


Speaker 1: To start it on our integrated marketing track, today’s session it features Jay Miller, Creative Group Director at MentorMate, and David Meyer, the Director of Product Development at Spok.

David: Thank you. Today we’d like to be able to do talk about saving lives with mobility literally. Be able to start things off here with a little bit of background on us. I’m the Director of Product Development and Chief Architect at Spok. Jay Miller as you heard a Group Director at MentorMate, a colleague and we’ve worked together on the various projects that we’re going to be talking about here today.

Starting things off, we’re noticing in healthcare’s data integration and how this is evolving very rapidly within just the past several years. This is all about trying to be able to take a data from different sources and trying to be able to provide some kind of unified user interface and experience within the hospital as well as in the consumer market.

At the same time is also noticing that there’s a workflow that needs to be able to happen within these facilities. Careful orchestration on also pattern, so that way you have something that’s a repeatable process for easy rollout systematic changes within the organization and their resources.

We’re starting to see this unprecedented change in healthcare where data aggregation is becoming more and more predominant but at the same time to be able to take action upon the data that we see coming together requires those workflows that have to evolve and change along with it.

For example, consumer market is rapidly changing. I can see the number of things that have been happening with Apple or with Pebble or with Fitbit to be able to aggregate the data for consumer market. But meanwhile we still have hospitals, clinics, facilities that are still working with technologies that have been around for the past 30 years and they need to be able to get a system and being able to evolve.

Technically, what’s happening inside of the consumer market today and we’re noticing that we’re just beginning to be able to collect and aggregate all these data together and then being able to, be able to provide these people to be able to make better decisions about their health.

We’ve also seen that with IBM, they’ve had artificial cognitive system you put together as Watson to be able to help make diagnosis and be able to make recommendations with doctors, physicians and even with the patients.

Currently, as we’re moving through this, we’re seeing this data that’s coming together and the [rating 02:52] in which this data is coming together today is it doubles every three years. But by 2020 we’re going to see the amount of data aggregation doubled within every 73 days.

When it comes to what we see as integrated workflows in the environment within these hospitals and these clinics is that really they don’t know the source, the central point of how this is going to be carefully orchestrated. Each one of these hospitals and clinics is really a private business. They have their own proprietary workflows that are going to work within their system. That’s where it leads to running the problems with going across one hospital, one facility to the next. There’re certain challenges that you’ll end up facing when trying to be able to do this.

It requires these hospitals not only just from one hospital to another or clinic to another to be able to carefully orchestrate and work together but also when they’re working with their patients, and also to be able to change their workflows within these facilities. If you can imagine a hospital of 20,000 employees and trying to be able to rollout a new change it can be challenging to say that least.

They all could be working together. They all could be consistent. They can take the same amount of knowledge in this aggregate data to be able to create a much more efficient solution that will end up saving time as well as then resulting in saving lives.

The big question here is how are we going to be able to do that? Jay?

Jay: Hello everyone! I’m Jay Miller. I’m the Group Creative Director at MentorMate. David and I have been working on this problem of How for the last two years and we’re working on our third year right now. We go through these product development sprints where we’re really tackling this problem.

But before we get into the How we’d like to talk just a little bit about the Who. Who the end users are ultimately and who are behind this workflow because the people in this workflow really influence whether we can affect that chain. Is anyone here a physician or a clinician at all today? Okay good because I’m going to say some things about such folks.

For those of you who have worked with them, one of the main barriers … I mean they’re doing incredible work. They’re saving lives. They’re really committed to their work. It’s a very high stress environment. It’s a very challenging environment. But when it comes to changing, any outside influence that’s going to change the way that they’re doing work, they become a little less angelic. Then behind that if any change requires training, they get pretty grouchy.

If you’re worked with doctors especially, they won’t change and they don’t have to change because of the position that they’re in, the education that they’ve gone through, they’ve learned enough. They don’t want to learn anymore. Now, they’re very interested in doing a better job in terms of helping their patients but they don’t want to see their workflow change.

This has been … David mentioned the workflow in the hospitals right now being 30 years old, it literally is and the reason is the change of this audience. Understanding this audience and understanding their barriers that’s really a trigger to the change because there’s a lot of great technology out there. There’s a lot of best practices from the workflow standpoint, but if you can’t get through, these folks is not going to work.

The approach that we’ve taken for the products that we’re going to walk you through is really about decreasing that training to increase adaption. This is the key metric. If we’re not able to decrease the training there’s not going to be adaption and even if we do really, really great work, it’s not going to go anywhere.

This is our key pinpoint in really what is all about, what the solution needed to be. As we did research and understood this audience and then also did pattern research, looking at what’s out in the environment and what’s happening within mobile design and what’s happening with the Web design, what we found is that there are some patterns out there that all of these users already understand and that was a challenge that we were looking for, as rather than training an audience, training physicians and clinicians to do something that they don’t know how to do.

Can we look at their workflow, understand their workflow and then find patterns that already exist that Google, Apple and believe it or not Microsoft have taught us? That way we’re introducing user experience patterns and user interface designs that are familiar. What we’ve done and what we’ll walk you through is for the operators within the hospital and this is a key point.

Oftentimes you may think for hospital workflows really about the nurses and the physicians but the operator who is taking the calls in is really a central hub. So understanding the operators pinpoint. What we saw is a way to transform that workflow was what Google has taught us. Google has taught all of us to be excellent at search whether you know what a faceted search is or isn’t you’re using it every day. It’s just something that we all know how to do.

What we found for the physicians and the need we had for them which is really how to contact them when there’s an emergency, we looked at what Apple has taught us in terms of its chat interface within the text messaging.

Then for the nurses … and this is something that we’re working on right now, we looked at Outlook and just how over the last what 10, 15 years, we’ve all gotten very used to how email, and how email messaging works. Looking at these UI patterns was really what was the key to coming up with the solutions that we’re going to walk you through.

Let’s start with the operator console. There’s an operator in hospital, this calls come in. This is what the screens for most operators look like right now. It’s the old school give them everything all at once so that they can go through and make the choices that they want. Not only that, but there’s a keypad. It’s obviating a lot of things that are already happening.

What we did in looking at the workflow is we thought rather than start with everything, let’s start with nothing. Let’s just take it all the way and let’s also get rid of the phone which we did. They used to have a phone right next to them as well just collecting [dash 09:05]. No phone. It’s just the screen and a headset and a keyboard. Then with key commands when a call comes in, it comes in along the left there, you can see who it is. You can answer the call. There’s a timer that starts.

Then what we’re doing here, what we’re showing is what’s called the fuzzy search paradigm. This is something that happens quite often in the hospitals. There’s a number of workflows that we went through here. We’re just going to talk about this one right now, but the fuzzy search paradigm is someone’s come calling. They may be under [inaudible 09:33], they’re anxious and they’re trying to find somebody but they’re not quite sure who.

What we did is work with the search field where in this use case the person is calling to this Doctor F. It starts with an F. You type in F and what you get is only the directories that have a result. What you saw earlier on the screen was all directories all at once. But in this instance, there’s only a few of the directories that have a result for that. Not all directories would have a result. Not only that but we’ve done this in a way that it’s all touch enabled. This is a much cleaner design because it’s a 40 pixels saved area so that you can swipe the screen.

Not all screens are touchable right now but very soon they will be, so we tried to take a mobile first or touch first, approach the design so that as the technology improves, the UI doesn’t have to be amended. You can swipe back and forth. You can use a key command to look around but as your … the operator speaking with the individual and winding down the results. Once you go to FI, you get some lesser results. As you’re talking through was it Doctor Fane, Doctor Fairbanks? You’re asking more questions.

Ultimately with the operator working through you can get down the results of Doctor Fairbanks. They’re like “Yes, that’s what I was looking for.” This is just one search paradigm. There’s a number of approaches that we took with this in a number of user scenarios. One thing that we don’t have built into this, it’s really interesting and we can talk to you about it later if you’re interested in knowing about it is, is having a way to take tags as you’re searching and having those tags be dragged and dropped to become a search criteria.

There’s a lot of real dynamic ways that this can work. But then what’s happening along the side is calls as they come in, you can see what the calls are. You don’t have to take all those calls, but the timer is set on all of these and that’s another really important point and we’ll talk about this towards the end. But behind the workflow is capturing data and that data is all about time. Understanding efficiencies where times are lagging and then as David showed right now hospitals are all very independent. They’re separate businesses.

Prior to really working a lot with hospitals and physicians, I always thought hospitals were related to counties or related to states but they’re businesses. Not only that but within a hospital, ambulances, those are private businesses quite often too. Getting the workflow for all of those separate businesses getting them all to play together is a big challenge.

Having starting with this operator console as a hub was a big key point. Once you would get down to a search result, now the next step, the operator would need to contact the physician. So the way that that would work right now is there’s multiples ways you could contact them but the way it’s working for most physicians still is with the pager. This is something David will talk about in a bit, pagers are still very prevalent. They’re very trusted. They’re very steady but what we’re finding and what we’re moving toward is moving away from this and moving towards having a Smartphone. All doctors have Smartphones right now.

