We are entering unchartered territory when it comes to surveillance because of information broadcast from our smartphones even when they're off. Right now, it's the NSA collecting this data, but as computing power gets ever cheaper, it could be your local police or even the store you just entered.
A growing trend: Recycling mobile apps for new business areas
Sometimes modifying an existing product is better than starting from scratch.
That's an idea that recently caught the attention of Bruce Labovitz, the managing director of ADR Software. The company offers its flagship service, Workforce Monitor, to construction companies to help them keep track of the many workers who staff large construction sites.
The monitoring service uses RFID tags, large on-site walk-through RFID readers, and broadband networks to track the constantly changing personnel on construction sites. The monitoring is needed so that contractors can be sure that they have enough workers onsite to get their projects completed on time, and to help them manage their personnel day to day. Tracking personnel also helps construction companies prove they're meeting contract requirements, document safety standards, and meet other legal requirements.
"About 40 to 60 percent of all costs in construction are labor, and labor today is still managed with pencils and clipboards," said Labovitz. "At any time, you can have people from 10 to 30 companies working on your site, with different numbers of people."
It's a solid product. Yet the company is always looking for ways to improve it.
That's where a mobile app aimed at law enforcement got Labovitz thinking. He wondered whether some of its compelling features could be brought over for use in the construction management field.
DragonForce is a law enforcement mobile app from Drakontas Collaboration Tools that allows police officers to know what's happening in a live, dangerous crime scene -- its main feature is live maps that show the location of other officers to prevent friendly fire. DragonForce also includes collaborative whiteboards and situation reports that can be used by the officers during the emergency, as well as text messaging, shared file storage, and reporting capabilities that can be called in after the tense situation is over. It's used by beat cops, SWAT teams, K-9 teams, bomb squads, Hazardous Materials personnel and other emergency responders.
The person who built DragonForce, James Sim, was a childhood friend, and the app got Labovitz thinking -- especially its built-in collaborative tools and its real-time situational awareness features. Those capabilities, he thought, could make Workforce Monitor even more powerful.
"We want to make it more of a tool to add workflow and show productivity of the construction workers," said Labovitz. "That's where the Drakontas tool sounded interesting to me. It's in a law enforcement environment, in a particular situation where a law enforcement team needs to be able to collaborate and simplify the workflow of managing a situation. But it also functions in environments where static infrastructure doesn't necessarily exist, where they don't have to tap into Ethernet or have power," just like a construction site requires.
"It would be interesting for construction workers to be able to use such tools to collaborate with an architect in one place and a builder in another place, getting them together to avoid delays."
It turns out that most IT departments no longer want to buy, install, and run software on their own servers, and the ancillary benefits of the cloud -- like easier mobile access for workforces that combine full-time employees and contractors -- seal the deal.
Adding to a string of announcements aimed at making its service more appealing to businesses, Dropbox this morning said that Dell will start selling the service to its customers.
The battle over which platform delivers the best location and context services to mobile users is already underway with Google in the lead, but Apple's purchase of mapping startups and social analytics firm Topsy, combined with its Bluetooth-based iBeacons could give Apple a strong chance.
Box is experiencing some good times these days with new features, new funding and a high profile CEO, but Box has to be careful as it grows to say true to its root and not fall into the trap becoming just another enterprise software company.