Monday, 15 October 2012

New project

After few months of consideration and 10 weeks of hard-core development our new project is up and running. Express Analysis is a set of online tools for financial analysts, shareholders, business owners and other smart people with affection to numbers and economics.

There are two of us behind this project. One is very talented analyst with an MBA and dozen of other diplomas (only kidding :) Another one is technical man with almost clinical desire to run his own successful business one day.

So we started with very simple idea: what if put all our knowledge and experience together? What can we achieve?

Well, you can achieve many things. You can broader your horizon and get unique experience you might not get otherwise. Certainly you can become very rich overnight. Nobody can.

At the moment 3 different services are available in English and Russian: Financial Analysis (IFRS), Capital Investment Analysis and Analysis of Financial Investments. 2 more still to come in next few weeks.

If it sounds interesting to you, please try it out. If you have a question drop us an email at

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Appointment Management System

I am in the middle of work crisis here so I visit some free lance websites. On one of them I saw a task to create an appointment booking solution. That triggered something in my head and soon I came up with following idea.

Let's assume you have a small business and you even have a website. And you are working alone. Working with people. And you can handle only one customer at a time. Without proper organisation you might end up with situation when at some point you have more client than you can handle and at others none clients at all.

The easiest solution is to hire an assistant who will manage your schedule. Of course, you need to accommodate that extra person in your office, not saying that you should pay for her/his services.

Is there any other way to solve this problem? Luckily there is. Imagine that you have assistant working 24x7 and it only cost you £10 to £50 per month. You might say that is not possible. It is All you need to do is create an account in Appointment Management System (AMS), create slots (they could be recurrent). And that it!

Than you can integrate AMS into your website using API or even use ready to use jQuery widget if you are not picky.

Now image that you are running small business with several employee. It could be anything from B&B to Garage. And you need to manage slots for several professionals. Let's consider simple example. 5 employees, 5 slots per day for each. During a week we need to manage 5 x 5 x 5 = 125 slots, e.g. 125 clients.

It looks like hell of a lot of work. But it is not. Yes, you need to create slots and assigned employee to each of them. But you can delegate making appointments and notification of the clients to the system.

Clients can do to your website, pick a date, time and even a person or simple find nearest available slot and make an appointment. You, as business runner, will get notification, so does the person new appointment was assigned to.

If you do not have your own website, you can use AMS portal to manage slots and appointments. We even can create customised web page for you for symbolic fee.

The all above is simple and obvious. But what about innovations, technologies and algorithms? As a service AMS can provide some unique capabilities. For example, there is change in resource availability. So you need to reorganise slots, update appointments and notify all client about changes. System can do this in mania, semi-auto or full auto mode. Notification for the client can, or rather should, contains confirmation mechanism like confirmation link. If client agrees with new appointment details he/she needs to click on that link. Otherwise the status of the appointment will remain unconfirmed. You can provide your clients with an option to book new appointment.

Cancelling an appointment could be optional for client. Sometimes clients have to call you to cancel.

Now let's talk about business model. If we assume that find a hundred clients to run system like this we will need about £2,000 per month. To make things going we can try to charge £50 per client per month. That will give us £5,000. Or we can introduce progressive rate. It is not fare to charge the same fee company with 2 employees and other with 20 employees. It is clear that they will generate different load for AMS.

Now, when I am writing this, I realised that this is not a bad idea. I might give it a try later on. If use proper technology this can be implemented in a month time. Which is not bad. Technology wise I am thinking about Sencha for web part and Java and Guice and PostgreSql for server side.

The application can be hosted in Amazon EC2 or even on my own home server. Thank to BT infinity the incoming and out coming speed is more than enough.

So all in all, one month of development and £500 running cost per month and you will have functional service for small business. Another area for improvement integrations into other applications like Google Calendar, Facebook, Twitter.

