Category Archives: Blog

My first iPhone app – Developers

Developers are in short supply and everyone has the next big thing and wants a developer to join them for free or an equity share. Finding developers is never easy but I planned to pay for them that way you get delivery on time and on budget (well if managed well). I have used and before to hire freelance developers and designers so understood the process and how hit and miss it can be. This time I opted to use because I had worked with a few startups that had used it and found some great people via it.

My general advice is you seem to get good quality developers from Eastern Europe and developers from India & China are a bit more miss than hit. Because of this I filtered the people via location and invited a bunch of people who I thought based on their profile and example work could deliver what I was asking for. This process takes several weeks so don’t expect to signup on day 1 and have a team working for you on day 2. I needed an iOS developer then a backed developer who could write the API, database connect and do the scraping of car data I was going to need.

After a couple of weeks I had Yuriy from the Ukraine who was an iOS developer & Michael who was based in the UK and a php developer. I shared with them the FluidUI mock ups and a trello board with a list of features to be developed.

My first iPhone app – Design phase

First job was to list out a bunch of features I thought the app should have in the first version

– Find Vehicle details (Reg, Make, Model, Colour, Fuel Type, engine size, BHP)
– TAX renewal reminder
– MOT renewal reminder
– Insurance renewal reminder
– Breakdown recovery details (AA, RAC, GreenFlag)

fluidui_mydrivewayNext was to start to produce wireframes for the app. For the wire framing I used FluidUI to map out the various iPhone screens and the user journey through the app. Once in Fluid you can then push it to an iPhone to test it on an actual device, although the backend functionality is not there it massively helps you work out what works and what doesn’t. I was also able to push it to other people’s phones to then peer over their shoulder why they tried things out. Once I was happy with the layout I then shared it with a designer for him to design the individual screens, I was then able to go back and add them to FluidUI so it looked as close to the real thing as possible.

Finding a designer?

I felt that the design of the app was critical to it being adopted and used by users, if it looked good it was going to be much easier to sell. I therefore decided that I wanted to use someone I trusted and could sit with to go over the designs and my vision for the product. Luckily I  new just the chap and we set to work. It only took him a few days to come up with the concept which I loved he then took a few more days to complete all the various screen layouts.

My first iPhone app

I am always having ideas for mobile apps but don’t have the time to learn to code to create one. I also spend lots of time with startups who are creating mobile apps and I have no direct experience of publishing and promoting an app which means I am relying on stuff I have read and stuff I have learn’t second hand. It was time to get some real world experience by building and publishing my own app. I will document my journey via blog posts.

Mobile App Idea?
My idea was a simple one, all car owners have a bunch of things they need to remember to do each year like MOT, TAX, Insure and service the car and lots of people forget. So the app automates reminders for all your cars, you never forget those important things again.

Which Mobile platform to launch on?
First choice was what platform do I build the app for to launch upon. Most startups publish iOS first and Android second with Windows and Blackberry not even a consideration, but when you look at the number of handsets using Android versus iOS there is no comparison, Android has significantly more.

The challenge with Android is that you have over 12,000 different devices to support which makes it almost impossible to test your app across all these devices. The biggest reason people don’t start with Android is that monetization of an app is much simpler on iOS. A Distimo report said that in April 2013, the Google Play vs. iOS app revenue balance stood at 27% to 73%, that is hugely significant.

The other factors that influenced my decision were iOS/iPhone’s are expensive devices and my app was for car owners so my assumption is that more iPhone owners will also be car owners than Android users. The second factor is that I have an iPhone so if I want to test it then it would need to be iOS. Decision made it would be iOS.

Next step was to get the app designed.

Which Baby Monitor

Being a techy with a new born it goes without saying that I would need a gadget riddled baby monitor for our baby. I set about comparing baby monitors to work out which had the best features for the money. We had a bunch of must have features and a few nice to have so that would be our selection criteria.

Baby Monitor Requirements:

Must have

– Audio

– Video

– iPhone/iPad app

– Works on wifi

– Works away from home

Nice to have

– Plays music

– Night light

– Temperature gauge

– Two way voice

Baby Monitor Comparison


Feature BabyPing iBaby Withings Tommy TF550 Foscam FI8910W
Audio Yes Yes  Yes Yes Yes
Video Yes Yes Yes No Yes
iPhone/iPad Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Wifi Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Works away No  No Yes Yes No
Plays music No No  Yes Yes Yes
Night light No No Yes Yes No
Temp Gauge No No Yes Yes No
Two way voice  No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Price £149.99 £129.99 £239.00 £55.00 £64.99


withingsClearly the Withings product looks amazing and is feature packed, but it is £100 more than the other products so you would expect it to be something special. The killer for most of the video enabled products is that because they rely on the wifi to transmit the video they become difficult to move between houses, so a trip to the grandparents would require re-configuring them each time which is less than ideal. The Withings gets around this issue by being able to store 3 wifi networks and if all else fails it can work off of bluetooth.

Looking at this comparison made me think you are paying a lot for video and I wonder how much it will actually get used, what does make sense though is using your phone as the device to receive the audio and video. I can imagine with the likes of the Tommy the receiver will always be in the wrong room, you are sat in the lounge and you left it in the bedroom, you get the picture, where as your phone is always next to you (if you are male at least).

