Using Artificial Intelligence for Emergency Management Services

There is a rise in the number of natural disasters happening all over the world. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, there were 16 natural disasters in 2017. The cost of all the damages is in the billions. The amount of destruction they cause is devastating and it has left many of us wondering what more can be done. Unfortunately, we don’t have control over what nature decides to do but we can work on improving our emergency management services. This is especially true for disaster-prone areas.

This doesn’t just have to do with natural disasters either. There are disasters caused by us humans as well. The amount of shootings has grown substantially. According to the FBI, 2017 has the highest number of people killed by shooters. With the amount of technology out there, there are ways we can improve disaster relief. There are tools like Artificial Intelligence, IoT, and blockchain. They all increase the intelligence and effectiveness of our emergency systems.

The increase in disasters has put a huge strain on our emergency and relief services. These new technological options will help automate many different aspects providing better assistance to those affected.

The Predictions In an emergency situation, AI can not only predict but also evaluate what needs to be done. This streamlines the response and management processes. This predictive technology uses data pulled from locations, weather, emergency calls and more to help teams determine priority. For example, the use of algorithms can use data from a hurricane to determine what areas are most severe and which can wait. It will identify and isolate various climate patterns to predict a huge cyclone.

Even after the disaster has happened AI informs rescue teams where they should deliver supplies. People tend to move around during a crisis. Rather than showing up to a place where people have already moved away from emergency response teams can go directly to the area where people will end up. The reason they can do this is that AI analyzes their behavior and can see their movement in real-time to determine their destination.

Analysis Before Entry Once a disaster does hit, a response team is assembled and dispatched to help those people. However, before dispatch AI will use images to determine what is damaged, road conditions, water levels, people’s locations, and more. It takes all that data from various locations and places into different damage level categories. It then provides the response team with the list of most severe to least severe so they can provide the right care in the correct places.

AI also has the ability to not only take data from many sources and analyze it but it also recognizes bad data and removes it. The data received ends up being more accurate because the system can determine what is accurate and what is not.

911 Services The amount of distress calls the 911 operators to receive every day is overwhelming. They already have a hard time keeping up with the calls as is, but when a disaster hits the number can be 5x more. Voice calls just can’t keep up with the demand. Now, dispatchers are trying to use machine learning tools to help. Rather than just taking voice calls these tools can take information from not only audio, but also pictures, videos, and text to analyze and determine the threat level.

All this data that gets analyzed is then given to various response teams who can then make an educated decision on what their next mission is. This isn’t going to take over those 911 dispatchers but its definitely helping them help more people than ever before.

AI Technology Advances Although there is still a lot of room for improvement, AI has significantly changed our world. We’re only at the beginning stages of what AI, machine learning, and IoT can do. As of right now, there are emergency responders using various software tools that are currently helping in many ways.

1. Algorithms that can predict what type of disaster might hit, when it will happen, and where the most affected areas will be.

2. Prepare planning modules that simulate those disasters to help responders train so they can be more prepared for real-life situations.

3. Creating a network of all types of responders whether that be first responders, police officers, security teams, and more. This connects all of these people together so that when a disaster hits they can easily find the right responders based on location to make the rescue more efficient.

4. Communicating with people who live in areas where a disaster might hit. The ability to warn people in high-risk areas ahead of time is incredibly useful to help save lives and get people out.

There are many examples where this emergency management services technology has actually worked. During the 2013 earthquake in Pakistan, response services were assisted by AI to successfully make rescue efforts more efficient. During the earthquake in Nepal, the volunteers were able to connect quicker because the system tagged them in pictures and even tweets. Then the AI built a list of the areas that needed help the most to the areas that needed it the least. Those responders went to the most affected areas first helping to save more lives.

In 2015 there was a major earthquake in Chile. The rescue team was actually able to evacuate thousands of people faster then they would have before. The system targeted where responders should go first and then got them deployed very quickly. That resulted in more people getting to safety much faster. The system also sent messages to mobile phones in areas along the coast. These messages were warning people that a Tsunami may hit. Because of those messages, people were able to evacuate beforehand.

What the Internet of Things Can Do The Internet of Things (IoT) has become a very important tool today especially with regards to its predictive capabilities. IoT works with the use of tiny devices planted all over which relate data back to us. The data provided is almost limitless. Imagine a hurricane hitting a major city and not being able to help people because of the severity of the damage or not being able to provide information to the public.

