Taco Bell, Scanlife and Viafo launch ScanSocial SXSW 2012!

Greetings from Austin, Texas! It has been an exciting couple of days here at SXSW, great people, parties and new products. SXSW is all about networking and to help attendees network more easily, and win a few prizes, Viafo has teamed with Taco Bell and Scanlife to launch ScanSocial SXSW 2012.

ScanSocial SXSW 2012 provides SXSW Interactive participants a new and fun way to network and connect with fellow SXSW attendees.  By simply pointing their Smart Phone browser to participants log in, using their Twitter profile, and immediately receive their own unique Scanlife QR code, tied directly to their Twitter account.  

Here is how is the way it works:

1)  Scan the ScanSocial Official QR code to enter or go to from your mobile device.

2)  Enter your Twitter login and you will automatically get your own QR Code badge that links to your Twitter profile (thanks to world of API’s!)

3)   When people scan your code, they will be an instant follower and you start racking up points

More followers = more points = more prizes!

Daily prizes will be awarded to people in Austin with the highest number of followers and you can get bonus points by following others and tweeting from the game. Daily prizes include a package of a $20 Taco Bell gift card, a $50 cash gift cards and getting tweeted by @tacobell to 170K followers!   The Grand Prize winner with the most points for the week will win  4 tickets to the Closing Night Party at the Hype Hotel on March 17, 2012.

Daily winners will get announced from the 12th to the 17th.

The leaderboard will be updated real time so get started now, and start collecting your followers!

ScanSocial is powered by Scanlife and the Viafo Services Gateway.  ScanSocial is powered by Scanlife and Viafo.  Scanlife powers intelligent QR Code campaigns for hundreds of brands around the world. It includes a complete set of API's to create and track dynamic experiences plus an SDK to convert any mobile app into a barcode scanning machine! 

Viafo's Services Gateway is the most comprehensive App-Services integration solution on the market. By adding just a few lines of code, your existing Apps will be deeply integrated with all the major services - Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Ren-Ren, Tumblr and more - and you can add and manage services from the cloud without ever having to update your apps. 

Hello Austin!

2012 is off to busy start. Highlights include CES in Las Vegas, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and the Beta launch of the Viafo Services Gateway.  There are now 10 Viafo powered 10 apps in the market. Currently we are in Austin, Texas for SXSW Interactive. Check back with us next week, or follow us on Twitter #Viafo, as we will be announcing more news shortly.


New App Using Viafo: TVPyx

Another new app just went live in the Windows Phone Marketplace, TVPyx is a TV Guide application for the United Kingdom which integrates a full range of social networking functionality through our gateway.  If you want to interact with the Twitter stream for a show that you're watching or want to watch, it's there at your fingertips.

TVPyx uses our new Native Windows Phone integration code which is available on Github.

Viafo Comes Second at Nokia Hackathon

Viafo came second in the Nokia World Hackathon for the launch of the Lumia range of Windows Phones.  Our entry, Blood Sprint ( is aimed at helping Blood Donation Services and Blood Donors connect via a simple to use mobile app and web service.

True to our company mission, to make apps better, we integrated a wide range of social and location functions into the app to make it a fun and viral solution.

For more information, check out this interview we gave Nokia.

You can also download the app for your Windows Phone device here:

API Market is getting big

You don't have to take our word for it, how about this article:

Basically, there's a lot of movement in the space that we're focusing on.  Hopefully we'll be able to give you more insight into that next week, with the launch of Viafo Labs, our services arm, and videos showing how effective our Gateway is at enabling social networking services in your apps.

Welcome Google Plus AND yet more reasons why you should be using Viafo...

I will admit to being slightly taken aback by how quickly I've seen Google+ go from something that arrived in my inbox, to something that I'm using more than Facebook and where I already have a non-trivial part of my social graph on already.

And this highlights I think, the need for our gateway.  Here's a new social network, it's rapidly growing, but it's by no means a sure thing that it's going to be a success.  So, what a sane mobile or similar developer would do would be to wait.  Of course, by waiting you might miss out on a new service or a new feature or a new way of interacting with your users.  So should you really wait?

Then again, if you're on iPhone there's a built in wait for you anyway.  You're not going to have Google Plus integrated instantly.

Whereas, with our gateway, the moment that we get access to the Google Plus API then you'd have access through the same set of APIs you're using to talk to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and LinkedIn - now, doesn't that make sense?

We're looking forward to welcoming Google Plus into the fold.

