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Why you should sometimes choose a Progressive Web App

What do you do if you need a mobile app, but you don’t want to have to deal with limitations and restrictions imposed by App Store and Play Store?

Watts Up With That, a major climate website, wanted their own mobile app, but they were concerned their app might face app store approval difficulties due to the USA’s highly polarised political environment.

The solution was a progressive web app – an app which provides a similar user experience as an App Store or Play Store app, which can be installed just like a normal app on your mobile device home page, but which bypasses the normal mobile app store approval process.

If web apps are so fantastic, why not make every app a web app?

Progressive Web Apps are significantly slower than native apps, and have difficulty handling large amounts of data and processing images and sound – much like the limitations of an ordinary website.

If the purpose of your app is to provide an index to your website, or a brochure experience, as was the case with Watts Up With That, Progressive Web Apps are potentially a good solution. But if you your app needs to perform more complex actions, such as scrolling through a long social media feed, performing on device calculations, providing a real time game experience, image manipulation, or capturing and uploading large amounts of data, you will encounter the limitations of web apps pretty early in the development process.

If you are concerned your app may encounter publication difficulties, due to your politics or content matter, or if you simply want to explore whether web apps are the right solution for your business or organisation, click the link at the top of the page to get in touch. Desirable Apps does not judge. Providing your organisation is not engaged in illegal activity, we are happy to help you develop and publish your app.

Retro Lighting Detector

What do app developer / internet of things engineers do over Christmas?

In my case I got away from computers for a bit, and created a pure analogue project – a retro lightning detector.

The advantage of an analogue detector like this is it sits quiescent on the edge of triggering, drawing very little power until a lightning bolt is detected. So you can pretty much leave it powered on, changing the batteries once very few months.

Of course, an analogue detector can be used to temporarily wake up a digital system. Although high end microcontrollers use significant amounts of power when awake, most internet of things digital microcontrollers provide a means of putting the device into a deep sleep, waiting for an electronic signal to wake the device temporarily to process the signal.

By taking advantage of mixing sensitive balanced analogue detectors with digital circuits, you can create battery powered internet of things devices with extreme field longevity, which can remain operational for months or years between battery changes.

Next time you have a requirement to create a remote sensing system which is difficult to service, consider contacting Desirable Apps. We offer an end to end vertically integrated service, from Internet of Things sensor design, all the way through to presenting the collected data on a web or mobile app based management console.

Arduino Lifter

Testing a Work in Progress Arduino Linear Actuator Controller

It is surprisingly easy to scale up small microcontrollers to manage serious production systems. In this case an Arduino microcontroller capable of handling milliamps is sending signals via a 12 volt H-Bridge to control a 3 amp linear actuator capable of exerting 150Kg of force. The H-Bridge is a standard configuration of power transistors which allows high power systems to be managed by very low power systems. Linear actuators are like big pistons, able to push or pull objects with enormous force, except instead of a pneumatic or steam piston, this push / pull actuator is completely electronic.

The most surprising part of this assembly is the low cost – all the hardware you see in the picture above or the video below costs less than $50.

In this case the actuator will form part of a robotic system push lifting a heavy load. A second H-Bridge and actuator will complete the system, along with sensors to prevent the linear actuator exceeding its design tolerances, all managed by the microcontroller at the heart of the system.

Before you spend 10s of thousands of dollars on a bespoke electro-mechanical system which comes in a fancy box and does not really do what you want, consider contacting Desirable Apps, to see if there is a better way of fulfilling your electro-mechanical, Internet of Things, mobile app, software or hardware requirements.

3D Chess Board

A True 3D AI Web Based Chess Game

In between creating internet of things prototypes, or writing mobile apps, I love to play a good game of chess.

There are plenty of great chess sites out there. But given my interest, I thought – how can I create my own contribution to the great game?

The result was . With Chess-3d you can play the computer just by visiting the website, or if you want to play a friend, ask them to create an account, then challenge them by logging in and clicking their name in the list of opponents.

You can even message your friends while playing.

I would love to hear from you, if you have any suggestions for how I can improve the site. chess-3d is a work in progress, so if it is down or glitches I’m probably working on something – try again later.

The AI is powered by stockfish. I tried writing my own AI, and it worked to an extent – I may use it in a future screen saver. Writing a basic chess AI is surprisingly easy, and an excellent coding exercise if you are interested in AI. But stockfish is the product of 10s of thousands, possibly millions of hours of effort by a large open source team. In the end I decided there is no need to re-invent the wheel.

I would love to hear from you, if you are fellow chess enthusiast. Let me know what you think. Or challenge “Eric” on, if you fancy your skills as a chess player.