With the use of temperature, water levels, air quality data, and more the decisions about how to deploy rescue teams are more accurate. Weather, medical services, police, traffic, fire-fighters, and more can collect real-time data to help them identify disasters quicker and respond better.

Blockchain Right now the primary sources are AI and IoT but blockchain has some real potential to help in the future. Blockchain is primarily used for Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies but it could be the ultimate output for providing sophisticated and useful data from the connection of every type of department. It would be 1 single system that anybody within emergency management services and response teams can use. Blockchain would then tell each type of department where they need to go and what they need to bring. It also lets them know where every other team will be going and what they will be doing and bringing.

It could track every resource being distributed and reduce the amount of loss and diversion so that everything goes to where it needs to go and everyone is accountable. Although there is still a lot of work to be done with blockchain, emergency teams could definitely benefit from its use and it may be worthwhile to look into.

Other Devices Sensors and drones make us receive very accurate information about the level of damage to land and buildings. Drones make it easier to find people that need to be helped. Instead of rescuers going out in boats or helicopters spending a lot of time searching, drones can scan more areas faster so the teams know exactly where they need to go.

Conclusion The benefits that AI and other technologies provide to those affected by disasters is amazing. Government agencies, volunteers, and any non-government organizations have these tools at their disposal. Not everyone is leveraging this technology yet, but they should be. Using robots, drones, sensors, algorithms, IoT, and blockchain can help responders in many different ways. Soon we will see droves of drones with more sophisticated technology that scan the areas even better than they do now. They will also be able to deliver necessities to people better.

There is no end to what Artifical Intelligence and other technologies can do. Every day it gets better and better. You can help improve these tools as well or even integrate it into your current system. Contact SDI to talk about the details.

Improving predictions to get more people out before a disaster hits and providing even better rescue efforts to save more people are the 2 most important factors. Constantly improving these tools to do that will, in the end, save more lives.

Should You Hire In-House or Outsource Your Development Staff

The choice to hire in-house staff or outsource is not as cut and dry as one might think. There are a lot of factors that determine which option would be better. Cost is obviously a huge factor. Of course, this is the case with any industry. When it comes to hiring a technical team to build a website, custom software, mobile apps or anything else like it, it’s always a struggle to think would it be better just to have my own team or just hire a company to do it for me. Letting someone else do it takes a bit of pressure off for the business owner. Here we will evaluate the pros and cons of both sides to help you make a more educated decision.

Before you make any decision you must determine what the scope of the project(s) is, what your budget is, and when you want it to be completed by.

Why you should outsource

This is really useful for startups that don’t have the funds to hire a whole in-house team. Larger more established businesses usually have more funds and tools to hire and pay who they want. It can be more cost effective and easier to just hire an outside company to build what you need. This is especially true for individuals trying to build and get funding to expand their idea further.

With that being said not all established businesses can hire a whole team either. Especially if they don’t have the expertise to hire the right people or manage the team and project. It can be a lot quicker to hire a company that already has a team ready to create your mobile app, website or software that you need.

Building technology comes with a lot more than just hiring and paying the right people. There may be hosting needs, hardware and/or software the project requires, and other technical pieces that are required that a business never knew or thought about. A development company would know all this since they do it every day and they can take care of everything for you.

Pro’s to outsourcing

a. Great development companies have teams of people that specialize in various aspects of technology so they can do it all for you.

b. The cost savings is pretty large in comparison to hiring people yourself

c. It’s perfect for short-term projects. If you just want a 5-page app created it is definitely much easier and cheaper to outsource

d. You can hire a development company anywhere in the world. You can choose cost-effective companies that do development in countries where the dollar is worth more.

e. The time to interview and train a team vs hiring a team that can start now saves a lot of time

f. Hiring the right company could give you a partner for life. You could have someone that can take care of any problems that arise with very little interaction from you

Outsourcing can free up a lot of your time to focus on tasks that help you build company and brand awareness. That alone is a time-consuming task. Having someone else manage the IT and development tasks takes a lot of pressure off you. The easiest things to outsource are marketing tasks, app development, app design, website development, website design, and of course all the details that also need to be managed within those categories.

This is also a much easier way to find talent that are experts in their field. The right outsourcing partner will be able to provide you with all the services mentioned. You do, however, want to do your due diligence to make sure you are hiring the right team. There are great development companies and there are bad ones. There are questions you will want to ask them and make sure they can answer before you hire them. For example, if you are looking for a great web development company there is a certain list of questions you should ask specifically for that type of development.