The challenge has been how to take that pager functionality, get them to trust it but also have them able to understand in how to use it. What we’ve done, if there’s a code blue or some note that needs to go out to a doctor, is we’ve taken a notification design within Apple. We’re updating this right now to change the design a bit, but having it there’s something that they understand. When a code blue comes in, you have to accept or decline. This is a notification view, but then if a doctor accepts it, what they’re dropped into is a chat workflow.

This looks like chat but texting and chats are for the way it works on mobile device right now it’s not safe, it’s not secure, it’s not tracked. This is, it looks like chat but what we did is we took the whole thing apart behind the scenes and made this very safe and secure and HIPAA compliant. But on the surface, any doctor knows how to use this. They don’t need any training. They can go right into it. They can see what the messages are, what the workflow has been.

Why this is important now is we’re used to be with a pager. You would page one doctor and that doctor was your key healthcare provider. But what’s happening now is if you have a problem with your hip, you probably have five physicians who are part of that care team. If you have a problem with your heart, you have a whole another care team.

Workflow it’s not just about one doctor. It’s about the communication of an entire team. We have this chat bubble so you can see all people who are responding but then you may notice this little power bar underneath. If you tap that open, what you can see is within the care team who has responded and accepted responsibility and who’s opted out, and then a time stamp that goes along with that as well. This is an effort to track all of that workflow to keep track of who is involved, who is not involved and just throwing that on a central database.

Then the big idea here ultimately is we do this for each hospitals and Spok is working with hospitals around the world that this aggregated data can start to be compared. Even though they’re separate businesses we’re comparing the database behind the scenes. This is how it’s working for the physicians and how we can page them and get rid of the pager ultimately.

Then the next step gets into where we’re at with nurses. Just to be clear, we’re not talking about, for workflow we’re not talking about the EMR or the medical records. What epic does, we’re not going that far. We’re talking about the workflow that surrounds all of that to enable the EMR. The EMRs to be better, there needs to be better workflow. When we talk about nurses, what we’re getting at is the workflow on the hospital floor.

We’ve talked about the operator, now we’ve talked about the physician and how they’re being engaged. What we’re doing right now … and this is under development, but what we’re doing with nurses is creating what we’re calling Outlook for nurses. Rather than doing a lot of manual writing for charts and magnetic boards which most hospitals still have a lot of that for scheduling, we’re moving towards a device that is tablet based that is set up very much like mail, like Gmail or Outlook that has an organization that’s familiar but is very specific to nurses.

What we did with each of these and with the Spok team is we have a co-creation process where we bring subject matter experts in as we’re creating the interface. In this instance we did this with the nurse practitioner to really understand all the pinpoints that nurses have to ensure that we were solving real problems and not made up problems.

Another interesting output and we’ll walk through this flow a bit more, we’ve designed it originally it was for a phone. It was a small form factor but what we found is that if a nurse is in a room and the nurse is on a phone tapping, the patient feels like the nurse is doing something that’s not related to them and it’s a problem. It creates tension in the room.

We’re moving towards a tablet base because it’s bigger and we can put a hospital [emblem 16:28] on the other side of it, so then that’s a key signal to the end user that “Oh, they’re working for me. They’re not just chatting with their friends. That’s the set up. Again, this is safe and secure and HIPAA compliant.

I’ll walk through what this experience looks like. Again, we’re just developing this prototype right now but it’s very simple and the simplicity is key to adaption. It consists a status box, an inbox and a directory. It’s very familiar. But then as you get into … Also you can swipe left and right to go from one to the other so that is very fast. But as you get into the profiles, this is where it starts to get more specific.

For status it is what we’re hoping to be state aware. Using the GL location and then also using beacons within each room, the idea is that as a nurse is moving around on the floor, the device knows where you are and then the beacon knows who you are and what credentials you have and what room you’re in.

Ultimately it’s only serving up that information that’s relevant within that room. If you’re in room 3224, and you have certain credentials, you can see the right patient information. You don’t have to go find it. It’s another point about speed and about trying to really go as quickly as we can within this workflow.

You can manually override some of these things but the device also knows where you are. Then as you get into the messaging, this work is very specific to what the nurse workflow is. There are messages which are … is just the overall message. It’s kind of a general term. It’s all messages. But then there are tasks and tasks can be turned into messages in a very simple way and we’ll show how that works. Then there’s a notification which is a reminder someone you need vitals that need to be checked. Or there’s some scheduled piece that needs to occur.

Then lastly our alerts, the code blue that we just talked about earlier. The box, the messages are organized in that way. There’s a key navigation and the second area navigation that has a parallax as you’re swiping back and forth. But you can tap on this overview if may be and then you can see all messages kind of a notification like window just ranked based on timing. You have different toggles but it’s really fast and really easy to go back and forth.

Then playing off of that chat interface, what we’re working with the team on right now is the ideas to go in and to turn a message into a task. With a long hold you get choices for how you can turn a message into a task. You can set a reminder. You can invite people into that task but then you can also see the overall workflow for how this care team is interacting with all of the messages.

Then this gets to the piece that we’re really excited about. Within tasks, having that state aware of process where it knows where you are, and then it can rank a task rather than messages. As you look in your email it’s ranked by what’s the most recent is at the top. What nurses need from a task standpoint is what is the most … what’s due the soonest. Seeing what that time where is and what the next task needs to be, so starting with that.

Then as you get into looking at the directory, this is where you can see the whole care team. I know this is a lot of information really fast, but what you have with the state aware is if you’re in a room with a patient, it shows the entire care team that’s assigned to that patient but then the two people who happened to be in the room with the patient at that time. You can see who is in the room and then what you’re seeing on the right is how a notification can be dropped down. That’s what check vitals as it kind of washed out, but the notifications just dropped into this interface.

That’s really it. That’s what we’re calling Outlook for nurses but this takes care of so many problems at the [inaudible 20:16] right now. It’s bringing in the magnetic boards. It’s bringing in the dialogue that’s happening in real time. Then this location based piece of it is what we’re really excited about and the nurses are very excited about so that they don’t always have to be finding what they need. It just knows who you are, knows what you need and knows where you are, and gives you just the right information.

What we’ve done is taken this very old workflow which still frankly in many hospitals is happening right now and just sprinkled some Google app or in Microsoft. Pixie does done it to create this newer process. Back to what David was speaking about earlier in order for hospitals and healthcare clinicians and physicians for them to take advantage of what’s happening with Watson, what’s happening with health kits. There’s one we saw yesterday with Twitter what they’re doing with their social media aggregation around sentiment and knowing what’s happening out there, all of this is great from a data aggregation standpoint but the reality in the hospitals has been so antiquated that they really can’t take advantage of it.

Just last week I was in … I met with my doctor. This is too much information but my uncle had a heart attack when he was 47 and I might be that old. I’m very anxious about nothing. I’m anxious about such a thing and I started smoking cigars which seemed a cool thing to me and my doctor was [inaudible 21:47].

She wanted to show me what if I start smoking cigars, what that’s going to mean to my heart. It turned into a cigar attack instead of a heart attack. But she brought up an app and showed me the statistics based on who I am and the probabilities. It was a great app and I asked her, “Wow that’s really interesting what is fair view putting this together?”

She said, “Oh, no I can’t connect it any of their systems. I just do this on my own. I don’t use any of their apps because they’re not connected into any of the workflow.” That’s this kind of bridge that we’re talking about.

Now, I turn it back over to David.

David: Thank you, Jay. As we were going through this, this started really as Jay said about it’s over two years ago. We also went through branding changing. We want to be able to seize the opportunity. Originally we were known as Amcom Software of, eventually purchased by USA Mobility and representing that pager side. They understood and recognize that pager isn’t the only way to be able to get a hold of people. We also needed to be looking at the next generation of technology of where this is going to be able to go.

Came together and unified under the company Spok as a result of this. Being able to talk about that there’s this evolution that’s happening right now. We have to be able to transform the way that we’re not only communicating but how we’re managing all this data as well as how we were able to make everything work more efficiently together to be able to save lives.

As an article from the [Stribbed 23:16] to be able to point out really it’s all about the minutes and seconds you can get because sometimes that’s all you have to be able to save a patient life.

Also, during that time to be able to launch just this year, trying to be able to reach out to more doctors, physicians, clinicians, etc. and making basically our mobile application available for free, being able to try this out. That’s to be able to do try it before you buy it. You find the value in it. Then you have a lot more a faster adaption rate. You have other people that are going to be able to talk about this so then they’re going to bring that back to their organization and say, “Hey, you check this out. Look at this particular app. We might be able to benefit from it.”

Literally we’ve had some cases where we’ve given customers trials of it and it would be just hosted within the Cloud and we would give them access to it. Sure enough it would be enough to be able to have them go back into their facility and be able to sell within their own organization, show them the app, how easy it is to be able to use.

