Software Beacons Arrive for FrontDesk on Android

Since the beginning of FrontDesk, we’ve always supported software Beacons within our iOS app.  Apple calls these iBeacons, and they allow your users to automatically check in or out just by carrying their phone within range of the tablet.  Beacons work great for areas where Geofences aren’t accurate enough or small areas where Geofences are overkill.  We sell preconfigured hardware Beacons right on our Simple In/Out Store, but for users with tablets running FrontDesk already, this is a great solution.

Now we’ve brought that same love to the Android version of FrontDesk.  Just like the iOS version, FrontDesk for Android can now act like a Beacon for your users if enabled.  This requires Android hardware running Android 5.0 or greater and the hardware must have a Bluetooth LE (Low Energy) chipset that is enabled by the device manufacturer.

If you’re using FrontDesk for Android, we encourage you to upgrade and give this a try.

Also, here’s a quick update on what’s coming soon to Simple In/Out.  We have 2 major projects that are nearing completion this month:  Project Erin Hills and Project Firestone.  We’re not ready to release details quite yet, but both are new features that have had lots of requests over the years.  In fact, Project Firestone is the most requested feature we’ve had in Simple In/Out history.  Stay tuned!

 

Introducing the Simple In/Out Partner Program

The big announcements for Simple In/Out keep coming in a year that has brought a lot of new features.  Today we’re officially announcing the Simple In/Out Partner Program.  Known internally as Project Deer Run, the Simple In/Out Partner Program allows companies to add their customers and manage their Simple In/Out accounts.  They can add users, Geofences, alter settings, run reports, and more on behalf of their customers.  Their customers get all the capabilities of Simple In/Out with the support and help of their partner.  The partner handles their relationship and billing, with co-branding available.

For as long as we can remember, we’ve been contacted by companies that have wanted to put the power of Simple In/Out to work solving their customers’ problems.  Whether they are MSP, VAR, or whatever acronym you prefer, these are companies that manage solutions for other companies.  Simple In/Out solves so many issues for businesses, we’re a match made in heaven.

There are so many use cases it’s hard to list them all.  Partners managing IT on behalf of companies large and small fit the bill.  If you’re a payroll provider looking for an upgrade to your time keeping, TimeClock and the Partner Program work hand-and-hand.  If you’re a software developer looking to take advantage of the Simple In/Out API to build unique solutions, this is perfect for you.

The Simple In/Out Partner Program officially launches today.  We’d like to thank the partners who have helped us beta test and are already putting Simple In/Out to work for their customers, we couldn’t have done it without you all.

If you’re interested in becoming a Simple In/Out Partner, please contact us today.

Simple In/Out Turns 5!

Today, February 11th, Simple In/Out is officially 5 years old!

It was this date back in 2011 when us founders of Simply Made Apps locked ourselves away for 48 hours to build what would become Simple In/Out.  5 years later, there are still days where it feels a bit surreal.  The man who loves his job never works a day in his life.

As a treat, here are the tweets happening over that first fateful weekend.  We had more than a few chuckles at these around the office this week.

Here’s to the next 5 years!

Tweets from 48 Hour App

Tweets from 48 Hour App

Automatic Updates from WIFI and Linked Companies

February is going to be a huge month for Simple In/Out, and it all starts today with two brand new game-changing features: Automatic Updates via connection to WIFI and Linked Companies.

Automatic Updates from Connection to WIFI

One of Simple In/Out’s pioneering features in 2011 was Geofences, allowing users to automatically sign in and out just by carrying their device.  It’s still among our most popular features.  In 2013 we added support for Beacons, which allow for much smaller areas of automatically check in/out coverage while still being incredibly soft on the user’s phone battery.