Con’s of outsourcing

a. It can be less secure. As mentioned be careful who you hire. Make sure there is an NDA in place and that they make you the full owner and provide you all ownership of the codes.

b. Hiring outside of the country can be a risk. They are not easily accessible and could be fake.

c. The timeline could be a bit longer as companies usually have a structure in place which they follow and you can’t decide or change how they do it.

d. You have less control over the people working on your project and communicating with them usually means meeting at random times due to different time zones.

When to hire in-house

Some companies need to build a product that requires the utmost secrecy. It is usually a rather large project like that of Facebook. If that is the case in-house is the better way to go. It can also be more cost-effective as well. You can also have more control over your team as it would be rather large. Your team will also share your company culture and be right there with you to solve any issues quickly.

If you are wondering how you can find the right team to do this, don’t rely on the internet to find them. The best way to find the right team is through people you know. References tend to yield better results when it comes to finding the best staff.

Call centers are also something that is better in house. Customer service is very important for any business and that service tends to decline when companies outsource. It may take some time to realize it but if you want your companies culture to remain intact then an in-house team is the best way to go. It’s not always the cheapest option but having customers that feel positively about your company/brand can only help you.

Pro’s of in-house

a. You have complete control over the employees you hire.

b. Your employees are more invested in your success. This is especially true if you provide them options for growth which you have the ability to provide them.

c. You can easily access the team. You can meet with them anytime to discuss ideas and brainstorm.

d. In some situations, investors value an in-house team versus an outsourced team. If you’re looking for funding to add more people this is a good selling point.

e. Intellectual Property is more secure

f. Problems can sometimes be fixed quicker since this is their sole job

Businesses can automate some of their activities to not only keep it in-house but also make it more efficient. Some of these tasks include using payment gateways, using accounting tools for bank transactions, AI customer service tools, scheduling tools for social media as well as content for various subjects like email, and ready-made templates to create basic websites and apps.

Con’s of in-house

a. It can be pretty difficult and time-consuming to find qualified talent. References may not be enough and trying to determine who would be the best at the job is very difficult

b. To get great employees you most likely have to pay them a higher salary with a lot of benefits which can become very costly

c. The cost of the interviewing process, then the onboarding process, training, and turnover are incredibly high.

d. Managing the team requires more time and energy since it is your team so there is a lot more responsibility on your end.

Best of both worlds

It’s a bit harder to find but the best solution is having an experienced cost-effective team that works like they are in-house but are actually outsourced. Finding a company that provides you with a dedicated programming team is the best solution. They don’t work on any project other than yours. You have access to that team at any time and can make as many changes as you wish at any time. This may seem too good to be true but it’s not. Although this option is more expensive than hiring them for 1 fixed cost it’s usually less expensive than hiring in-house.

With the right company, they can provide the right resources to match exactly what you need. You can discuss all your needs and they will know exactly what is involved and who should work on it. You will also have a project team leader who you can communicate with at any time. As a customer, you should receive daily work log reports with phone and email conversations with the staff to ensure productivity.

In the end, it’s about figuring out exactly what you excel at and what you don’t. For example, if you are looking to create a new website and all you have is 1 IT person and you know nothing about web development, then its probably a good idea to hire a company who does have the expertise. Of course, your IT person can manage any issues that arise after completion so maintenance can be kept in-house.

Keep in mind the most important factors; cost, experience, and time. This isn’t an easy decision to make so take your time with it. There’s no need to outsource everything and there is no need to have everything done in-house. Finding the right balance is key. Play to your strengths and outsource the rest.

If you are considering outsourcing some of your projects contact Sakshi at sakshi@sdi.la or submit a contact form. We would love to answer any questions you have about getting your project completed.

The Ultimate Guide About Marketing: What to do After Your App Launches

You came up with an awesome idea, you got it built, and you submitted it to the app store. Now, you may be wondering what am I supposed to do now. Your first thought is most likely about marketing and getting the word out there so people will download it. Of course, that is very important but it is not the only thing you should be focused on. App owners that don’t take the following action items seriously quickly realize that their app has been buried amongst a sea of apps never to see the light of day.