Also, just like Apple, every year we need to be able to innovate. Every year we have a user’s conference, talk a little bit about not only just what happened this year but the year prior. Last year we went in and started showing them what we were going for changing user interface and the experience for the mobile integration. How is mobile going to be able to tie in to these operators’ desktop consoles? How is this going to be able to tie into their telephony base system to be able to start making calls on their behalf or be able to make that a little bit more automated?

There was a great response so that lead to being able to launch for this year. We went into our next user’s conference and we started expanding upon that as well. That way we’re showing them what’s the next the latest of the software? How are we going to continue to be able to integrate all these different products? Some of the feedback has been fantastic. We were able to show them prototypes of the new operator console.

We’re also able to show them being able to get watches integrated as well. It was an unexpected result for many of the users and why we receive. They like the idea of being able to not have to worry about. If you’re in the middle of surgery, do you have to be able to pull out your phone? Do you have to rescrub up when you go back in that they just have the watch there that either they could tap it, or somebody else could tap it right there on site. Or we would also mock them a little bit and so you have to make certain gestures to be able to shut off the notification.

Hospital workflows though, they’re trying to be able to bring in all this data from doctors, physicians, nurses, calls that are coming in and ambulance as they’re arriving. We have the first layer of aggregating data. Then you have all the patient information that’s coming in too that you’re trying to build that aggregate at the same time.

Then you add on top of this so that you’re trying to be able to bring in that patient’s personal health information that’s being aggregated. Today that’s all desperate [book 26:13]. We need to be able to have a way to be able to provide some kind of analytics to be able to bring this all together. Be able to basically combine this data to be able to enhance those workflows to be able to make those lives easier, so that way you can save time as well as save lives.

A lot of this though is going to be collecting a tremendous amount of data. That’s going to be the challenge though is because with better data, then you have a better chance of being able to make diagnosis or figuring out the appropriate procedures that need to be executed. That’s where we’re currently bringing our products and being able to say that this is what we needed to be able to do for today and going forward is being able to aggregate more data from desperate locations but being able to adapt those workflows for those environments because without it, then you’re going to be left with a pager, a desk phone and a fax machine and etc, sitting off to the side from 30 years ago.

With that I was wondering if there were any questions. Yes?

Speaker 4: [Inaudible 27:19].

David: Yeah, absolutely. When it comes to data aggregation and we’re hosting that information, we do offer two different types of solutions. Predominantly a lot of the hospitals and facilities are looking to be able to have their own data center to be able to hold that. We completely understand the reasons why you’re worried about patient security even confidentiality, contact information, etc. You don’t want a nurses’ home phone number to be able to get out into the wile.

We do offer that as a solution. You can have what we would consider to be an enterprise base solution. We are looking to be able to offer a [SAS 28:10] space model. We’re starting to be able to do that on the mobile side and we’re looking to be able to expand that for more of the smaller facilities where you don’t have the money to be able to put together the hardware necessary or purchase the software to put it into a location. Then you want to be able to basically pay by the month really more than anything else. That’s a piece that we’re bolstering right now.

Into your second question tiger text. I think the number one challenge there has been the integration aspects of it. It seems to be just a slight modification to paging back end protocols behind it. If you get into the nuts and bolts it still WCTP whereas what we’re looking at for … What we do at Spok, we can leverage that protocol definitely but it also integrates with everything else. You don’t hear about some of our competitors in which they’re able to say that they tie into IVR or voice recognition system. They don’t tie into a telephony based system.

That way if you needed to be able to reach a call from your mobile device, you can receive that message. You can say not just accept but also click a button on there that says call back in to the bridge of who established that message and I need to talk to them in person. These are the types of features that some of our competitors don’t offer today. Then we get into the details or whether or not there’s an audit trail and the security behind it. Does it come with the software or do you have to buy that auditorial system as a separate entity to be able to tie it in.


Speaker 5: You talked a little bit about the [QA 29:43] system that you used to run this [inaudible 29:47] on these experts, the nurses and then how did that QA system … was that a learning process through [inaudible 29:54]?

Jay: Yeah, it’s … David mentioned this conference. This cycle, it’s a yearlong cycle essentially for each iteration. The operator console was a year. The mobile connect phone piece was a year. The way we start is group ideation and co-creation where we map out the experience and we bring in people from David’s team. We have UIUX from our team. We have technologists also, so we make sure that we’re engaging in something we can actually build.

Then we have a subject matter expert. We just draw. It’s kind of a low fidelity, low tech but we have kind of the checks and balances with by having the technologist having somebody who heads up our IOS practice and Android practice making sure that we’re not making promises we can’t keep.

But that’s just for the initial kind of prototype. What you saw for the Outlook for nurses, that’s a [straw man 30:51]. That was something that we did within … it was about a four-week sprint to get that idea out there and now we will take the balance of the year to build prototypes, to do usability testing while we’re starting to build the code out. Then as the code is being built, we have a full quality assurance team who’s checking it in the end as well. It’s a fail fast model. We want to get as much out there as quickly as we can, and then see what works and what doesn’t work, adjust while we’re doing the base code.

Does that answer your question?

Speaker 5: Yeah.

Jay: Great.

Speaker 6: I’ve been a little surprised with the conference about [inaudible 31:31] data and the data management structured of structured data that it hasn’t been quite as much as [inaudible 31:39] as far as it’s exactly called that to be. Can you give us just some concrete examples of how you’re using the analytics to determine usability, to determine usage patterns? What types of tools you’re using? Are you using the tool? Are you using [inaudible 31:59] produce? What are the tools that you use or is it a little early for that and do you have that under roadmap once you scaled up? How exactly are you using usability data?

Jay: Why don’t you get this one? The end of your question is it’s early. I mean this is very foundational right now. There’s all of these promises out there about big data and data aggregation and analytics and bringing it all together but there’s this huge gap between how it’s being collected then how it’s analyzed and then how it’s actionable.

In working in this infrastructure that’s a big push for us right now as to get the infrastructure in place so we can start to go where what you’re suggesting. Go ahead, David.

Speaker 6:     We need some references that you guys used in your discussions where you’ll get something to say we really like what this [inaudible 32:51] this done with their [inaudible 32:52].

David: Yeah, absolutely. Just building a little bit upon what Jay is saying is certainly early on putting together the infrastructure to be able to collect that data. Some of the things that we’re doing in the process right now has been we do have a user’s group that we invite many people to be able to collect some of that information. That part of it is a bit more subjective but it’s still welcomed data. You want to be able to see that data that you’re gathering is matching what the more subjective aspects of it are, because if they are an alignment, then you know you’re starting to see the right data as a result of that.

When things aren’t in alignment then you start to ask a more through questions about, “Okay are we collecting the right kind of data?” Some of the things that we’ve discussed is being able to figure out which components of the applications are users using more often than other response? What pieces are getting in a way? Part of this, we have to be able to sit down with those customers and be able to talk to them and be able to get that information. But we also see that based upon how we’ve constructed the infrastructure around the software that we’re delivering, so we’ll be able to know which components of there are they’re using more often. We’ll see that through the data that we’re logging.

From there we’re able to pull that information together. Then we’re giving that kind of information back to the product managers and their technologies within the organization. We’re able to say here’s what we notice that people are using a lot. This is where our performance is going but we also noticed here’s this piece that was sitting inside of us. Specifically we’re thinking of like our console and when we put that out in front of our, some of our testers, that noticing that there’s some components that they just weren’t using at all and to be able to try to get that feedback, who knows that we haven’t seen anybody do this inside of the software. Can you explain to us why?

In part of that users’ meeting allows us to be able to get that information. Over time I do see that becoming a bit more automated, we’ll be able to make those decisions but since it’s early enough on, we’re not able to automate that kind of a solution.

Speaker 6: [Inaudible 34:59] simple there to just figure out using the [inaudible 34:58] components?

David: Certainly when it comes to the software, we’re logging information usually within either something that’s installed on the phone or on the desktop as well as the other components it’s interacting with we cannot talk about. We have basically we call about a platform for all of our products and through that platform it centralizes all of that loggings. When you’re talking about HIPAA compliance and you need to have an audit repository, everything must go through that so we’re able to keep that information.

Then from there we can build upon it for even alerting and notifications. You don’t want to have another Elvis Presley incident where it’s a doctor or physician searching on somebody that’s not a patient. You need to be able to set off an alarm but it also means you have to be recording that type of information too along the way if you have that kind of infrastructure built into your platform. Now we have the ability to be able to record, be able to playback to be able to analyze and then from there be able to make adjustments.

Speaker 7: Just to be clear I think what you guys have presented is an excellent and it was [inaudible 36:01] particular comments about your presentation. It just makes a lot of folks in the audience that smile and nod about that analytics. It’s pretty [inaudible 36:11], so thank you for that.

David: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you.

Speaker 8: You’ve ready for the backlash from the nurses when you get this really curing, beautiful experience of bringing all the information and then they got to go to [inaudible 36:26] console, logging to all the stuff. How do you balance its custom designs specifically for them and then you got generic [inaudible 36:32] not all but all systems?

