For the last year I have been really slow to update a the software titles that many have been looking forward to. The PTMobileTrack software is the reason why. I honestly & firmly believe that the premise behind this service is a genius idea.
Before I get into the particulars of the software, let me go back and describe the anticedents for you. On the afternoon of January 31, 2011 I had driven the hour commute home after the day job. On this particular day there had been a freezing rain that had put an icy coating on every exterior surface in the region. After pulling into my driveway I walked toward the curb to retrieve the trash & recycling bins. At the point where the driveway becomes steeper I slipped on the ice. My left foot shot toward the street while my right foot found purchase against an uneven crack in the cement. It seemed to happen almost instantaneously, like a flash of light. I felt the back of my head bounce on the cement and I swear to you I felt the pinky-side of my right foot touch my right calf.
At the age of 41 this was my first broken bone. I broke the lower end of my fibula which allowed my foot to dislocate and just go wherever gravity felt like letting it wobble. Three days later I was in a cast and looking at being unable to operate a gas pedal for another 6 weeks. Had it been my left foot that had gotten mangled things would have been a lot different.
I used the first week of being home-ridden to start working on Electrist. Got just enough done to feel OK about putting it into a weird public paid-beta that some users have understandably had a negative outlook on. In my defense: I was looking at 6 weeks of doing nothing but fleshing that app out. What happened instead was that a friend of my wife inquired, “Your husband writes software for Android, right?” which quickly led to me signing a contract to write an Android app for someone else. What I thought at the time was about 2 weeks worth of work evolved numerous times. I became more involved in the underlying and overall structure of the product.
So that was my confession to those of you waiting for the vaporous updates to Electrist. They WILL be coming.
Now the full depth of this situation does not elude me: the harmony of the universe used an ice storm to steer me into position to work on a product that tracks storms.
The idea comes from a man who owns a roofing company. I have to give him my highest commendation for not only what I consider to be a brilliant enough idea for me to drop developing my own software titles (as well as most of my evenings and weekends for a year), but for even thinking to undertake this journey into what surely must be foreign territory for someone outside the tech industry. He had the idea, dug deep, and pushed through. There were a whole lot of hiccups and hard decisions being made the whole way through.
To put a beautiful 21st century twist into the middle of it – I have never met the man. There have been at least 4 other people working on various parts of the web interface and back-end whom I have never met nor spoke with outside of email either. These would be my coworkers.
The genius of this product is not that it is a storm tracker. That’s old hat. Tracking storms is really only the foot in the door. The real jewel – and a part of the product that I had absolutely nothing to do with – is that the web application aggregates and mines storm data for certain factors such as hail of a certain size and damaging wind speeds. It geocodes this data so that it can then break it down into physical street addresses.
The real-world application is that web interface allows the boss-man to select areas and assign specific blocks or ranges to his various employees. The guys out in the field will then be able to use their Android devices to log in to get their assignments, walk these addresses, collect data on the damage, make contact with & take notes from homeowners, keep track of all these contacts, schedule tasks, and just generally track generated leads & jobs from initial discovery all the way through the process to the end.