There are of course preparations you need to make before your app is submitted. If you are unsure what those preparations then take a look at Part 1 and Part 2 of building a successful app marketing strategy. Keep in mind there the prep work is very important so don’t wait until you’ve submitted your app to the stores to create your materials.

Post Launch Tasks

Do note that launching is not the same as submitting your app. Submitting is simply clicking the submit button in your developer account so that Apple and/or Google can review and approve your app to go on the store. To launch your app means you have a team to fix issues that arise quickly and that your marketing plan is in full swing.

1. Testing

Once your app is live on the store test it. Before you blast everyone with the great news make sure that you, your developers, and any other people you want to use help you test out the app. Even if your app was working perfectly before you submitted, it doesn’t mean it’s working perfectly after submission. Technology isn’t perfect and bugs commonly appear after submission. Take a look and fix any bugs you find.

If you just wander away or go full force into marketing and your app isn’t up to par then it will all be a wasted effort. The first 6 months are crucial. It is important to stay on top of your plans and keep your development team handy to help you with anything you need. Having your app developers continue to maintain your app is key.

2. Purchase app marketing and analytics tools

You need to know everything that happens with your app based on all your efforts. The more information you have the better decisions you can make. If you start doing a bunch of marketing but can’t measure what’s working and what isn’t then what’s the point. You should be well informed about:

a. New user downloads

b. Where downloads are coming from

c. The engagement and retention rates: measure your daily and monthly active users. You should look at 1, 7, and 30-day retention rates

d. What screens they are staying on the most

e. What features they don’t use at all

f. Measure the revenue generated per user and all users together

g. Determine how many users leave the app after a particular time. This is called the churn rate

h. Fix bugs as soon as possible

Also, marketing requires a fair amount of time, so use tools that allow you to simplify your campaigning process. There are a number of tools to help you manage emails to various people and the different templates you should use. The ability to streamline your campaigns so that the efforts on your end are minimal is important if you don’t have a lot of time.

3. Marketing

Once the app is live on the store, you have confirmed it’s working correctly, and all your materials and analytics are set up it’s time to send all the marketing materials out. This can really make or break you. This truly is the #1 challenge of any app owner today. With so much competition it can be difficult to stand out, go viral, and get people to recognize you. It’s now time to send your materials to

a. The email list

b. The press

c. The influencers

d. Friends and family

e. Social connections

Let them know your app is released and include links to the app store, website, and press kit. Have a call to action which makes them want to download your app. Try to be as personable as you can in your marketing, especially when it comes to emails.

Now isn’t the time to be picky about what marketing you think you should and shouldn’t be doing. Many times people get fixated on just writing about 1 main aspect of their app. This is especially true for blogs, social media posts, and other content related to other marketing avenues.

You want to get your message across to as many people as you can. Don’t limit yourself. Let’s use an app that allows you to decorate the interior of your home as an example. There is only so many blogs and posts you can write about when it comes to being able to see what your home will look like before you start buying materials. You have to branch out. Instead of just writing about that one topic there is info that can be written about first-time homeowners, what is the real cost of buying a home, news about the housing market…etc.

Anything to do with the home market, buying a home or even an apartment can be used. It can’t just be about the same subject. Providing people with free information in the same realm is still useful. Sometimes people aren’t thinking about what your app is about but if they read an article about a subject in the same realm and see a point within it about decorating it, it may get them thinking about it. That may seem a little far-fetched but it’s not. Again, why limit yourself. Why tell yourself not to write about it because it’s not 100% about your app. Anyone that has anything to do with your apps subject should be marketed too and then some.

4. Have a solid retention/onboarding process

Your first step is about getting those app downloads but once you do the next goal is to keep them using the app. Having a proper onboarding process can significantly increase your retention rate by 40-60%. You want to show users right away what the best functions are for your app, tell them up front how this will benefit them, and ensure you have a great call to action to get them excited about using the app.

5. Pay attention to your users

Stay up to date on reviews and answer back. Check your emails constantly and answer users questions and concerns. Take those concerns seriously because it can mean a problem that exists which you didn’t realize. This will help determine version 2 of your app. Users appreciate you listening, responding, and taking action when it comes to their concerns. This lends to not only the functional aspects but also the user interface and experience (UI/UX). Your users expect beauty and simplicity. Read their feedback and see what annoys them about the user experience and fix it.

When you release a new update of your app you can update your description to say you’ve listened to your users and have done the following to ensure they truly get the best and that they are being heard.