Today, we’re proud to launch our third automatic updating feature for Android and Windows Phone.  We call it Networks.  Like Geofences and Beacons, an admin user within the Simple In/Out company adds a WIFI hotspot to the company.  Just like Geofences/Beacons, users can then monitor this Network.  When their phone connects to the Network for internet access, Simple In/Out will check the user in.  When they leave the Network and their phone detects it has disconnected, Simple In/Out will check the user out.  This offers all the advantages of hardware Beacons, but with larger coverage areas and using existing hardware you’re likely to already own and have setup.

We only support Networks within Simple In/Out on Android and Windows Phone.  This also supports automatic updates via the Amazon Fire Phones and BlackBerry via their Android runtimes.  We do NOT support Networks on iOS unfortunately.  This is due to the fact that Apple does not give us the necessary APIs to do so.  We hope that Apple changes this and you better believe if they do, we’ll be among the first to support it.

We believe Networks are a great way to improve the automatic update accuracy for many of our users without needing to purchase Beacon hardware.  We firmly believe that in/out boards should be as automatic as possible, keeping them always up to date.

Linked Companies

The second major announcement is Linked Companies, a great way for large organizations to split their workforce apart for privacy and manageability.  With Linked Companies, organizations can establish a master company that can manage companies underneath it.  The sub-companies behave like stand-alone companies, with all their own users, settings, history, Geofences/Beacons/Networks/Groups etc.  The users in these companies cannot see any of the data in the other companies, yet the master company can view all the companies underneath, manage their users and settings, run reports, etc.

When would Linked Companies make sense?  There are a number of examples:

  1. Franchises that wish to restrict users in one location from seeing users in another location, yet can be managed by one master company.  Think of multiple Starbucks, each with their own sub-company.
  2. Organizations with distinct divisions that require privacy so users can’t see those in the other division while still receiving one bill a month.  Think of municipalities with city auditors, parks district, waste department, vector control, etc.
  3. Large enterprises that wish to hide the oversight personal (like vice presidents) from the rest of the organization while still allowing them to see what’s happening everywhere else.
  4. Companies that want to restrict some users to using TimeClock and hiding history (for punching in) while allowing others to see the history and use Geofences.

Linked Companies receive one monthly bill to the master organization for it and all the sub-companies, and all of the companies below can use whatever plan is necessary to fit their users.  If some companies need Push Notifications and some don’t, you can absolutely do that.

We think Linked Companies open up a lot of great possibilities and more unique use cases for Simple In/Out.

We’re just getting started with an exciting February for Simple In/Out.  We can’t wait to reveal more of the great things we’re working on.

Simple In/Out: Multiple Groups, Phones, and More

Happy New Year from everyone at Simply Made Apps!  We’re going to start 2016 with a new release of Simple In/Out.  Simple In/Out 8.1 brings a couple of big new features we’ve been working on for a while.  Why a while, you may ask?  All these new features needed our brand new API, APIv3, which we use internally as well as offer to the public.

Users can now belong to multiple groups.  This was a big request from many of our large organizations.  This permits slicing and dicing your organization in many different ways at the same time.  Many of our customers use groups for departments, but also for physical locations/branches, special report groups, or board sorting preferences.  Now you can have any/all of these options and more without having to choose just one.  Check out our help video to see the new multiple group editor in action.

Users can have multiple phone numbers.  For our customers using Simple In/Out as a directory, this is awesome.  No more having to sort through your contacts app on your phone when you need a user’s home number because it’s not listed inside Simple In/Out.

Additional user details.  We’ve added a Details field to users as well for extra information.  This can include anything, from job titles, shift information, etc.  For a few of our customers, this additional information is vital to running their business.

Users can upload profile photos right from the apps.  While we added profile photo uploading to simpleinout.com a while ago, we only announced our intention to add this to our phone apps.  Consider that promise kept with this new release.

We’ve also added some improvements for the latest mobile operating systems.  We’ve added support for Force Touch in iOS 9 that came with the iPhone 6s.  We’ve also added support for the new permissions model in Android Marshmallow, so Simple In/Out will only ask for some permissions when you use them, versus the old way of asking for everything we may need when downloading our app from the Play Store.