Also to make even more viable there is a room for mobile version as well. I am not sure about native application for iOS and Android but writing a mobile web version totally make sense. Again Sencha is a good candidate for that.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Parking lot App

Currently I am living in London's suburb but I travel to London a lot. Mostly by car. According to statistics there are about 11 million people live in Greater London. If assume that a half of them own a car we end up with 5.5 million cars.

Some of them use car every day others just occasionally. So if drive to London during the day you can use only paid parkings. And there are few mobile apps which do a good job by providing information about available street and NCP parkings.

Central part of the city divided into several boroughs and each has its own regulations regarding using single yellow line and times when you can park on it. They are so called parking zones. Most apps also provide this sort of information.

And that is very cool. Because such information is really handy but it also publicly available. So this is nothing exclusive in any of those apps.

There are a few area not covered by any of those apps, though. For example, there a few place without yellow line so you can park there any time. Their number is constantly decreasing. Also none of the apps shows you where you can find single yellow line and park there. So if do not know well you currently driving to it may take a while you to find an available spot.

Also let's consider following scenario which is not that rare, especially in Friday evenings. You are stack in traffic near Hammersmith but you need to go to Piccadilly. It would be much faster to leave the car at Hammersmith and take a tube. In that case  there a few opportunities for you. The obvious one is a car park under Hammersmith shopping centre. It is well known and nicely located that is why possibility to find available space there at this time of the day is very low. However this is another car park just 2 blocks away. It is less popular and cheaper as well. Of course, existing apps will provide you with that kind of information but they will not tell you how likely to find a free slot there. Again this information is not available but it can rally help desperate drivers.

Another advantage could be information about single yellow lines in near by as I mentioned above. In some places restrictions are in action until 8.30 pm but there is possible that just block away there are not such restrictions at this time.

Again this kind of information is not available so it should be collected manually. It's a huge chunk of work. But the good news not all places are equally popular. Usually those are near train stations, parks, shopping malls and big office centres.

And of course you can sell this exclusive information. There are a few business models you can use for this app. The obvious one is to make two versions free light one and paid premium one. In this case app should be native and sold via App Store. Or you can sell subscription (daily, monthly, annual) and in this case the app can be either native or web.

Basically this idea is not about app per say but about exclusive information, ways to collect and sell it. Mobile app is only one possibility to monetize the idea. Also you can make the information available through an API and sell subscription for it. Or you can come up with some location based services on top of that information and sell those services to clients or other developers.

At this point the most difficult part is to evaluate the cost of gathering, updating and maintaining such data base in long run. From my own experience, development and operational expenses would be a small fraction of that cost.

Nevertheless, it is not impossible. And I have not abandoned this idea completely. So may be later I will give it a try.

Maybe I am too optimistic here but the market for the app is local but not small. Let's assume that only 1% of all London's driver would need such up. That is 55 thousand already. Subscription fee in £0.10 per month is £5 500. Not bad, huh? Of course, you will need to spend half of that money to keep the data base up to date.

The nature of information is dynamic, boroughs keep changing them all the time so you will need regular updates either as add ons to native app or as subscriber to web app.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Petrol Price Indicator App

Here is new idea for today. This is also mobile app for drivers and motor enthusiasts. As I mentioned yesterday, I prefer particular type of petrol for my car as I did a little research and found out that performance of the car significantly depends on quality of fuel.

There are a few petrol stations of that particular brand in 5 mile radius but the tricky part is the price differs at almost all of them. So you can save 5-7 % depending on capacity of your tank.

So idea for new application or additional function for BMW's app could be petrol price indicator. You specify what brand and type of fuel you prefer and the app shows you the best deal based on optional criteria (distance, minimal price, additional facilities, etc.).

The real problem is prices are change all the time. I am not sure about during the day but overnight most certainly. So how are we going to collect actual prices?

Long time ago, when I was working for one small start-up in Kyiv, Ukraine, we experimented with different types of real-time information and ways it could be conveyed to the end users. We provided market analytics on daily and weekly basis as well as graphical informers. To collect information we had a dedicated person who rung up banks, petrol stations.