Developer Product Launched!

Well, let's be clear, the Alpha interface for developers building HTML5 apps got launched at the WIP Connector "Muther" event last weekend at the Computer History Museum.

You can try it out at our developer site:

The UI isn't quite ready yet and we've some features to add.  But our reference apps, like "Kittens!" will get you on the way.

The winner of our $500 prize for the best app using Viafo's Gateway, Wombat Mobile's DVD Collector, was quite clear that this was the easiest way to add social and location features to an app that they had come across.  It took about an hour to integrate and get Facebook working and then Twitter just worked to!

That's what we planned from the start, and it's awesome to see it working like that.

What is ROI for a Mobile App?

I was on a panel on monetizing mobile  at CTIA last week and somebody asked the following question:

"How do I justify the ROI on my mobile spend?"

This is actually something we've come across quite a few times now.  Mobile application spends are currently much lower than they need to be.  At the same panel Christian Lindholm of Fjord complained that companies were routinely trying to get apps built on a shoestring when a comparable design project should have a budget of at least $250,000.  The reason for the difference was put starkly by the CEO of Newser last year when he remarked that they hadn't see the return that justified building a mobile app in the first place.

My response at the panel, and my response now, is that this is exactly the wrong way to be looking at mobile, and this is exactly the wrong time to be trying to work out these numbers.

My first point is simple: mobile apps are here, but they're new.  Asking what your ROI on your mobile app is going to be is rather like asking what the ROI would be on your website in 1998/99 - the fact it you don't know.  But if you don't have something, you've a hole in your marketing strategy.

My second point is more complex and really at the heart of this issue.  People aren't sure what mobile can be yet, but we are getting a really good idea about what it shouldn't be.

Mobile apps are not mobile web sites, and they're certainly not web sites circa 1999 when it was, even then, barely, acceptable to stick some brochure-ware up and call it a site.  In our brand app survey which we're working on at the moment, we're seeing some of the largest brands in the world, ones who have stunning TV, Print and Web campaigns building the most embarrassing apps possible.

The mobile device is unique in how personal it is as a means of accessing data and information.  The web browser, described the other day by Sencha's Developer Guru, James Pearce, as our generation's "Box Radio", is an impersonal "window" onto information.  For most people their phone, especially their Smartphone is an extension of their personality - they have the things they want right where they want them.  They also have access to their friends, their social networks, location information and a host of other things too. 

Consider watching TV.  While the rise of the DVR is impacting how we watch TV, the nature of Twitter is going to save scheduled TV for years to come.  Twitter is the water cooler of the modern age, except you don't have to wait until the next day to discuss what Flynn did on Glee, when you're already following the stream, interacting with  new friends and following new people on the #glee twitter feed. 

The marketing possibilities for the TV companies then become enormous.  That feed and that conversation should be part of your app experience; eyeballs on that feed, should be a part of your app, and the traffic from that app should be fed directly back to you either to come up with new ways to watch - i.e. delivering the best and most interesting of the feeds onto the show in real time, or by creating a social feed later for fans to watch again and follow the conversation they may have missed.

The ROI isn't about the app itself, it's about the opportunity cost of having those eyeballs and fans interacting with your show, brand, organization OUTSIDE of the app experience itself.

Anything else is a wasted opportunity.

Is your app relevant?

We've been saying for a long time that Interactive Features are what make apps relevant.  But you don't need to take our word for it.  Dick Costolo said the same thing at Mobile World Congress in his Keynote, and comScore said as much last year.

We're in the process of working on and then releasing a survey we've conducted of the leading brand apps and how they use interactive media, which has led to a lot of thought here at Viafo about how brands and consumer facing applications are making use of Social, Location and other web services.  Naturally, our goal with this is to get people using our Gateway to make it easier to manage and control these services, but without giving our conclusions away, I did want to outline some things that we believe everybody should have in their mind as they're getting apps created for them.

1. Social Networking is core to most people's use of the web.  comScore found last year that Social Networking on Mobile was the fastest growing use of mobile applications.  So why is it that many, many apps aren't taking advantage of something core to most peoples' lives?

  •  It's not about sharing that they have an app - who cares?
  • It IS about sharing that something in the app interests them - a feature of a car, a new dress, a type of bag - make it easy for users to share that across multiple networks, sure, make sure that it is tagged as coming from YOUR app, but people want to read about interesting things
  • You're spending a small fortune on your social presence?  You've got people full time on Twitter and Facebook managing your tags, @messages and wall - are you sharing these into your mobile app?  If not, why not?
  • If a user posts from your app, do you know about it right away?  If not, why not?