This is only the beginning, we have a lot in store for the first few months of 2016.  Stay tuned!

 

Free Software Isn’t Free

I was a big booster of Mailbox app. I was on their waiting list almost immediately and Mailbox didn’t disappoint. The ideas of snoozing email and Inbox Zero always matched my mental model for how email should work. When they came out with their Mac app I was elated, though annoyed by the ‘beta’ label.

Then Dropbox purchased them.  Dropbox is itself a great company, so users like me didn’t worry. However, the product languished.  Trouble wasn’t far behind. 

In the wake of the Mailbox app shutdown announced 2 weeks ago, I’m reminded that software that makes our lives easier really should be purchased

We’ve seen this before.  Google Reader’s shutdown left many of us scrambling for alternatives.  Many of those RSS alternatives were long since dead, as it’s hard to compete with free and even harder to compete with a company that can spend you out of business with the money in their couch cushions. 

This has even happened in email clients before. Remember Sparrow?

When you play the free game, your revenue opportunities are limited to advertising or acquisition. Both have high probabilities of bad outcomes for consumers.

When you charge for your app/service, you have every incentive to improve it and make it better. You also have a disincentive to sell your property to someone that may not be interested in maintaining it. 

Want more revenue?  Get more customers. 

Want more customers?  Build a better product. 

It’s really that easy.  Simple In/Out is a great product and we charge for it. Our wonderful customers provide us all the incentive in the world to wake up every day and make Simple In/Out better. They don’t have to fear us turning out the lights to keep ourselves fed. 

Perhaps if we paid for email clients like Mailbox, things would have gone differently. Sure, they’d have had less users.  But, the users they did have would have been better, more passionate users that would have paid them for the service they provided. I know I sure would have.

Simple In/Out APIv3 and Web Hooks: It’s a Brave New World

Happy holidays from everyone here at Simply Made Apps!  Just in time for the end of 2015, we’re proud to announce a couple of major new features for our flagship product Simple In/Out.  These two major new features will enable Simple In/Out to be the base of many new and exciting possibilities.

The first is our new API, APIv3.  While APIv3 offers a lot of great new features, the biggest is that it allows 3rd party developers to add status updates to Simple In/Out!  Our previous public API, APIv2, only allows for read access.  With APIv3, we’re officially deprecating APIv2, which will be deactivated sometime in 2016.

We’ve been hard at work since September to build APIv3, written from the ground up, to support some exciting new features we plan to roll out in the next couple of weeks.  Secretly, we’ve already converted many of our own apps over to APIv3.  For the first time, 3rd party developers will have the opportunity to use the same API we do.

To get access to APIv3, just contact us and we’ll issue you some API keys.

The second announcement is Web Hooks.  Web Hooks allow you to be notified at a URL of your choosing any time a significant event happens within Simple In/Out.  This opens up a new world of potential 3rd party integrations and another exciting platform upon which developers can build things that weren’t possible before.  Our Web Hooks provide a JSON payload that describes what has just happened and do so without the need for OAuth2 (authentication that can be daunting to new developers).  The payload itself is pretty simple to parse, it’s also Slack compatible right out of the gate.

For now, Web Hooks are focused on status changes only.  But, we’ve engineered them in such a way that we can expand them in the future to do a great many additional things depending on developer need.

We can’t wait to see the exciting things that will be built in 2016 by our customers and 3rd parties.  If you’re a Simple In/Out customer or looking to become one, 2016 is shaping up to be quite the year.

Simply Made Apps Hits a Milestone: No More Contract Work

As we near the end of the year, we at Simply Made Apps have been discussing our future.  2015 was a landmark year for us as a company.  We completed a bunch of apps for clients and Simple In/Out has been growing at an incredible rate.