The moral of this story is once your app is live on the store don’t sit back and wait for people to download your app. It won’t happen without thorough pre-launch planning and post-launch activities. It can’t be stressed enough that the first 6 months are so important, and in order for your app to be competitive in the market you have to work hard at it. If you can’t do it all yourself, ask friends to help and/or hire a professional team like SDI to do it for you. You don’t want all the time you spent creating your app to be a waste, and it won’t be if you do the post-launch activities properly.

Feel free to contact Rob LaPointe at 408.802.2885 or rob@sdi.la if you have any more questions about pre or post-launch activities.

It’s Time to Optimize Your Mobile App to Fit the iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR

Since the day Apple introduced their first iPhone they have become a force in the industry. There is something about Apple that people just can’t get enough of. Even when a new release has unimpressive features people still line up around the block to get it. That mentality doesn’t seem to be changing much at all. Now, with Apple about to release 3 new versions of the iPhone X, it’s time to get your app ready. If you have an app on the market or are about to launch one you should seriously consider updating it to fit the iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR.

Their newest releases are the iPhone XS (pronounced as 10s), XS Max, and XR. The iPhone XS is the same as the iPhone X with regards to screen size. The improvements on the iPhone XS are minimal in comparison to the other 2. The XS Max and XR are quite different than any other iPhone with regards to screen size and many other specs.

The specs in a nutshell

The iPhone XS Max has a 6.5” screen size. The plus size of iPhones is only 5.5”. The XS Max is the largest screen iPhone has ever made. The iPhone X and XS are the same sizes at 5.8”. The width of the XS Max is the same as the plus size phones. The height, however, is longer.

The iPhone XR has a screen size of 6.1” which is in-between the size of the iPhone XS and XS Max. In case you haven’t realized it already, Apple is now giving users 3 phone size options instead of the typical 2 (standard and plus).

App optimization

Due to these size changes, you will need to optimize your app to fit these screens properly. You don’t want functions to be near the home indicator or the camera. Landscape mode is incredibly important especially since the biggest change is the height of the phones. Your app could still look good in portrait mode but landscape mode is a whole other story.

The behavior of the UI split view controller in landscape view has changed for both XS Max and XR. It’s similar to that of portrait mode on the iPad. This is very important to take into account and will need to be addressed for your app upgrade. You may also notice that your content shows up incorrectly on the new screens especially when there is an image with it. Those items along with many other things need to be taken into account.

To give you a better understanding, let’s take images as an example. If you have an app which shows blocks of images, you can still see 3 images across the screen in portrait mode. Instead of seeing 4 images down you may see 5 or 6 which will look perfectly fine on the new iPhones.

However, once you turn your phone into landscape mode, the images may end up being covered by the camera making it look very odd. This has been adjusted for users to be able to view it properly.

That example may not seem like a big enough deal to completely upgrade your app but it is. There are so many variations to that example. Every feature and UI experience will be altered if you do not have your app properly optimized to fit those screens. You will end up losing current users as well as new users dropping off quickly.

Screen resolution

Resolution plays an important role as well. Your app will not look clear on either the XS Max or the XR if it is not upgraded properly. Due to the major changes in resolution, your app will be zoomed in making it blurry.

If your app is heavily focused on 3D touch and/or dual camera features then it’s good to note that the XR doesn’t support 3D touch and dual camera. You will need to make adjustments so that your app still works properly on the XR. The performance with regards to the use of ios 12 is also very important to help it function properly.

Of course with all that being said, if you haven’t updated your app for quite some time, this is the time to do it. With all these new iPhones coming out you don’t want your app to fall flat. Apple does do a pretty good job at making older apps fit the newer devices but this round of releases has changed more than previous updates. If you have already adapted your app to fit the iPhone X then you don’t have to do much except link against ios 12.

If you are in that boat and you know it’s time to upgrade your app, contact an app development company now to get started on the process. There are a lot of details that go into upgrading your app. It can be a pretty quick and simple process or it can be more complex depending on how it was built. Either way, contact a certified developer right away as it’s definitely something you should do.

How AI can improve Logistics and Supply Chain Management

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around a long time and pretty much everyone knows what it is. If you don’t have a clue what it is and/or what it can do, take a look at how it relates to business and how it is changing our world to get a better understanding.

AI has made huge strides in supply chain management especially because that industry, like most, has been heavily dependent on the labor force. Now companies have shifted to making it more automated because it improves speed, accuracy, and efficiency which saves time and money.