That was straightforward approach and it will not work for our app but there is still a solution. We can provide and web UI for companies interested in promoting they prices. Of course, that might diversion from one station with higher price to one with the lowest one and that might cause a drop in revenue. But the most important part it will take away a traffic from another brand's stations.

Another way to collect the data is rely on information submitted by drivers themselves. Of course, this approach is less reliable but it could work.

I am sure there are other possibilities to benefit form such app for Oil companies. For example, keeping loyal customers and extending customer base by luring in people who looking for cheaper petrol prices or nearest petrol station or something like that.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Mobile app for BMW's customers

Here it goes. I have being a loyal BMW customer for many years now. From time to time I need to go to my local dealer to service my car or cary regular checks before long journey. Sometimes they event send my some brochures or leaflets about new events they are hosing or new hot deals etc.

So I was thinking. Who is typical BMW customer in this country? He or she is probably successful young (middle 30s) professional or respectful elderly people. Most likely all of them or at least significant part have some sort of mobile communicator or smartphone as they are called this days. So why not create an app for them?
The first thing is motivation or reasoning for that. BMW is a car manufacturer. But for majority of their clients it is much more than that. Of course, loyalty rate of their customers probably not as high as for VW, especially Golf community, but it is still impressive. For example, I own my second BMW and my next car would be its more powerful sister.

Having that app in place creates direct channel between the company and the client. You can you use it as marketing tool from company's side and as useful something from user point of view. For example, the app can notify about coming service, featured events of hot deals as well as provide services like user consumption stats including price per mile for different kind of petrol customer has used recently etc. These pieces of functionality are very easy to implement and you always extend them.

Of course, such project is not just developing mobile app for a few popular platforms (at least iOS and Android). It also requires back end infrastructure and that is more expensive and complex task.

So why are benefits for the company? Keeping connection with all current customers is important but not sufficient to invest reasonable amount in project like this. Having such in place the company can solve the main marking problem - extending customer base and exposure to potential new customers. It is not as straight forward as with social networks but can be even more effective.

Let's assume that you can collect anonymous data from the client's apps about preferences in petrol. For example, I like Shell V-Power very much. Long time ago I preferred petrol from Sainsbury's. It was cheaper and I was satisfied with car performance. So let's assume that 15% of customers prefer V-Power. Than BMW can start some parter program with Shell. It has many of them around the world.

Now consider yourself as, let's say, Audi's driver who also likes V-Power. One day you notices poster which promises some goodies to BMW owners on you local petrol station. That might trigger some train of thoughts in you mind and later you might think about getting a try to new BMW rival rather than old good Audi.

I know that make sense, I have experienced that many times with different things.

Now about partner's programs. BMW has lots of them including being sponsor of Olympic Games in London in 2012. How about another app specifically devoted to the London 2012? You can put detailed information about all sport's events, optimal ways of travel between venues (including maps and train schedules). Also such app can provide handy information about hotels, cafes, pubs, sightseeing, and other stuff visitors can find useful. You can engage local business and you can event generate some profit out of this app if you do your marketing right.

Back to business

I was off for a while but now I am back and I am going to continue using this blog to promote my company - Solutions Spring Ltd.

Basically there are many things we can do, most of them is about designing and implementing complex information systems.
I have many ideas of my own and they just are seating there and waiting for the right time.

That is not right, so I have decided to let them go.

Besides, I am not sure that I will be able to implement all of them.
I will publish my ideas about products or services which can be useful to some people or organisations. They are free. So if you like any of them and feel that you can do it, off you go. And good luck!

I am going to start with the most recent idea which came to my mind during a walk around Rickmansworth in north-west Greater London. Yes, sometimes ideas come and go in very strange places and circumstances.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Regexp for UK Post Code

Recently was looking UK Post Code RegExp. Found it on StackOverflow. It turned out that there was official regexp published by UK government. Isn't that amassing? :)