David: Yeah definitely. The good news is we’ve actually brought in chief nursing officers when it comes to the particular application. There were some of the clients that we brought in early on in part of that first phase. Jay, he knows all about this but we actually brought in the chief nursing officers from different locations before we even engaged literally by just a few days though. But being able to get that feedback and able to say here’s what’s working, here’s what’s not, they end up doing their portion of a presentation to be able to walk us through first of all terminology, acronyms, what is their day-to-day schedule look like within the institution, etc.

Then we can learn from that and then be able to start talking about what if offer this? What if we did this? How can we improve this? What’s your most top 10 painful points throughout the day? When you end up seeing their workflow just on a floor plan and how they walk around from one station to the next, then one bedside to the next, immediately you can tell pretty quickly how busy they are and what can you do to be able to start removing some of those lines from where they walk. Being able to walk over to a PC and be able to log in to the console system, so how are we going to be able to integrate with that.

We don’t look to be able to replace the epics of the world, but we do want to be able to integrate with them and be able to provide that kind of information. We are actually doing that today where that’s why we want to offer this platform within API that allows this other businesses to be able to integrate together. We don’t wanted to be a close proprietary system that we each have a special area that we’re capable of doing really well. Why wouldn’t we want to be able to integrate?

Some of those being like all scripts or epic for … I’m blanking on their name.

Jay: We want the backlash will help … We hope put pressure on epic to integrate. They’re so dominant. They’re really not embracing changes much as they could and should. We want some of that. It’s not Spok’s goal to create EMRs. It’s to better integrate what the EMRs provide that infrastructure so that the EMRs can grow and change along with them.

Speaker 9: That was one of my questions. This mandate [inaudible 39:01] connecting it all that you’re creating plays. So my question is in your experience, who were the [resistors 39:09]? Who has to change these kinds of workflows to become simpler [inaudible 39:22]? Is it like the epics of the world?

Jay: Yeah, they’re not even pushing yet but they will because there’s this way for things to be better integrated. There are so many stand-along solutions. This wraps around part of it, is sort of a doughnut but there’s still that hole in the middle which is the EMRs. But what we’re finding is so far enthusiasm. This is something that nurses in particular want. For the doctors it’s just one last thing in their pocket. They seem to be okay with it as well. The operators like the consoles, so then getting that synergy of those three key personas then the next step is that broader integration.

Then as Spok into the earlier question about the data aggregation and analytics, right now there’s no best practices because hospitals are the separate entities. What is the response time? Should it be two seconds, four seconds? A lot of that is just not tracked. It’s not aggregated. Not just locally but then nationally and internationally. As we have more that opportunity that can help put pressure on some of other folks perhaps.

Speaker 10:   Just to follow on with [inaudible 40:35], looking across a member of different entities, do you find you’re able to search a functionality [inaudible 40:46] for best practice or how much have you been [inaudible 40:48] to designers [inaudible 40:53].

Jay: Well, that’s a good question for you.

David: Yeah, one of the things that we know is it’s a good thing to be able in the product but at the same going to be also become a problem as we do provide configurability. We do allow for customization to those workflows. We see that very often when it comes to our voice recognition systems that what we provide is kind of a set of stock templates in the system that they can use but then the facility is capable of going in and we’ll provide an interface to be able to customize that. More so that that’s what we’re looking to be able to introduce over the next year to two years is something that’s even higher level of workflow that isn’t just focused in on one particular area.

When we talk about messaging and you want to have workflows around messaging, there’s another obstruction on top of that and that’s really how you’re doing your integrations between one role than the other. That’s what we’re working through today. We’ll be talking about more in the future to be able to provide that kind of flexibility. There are some individuals who want a [WYSIWYG 41:57] interface. They wanted to be able to drag and drop from a tool kit and be able to put it on to campus and say here’s the amount of delay that’s tolerable between messages before I escalated to the next role within the facility.

Then there are others who are looking for something that’s if you’ve ever take a look at something like if this is the [inaudible 42:15], it’s just very systematic one step after the next and that’s a very intuitive interface. We’re trying to be able to build both interfaces. It’s depending upon that audience. That way you can speak to making alterations to those workflows. For right now, it’s going to be specific towards those hospitals until we can figure out what is the best practice nationally or internationally to be able to say this is what we should be doing.

We don’t want to force a workflow onto a particular institution because otherwise once we start doing that, then you have a higher chance of becoming black or white. You’re either in or you’re out versus if you have that pluggability. That way you’re going to be able to tie in. If you’re not using epic, you’re using another EMR, then we want to be able to allow for that. Give people the choice on how they’re want to be able to integrate and you’ll end up with better options in the end.

Jay:  We should let you guys go. It’s ten after ten. But we’re happy to answer any additional questions if anyone wants it to grab. Thanks.

Material Design for Pre Lollipop Devices 725x423

Material Design for Pre-Lollipop Devices

Material design is Google’s new specification for designing applications across a variety of devices. Using the latest AppCompat library for Android, you can start integrating some aspects of material design in your Android apps today. There is no need to wait for Lollipop (Android 5.0) adoption to start using aspects of material design. Check out the support library details for a full list of what’s been added. In this post we’ll focus on the new Toolbar and how it can be integrated with a menu drawer.

Lollipop is the new operating system (OS) for Android devices. This is a major release and has updates to many aspects of the OS.


One of the big additions to the support library was the Toolbar widget. It’s a generic replacement for the ActionBar. The Toolbar is often still referred to as an ActionBar when it’s docked to the top of the application. Here is an example of what the new Toolbar looks like:

lollipop toolbar

Since the Toolbar is generic, it no longer needs to be tied to the top of the app. Here is an example of the Toolbar placed in a different location:

layout structure toolbars toolbars 04 large xhdpi 1030x299

The first step to adding the new Toolbar is to update your theme to support material design through AppCompat. Notice that we are setting windowActionBar to false. We only want one ActionBar and will be creating a Toolbar in the next step that will be added to the Activity.


Pro-tip: Use the AppCompat theme even to ensure forward compatibility as well as backwards support. If your app still uses the old Holo theme, Lollipop devices will try to apply the new material design which may break functionality.

Next, make sure your main activity extends ActionBarActivity (from the support library). Add the following code to the onCreate method of your Activity. If you have a menu drawer already, this will break your project. Continue to the menu drawer section for instructions on how to fix this.

After adding this code you can access the ActionBar like you would normally, using the getSupportActionBar() method.


Google’s material design guidelines suggest the navigation drawer should appear over the app bar. However, only about half of the newly designed Google apps follow this convention. The other half use the new ActionBarDrawerToggle to animation the hamburger icon into an arrow. At this point, with an even split between these implementations, use the one that fit’s your app design the best.

Below the ActionBar


Used in Google Play, Google Drive and Play Music

Above the ActionBar


Used in Gmail and Google Wallet

Adding the arrow animation is as simple as setting the mDrawerToggle as a listener for the mDrawerLayout. If you prefer not to use this animation (when covering the ActionBar with the menu drawer) just remove this line of code.

DrawerLayout Integration

If you use the current wizard within Android Studio, a few of changes need to be made to the NavigationDrawerFragment to support the Toolbar widget and ActionBarDrawerToggle. The biggest change is moving the adapter initialization from onCreateView to setUp. The reason for this is that we need a reference to the ActionBar to create the adapter. When using the Toolbar, this needs to be passed in via the setUp function to ensure the ActionBar reference exists.

You can get the source code for this on GitHub.


Material design is a big step forward in the design specification for Android. The AppCompat library can be used to start integration aspects of material design to pre-Lollipop devices. Keep your apps looking current by integrating these new design patterns as available in the support library.

At this point, only some aspects of material design have been added to the support library. Google will likely update the library in the future to include additional support. For now, the following components have been added to the v7 support library: Toolbar (which takes the place of the ActionBar), SwitchCompat, CardView, RecyclerView and Palette.

Additional Resources:
AppCompat v21 — Material Design for Pre-Lollipop Devices!
Material Design on Android Checklist
Material Design Everywhere: Using AppCompat 21
appcompat v21: material design for pre-Lollipop devices!

Talk with us more about incorporating material design into your Android apps.

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APPS a Mobile Story

MentorMate President James Williams gave this presentation at MobCon 2014, a national mobile technology conference. In his presentation James provides insight into what it takes to create and manage a successful company through a process he calls APPS.


All for attending this session. I was supposed to go at 10 o’clock yesterday and Jack Constantino, our new Healthcare Practice Lead had to go to town so we had to switch positions, and I felt being at the end of the day. On Friday we need to start off with a little humor.It’s a little Swedish humor. Bjorn and Hannah, his wife were asleep and… It’s actually Bjorn and Ollie, but I’m going to substitute in Hannah. The phone rings and Bjorn answers the phone, and he says “How the hell should I know? It’s 2000 miles away”, and he hangs up the phone. Hannah rolls over, “Who is that?”, and Bjorn says “I don’t know. Some guy who wanted to know if the coast was clear”.

That’s my one joke.