Less than 15% of companies say they are incorporating AI algorithms into their logistics system but many are interested in it but just haven’t done it yet. This interest in AI for supply chain software and logistics companies has increased due to the need for a more automated and predictable system.

Although there are many different AI software vendors out there for supply chain management and logistics the complexities and differences from one company to another can render that software incomplete. This is when companies decide to build technology that is specifically tailored to their business needs. This makes it even more efficient than ready-made software.

All you need is the right software development company that understands your specific needs and can build something that with make logistics and the supply chain smooth and efficient. The development team should be able to define clear business used cases to drive the AI development to improve pricing and demand prediction, manage and secure the supplier inventory, transportation management, account for disruptions, and more.

Now, let’s get into the details about AI and how it can positively affect supply chain management.

2 Main categories of AI in supply chain management

There are 2 main types of AI for the supply chain management. Depending on your business 1 may work better than the other or you may need both. Either way, there are advantages to both.

1. Augmentation: Information needs to be gathered from tedious, repetitive tasks to be able to provide outputs. It needs inputs from human interaction to be able to make future predictions. A good example of this is your phone’s personal assistant. It tracks what you do on your phone and then creates inferences based on that for future use.

2. Automation: This requires less human interaction. It can basically do tasks start to finish without input from humans. The robots used in manufacturing plants is a great example as humans don’t physically do anything in the plant. The robots complete everything themselves.

6 Ways AI improves your business

Supply chain management and logistics have seen major changes over the years. These processes will continue to change-making things easier for businesses. Incorporating AI to help manage your business better can have quite a few positive outcomes such as the following:

1. Algorithms are used to analyze very complex data incredibly fast which makes forecasting more accurate.

2. Companies can quickly see what they can improve on in their physical supply chain as well as applications used with the use of Machine Learning.

3. Inventory and operations costs can be reduced by combining both machine learning and other related technologies throughout each stage of operations.

4. By connecting all the networks in the supply chain using AI the transportation costs and supplier risk factors are reduced.

5. Machine learning with the use of IoT sensors and real-time monitoring increases visibility in production, scheduling, compliance patterns, and more.

6. The accuracy of forecasting what products will be in demand and what factors may cause changes in the need for a product has become a huge factor in improving supply.

Real-World Examples

Logistics companies like AG-World are always looking to improve the efficiency of each sector whether that be operations, finance, or inventory management. Like AG-World many companies have repeat customers but also have a pretty large percentage of new one-time transactions. Machine learning has made these one-time transactions a lot simpler than they used to be.

Thomas Fallon, the CEO of Infinera talked about a serious change that was needed within the company because the profit margins tanked within the last couple of years. They have been working on implementing AI specifically focused on the supply chain side that expands through the other sectors of the company. The goal is to use machine learning to improve product delivery, make more accurate delivery date predictions using the data from production lead time variables and logistics performance. This also improves the sales team calls where they can provide more accurate delivery details keeping customer satisfaction high.

You may have heard of the company Target, one of the largest retailers. They have been working on technology that uses a stereoscopic camera to sift through the inventory to help with inventory management accuracy.

Logistics businesses have seen a huge disturbance in delivering goods for relief to victims of natural disasters as well as union/employee strikes. Take the hurricanes in Puerto Rico as an example. If these logistics businesses had the proper AI software they can deliver food, shelter, and other products that are needed much easier.

AI relies on algorithms to find patterns in supply chain and logistics to determine the best course of action to take for each individual situation. The system is constantly learning giving it the ability to make unique changes to determine how to make successful deliveries.

One thing you need to keep in mind when deciding to move forward with these types of advanced machine learning algorithms is the amount of data that will need to be collected. You will need all the data from your resellers, suppliers, distributors, and manufacturers. This is often why it takes time because it’s not easy. Each source will provide their data in a different way so matching everything up is complex.

With that said, AI and machine learning can help improve your logistics and supply chain. Even if you have already incorporated software to help, it can be improved upon. Customization is the best way to go as it will fit your company’s structure like a glove.

If you would like to discuss more about how the different AI implementation strategies can streamline your logistics business then don’t hesitate to contact us.

