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Sunday, February 28, 2010

State Farm's Impressive Mobile Apps

State Farm has done a great job of leveraging mobile technology recently. They have put together a couple of great iPhone apps that go beyond traditional marketing, and offer an interesting glimpse into how businesses can leverage mobile devices.

Their first app, the Pocket Agent is full of good useful info. The feature I think is the most useful is the one you don't want to ever have to use. If you're in an accident, you need to capture as much information as possible to assist with (among other things) any claims you might need to make. It's good to gather this info right away, and their iPhone app allows you to do this easily. They've even updated the app a couple of weeks ago to add enhancements to their “Submit a Claim” functionality, including:
o Draw the Scene
o Other claimants and vehicles
o Describe the Scene
o Offline access to documenting an accident

Their second app, Steer Clear, is more targeted toward educating young drivers - and verifying that they are doing the right things. As they say,
The Steer Clear® Mobile app is part of a comprehensive program that helps young drivers reinforce positive driving behavior and stay aware of hazards on the road.
I find this app to be a very smart move for State Farm. First of all, they are targeting young drivers who are more likely to be mobile-savvy, and therefore might appreciate that they can lower their insurance costs by following the app.

Second, they've built in some great verification tools that allow State Farm to validate whether the driver is actually following through with the trip logs, training and education. Of course, it's not a perfect solution - you can probably figure out how to say you're doing something and not actually do so - but it's a great attempt.

Here's a video showing what they're up to.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

HTML5 Storage and Analytics

One of the more powerful features in HTML5 is the ability to store data locally via the browser. Of course, browsers have had this functionality for a long time via cookies, but the HTML5 spec extends this concept even further, solving some additional web site use cases, and opening the door for the rapidly emerging mobile world.

There are two mechanisms defined in the web storage spec: sessionstorage and localstorage. Sessionstorage allows for session-specific data to be stored, which can be helpful for maintaining state information that you may not want to extend into another visit. This even applies to sessions from the same visitor, within different tabs of the same browser. This is a better solution than cookies for scenarios where you want to keep transactions separate from one another. The spec notes this use case:
"For example, a user could be buying plane tickets in two different windows, using the same site. If the site used cookies to keep track of which ticket the user was buying, then as the user clicked from page to page in both windows, the ticket currently being purchased would "leak" from one window to the other, potentially causing the user to buy two tickets for the same flight without really noticing."
The localstorage mechanism, on the other hand, persists across sessions and visits.

How much storage?
The spec currently suggests a limit of 5MB per origin (domain) for this new storage. This may change as the spec continues to be revised. At 5MB, it's certainly much larger than the limit on cookies today.

There's a decent sized section of the spec that speaks to "user tracking". There's clearly a strong concern about how this storage mechanism could be used to build user profiles and potentially track personal information. It looks like the working group developing this spec is taking privacy concerns very seriously, and are building in good safeguards.

Some thoughts
This storage would have been a great mechanism to have many years ago, but I'm not sure we were really ready for it. I think we've learned a lot over the years about privacy, and protecting personally identifiable information, and the time is much better now for such power.

The possibilities with this storage mechanism are fantastic. Google has already been making use of this functionality to help improve its apps. Apple has been a strong supporter of advancing the HTML5 spec in general.

But the rise of mobile computing has really made this mechanism important. Some very smart folks are already figuring out how to leverage localstorage to build apps that behave like a native app (eg, an iPhone or Android app), but are actually running in a browser. Check out Nextstop on your mobile device to see an example of what I mean. By pre-fetching and storing content, the experience becomes extremely rich when moving from view to view. It's quite amazing to experience it.

The Analytics connection
Analytics providers like Webtrends can obviously make use of the localstorage mechanism in creative ways. But the real thought-leadership will come with providing new analysis of usage of the storage functionality so website owners can better optimize their sites. More good opportunities for analytics providers and practitioners!


webtrends reinvigorate analytics