Secondly, 70% of what you are going to hear today, you’re going to forget in 24 hours. 40% is forgotten immediately, and for those of you that know me and there’s quite a few that do know me in the office, in my case that’s more like 90% that is forgotten immediately. We remember 20% of what we read. We remember 30% of what we hear, 40% of what we see, 50% of what we say, and 60% of what of what we do. But, we remember 90% of what we see, say, hear, and do. So, as I go over each slide, we’re all going to stand and repeat whatever is on the slide. That way, you’ll actually walk away remembering something that we talked about today.

I’m clicking the clicker, and it’s not working. There we go.

What we are going to talk today about is APPS. The acronym that I’m using is Accelerate, Position, Proliferate and Serve.

I looked up the definitions of these words to make sure that I was as accurate as possible. Under accelerate: speed up, go fast, gain momentum. Position is put or arrange something in a particular way. Proliferate is to increase rapidly in numbers or multiply. And, serve is to perform duties or services for another person or an organization.

Before I get started, how many of you have been involved in a startup before? Raise your hands. OK, and how many of you have been involved in a turnaround of a distressed company before? OK, and how many of you participated in a liquidity event of a small company to a large company? Quite a few, wow. And, how many of you have worked at in Minnesota Fest 50 privately held company? Wow. So pretty much, we have the entire MentorMate organization in the room. Thank you all for staying. I appreciate it. Let’s ask that question. How many of you are from MentorMate? Raise your hands. Actually, stand up. If you’re from MentorMate, stand up. Oh my gosh, over half of the audience. Jesus, and I didn’t have to pay him. And then of course, is anybody here worked at a fortune 500 company? Yeah, about 4-5, they have.

This is my first turnaround that I had to do, and you can see I was 5 years old, and believe me I needed to be turned around, and I actually got worse. By the time I was about 8, I was your absolute classic nerd, and this was my very first turnaround. I have 6 sisters and a mother which basically meant that I had 7 mothers. They worked on me I was a definite fixer-upper. But, I also used football as a way to turn myself around. As you can see, that’s me right dead center, in the middle. If you had met me, you guys probably find that surprising.

I continued that at Cretin High School across town. I played quarterback for Cretin. Other people that played quarterback for Cretin was Steve Walls who played for the Bears, Chris Weinke who won the Heisman trophy, Joe Mauer who actually won the 1999 state championship who is now with the Minnesota Twins. That’s about my only claim to fame as several great quarterbacks came after me.

I went on the same chimes and I could not play football at college level so I played rugby, and that’s me right there at the front. That was at the Mardi Gras rugby tournament. Now, the significant thing that in 1989, I formed a personal board of directors, which is definitely something that has changed my life for the better. And then, in 1993 when I had a 2-year old, and Jane was not yet pregnant, I said I had to go to grad school, which she said “Are you out of your mind?”, but we muscled through it, and that was at Saint Thomas just right over here, couple blocks away.

My APPS education experience started with a company called Ergotron. It was the first turnaround that I was involved. It was a 10 million dollar company when I joined it. I left the company when it was 50 million 5 years later. The company went on to become about 160 million dollar company, and it was sold for 300 million.

I also met a guy by the name of Bjorn Stansvik in 2000 at Peak Rock lakes up at Hunt Technologies. Bjorn was a young guy, very handsome as you can see in that picture there. We got to know each other. I left Hunt after 6 months because it was a company that was in serous trouble and I just didn’t want to stick around to be involved in that particular turnaround. I joined the company called Convey, and Bjorn came down and started MentorMate. Over the next 10 years, Bjorn slugged it out with MentorMate, and I was involved a company called CBSA. I was involved in a company called Strategic Source which was a business process outsourcing for purchasing pay dirt, was in the green market, Paradigm was a court reporting, [Airtey 06:31] was a IT services firm. I just did consulting with both of those 2 firms and Conservice as well. Those 3 companies I just did consulting with.

In 2010, I ran Bjorn over at the Minneapolis convention center, and he said he’d been slugging it in out for decade, and would I want to come and join the party. And, I said sure. So in 2010, I joined Bjorn, and we spun up iQpakk and StoryWorks which we spun off in 2012. And then in 2014 in July, we sold the company to Glenn Tailor of the Tailor Corporation. During that same time period, Ergotron went from that 10 million to 50, and was sold in 2010 for 300 million. Hunt technologies was sold, the company that Bjorn and I met at, And Convey just sold in July of 2014 for 200 million. I was at Convey when it was a million dollar company. Several of these companies were Minnesota Fest 50’s: Ergotron, Hunt, Convey, Airtey, [inaudible 07:39] and certainly MentorMate. That where I got my startups, turnarounds, liquidity events, Minnesota Fest 50’s, and I actually did work at one Minnesota Fortune 500 and that was the Target corporation.

Now, let’s talk about the MentorMate story. Bjorn flew over from Sweden in 1999. He was again a young, aspiring entrepreneur, wanted to conquer the world, and he had an idea. The idea was a language tool. And here’s the guy. This was the year 2001. This was the device. It was a palm pilot, and he wanted to learn Chinese to impress his girlfriend. That was his motivation. So, he enlisted a couple boy wonders. This is Stephen Fluin, our chief strategy and innovation officer. Stephen can you stand up, please. There he is in the back. He looks a little different now. Mitco Dobrev, are you here, Mitco? I don’t see Mitco, OK.

Bjorn also enlisted me as an advisor and a gentleman by the name Tom Wilson. Tom, are you here? I don’t see Tom either. Tom was the principal of Eagan High School, and we had an advisor board meeting at Eagan High School where I had mentioned of Bjorn asked him at the advisory meeting “What business plan were you on?”. He said “This is rev 34″, and I said “We thought about maybe knocking on some doors as supposed to revising the business plan”, and he didn’t invite me to any more board meetings, so I went away, which was OK because I was pro bono anyway.

Bjorn continued to slug it out for the next 4 years with those 3 gentlemen, Stephen and Mitco, and Tom Wilson has been there since the beginning and he stayed there.

Why Bulgaria? Do they form this relationship because that’s basically the gentleman that Mitco Dobrev was Bjorn was introduced to him, and he formed a very good relationship with him, and we’ve had that relationship and built the company around that relationship for years.

Over the next 5 years, because the mobile learning project did not take off in the K3 12 market, the company pivoted and started to do mobile web and custom software development, bringing on big companies like world energy out of Boston Experian and W3i, real companies that took chances MentorMate. And as you can see, the company grew to about a dozen people, and that is when I ran into Bjorn, and we hooked up together and we started to grow MentorMate very rapidly. We got a phone call from Medtronic, and they said “Hey, I have got 10,000 of these iPads in the marketplace. Could you possibly help make it content out to them?”. Principal Financial Group call. They had the same problem. So did Thomson Reuters. We said “Holy Cow, this IQPakk product that Bjorn came up a decade ago is now actually needed.”, and so we repurposed it for the iPad and Medtronic was out first client, and that product had new life.

That same year, some other big companies took a risk on us, AMCom, now Spoke, W3i now nativeX Broad Intertech. They launched a company called agile frameworks train which is a relationship Bjorn had built for almost 9 years. Justin’s Local Loop, these are just some of the companies and we started to grow very very rapidly over those 3 years.

We continue to position, proliferate, and serve these organizations Story Works was a company that we merged with IQPakk and then we spun that company off because working the first, and second, and third shifts, the first shift: MentorMate, the second shift being StoryWorks IQPakk, and then the third shift hopefully trying to sleep a little bit was getting to be tiring so we felt it would make sense to spin that product company off.

We also started a Metro Academy in Bulgaria, and the reason why this was is because we were not able to find developers either here or in Bulgaria fast enough to meet the growing needs of our company, so one of the ways we solved that problem was to basically come up with a 6-month boot camp and train developers ourselves.

The other thing that we launched was this conference, and the reason why we launched this conference was because we had so many companies coming to us and saying “How do we go mobile? What do we need to do? We just launched an app that was a disaster. Now what?”, and so we said “You know what? MentorMate certainly has been doing this the longest in the twin cities, and possibly in the country, building mobile apps and so on. We don’t have the answers, so why don’t we do a conference and get everybody together and see if we can learn from each other?”. And then also spun out of that was the Idea of MobDemo, and MobDemo was to basically support our [inaudible 12:45] community and to support all the Bjorn Stansviks out there that are trying to start a company and be successful with that.

With Andrew, to about 28, 150 employees during that year, and here is where we are today. Today, we are 45, and 210 strong in 4 different cities over in Bulgaria and we are thinking it very enviable client list, and really at the end of the day this is what it’s all about. It’s the opportunity to serve our employees and the opportunity serve these great clients. That’s how simple our business is. If we do a great job focus on servicing our clients and servicing our employees, the rest usually takes care of itself.

Here a little bit about MetroMate.

What do you think of that? That was done by Jay and his team just recently. That’s literally hot off the press.

