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Is B2B the new frontier for app development?

Jun 3, 2015

No matter what you’re looking for these days, as the saying goes ‘there’s an app for that’.

The world is awash with a huge variety of apps designed for a multitude of different purposes, from Candy Crush to an app that allows you to pop virtual pimples.

Given the sheer volume of app development that has already occurred, the consumer market is already pretty saturated – recent research revealed at least half of developers make less than $500 US per app per month.

But despite this – and perhaps because of this – a bold new frontier has opened for developers in the B2B commercial arena.

Driven by the evolution of the API and the need to open new markets, developers have unearthed exciting new opportunities for the creation of B2B or enterprise apps. The use of data streams from one system to enrich streams from others is helping to meet the call for greater efficiency in business processes.

The emergence of APIs

For the uninitiated, an application programming interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications, essentially something that allows one piece of software to speak to another, sharing useful data.

Amazon is credited as one of the early innovators that set the tone for the current state of play by opening up its Store API. This revolutionised online retail, as smaller businesses were able to sell and deliver merchandise without needing to develop their own standalone e-commerce system.

Similarly, the shift in perception and use of APIs is revolutionising the use of software in our everyday lives, particularly in the cloud, transforming the internet from a network of distinct, individual pages to an ecosystem of interconnected applications communicating via open APIs.

Revolutionising the world of work

In short, the internet of things is allowing us to automate an increasing number of daily tasks, breaking down traditional barriers and providing an unprecedented level of intelligence and insight.

To use an example from the fleet management and telematics industry, integration with TomTom Telematics’ WEBFLEET platform allows mobile workers to complete all of their daily tasks via an app on a single, customisable tablet-style device.

Vehicle checks are made via the device, with results instantly communicated to the back office, daily workflow is loaded onto the device and navigation provided to each job. Automatic texts can be sent to customers advising them of arrival time and proof of delivery obtained by using the app’s signature capture functionality or by scanning with the device’s in-built camera or NFC chip.

Once jobs are completed, status is updated in the back-office system, along with daily mileage records and worker hours, eliminating the need for laborious record-keeping processes.

All of this is only possible through the power of APIs, allowing developers to create bolt-on solutions that further enhance the functionality of existing technology.

The power of platform

This has led to a situation where businesses such as Mendix, Salesforce and, more recently in the fleet management space, TomTom Telematics have evolved from mere technology providers to platform as a service (PaaS) companies, with ecosystems of partner developers. These companies provide the core technological infrastructure but allow developers to apply their specific expertise to add further layers of functionality.

As a result, technological platforms can be tailored to suit a multitude of purposes and offer specific solutions for a variety of different industries.

In the fleet industry, change is already occurring. For example, WEBFLEET’s API allows other software applications to access the most accurate real-time traffic information, historic journey times and up-to-date ETAs for any route.

Access to this data enables transport business to benefit from more dynamic planning and scheduling, while home delivery firms can better communicate delivery times to customers. In the case of transport, planning is further enhanced by remaining driving time information, which keeps management notified of driver hours in line with tachograph and European working time legislation.

But despite the limitless possibilities for smarter working, B2B apps remain a largely untapped market. A VisionMobile survey conducted last year found just 16 per cent of app developers are focused on enterprises, so golden opportunities abound for developers who act now.

To find out more about the opportunities available in the creation of new business apps using fleet management data, contact Communicate Better to discuss the opportunities.

Source: Tomtom Telematics blog.

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