2. Location

  • Location is much, much more than "Where's my nearest…"
  • Are you using location to deliver coupons and offers?
  • Are you letting users Check-In to their favorite check-in service from inside the app?
  • Are you letting users share their thoughts on where they are and what they're doing?

3. Uploading

  • Can users easily share images of your product?  Are you running contests for them?

4. Protecting your brand

  • Are you letting people share from inside your app and sending that straight to the web?
  • Do youhave any control over what people are saying and how?  If not why not?

Obviously, this is a slightly loaded set of questions because they're all core to what Viafo's Gateway does.  But if you sit back and think about it, are you really taking full advantage of the power of social and location services?

While our goal is to get the Gateway in use with as many people as possible, we're also happy to help people understand the impact on their retail and brand experience.  So do feel free to drop me a line:


Twitter Needs Viafo...

We were pleased to see Dick Costello trumpeting the need for our solution at his speech last week.

Surfice to say, we're 100% behind Dick in this.  The point of social networking, location and other web services is that they should be an integral part of the app you're using and not something you have to go somewhere else to do.

I hope we're going to be able to meet with Twitter soon to pitch our vision.

Meet Viafo - New Year, New Look

As some of the more observant of the few readers we have will have noticed, we've got a new look.  It comes with our new focus for us around the Viafo Services Gateway.  Over the last year we've been out listening to developers and customers about their real needs and challenges, and looking at the technology that they need to help them with their work.

Key to the Services Gateway is the ability for application and solution developers to make it easy to add all the web services that you need to make your apps relevent and useful to your customers, without having to learn, manage or maintain all the different APIs.

We're currently working with a small number of lead partners in a private Beta and taking on new partners as we can.  Our goal is to open this up to general developers in the very near future.

It's been an exciting year, and we're looking forward to our second year by providing our gateway services to a wide range of developers, solution providers, platforms and brands.


First Solution Live on Nokia OVI

Our travel app demonstrator, powered by the great TripIt API went live this week on the OVI store.  If you have a Nokia Touch Based device which can run QT apps then please give it a go.  We'll be adding some new functionality to it shortly, but this will handle your trips, hotels, flights and car hire information, plus give you access to your TripIt social network and Twitter.

This is our first demonstrator of our technology integrating services to Nokia handsets and also delivering content into the app, which is a basic Web App wrapped in Nokia's QT.

We have several more in the pipeline.


Racing to the End of Our First Year

It's hard to believe it's been a full year as Viafo.  It's certainly been an interesting one, and I wanted to recount some of the business highlights of the last 12 months.

  • Delivering to our first customer, Alcatel Lucent, for Mobile World Congress
  • Being part of the first set of Bada Apps delivery for Samsung
  • Seeing huge download growth in Bada
  • Forming a partnership with TripIt
  • Delivering our first solutions to Nokia
  • Getting focused on our full strategy

It's been a hard year but looking forward to 2011 we've so many exciting things happening that it's hard to know where to start.

But more on that later...

Coming soon to Nokia

It's been a busy month here, after our win at the Amazon Funding Universe event, we were asked to pitch at the Open Angel Forum event here in Seattle.  It was another great evening, and watch this space for news about it.  Sadly the Poker Game was more than a little rich for this start up...

We've also closed some new customers.  The most public we can discuss is with our good friends at Nokia where we're working on creating a travel app for them based on our partner, TripIt's services, and also we'll be delivering our News Application, ViaNewz, to the OVI store for QT enabled devices.

We're also working hard on our own partner program to enable 3rd parties to use our backend server system for their own apps.  More on that later!


Yesterday we headed down the hill to the new Amazon complex in South Lake Union here in currently sunny Seattle and took part in the Crowd Pitch run by Funded Universe.  It was our first pitch with our refined pitch which is that we make mobile solutions easy.

To cut to the chase, we won.  It came as something of a surprise to us but a big thanks to all the people out there who voted for Viafo, and also to the judges, Andy Sack of Founders Co-Op, Tim Porter of Madronna, Jeff Barr of Amazon and Bob Crimmins of i-Med Exchange.  We've already had some contacts from potential investors and it's certainly fired up the team here.

Thank you all again and a final thank you to the guys from Funding Universe for putting it all together.