In conclusion if you are willing to pay over £200 you can have everything but if you are not you have to compromise quite considerably, the sensible thing to do would be to buy two a cheap Tommy like device that you can move between houses and buy a BabyPing or iBaby for use at home. Ultimately I know the decision is not mine but the wife’s so I will let you know what we (she) decides.


New Year Resolutions 2013

Last year I had ambitiously set 12 resolutions and achieved 6 out of them and had a stab at the rest. Not really good enough but plenty of excuses could ensue as to why the other 6 were not met but I will save it for someone who cares.

2012 Resolutions

Completed- Get to a fighting weight of 96kg
Failed – Two exercise sessions a week
Completed – Get Urban Coffee to a 500k revenue
Failed – Get Urban Coffee to a 10% Net profit business
Completed – Visit a European capital city
Failed – Take part in an adventure race
Failed – Complete draft of book (although had a chapter published)
Failed – Dress smarter
Completed – Do something for charity
Completed – Eat more fruit
Completed – Be less grumpy (quit my job, that helped)
Failed – Wear more fancy dress

2013 Resolutions

– Get Urban Coffee to 750k revenue
– Visit a European capital city
– Do something for charity
– Learn to code/electronics – Internet of things stylee
– Complete draft of book

Yellow Hackney Carriage

Birmingham should have coloured Taxis

Everyone is familiar with the Black cabs (Hackney Carriage) that we see in London but you may not know that other cities across the UK have decided to dictate the colour of their cabs.

Bristol – Blue Portsmouth – Silver
Derby – Yellow
Durham – White Cabs
Nottingham – Green
Bournemouth – Jamaican yellow
London – Black

That got me wondering why Birmingham doesn’t have a colour and should we have a set colour for all our black cabs, it is within the power of the Council as the licensing authority to force cabbies to change the colour of their cabs. Now based on other cities that have done this the cabbies have not liked it at all which you can kind of understand because they are forced to incur the cost of re-spraying.
However, if you think bigger picture it helps build an identity for a city, think yellow cabs in NewYork.

I think we should do it but what colour?

Lickey Hills

In June last year we moved from the hustle and bustle of Birmingham city centre to the tranquil foothils of the Lickey Hills which is south west of Birmingham but still inside the M42/M5. We have been visting the Lickeys for years both running, walking and picnicing but are still discovering new bits all the time.

The hills had been a royal hunting reserve belonging to the Manor of Bromsgrove. Free public open access began in 1888 when Rednal Hill was bought by the Birmingham Society for the Preservation of Open Space. The Society then presented it to the City of Birmingham in trust. Pinfield Wood and Bilberry Hill were then leased at a nominal rent. Cofton Hill, Lickey Warren and Pinfield Wood were bought in 1920. The final stage in restoring public access to the area was the purchase of the Rose Hill Estate from the Cadbury family in 1923.

The Lickey Hills consist of two parallel ranges with a valley between. The Lickey Hills Country Park of 525 acres (2 km²) belonging to Birmingham City Council and a golf club covers part of the hills. The summits of the Lickey Ridge consist of three hard quartzite hilltops in the higher range – Rose Hill, Beacon Hill and Stock Hill, while the three lower hills are Rednal Hill, Bilberry Hill and Cofton Hill.
If you have not visit the lickey hills then you should, you can get the train to Barnt Green or drive and park at the licky hills visitor centre. The area in perfect for running, walking, mountain biking, orienteering or just a picnic.

New Year Resolutions 2012

– Get to a fighting weight of 96kg
– Two exercise sessions a week
– Get Urban Coffee to a 500k + revenue
– Get Urban Coffee to a 10% Net profit business
– Visit a European capital city
– Take part in an adventure race
– Complete draft of book
– Dress smarter
– Do something for charity
– Eat more fruit
– Be less grumpy
– Wear more fancy dress

The Next Revolution

TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design.

The TEDx program is designed to give communities, organisations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis.

TEDxs are amazing events and its great news that finnally we are having one in Birmingham, why it has taken this long for the second city to run a TEDx event is anyones guess.

The event will take place on the 24th March 2012 and this years theme is The Next Revolution.
More details can be found on the TEDxBrum website

Death of the high street

It wont have escaped many peoples notice with the media covering it almost everyday over christmas but the high street is on the decline. Bricks and Mortor is fast becoming clicks and mortor as more move online.

If I was a betting man I would say anything that can easily be posted to your house will move online and we will be left with a high street that combines those things that need to be tried on or are huge, such as furniture. If this comes true then we can expect HMV, Game, GameStation, PC World and the likes of Waterstones to disappear from our high streets over the next few years.

Download Streaming will kill any of the content providers, we have already seen music retail change and we are pretty much left with just HMV which has been hanging on through games and peripheral sales. Once it becomes normal to download movies, music, books and games these retailers will find their business model broken and the game is up, this day is no more than 12-18 months away.

Mary Portas report into the high street pretty much tell us what we already knew which is its on the decline, on life support and in some towns it has flat lined. I have watched the Birmingham high street shrink over the last 12-months, while the bull ring continues to be strong the rest is suffering. Corporation street has been shrinking and moving closer towards New Street, with only the larger retailers holding out (Gap, Rackams). When a retailer closes they are now often replaced by a cheap retailer (pound shop, baguettes for £1), which just speeds up the decline as any surrounding quality retailer see the footfall decrease and the demographic change.

While I do agree with Portas recommendations I feer little can be or will be done before its too late. I think we need to make high street retail into an experience.