Review: Apps to Expand Smart Phone Communication Beyond Calls and Texts
A smart phone’s novel features can sometimes distract from its original function: to provide instant communication with the outside world. Cell phones are now standard issue for all auditors, and the interactive communication functions of smart phones offer new opportunities during home energy visits. Auditors with smartphones aren’t limited to calls, texts, or emails; they can use them to show clients their findings and recommendations.
Video: Video adds a dimension to the home visit. Smart phones with front and rear facing cameras enable videoconferencing. Free apps like Skype and Vtok let you connect to other phones, tablets, and computers over the 3G network. This enables field staff to video consultate with remote expertise, reinforcing support. Skype requires that both parties have Skype accounts; Vtok uses Google Talk and so requires Gmail accounts.
Ustream can broadcast video footage live over the internet. The Ustream site can store video for later viewing, opening up the possibility of using field visits for training or consultation. The app also broadcasts audio voiceover recordings. Viewers can leave comments, enabling two-way interaction via text messaging. Ustream is a free app and a Ustream account is also free, but a Ustream account is not necessary to access the videos. Coach's Eye ($4.99) also allows you to add audio and visual commentary and could also be used to create instructional training videos by annotating in-field video.
Presentations: When meeting with homeowners to persuade them about the benefits of investing in energy savings investments, any added emotional benefit might influence their decision. The iPad is a great way to present information and can also create a huge “wow” factor at client meetings. Keynote belongs the iWork suite. Apple created a Keynote app ($9.99) for the iPhone and iPad that allows you to create and edit presentations on an iPhone or iPad. It also shares Keynote presentations with any Mac computer, so you can to give professional presentations at client meetings and import and export Powerpoint slides. You can also use PDF files as slide shows. Free e-book reader apps such as Kindle, Nook, and iBooks all allow you to read PDF files. Adobe, creator of the PDF format, offers a free Adobe Reader app to view and interact with PDF files.
Data display and demonstration: The free Roambi Analytics data visualizer app takes data from Excel spreadsheets and lets you view tables and charts on an iPhone or iPad. The app allows you to interact with and compare graphs, and can effectively present and display data to the homeowner. A number of YouTube and Vimeo videos produced by utilities, Federal and State energy offices, non-profits, ESCOs and other interested individuals address home energy issues. The YouTube and Vimeo tablet apps help you deliver information and create a just-in-time learning opportunity for the homeowner.
Finally, the free FLIR IR Viewer app is a great resource to teach homeowners about building heat loss. The app is intended for use with FLIR’s wifi-enabled IR cameras but also includes a collection of IR scans that allows you to present examples of building flaws. With this library, you can show the homeowner examples of situations similar to his or her own, providing compelling reasons to invest in energy upgrades. You can even use the app to interact with the photos and display the actual temperatures shown on the infrared scans. Even if you don’t have an IR camera, the app allows you to benefit from the IR scans’ marketing benefits and to educate your client.
Contributing Author: Anna Jursik
Apps developed by: Skype © 2003 - 2012 Skype Limited, Patents Pending; Vtok © SkyMobius, Inc; Ustream © Ustream.tv, Inc; Coach's Eye © 2011 TechSmith Corporation; Keynote © 2010 - 2012 Apple Inc.; Kindle © 2011 Amazon.com, Inc.; NOOK © 2010 Barnesandnoble.com llc.; iBooks © 2012 Apple Inc.; Adoble Reader © 1993-2011 Adobe Systems Incorporated; Roambi Analytics Visualizer © 2009-2011 MeLLmo Inc.; FLIR IR Viewer © 2011, FLIR Systems, Inc.