Bluetooth Costs

Bluetooth’s Hidden Costs – What Every IoT Developer Should Know

Bluetooth is a marvellous technology. The world is awash with Bluetooth beacons and other devices. Bluetooth unequivocally offers a technically straightforward path to integrating new bespoke IoT products with a variety of other off the shelf devices.

There is just one catch: The licence fee.

From Guided Imports;

Why Bluetooth Is A Bad Idea For Startup Importers

Bluetooth’s directions online are a bit confusing as they are complex and involve multiple steps. I’ve simplified them below.

  1. Register for as an Adopter Membership – Free
  2. Once you’re a Bluetooth member, you must declare each Bluetooth product to ensure it complies with conditions and qualifications. This must be done so you can use the Bluetooth trademark in advertising and packaging
    1. For existing product designs, use the Declare & List section
    2. New product designs first need to be qualified, tested and then listed
  3. If you’re an Adopter Member, the listing fee per Bluetooth chipset is $8,000. This means, if the same Bluetooth component is used in multiple devices you are selling, this only needs to be paid once.
  4. Once all of this is complete, you are allowed to use Bluetooth word mark and logos on your product and advertising.

Bluetooth SIG now offers an Innovation Incentive Program for small and medium sized businesses. To qualify for this, your business must earn less than one million USD in annual revenue. If you qualify, the listing fee is discounted from $8,000 to $2,500. More information about this can be found on Bluetooth’s website, here.

Read more:

If you have a large budget, an $8000+ annual license fee might not be a substantial obstacle. But an unexpected cost of this magnitude can be a substantial kick for startups, especially if you are not expecting it.

What can you do to avoid this surprise cost?

I asked a contact in the manufacturing world their opinion. His advice was, “We try to avoid using bluetooth. Don’t use bluetooth”.

When developing some classes of product, like trackers which depend on communicating with established Bluetooth devices like iBeacons, it is very difficult to avoid using bluetooth. There are also some circumstances, such as when you are developing a mobile app with no bespoke electronics, where the bluetooth fee may have effectively already been paid – though I strongly advise you to talk to a lawyer if you want to take this position.

That $8000 fee could easily become a $16,000 fee, or even a $24,000 fee, if part way through production you find your chosen Bluetooth silicon chipset is unavailable, and have to switch to a new bluetooth chipset. The world is currently experiencing an ongoing global silicon chip shortage.

The bottom line, if there is any viable alternative to Bluetooth, the best course is to do what my manufacturing contact advised, and avoid the use of Bluetooth.

What are the options?

Many IoT technologies, such as ESP32, which support Bluetooth, also support WiFi. WiFi is more complex than Bluetooth, but you are far less likely to be slammed by difficult to manage license fees.

Many innovative WiFi based approaches to circumventing savage Bluetooth license fees have been developed. Techniques which produce a user experience comparable to a Bluetooth based device, without incurring the Bluetooth tax.

If you would like help with minimising the risk of your product becoming entangled with expensive Bluetooth licensing fees, please contact Desirable Apps. We’re happy to share our learnings in depth with aspiring product developers. And of course, we can help you with other aspects of your product development, right up to connecting you with reliable people who can mass produce your new IoT device.

Field Prototypes

Field Testing Internet of Things

Lots of soldering and electronic assembly happening at Desirable Apps, as one of our internet of things projects moves from prototype to field testing. In the picture is a completed field test device, and the control units for four more partially assembled field test devices.

When completed, the devices will be distributed to volunteers, who will use them in a real world home setting, providing valuable feedback about what adjustments are required to move forward to a production version.

I cannot go into detail about exactly what the devices do, but all of them will be installed at client premises, and used to continuously measure an important metric and report the measurements in realtime straight to a management console. The devices are Heltec ESP32 based, with full WIFI internet connectivity and bluetooth capability. The management console website is a Django Python system, which accepts a constant stream of updates from the field devices, and collates them into a continuously updated management report.

If you would like to know how internet of things can be used to streamline your reporting process, so you can have literally up to the second information about what is happening in key areas of your business, please contact Desirable Apps to discuss your requirements.

Internet of Things – A Child’s Perspective

One of the greatest things about working on Internet of Things projects is the boost it gives to your child’s tech education. My primary school aged child produced this diagram, through watching dad and helping out, gaining an understanding of future technology which will serve well in the future.

What is even better, this child education benefit extends to my clients – the teenage son of one of my best clients is increasingly an active participant in dad’s internet of things projects.

Story City Featured by Startup TNT Investment Summit

$300,000 Startup Finance Interest You? Desirable Apps is proud to congratulate our client Story City for being selected as one of the top five finalists at the TNT Investment Summit II.