Everything You Need to Know about A 409A for Investments

Whether you are an investor contemplating what you should invest in or someone looking for investments, you both need to know what a 409A is to help make financial decisions. You may be wondering what a 409A is and why you need it. The simple answer is its used to determine the fair market value of your company’s stock options. If you are a private company this is a very important document so investors can make an informed decision about whether to invest or not. It is also a requirement by law that you have this. It will cause Do keep in mind that the values you see of that stock is not the common price, it is the post-money value based on the preferred price.

1. Why it was created

The IRS created the 409A because there were too many instances where startups lacked the ability to properly price their stock options. It’s required so companies price it correctly before issuing them to their employees.

2. Why it’s needed

Stock options help startups gain and retain employees. Offering this to potential employees gives them something extra to persuade them to join your team. This is important because in the beginning stages of any startup it can be difficult to convince people to take the risk to join your company.

3. What can affect the value

The value depends on the approach you take to appraise the 409A. There are a few different approaches which include the asset approach, income approach, and the market approach.

Asset: The intangible and tangible assets of the company are analyzed. Income: The free cash flow is analyzed to determine what is to be over the next 5 years. Market: Other companies and transactions within the marketplace are compared.

4. How and when do you need to complete this

You can complete the 409A yourself but it is risky to do it this way because there is no protection. It’s obviously the cheapest option but if you make a mistake and the IRS gets involved, you are in serious trouble. If you use a software you may face a similar problem as doing it yourself. Do keep in mind only really early startups (less than $500K in funding, revenue inconsistent, and not within 180 days to an IPO) can use the software.

The best, most secure method is to hire a company to do it for you so you can receive protection in case the IRS comes knocking. These companies know exactly what to show if it comes to this. The whole process of providing your documents to receiving the final report can take about a month. Of course, you can pay extra to get it done faster if you need to.

This is not something you fill out once and you’re done. Startups need to do this every 12 months so that their stock option prices stay correct and current. You also need to complete this every time you enter a new round of funding. Failure to do this will have serious consequences.

5. How this is related to investments

When a startup ventures out to raise capital, it trades money for shares in the company. This provides the investors with some security. This security means that if the company liquidates then the investors are first to get their money back.

Providing investors with these kinds of shares gives them a little bit of say in the company versus common shares which don’t have any say in what the company does. When it comes down to it, all the things that common shareholders don’t have, the preferred shareholders do. Also, the price difference between these 2 differs more in the beginning stages of the startup.

The 409A valuation also determines the strike price for the stocks. This is incredibly important to note because its how the compensation expense is calculated. This adds real value so if it is low then the price of the stock options is lower in cost for the company but more interesting to the stockholders. If you are looking to present this to VC’s then you should understand that they know it’s better for it to be low so keep that in mind when presenting. You will not get any funding if you do not meet the IRC 409A requirements.

6. What can deter investors

When the strike price of the stocks the investors purchase from you end up being a fraction of the investment price, your investors will get very frustrated. You need to take into consideration the potential dollar value (value the startup wants to have at IPO) of the equity you are providing. The investors’ value should be a double-digit multiple of the 409A. Imagine investing in a company with a decent value and then finding out it was overestimated. This can confuse and deter your investors causing serious problems for your company.

Risk factors investors may look at are market saturation. If there is a lot of competition then it can be riskier. However, if it is a more unique product or service then the risk has to do more with product development. They will look at the capital raised and if it is enough to get free cash flow or whether you will break even. The correlation between the market response of the product to its growth prospects is also taken into consideration by investors. If you are already established then it’s more about economics and the profitability of the company. With all that being said, there are many ways to attract investors even if there are risk factors.

7. Top tips to takeaway

a) Keep the value of your 409A low. If the market is really hot, startups/small companies may notice their 409A value is higher.

b) Less experienced investors want employee equity connected to their cost of investment.

c) More experienced investors correlate equity compensation to future returns. Future returns are more important than the beginning numbers.

d) Investor value and 409A’s are not the same things and they are not linked together. Getting investment changes the investment value but not necessarily the 409A value.

e) Increases in your 409A value does have a huge impact. If you think you need to complete a 409A valuation soon, people are more likely to join the company.

Again, remember if you are thinking that your company doesn’t need a 409A valuation, think again. You will be heavily penalized by the IRS. It’s better to do it, plus it has its upsides. Remember, this affects, your entire company and investors. It’s important for everyone to have a clear vision of the value of your options. If you have any questions or need help determining what you need to present to investors contact the team at SDI to help. Email us at team@sdi.la or call us at 408.802.2885.

