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We Need A Manx App For That

It has become a common cry in the boardroom and Marketing department. The “App” is ubiquitous, our gateway to customer engagement on mobile platforms, so what is an App, and where can you get one?

An App, simply, is a program built to be used on a mobile computer - a smartphone or tablet. It can be standalone or front-end. The standalone App is self-contained and can be used without a data connection, whereas the front-end App is a tool to interact with information stored elsewhere. A game such as Angry Birds, or a tourist reference guide will typically be stand-alone. Apps used for news, stock-market prices, e-shopping etc. will get information from a ‘back-end’ server and need a data connection.


Then there is the matter of a platform - do you want an App for an Apple device (iOS), or Android, or a Blackberry or Windows smartphone? Each platform is different and will require a dedicated program, but some Apps can be developed using cross-platform tools which make creating multiple versions easier.

Clearly the simple App is far from being as simple as you might imagine, but if you want one where do you get it? Developing Apps is a specialism, much like developing software for Windows or Apple computers, so the answer is simple - go to a specialist. I recently sought out some App developers on the Isle of Man and found that App development is an area where small firms create a big footprint.

Fuzzelogic, led by Zak Hoosen, was founded on the island in 2007 and specialises in mobile App development. With a head office in Douglas and 10 staff, some off-island due to the IT skills shortage, Fuzzelogic is one of the few companies able to develop for all of Blackberry, Apple iOS, Android and Windows phones and tablets. Whilst it’s not a name you will hear often, most of Fuzzelogic’s work is for other brands, they have a big impact. One Fuzzelogic App customer is a major FTSE listed retailer, a Fuzzelogic App achieved almost 500,000 unique downloads in its first week, one was featured by Blackberry in Amsterdam at the official launch of the new Blackberry platform - these are big endorsements for a small Isle of Man firm. Unsurprisingly about 80% of their business comes from off-island, they epitomise the government’s Vision 2020 aspiration of growing a thriving, export driven ICT sector.

Fuzzelogic have experience developing a wide range of apps for personal productivity, health, well-being and fitness, community information, reporting and business intelligence, and m-commerce / mobile shopping for both web stores and traditional bricks & mortar retailers. They’re currently working on mobile technologies to distribute educational material and course work to students in Africa, and they’re one of the first firms using the new iBeacon technology to provide information based on in-building location - whether that be retail in-store product data and special offers, “where am I” navigation, or museum exhibit information.

Red Robot Studios is led by Andrew Gleave and was founded in 2008. Andrew was one of the winners of the Isle of Man Grand Challenge last year and would probably not describe Red Robot as an App developer, but the reality is that Apps are a big part of Red Robot’s output. Almost all of their work is engineered to be used on Android, iOS and Web. Around 75% of Red Robot’s business is off-island, and again there are some big customers. One of Red Robot’s systems is used across Canadian schools to monitor and support the Early Learning development of c. 200,000 children. A South American government is also looking to implement the system based on its success in Canada. Red Robot produced the Apps and system for the Open Elm Project - the Isle of Man’s pioneering crowdsourcing initiative to monitor Dutch Elm disease, which has recently also been rolled out in South East England as a joint venture between a UK conservation charity and UK County Councils.

Most of Red Robot’s work is more commercial. In 2010 the team developed the first iteration of the App-based T-Dispatch system used by taxi operators, drivers and customers across the world to connect passengers with cabs - the taxi driver’s answer to Uber. On island they have developed apps for marketing agencies and telcos, but the team enjoy pushing the boundaries for themselves and amongst others have developed Flipmaps which provides iPhone users with a simple way to bookmark and share places and comment on their experiences there, and the Ronaldsway App which, available on both iOS and Android, is popular on island because it gives live arrival and departure information.

There are other App developers on island, and sadly I can’t list them all, but Fuzzelogic and Red Robot Studios both illustrate that small Isle of Man software companies are a great place to start looking if you want Apps developed by credible professionals used to doing big things in the mobile world.

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