One thing that I want to square up on is while we’ve had tremendous growth and we’ve had a lot of success, it really has been a lot of basically riding the tsunami. In this picture here you can see that certainly, mobile phone growth has grown and tablets have grown very rapidly particularly in the last few years, and we’ve been a very fortunate company to be able to ride that wave. In fact, it’s really interesting because if you take a look at the app growth. This is Apple’s number of apps that have gone in the app store in just in the last few years, our growth literally is identical to that growth. We have been tsunami. We compare it to the Google play store, number of apps that they’ve installed very similar growth, again almost mirroring exactly how many apps are coming out. As much as we’d like take a lot of credit for our growth, really all we’ve done is rode that wave and done a great job at taking of our employees and servicing our clients

With that, I’m going to give you a couple of tips, my apps tips. Number 1: Find a reputable, hard working, intelligent, relentlessly persistent, 10-year surviving entrepreneur whit an idea ahead of its time, in Bjorn’s case, that was a decade, and domain expertise to back it up.

The little gentleman on the pictures here is Sweere. Harry had a company called Ergotron, and he was also decade ahead of his time when I joined the company. He was hardworking, he was all these things. John Graves with Convey, very, very similar. Doug Austin with Strategic Source. You find these guys or gals that have been slugging it out for a decade, and you know that you have a successful opportunity because they’re not quitters. Finding them is hard to do, and if you take a look at some of those other companies that I did in between Convey and Mentormate, I looked at a number of different companies and some of them had that, some of them did not. But in the case of Ergotron, Convey, Mentormate, they all did. And a bonus for Bjorn is that he’s got the best Rolodex named next to Jack’s in the twin cities. He’s extremely well networked, and that was a major reason why we had a lot of success. The guy knows everybody, and it’s kind of funny because over the decade, I would watch him. Like at Filios, I would watch him work a bar even. The guy would just be talking to everybody and moving and shaking. That has really been one of the big assets for us as well.

To accelerate is to speed up, go faster, gain momentum. The first thing to do that is what we call activity, activity, activity. Jerry Caller who was a rep for Ergotron down at Florida, he had the 5 states. I said “Jerry, why are you successful?”, and he said “Well when I bring out a sales person for example or when I bring out a new employee, I just say focus on activity, activity, activity. Just get out there. Bring people. Meet people. Activity, activity, activity”. That’s one of the things that made his company very successful, and that’s something that we did back in 2010 as we focused on just a lot of activity. Lot of at [inaudible 18:54] if you will.

The second thing was to clarify, prioritize a line, and then focus, focus, focus. Specifically, we went over to Bulgaria, the leadership team, and we spent about 4, 5 days with our Bulgarian colleagues developing what we call 3-year strategic growth and operating plan. The plan was very simple. It was 15, 15, and 15. 15 million, 15% profit in the year 2015. Everybody knew what the plan was, everybody knew what we’re trying to accomplish, and focused on that very well.

Here’s another way of actually doing a plan. This is a plan that I did half with my family, believe it or not, back in 2002, and you’ll see here, it’s kind of hard to read, but it has basically a vision statement, a mission statement, core values, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, long term objectives, grand strategy, our 2008 goals, 2008 operating plan, the budget, communication plan, and performance measures. You can really do, clarify, prioritize really on anything, on a business, on your family, whatever.

The next thing is to hire and retain the very best, the very, very, very best, and I think that that’s something that we fought this very hard on. We take our time when we bring candidates on board. One example is Jaime Bolsef who is our COO. We spent about a year getting to know Jaime before he actually made the decision to join MentorMate. Same we did over at Ergotron and Convey. We really took our time at bringing in people into the community because everybody has different values, and when you spring those competing values into the same room, you have to deal with the competing values framework which is always a challenge. You really want to make sure that people come in and they really are going to fit within the culture.

One of the things that we talked about, we called it mustangs, and that is that we have a very autonomous environment. I had that very similarly at Ergotron, and we certainly had that at Convey, Strategic Source, CBSA, and that is basically you hire the very, very best, you put them out there and you see if they can run with the mustangs, and you find out very quickly whether or not in this case who the ones are are that are going to lead, and who the ones are going to follow. If the ones can’t run with the mustangs, they discover that themselves, or colleagues help them discover that. And one of the things that we’ve done very well is keep a very solid leadership team in place because we’ve filled the very, very best.

The next thing is to pay as you go. There are lots of different companies that will go on and raise 500 million dollars for this, or 50 million dollars for that. The first thing that we did back in 2010 was reduce the staff to profitability immediately, and pretty much we stayed profitable ever since for the last 4 years, certainly have a month or 2 where you might go on the hole and I’ll talk about that in a second.

I learned this in grad school. One of the teachers, he said “If you’re going to run a business, the natural laws of business make it so that you should pay as you go because if you go and raise a bunch of money, that’s expectations that you have to go faster, and growth can be treacherous to your health. By paying as you go, it’s kind of the natural laws of revenues and profits. They stay in place.”. That’s a critical thing.

And then lastly is share the success. This bullet did say share the wealth, but I changed it to share the success. This is a critical thing that I’ve been very successful at doing with whether it was Harry Sweere, John Graves, Doug Austin, and certainly Bjorn Stansvik which is to share the wealth by creating a employee stock option program. Convey, I was with that company back in 2001. They were a million dollar company. We grew the business to 8 million. When I left the company, we had an offer from Thomson for 21 million for the company. The owner turned it down and proceeded to fire me which was interesting to be fired after taking a company from a million to 8 million and then getting an offer for 21 million. My counterparts told him he’d get him to a hundred million over the next 3 years and I said that wasn’t going to happen, so you sometimes go with what you think might happen.

Anyway, 10 years have past. And just out of the blue, I got a email from their chief technology officer. A gentleman by the name of Sebastian Betty. He wrote this email to me and it was really kind of nice because I had left the company in 2003. It’s September 2003. Sebastian stayed on with the company for another 7 years and they were just sold on July 1st to Taxware. They merges with Taxware in Vista to the tune of about 200 million and Ceeva did very, very well on that financial transaction.

Next, put or arrange something in a particular way, position. One of the things that we did right away was we positioned ourselves internally. How do we want to be viewed at by our client? How do we want to be viewed at by colleagues? How do want to govern ourselves? We came with these basic words we did the set Ergotron when I was trying the marketing team, we called it the marketing team’s guiding principles.

Number 1 is integrity. We hold integrity at the very highest. Intelligence, we look for people that are intelligent. We look for people that are collaborative as opposed to cowboys and heroes. We look for people that are passionate, are respectful, results-oriented, and that want to serve. We actually measure our entire senior leadership team on these core values. We measure ourselves so they’re allowed to measure me, and I’m allowed to measure them, and we share the results with ourselves to basically see how other peoples perceive us against these core values, and are we truly living the core values.

This is actually the core values that we also did in our house. I asked my daughter to put these in an artistic manner, and these sit at our kitchen table. These are the core core values that we have for our family.

The position is the distinguishable differentiation. Of course, everybody says, people, technology, experience. Yep, well you know what? Everybody’s got people, everybody has technology, and everybody’s got experience, so there’s really nothing distinguishable about that. Something that is distinguishable on our case is first in mobile. I would highly doubt unless maybe somebody can tell me who will have an idea of a mobile learning application back in 2001? Anybody out there besides Bjorn? I didn’t think so. Most of our competitors started to get into mobile in about 2009, 2010, so we really have a full decade of doing mobile application development ahead of anybody which is clearly distinguishable and differentiatable. Second thing is I believe we’re the only company in town that has a Bulgarian colleagues. We have about 200 plus people in Bulgaria. That’s another clear distinguishable differentiation. Another thing that we call this is “Leave no doubt. You’d have to be an idiot not to buy us value proposition”, and I think we are clear on 3 distinguishable differentiations. That really is what enables you to differentiate yourself with other clients, and that’s all about positioning.

The next thing is aligning. I’ll give you a couple examples. Bjorn, when he was Bulgaria 3, 4 years ago, He may have made it 5 years when I think about it, would ask the question to whether it was a QA person or whether it was the receptionist over there “What are we aligned around?”, and we were aligned there around this very simple slogan: Business Needs First From a User’s Perspective. So, as you do anything in the company with keeping our clients in mind, what does the business need, and who’s going to be actually using the application? We ask that, and we ask that up and down throughout the organization. You’ve probably heard that from any our clients are in here.

Ergotron’s was ergonomic computer mounting solutions When people said “What does Ergotron do?” Or “What are we aligned around?”, it’s around ergonomic computer mounting solutions.

Convey’s was “Why process any other way?”. It was a software as a service company that process that [inaudible 27:18]. That’s what their primary business model was, and we ask this question, and it was very simple. Why would you go anywhere else? Convey’s the only solution. At least that’s the way we liked to position it.

Lastly, Bjorn talks about this. We’ve probably repositioned our company or reinvented ourselves about every 6 months for the last 4 years. Our most recent one, we went from really being a design build shop to being an imagined design delivered organization where we get more now involved with the overall strategies of the company. Not just building applications, but how are we going to not only help conceptualize the idea, make the idea better, get it to market, with outstanding design, and then help market it. We’ve become a kind of more end-to-end organization. This is our new repositioning.