It’s no secret that Simply Made Apps has been bootstrapped from Day 1.  We’ve taken no money to start our company, and we’ve paid the bills by doing contract work for businesses helping them realize their dreams.  It’s been rewarding work, but the tradeoff has been less time then we’d like to focus on our products.

That is about to change.

We’re happy to announce that Simply Made Apps is officially exiting the contract-for-hire business.  From this point forward, we will be solely dedicated to our passion for building powerful yet easy to use software.  We now join the list of organizations (like my personal heroes Basecamp) that began as consultants and transitioned to 100% product companies.

What does this means for our existing Simple In/Out customers?  This means we’ll be spending even more time adding new features and perfecting Simple In/Out.  We have a wonderful roadmap ahead with some exciting new features.  We even have a few surprises in store for this month.  The future of Simple In/Out is bright!

Thanks to all our Simple In/Out customers for making this day possible.  We hope to continue to exceed your expectations in the coming year.

Photo Uploads, Reports, and More

Last weekend and this morning, we’ve added some much-requested new features to Simple In/Out.

Photo Uploading

Last week we shipped photo uploading for user photos.  This works great for organizations that already have staff photos.  It also allows users to use images that don’t come from their social networking profile pages.  Simple In/Out will still support Gravatar as a default for those that might use that service, but photo uploading provides an easier option for those that don’t have a Gravatar.

Starting today, we’re also sharing the photo uploading love with the company by allowing the company to upload a logo for presenting on the Full Screen Mode board.  This has been a request we heard every once and a while over the years and we’re happy to get this done.  In the future, we’ll allow this company logo to also work with Simple In/Out TV.

Full Screen Mode Improvements

Our changes this weekend also bring some improvements to our Full Screen Mode on the web.  While companies can now add their logo and can already change the text and background color, we now allow the user profile images to appear.  It’s optional, available underneath the Settings menu (the gear in the upper-right).  We’ve also allowed for more font sizes if you’re adding custom parameters to the URL.

New Weekly Timeline and Daily Activity Reports

Today we’ve also added two brand new reports to Simple In/Out.

The first, the Weekly Timeline report, is similar to our existing Daily Timeline report.  The difference is that the Weekly Timeline report can only be run for a single user and it displays that user’s timeline chart over the course of a week instead of a single day.  This is incredibly helpful when trying to get the bigger picture on a user’s activity over the course of time.

The second is our new Daily Activity report.  This report displays all the status changes across an entire organization/group for a given day.  These statuses are listed for the day in chronological order, serving almost as an activity feed or a sign in/out sheet.

Both of these reports are fully exportable, like all our reports, so you can take this data to your favorite spreadsheet if you wish.


 

We hope you enjoy these changes.  We have some big new features coming soon with our next release, which we’re targeting before the end of the year.  Watch this space 🙂

Simple In/Out for Apple TV

Apple TV

When Apple announced the new Apple TV, we were straight-up giddy here at Simply Made Apps.  Both Bill and I have spent years hoping to develop apps for televisions.  There are so many uses, from information display, video, games, etc.  The next few years will be very exciting for consumers the world over.  A massive disruption of television as we know it is coming.

For Simple In/Out, we’ve had Simple In/Out TV available for Android TV for a while now and it’s a great product.  It fits a perfect need, to display your availability to others in common areas.  Today, we’re announcing Simple In/Out TV for Apple TV, which will be available on Apple TV launch day this Friday.

Simple In/Out TV is a companion app for the Simple In/Out family.  Display all your Simple In/Out users, statuses, and groups via your television.  Simple In/Out TV automatically updates, scrolls if necessary, and provides many presentation options to look amazing in your office.  And, like all of our other Simple In/Out apps, Simple In/Out TV is free to download and use with your existing Simple In/Out account.  Or, if you haven’t yet tried Simple In/Out, you can start a 45 day free trial (no credit card required).

You can download Simple In/Out TV via the Apple TV App Store this Friday.