How To Handle Project Scope Creep When Developing An App

The words “Project Scope Creep” may seem unfamiliar, but it actually happens too often. Project scope creep is the term given to the process of when a project that is initially set with guidelines and rules morphs into a project that bypasses the initial time and money budget.

Many people can tell you tips on how to avoid project scope creep, but avoiding project scope creep isn’t the way to go. As with all team and individual efforts, project scope creep is bound to happen. There’s no way that you or your software developing partner can predict the changes that may happen in the design and development process, and that’s ok.

However, the problem comes when there are so many added functionalities that the basic layout of Version 1 turns into a jumbled mess. Instead of unrealistically trying to avoid project scope creep altogether, let’s take a look at how to handle it when it comes up.

How To Handle Project Scope Creep

1. A Clear Project Vision

At this point, you are at the beginning stages of creating the app. Ensure that your app idea addresses the problem that you want to solve. There are multiple steps to take before you even contact an app development company. Then, when you do reach out make sure they can repeat your idea in their own words so you know that everyone involved in the design and development process understands your vision.

Once you have the exact vision in mind, then you can move onto the technical aspects and features. However, ensure that you talk about these aspects after you and your team have identified the basic functionalities and goals of the app. Don’t start talking about extra features before this step, otherwise, you can easily lead the project astray and end up costing yourself more time, energy, and money from an extended project.

Ask yourself questions like “Who will use this app?” and “what am I trying to achieve with this app?” before you even start the design phase.

2. Tell Them What Inspires You

It helps to tell the developers what you like and dislikes about other apps that are similar to yours. This can help paint a clear picture of your vision and help them avoid inputting any elements you may not want. This is all part of creating an amazing app design.

3. Understand the Scope of Work

After you have clearly defined your purpose for the app, you can move onto creating the scope of work for Version 1.0. The scope of work is an agreement that lists out all the functions and features you want your app to have in version 1.0. Remember that this scope of work applies to only version 1.0. Any additional features that pop up along the way in the design and/or development process will be added to version 2.0. These additional features may come from you or your development partner, but either way, these additions most likely comes with additional time and costs.

4. Setting Expectations Early On

First impressions count. Whether it’s communication a couple times a week or creating project plans and deadlines, the expectations need to be solidified early on in the process. Your developer needs to have knowledge of these types of expectations so they can have a better understanding of procedures and anything that needs to happen on their end.

5. Flexibility and Communication

In every project, there is a high chance that changes from the original plan will occur, so it’s necessary to be flexible. If your app development partner asks you for clarification on something, a chance to meet, or other requests, it’s important to adjust your schedule so that they can learn the important information and move ahead with the process. Being flexible will reduce the time it takes and could even save you from spending more money.

6. Accept Constructive Feedback from Your Partner

When working with an app development company, you should talk about your goals for the app, the features you want, and how you think that you and the team should go about the process. Clearly stating your ideas makes it so much easier for your developing and design partner since it ensures that there isn’t any miscommunication.

However, accepting constructive ideas that your partner gives you is also an important aspect of the entire process. A good app development company should be able to critique your ideas instead of always agreeing with them. They should have the experience and knowledge it takes to create a great functioning app and should know the ways to do so. Take the ideas your development partner is giving you seriously because they know the business and their goal is to help you create a successful app.

7. The Design Phase is Crucial

During the design phase is where project scope creep happens the most. As you see the designs coming in, more ideas also come rushing in. What most people do is request to add them now but don’t take into account the additional time and cost. By the time the development phase starts the project is 3 times bigger than it was before taking the cost way beyond what people intended.

Ideas are great but remember any new ideas you come up with during the design phase should be written down for Version 2.0. If you try to pack everything into Version 1.0 your app will not be delivered on time. Keeping the timeline is very important to the success of your project. Again, a few new things and adjustments isn’t an issue, its part of the normal process but there is a limit.

Project scope creep is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways of handling it. When creating an app, it’s important to have a clear pathway and timeline of each step that needs to be taken. With the help of SDI, you can create your own app without having to worry about project scope creep greatly interfering with your vision. We have the knowledge and expertise to work with you on your app idea and create a complete project timeline to ensure your app is launched with as much care and efficiency as possible.

Interested in developing your own app? Call Sakshi Sharma at 408.621.8481 or email her at sakshi@sdi.la