At Ergotron, ergonomic computer mounting solutions, well obviously, computers went away, right? And, what showed up was flat panel screens, so we had to pivot the company out of computers and into mounting solutions, and you’ll find Ergotron at pretty much every hospital across the country. They dominate the hospital market.

In the case of Convey, after we kind of captured all the market that was out there in the insurance, we essentially pivoted the company and to look for new markets and repositioned in the gambling market and in the oil and gas market, and et cetera.

Proliferate: increase rapidly in numbers, multiply. So, how did we proliferate? A key thing to proliferation is you have to take risks, but you also have to be able to recover if the risk you take is the wrong risk. Believe it or not, we’ve made some poor decisions, and we’ve had some failures. Saying it again using Bjorn as a reference, he likes to talk about the importance of failure. Come in, fail off, and fail early, and learn, but recover. I think that that’s what we successfully did at MentorMate and at Ergotron.

In this example you see we’re going along, took some risks, and had to recover. And we had to recover, took a lean over our skis a little bit too much, had to recover. It’s kind of interesting, anytime you go outside the trend line with the risk thing, you end up getting set back, and we’ve had the essentially recover again.

Number 2 under proliferate: develop inbound capabilities. You’ll see this is in black because in the past, inbound was not as big as it is today, so we didn’t do as much inbound marketing with Ergotron, Convey, some of these other companies that I’ve worked with. But here, it was absolutely a key strategy. Bjorn got clobbered over the head over and over by Andy, our digital marketing director saying “We need to do inbound”, and it actually produced quite a few companies. Metronic, for example, found us on the web. This is a critical thing to enable you to proliferate.

Diversity in clients. We have fortune 500’s that we worked with. We have mid-sized companies that we worked with, and we have startups that we worked with. Having that diversity is helpful not only with sizes of company, but also within vertical markets which is essentially the next proliferation and that’s evolving into vertical markets.

Based on the evolution of seeing that a lot of our clients are healthcare related, we are now making a more aggressive push towards vertical markets.

In the case of Ergotron, we focused on the healthcare, the manufacturing market, and the office furniture market.

In the case of Convey, naturally we focused on the insurance, the united health groups of the world, and then the [inaudible 31:09] mobiles of the world, as well on gas industry, and then there’s one other vertical market, primarily 3 verticals we tried and wanted to dominate.

Next is build community or communities, also known as teams, and this is probably our best example right here. MobCon is our best example of building community. We are really excited that you all came, and this community that we’re building with MobCon, we’re going to start to take on the road. We’re going to do a healthcare one, we’re going to then start to take this in other parts of the country. In fact, Glenn Taylor asked Bjorn and I recently why don’t we have a MobCon China? Why don’t we have a MobCon India? We said “Why don’t we?”, that’s why we hired Tom and now we’re hoping to do that.

In the case of Harry Sweere, it started off with just Harry working out of his garage. In the case of John Graves, he was working a bother’s garage. In the case of Bjorn, I don’t really know where was Bjorn was working, but he started with one, and then he added Stephen and Mitco to the community, and then myself and Tom Wilson to the community, and then the next thing you know, we now have 600 people coming to MobCon, and the community has grown.

Here are just some fun pictures of some of the communities that we have both here and in Bulgaria. These are several pictures of our Bulgarian Colleagues, metro academy. That’s Bjorn right there mountain climbing. I don’t know when that trip was. We also bring our clients over to Bulgaria often to participate in the community over there. In fact on Sunday, I’m leaving for Sofia at 5 o’clock with one of our largest clients.

Next, perform duties or services for another person or an organization. 100% client satisfaction. 100% client satisfaction is something that we take very seriously at MetroMate. It’s something that we took very seriously at Convey.

This is something that a lot of people say “Yeah, everybody has 100% client satisfaction”. We actually do. We actually have that a goal. We actually measure that goal every single week. If there’s a client that starts to get unsatisfied, we rally around that client until they become satisfied again. What that does for you is really helps on your financials because about 3 years ago, we had significant bad debt because we were again fast growing, and we’re just getting the ball rolling. Last 2 years, we’ve had zero bad debt, which really is indicative of our great employees and the great clients that we have.

One of the key things to that is project managers. We have the best project management staff that I’ve ever worked with. They really do a great job of making sure… They’re the quarterbacks of our company. They make sure that our clients are 100% satisfied. This is a critical thing for your success because it’s your reputation, and something Bjorn really did very. Very well for 14 years because he’s got a very stellar reputation and always delivering for clients.

The second thing is servant leadership culture. We really work hard on this and that we serve our employees, and we serve collectively and collaboratively our clients. Our location over in Uptown, Minneapolis is a great place to bring clients to. It’s a great environment, and as Bjorn often said, chuck the egos at the door. We really try not to have the egos at MentorMate. We really prefer to have more of a servant leadership type culture and we work very, very hard at that.

Another thing that I really value about with Harry when he was out building those computer mounting solutions, because you’re dealing with product that could possibly hurt people.

In the case of Convey where you’re processing extra tax information with the IRS, you have to be accurate.

Certainly here with MentorMate, the commitment to excellence. Bjorn, and I really, really align on that one. I think the way we frame it up is that there’s 0 to 80% is good enough, 80 to 95% is pretty darn good or pretty damn close if you will, and that 95 to 100%, that’s that commitment to excellence. And so, everything that we do, we really strive to maintain that 95 to 100%. You never achieve perfection, but you should always be striving to get there.

Next is of course world hunger: communicate, recognize, and reward. I call these the 3 things of world hunger. In companies, you can never communicate enough, you can never recognize people enough, and you can never reward enough.

Does anybody have that problem at their companies, or it’s just ours?

I pretty much have seen this throughout my careers. No matter how much you communicate, you’re always told “You don’t tell me what’s going on.”. This also by the way applies with my wife too. And, no matter how much I recognize her, it’s never enough. And, no matter how much I reward or we reward our employees, it’s never enough. We call it the 3 world hungers, and that’s why we have it on here twice. Communicate, recognize and reward. That is critical to creating a servant serving environment.

In summation, Apps tips of the decade. Pay attention. Build something special, meaningful, and that will. I think that’s what Harry did, Ergotron. All these companies that I have been involved with are still going companies, and I think it’s because they built something, something that was meaningful, and something that will last.

Number 2, server unconditionally and humbly. I think it’s been a very challenging year for Bjorn because he’s one about every word that you can imagine, the fast 50, the 40 under 40, the bold list,happy that. We pretty much go to another event, but he’s a very humble guy, and while he goes up takes the awards, we set a tone of humility and a humble environment at MentorMate, and Harry Sweere was absolutely the humblest guy I have ever met in my entire life. John Graves as well. Serving unconditionally and humbly.

And then, win at all costs, or at least die trying. That also stands for Bjorn’s stands with wins. This was a love story, a novel love story. He won the girl. He won the son. He won the new owner, the Taylor corporation.

So where did I learn to win with APPS? Playing the great game of American football. That’s me getting instructions from the coach. And then I went in and told the guys “This is what we’re going to do”, then I handed the ball off to our state halfback who would then come off and give me a high five and saying “Thank you for not screwing up the hand off”.

The analogy for football is accelerate, to speed up, go fast, and gain momentum is the 2-minute drill. The position, I don’t know if you ever watch Pate Manny, but he’s always doing something around constantly positioning and readjusting the offense. Round up the score in terms of proliferate if and when you can, like MentorMate and Ergotron did when the flat panel market came. We ran up the score. We ran as fast as we could, and capture as much market shares as we could. And then Lastly, serve, perform duties for another person, your teammates and your coaches. You always want to be able to die for your teammates and your coaches.

Another way I keep fresh on the APPS is I play in a tricky ball which is in 3 weeks. We’ve played in this for 32 years over at the University of Saint Thomas. This is me right here. This is my son John. John, are you here? Would you stand up? This is my son John. He’s a senior from Saint John, he’s come down to listen today. This is my son Patrick, and then all the rest are just cousins and family, and we played in this tricky ball for 32 years. This will be our 33rd year coming up.

And that’s APPS. I’ll take questions if there are any. No question? All right. Thank you.

Fuel for the Fire Why You Need to Embrace Mobile 725x423

Fuel for the Fire, Why You Need to Embrace Mobile

The entrepreneurial spark often comes from building a better mousetrap. What is better? Ease. Convenience. Access. Speed. As simple as these words might seem, they are the drivers for most of the goods and services we have available to us today.

Businesses can now make their “mousetrap” for a base of customers that have evolved. Yesterday, they were on PCs and laptops. Today, they are on tablets and smartphones.

For businesses today, mobile is not a choice. If you aren’t mobile, why are you even there in the first place? For customers reaching out to you through those mobile devices, there ought to be no more squinting, squeezing, or zooming in or out. They want information, they need it yesterday, on the device they use.

The Numbers Speak for Themselves

Mobile is where your customers are. Mobile is exactly where your business is going to be. In fact, it already is. Jason Dorrier of Singularity Hub reports that there are 7 billion mobile devices on earth. Smartphones now make up more than 77% of mobile devices.