From the Startup TNT website;

Startup TNT is a community of entrepreneurs, scientists, investors, innovators and startup supporters that gathers every week to have fun, share stories, and build great companies. Twice a year, we hold a summit to invest in entrepreneurs from our community. 

Join us on Nov. 19, 2020 for a day of fun panels and an evening of real pitches to real investors. We’ll be investing at least $300,000 into two Alberta tech startups.

Read more:

Story City is a Choose Your Own Adventure with a difference. From the Story City website;

Story City makes you the hero of your own story, giving you the chance to take part in an adventure at locations across the world. You can take part in these interactive stories from real-life choose-your-adventures, to puzzle trails, to historic tales across Australia using the Story City App. We’ve also added our first international stories in Brazil and Argentina with more coming every month!

Whether you’re a reader, an adventurer, a traveller, a family, a gamer or maybe even a geocacher, our stories take you to the most interesting locations around the city with adventures created by local creators who know their city best.

The Story City app and adventures are currently FREE to download and enjoy.

Will you explore Brisbane while running from a zombie apocalypse? Or how about cruising the Adelaide streets while solving a mystery? Or will you be pillaging the city looking for pirate supplies? It’s your adventure, so it’s up to you!

Read more:

It is a terrific feeling watching someone we helped achieve such recognition and reward for their effort.

If you would like our help to make your mobile app or software idea a glorious reality, contact Desirable Apps today.

Internet of Things

Desirable Apps customers are increasingly interested in extending the internet beyond the box. The age of affordable internet of things has well and truly arrived. If you have an idea for internet of things, integrating mobile devices and websites with physical remote systems, contact us to discover how we can help you explore this exciting new frontier in business services.

Working hard on iPhone apps and Android Apps

Covid-19 Employment Blues? Start Your Own Software Development Business

I’m writing this in the hope it might help software developers who are thinking of ditching the day job – especially people facing layoffs because of Covid-19.

Up until a decade ago I was a regular IT contractor. I told myself I was running my own business, but I had to get up the same time every workday, turn up to the office, fit in, work the hours. Just like any employee. Don’t get me wrong, I was a good contractor, and still have friends from that time, people I worked with and contract agents I got to know. But it wasn’t really what I wanted.

My dream was to start my own IT company because I wanted more control of my time. If I wanted to attend my kid’s sports game, or spend the day down the beach, or help my wife out with the shopping, I didn’t want to have to ask someone for permission. But I didn’t know how.

Then I saw an advertisement in the paper, someone asking for work from home IT people. Seemed too good to be true, right, like some kind of work from home scam. The guy I met wore sunglasses the whole time. But I was so desperate to try something new, I decided to give it a go.

The offer, to my surprise, was genuine. So I started working from home, for a good commercial rate, writing mobile app software.

But in a sense this was still just a job, although a job with an awesome work environment. So I needed to find a way to get my own business, independently of my business associate.

My wife came to my rescue – she used to be a sales trainer. Her advice “You have to network”.

Find free meet-ups of business people, introduce yourself to everyone, ask about their business, ask what they think of mobile apps.

If they say “I’ve been thinking of writing a mobile app…” BINGO, new potential client. Ask them if they are free next Tuesday, “I’d like to discuss that further, are you free next Tuesday morning at 10am at your office?”, make an appointment, polite “see you then”, move on to the next prospect.

In the meeting, open questions, sales 101 – When, what, who, why, how. Answer any objections, ask what do you think, if they have a budget and run out of reasons to say no, the business is yours. Don’t be pushy, this isn’t some kind of hard sell, the meeting is a discovery, to work out whether you can help the person you are meeting, and whether they can pay you for that help.

Obviously during Covid going out and meeting people is not as simple as it once was. In person works best, but you can also look for meet-up groups which have gone online, providing you can have one on one conversations with participants. Or if your area is safe, you may still be able to find and attend in-person meetings.

I’m still involved in business with the very first person I met, but I have met other business people along the way, some of whom have grown, and provided a lot of work over the years.

The funny thing about small businesses if they get high quality help with their software, sometimes they develop into big businesses. And they remember who helped them achieve that success – providing you keep up the quality, they know where to go when they need a software enhancement. Eventually you hardly have to look for new business at all, you’re too busy helping existing clients.

You don’t have to give up your day job to get started. At the time I got started, I was between contracts. But this is something you can start on the side, providing you can take the occasional morning or afternoon off to attend business meetings. You will know the right time to ditch the day job; when it gets in the way of making money.

Stay safe, and I hope this helps.