Viafo at Samsung Innovator

There's a nice piece on us over at the Samsung Innovator site.  It's been quite a ride working to get apps into the store for the launch of the Bada OS, and it's been a fun one.  We're getting amazing downloads from very little marketing and I'd suggest that anybody planning an app strategy would be mistaken to rule out the Bada OS, even if it hasn't arrived in the USA yet.

Here's the article.

The Challenge of Retail

As I mentioned a few months ago, the problem of building interesting Retail Solutions isn't going away, in fact, if this article from Advertising Age is to be believed, it's becoming a serious issue for all marketing departments.

This is great news from our perspective as more and more potential clients realize that mobile isn't just about getting content out on the device, but figuring out what you do with it when it gets there.  We've been putting a lot of thought into this over the last few months and we're close to releasing a Case Study on our findings, where we'll consider how any modern retail strategy needs to have a Tripod of supporting online services.

The three legs of the tripod are:

  • Conventional Web
  • Social Networking Tracking
  • Mobile Delivery

The issue isn't having all 3 of these, I think that most retailers now have that, or are aiming to.  But how you connect them.  Users with web access want what they look at to seamless sync with their phones, you want users to interact with Social Networks from your web and mobile properties and be able to easily track what they're doing and you want your apps to maximize your penetration into geographies and markets, and, ideally have a location component.

At the moment, only Viafo have a simple solution for this, in my next post I'll aim to talk about that more too.

Much Going On...

I did actually collect a series of blog posts to keep up a degree of continuity up here.  But there's a lot of things going on at the moment and one of those things is the re-design of the website.

Of the things going on that I will be writing about shortly, the list contains:

  • Our thoughts on Bada from Samsung
  • Nokia's strategy and direction
  • CTIA Events
  • More thoughts on retail mobile solutions

We've also launched a number of apps and I'll be posting on this later.

Does it have the GBs and the Wifis?

There's an amusing video doing the rounds on YouTube.  It has a fictional user going into a fictional phone store to buy an iPhone 4, the store, having none, suggests a HTC EVO, there ensues much hilarity with the iPhone user wanting to have nothing but an iPhone, even if, as the store person suggests, the HTC can grant you every wish you'll ever have including an iPhone 4?

We come across this a lot and part of that is a dirty secret of ours, which is, at the moment, we still haven't finished our iPhone port.  There's a reason for that, we're doing better business on other, non-iPhone platforms, and there are elements of the iPhone App Store process that concern me.  For a start, I'm not convinced that I could get the pentagram and goat's blood out of the office floor while we get our test certificates for development devices.

iPhone is a fantastically successful consumer device, but just as Oranges are not the only fruit, Apples are not the only smartphone and as I've said before, consumer electronic trends can be very fickle.

We're just delivering our first work on the new Samsung Bada platform.  It's not been terribly widely publicized, especially in the US, but Bada is the core operating system that Samsung have developed to replace their Real Time Operating System Smartphones.  The Wave, the first Bada device, is a slick handset, nice form factor, 8MB camera, SD card slot music, a nice OLED display which also runs applications which you can buy on the phone.

They went on sale in June in the UK on Vodafone, and Italy on TIM - since then they've sold over 1 Million units.

Yes, that's right, in their first month they sold a million units in two markets.  Ultimately Samsung state they want half their phone shipments to be Bada phones - that's something in the region of 80M units a year, or twice the number of iPhones and iPod Touch units sold SO FAR.

They're also cheap.  In the UK, the Wave is free on a contract.

So who is going to get these phones?  Well, teenagers, less phone savvy people who don't want to spring $200 for a new phone and so on.  But they're almost certainly going to be buying and using apps, especially Brand Related ones.  So my question always becomes, after I've been asked about the iPhone, who are you actually targeting with your application?  Because if you're building one because you think you need one, you're doing it for the wrong reasons.

At the TechCafe2.0 lunch yesterday, the Ben Huh made a great point about not really caring about their market size, because it was so enormous it really didn't make a lot of sense to measure it in a dollars or users way.  I'd make the same argument about the Mobile Market - how big is it?

Well, there's now 5 billion mobile phone users in the world, and thanks to stuff like Bada, in a few years, it'll be the main way that most of them access the internet, especially outside of the US and Western Europe.  So, if you want to think about what the market for your mobile service should be - look at the web, think about web enabled TVs, add in those 5 billion mobile users and think to yourself - why am I so focused on a few million users of the iPhone?