According to another report on emarketer.com, more than 4.55 billion people will use a mobile phone in 2014. The adoption of mobile is rising rapidly across parts of the world including the Indian subcontinent, Middle East, and Africa. By 2017, more than 50% of the world will use a smartphone.

why your business needs to be found on mobile devices

Source: Market Domination Media

But some businesses have no idea. If they did, there wouldn’t be a shocking 55% of them without mobile-optimized websites. Research by Search Engine Watch found that

  • 61% of mobile users were likely to leave a site if it was not mobile friendly.
  • 48% of mobile users consider that a company “doesn’t care” about their business if it didn’t have a mobile friendly site
  • More than 72% of the traffic coming to your website is likely from mobile devices

Seriously, are you still “thinking” about mobile?

The Age of Empowered Shoppers

Think With Google has the latest on how brands are leveraging mobile to create a seamless user experience for all. Shoppers today have all the information they need on their fingertips, literally. About 79% of shoppers today are “smartphone shoppers” using their phones “in store” for at least 15 minutes.

smartphone shoppersSource: Google Shopper Marketing Council

Shoppers who use smartphones more also buy more. More than 82% of mobile users arrive at websites using search engines. For these customers, their phones are their most trusted resources to help make purchase decisions.

It’s the One Thing They Can’t Do Without

Forget TV. Newspaper? What’s that? Magazines? They’ve gone mobile, if they haven’t shut shop yet.

What’s that one thing that your customers are likely to carry all day along, all times of the year, and even take it to bed with them only to wake up with it? It’s the ubiquitous phone.

The highest possibility for a marketer to reach a customer is now the mobile phone – nothing else comes close to the sheer scale and possibility that the mobile presents. In the U.S, mobile time already surpassed TV time. An average American spends 4 hours 28 minutes per day on TV. Digital media, however, takes the lion’s share of the time at 5 hours 46 minutes, according to an eMarketer release.

ComScore research revealed that a whopping 51% of total digital media time is spent on mobile apps. Mobile engagement, overall, went up by 55% in 2013. As a business, how mobile are you? Are your web properties optimized for all platforms? How quickly can customers reach you, irrespective of the device they use?

Wearable Strategy for Your App 780x423

Wearable Strategy: Do You Have One Yet?

If you have a mobile app, you need a strategy for supporting Android Wear and the Apple Watch. Supporting these devices can be as simple as displaying an improved notification or as complicated as having app that can run independently on the watch. Wearable applications should be glanceable and serve as an extension to your mobile app.

Glanceable, Adjective, Understandable at a glance, or with occasional glances, and therefore requiring only minimal attention.

Glanceable is a word that started getting a lot more usage lately, parallel to the accelerating discussion about smartwatch interfaces. The face of a watch has always been glanceable, now everything needs the same simplicity. In some cases, you can improve watch notifications without creating a separate app for the watch. It’s possible that your existing notifications may even work without any changes.

Minimum Wearable Strategy

Android: Bridged Notifications, iOS: Short Look / Long Look Notifications

If you have existing notifications, start here. Test your notifications on a wearable device. Identify areas for improvement. Make changes as necessary.

Things to look out for:

  • Does your app replace existing notifications or do they stack indefinitely? (stacking indefinitely is a bad watch experience!)
  • Does your text fit on the screen?
  • Does it match your brand?

What you get:

  • Notification with title, text, background and icon
  • Ability to communicate back to the phone with simple actions
  • Optionally, add stacked notifications or big text (expandable) notifications



  • Low cost
  • Minimal changes to existing code
  • Easy to test (QA)
  • Leverages existing UX principles


  • Limited functionality
  • Limited design

Standard Wearable Strategy

Customize layouts and show the user information just when they need it. Use geo-fencing or activity tracking to intelligently display notifications.

What you get:

  • Notifications with custom layouts
  • Ability to send and receive more complex data between the phone and watch



  • Medium cost with high value
  • Additional control over UI
  • Leverage some existing UX patterns


  • Extra QA effort
  • Some limitations to design
  • UX required

Comprehensive Wearable Strategy

Android: Custom Layouts, iOS: WatchKit Apps

Build a full screen wear application that can communicate with the phone or work completely independently of the phone. This is great for sport or fitness apps that may want to track information even if the phone is not present. You can also make stand alone apps like a calculator or compass. With this option, you get all services and functionality available within the wear platform. This option should only be considered if you have a large budget and would like to make wearable devices a core part of your mobile strategy.


  • Highest level of integration
  • Maximum feature set
  • Complete control of UI


  • High cost
  • Requires in depth UX
  • Lengthy QA (lots of integration points to test)

Additional Resources

5G Boldly Going Where No Mobile Has Gone Before

5G: Boldly Going Where No Mobile Has Gone Before

On Friday, October 17th, the Federal Communications Commission released a Notice of Inquiry regarding the “use of spectrum bands above 24 gHz for mobile radio services.” The dry language of the notice is deceptive: we think this might be one of the most significant documents in the history of mobile technology.

“Use of spectrum bands above 24 gHz” is a scientific description of 5G, or fifth generation mobile internet connectivity, and a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) signals the FCC’s intent to, in their own words, “gather facts and information on a particular subject or issue to determine if further action by the FCC is warranted.” NOI’s are issued when large groups of FCC experts believe a certain technology will be transformative, and that the government should prepare for big changes. Last month’s NOI means that the most powerful telecommunications regulatory agency in the world is now taking the previously sci-fi concept of insanely fast 5G mobile internet connectivity very, very seriously.

millimeter waves5G is itself a deceptive term. It makes the emerging network seem like another logical step in the same direction as 3G and 4G networks, like an update to an operating system. In fact, 5G represents a radical break from the principles of 3G and 4G, and will usher in a whole new register of mobile connectivity.

While most connectivity currently operates at 3 GHz, 5G technology will use high frequency “millimeter waves” to supplement main data plans. High frequency waves have been disregarded in the past for two reasons, at first because they couldn’t handle heavy phone signals, and later because high frequency waves have short range and weak penetration, making it difficult to send data through physical barriers like walls and floors. These challenge have since been surmounted by Samsung’s recently-patented invention of “beat forming,” which enables millimeter waves to bounce off and around an obstacle, rather than sink into it, until they ricochet into their target. The FCC and industry experts claim that beat forming will replace the “line of sight” between a phone and a tower that is required to move data on lower frequency networks.

It’s hard to exaggerate just how fast 5G would be. The network would carry data about 200 times faster than the current best 4G LTE network, or about 1000 times faster than the average American’s Wi-Fi connection with a router by the Washington Post’s estimate. According to Samsung’s projections, on a 5G network, an 800-megabyte movie could be downloaded in a mere second. Down the road, the FCC estimates that a developed 5G network could carry as much as 10 gigabits per second—that’s fast enough to move all the data on whatever device you might be reading this on in a few seconds, and it’s 10 times faster than the fastest hard-wired fiber optic networks today. Bottom line: 5G wouldn’t just be faster than your internet connection; it would be faster than pretty much any internet connection ever.

5g speed
An even bigger impact of 5G, though, will be its capacity to support a whole new range of mobile technologies. Internet-connected objects—the “Internet of Things”—will require that networks handle many more “users,” since every object would require its own connection. 5G could make this possible, since the current volume of Internet usage is far below 5G’s threshold capacity. The full development of the Internet of Things would also require better integrated, outdoor, and urban networks, and 5G research indicates that millimeter waves are much more reliable here too. When Samsung tested a 28 GHz model, the experimenters stationed the transmitter in in an 11 story concrete building and moved the receiver around at 8 kilometers per hour, to simulate an urban runner. The test demonstrated a capacity of 512 megabits per second with negligible errors, compared to 4G LTE, which can provide a maximum of 75 megabits per second under the same conditions.

5G would also further new mobile technologies by saving substantial battery power. Email, for example, which relies on a constant back-and-forth of tiny signals when accessed from a mobile device, is much more efficiently handled by millimeter waves than the lower frequency waves currently employed. Better battery life would let more devices roam further for longer, and support the integration of mobile technology into a host of new devices. As Tod Sizer, vice president of the Wireless Research Program at Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs, told Business Insider, “We do believe that in the future every person will have 10 to 100 machines they need to work for them.”


The world of 5G is still a ways off—it’s not expected to become widely available until at least 2020—but what happens in the next few years will be huge, and even the FCC is letting the excitement show. In making her presentation about the NOI to the House Communications and Technology Panel on Capitol Hill, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel borrowed a phrase from Buzz Lightyear: “[The world is] moving from networks designed for analog voice to networks designed for high-speed digital data… So how do we meet these demands? We look up. Way, way, up. To infinity and beyond.”

At MentorMate, that seemingly boring NOI has our hearts aflutter, and we’re just as excited as Ms. Rosenworcel to see a 5G network live long and prosper. In the coming months, we’ll boldly go where no mobile solutions company has gone before, digging into what 5G development will mean for our industry and our own creative process.