At around 9am on a very sunny Saturday morning we joined 100 developers and designers at Shoreditch Studios for what was set to be a weekend of great ideas, great people, some serious coding, little sleep and far too much Red Bull! Located under the railway arches, Shoreditch Studios was our home for the next +28hours! 

Isobar Create London (together with O2) is the UK’s first developer event or 'hackathon' that will challenge people to pioneer new and innovative uses of Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. NFC is a technology which has been around for a few years, and one that I personally have been looking forward to the day it becomes common place in our lives. It has the ability to change the way we use our mobile phones to interact with the world around us (as this weekend has demonstrated), however it has been slow to reach the wide market. But as more manufactures add the technology to their new devices, and applications using it become available, its popularity can only grow! 

The Team

We came to the event as a pair of developers from London Metropolitan University:

Myself who has been following NFC technology for a few years and developing for iOS and Android. 

Beatriz Juárez who works in NFC and develops for Android and iOS.

We then teamed up with two designers from the School of Communication Arts 2.0 who we had met on the event Facebook group: 

Imogen Weathered and Tom Evans who are both creatives looking to learn more about what is involved with the design process of creating a mobile application, and working closely with developers. 

Day 1

The morning started with some introductions, and talks from Google, Proxama, Diagio and Isobar showing us the potential of NFC, how its used currently and what they want to achieve from the weekend. 

We entered the event with a very open mind, and although we had a few potential ideas, we sat down as a team and spent the first hour brainstorming some ideas. We soon realised how many different applications NFC can be applied to. Everything from mobile payments, to an alternative to GPS location services. It turned out some of our initial ideas had already been done in one form or another, so we opted for something which seemed fairly unique, and would offer advantages to both the user, and a commercial advantage to the companies involved. 

The idea began as a queueing system, to allow users to reserve a virtual place in the queue with their NFC device, then come back once it was their turn. This quickly progressed into an application for theme parks, which includes a full end-to-end experience for the user, from purchasing their ticket, queueing, and payments whilst at the park. 

We decided to take advantage of the BlueVia API's in order to facilitate the mobile payments required for the user to top-up their virtual wallet. I wont go too much into the application in this blog as there will be more material about this at a later date. 

By around midday the whole room was buzzing with a hive of activity, ideas now starting to become reality with developers hard at work to get their supplied Samsung Galaxy S2's, NFC tags, and readers all communicating. Apart from a few wifi troubles the event was in full swing, throughout the day we were fuelled with Ice Cream from a cart outside, sweets, and catering which wouldn't look out of place in a top hotel. There was even entertainment put on during the evening with instruction on hula-hooping and prizes including galaxy tabs and O2 music tickets for those who did the best.  You could tell that the organisers had really thought hard about how to make this experience excellent for everyone involved. I have been to previous hackathon's but none of them come close to this one.

We made fairly good progress on the first day although we spent a lot of time trying to get a phone to reader communication working, before deciding that the application could do the phone-server communication via the network, and just use tags instead of readers. 

Our design team were working hard but having a few problems of their own with Photoshop not behaving as it should. Considering this was their first experiences producing graphics for a mobile application, once they got the hang of the concept, the android design guidelines and how buttons, 9-patches worked they were away. 

By around midnight there were only a few teams still up and working, so we all decided to head off home for a few hours kip (minus 1hr for daylight savings!) then come back fresh in the morning. 




Day 2

So after what was a very broken 4 hours of sleep; much of it dreaming of code, and planning my presentation. We regrouped for 8am and began the final push to get the app and presentation ready for the 4pm deadline. 

One piece of advice which I have always been told for hackathons, and have even told people myself, is to keep it simple. Our application however had grown to something which was not 
very simple, it involved NFC, payment systems, web services, list views, and lots of screens. An application which I would probably plan to spent over a week developing fully. So while Bea continued on with the NFC work, I began bringing everything together and implementing the BlueVia payment API's. I'd like to say a big thank you to Andres at BlueVia for helping out with implementing this. In the short time we had we were able to get setup with API keys, and have the OAuth working and processing dummy payments for our application. 

We had set ourselves our own deadline of 3pm for the application, and at 3.10pm we did our final code merge and prayed there were no issues. There weren't, we had a working application bar a few small bugs but more than enough time for Bea to fix those while I got the presentation ready. 

Throughout the day Tom and Imogen had been working hard on the illustrations for the presentation. We all knew as a team how this application could change the customers experience, but with just 3 minutes to present and demo, we needed to get this across to the audience and judges in the best way. So I decided to tell a story. A story about Bob, the user, and take everyone on a journey of his day and how he used the application. I had explained to Tom in the morning my plan and the story I was going to tell, and wanted him to illustrate it. What he produced was exactly what I had imagined and it really made the presentation. 

4pm and we were all told to stop. Presentations were collected up, code deployed to phones, and after a quick break to compose ourselves and do a final run through of the presentation we were ready. By this time the lack of sleep and the countless cans of red bull were starting to take affect, I have done presentations before, but nothing quite like the stress of this one, 3 minutes to get across 28hours worth of work and next to no sleep! 

With our presentation put to the back of my mind, I was able to finally see all the great ideas which the other teams had produced. There were apps for sport stadiums, trading contact details, trading card games, gamifying drug taking (legal medications!!), connecting to wifi, interacting with advertising. It just shows what potential NFC has and I'm excited to see applications like this in the future. 

The Prize's

Every application which was presented deserved to win something. But there were set categories and and the full winner list will be available on the isobar site soon. 

Our application was in the Leisure and Entertainment category, and also the BlueVia category. We (team Roller coaster) went on to win the BlueVia category and get KickStarter fund to develop our idea further. When we began the whole process I hoped to learn lots, have fun and maybe walk away with an android tablet or some concert tickets. I never thought for one moment we would go on to win the BlueVia prize. It was so overwhelming as its no longer an app developed for fun at a hackathon, its an app with real commercial potential and hopefully a future. 

We had an amazing time over the weekend, and would like to thank everyone involved in putting on this event. We are now looking forward as a team to where we can go with this application and to the future of NFC. 

Here's some places we have been featured: 


So the sales figures for the Christmas game are in, and I thought it would be good to share our experiences, and reflect on what to do, and what not to do in future. 

This project from the start was pretty rushed to say the least; in about mid November we decided it would be pretty cool to release a Christmas game, obviously we would need to get this submitted to Apple ASAP to make it onto the store before the big day and have a fighting chance of actually making anything from it. So we had the deadline of 1st December for submission. After throwing together a simple game concept we set about making the game, and drafting in a friend with graphic design skills to help us out. 

The actual game its self is fairly simple, we designed two key levels and as we were aiming this at kids we thought keeping it simple would be best. The main work involved with the game went into the graphics design which Alex House did a great job of. This was our one and only expense as he couldn't afford to work for free which was fair enough. Everyone we showed the game to thought it was great (which of course we were likely to hear from friends and family!). So with it all finished and tested we submitted to the app store and went about trying to promote it. 

With this being Christmas we originally looked at this as a great opportunity: lots of new iOS device users = more downloads, right? Well christmas also has a flood of apps onto the app store. So actually getting noticed is no small feat! We tried all the main sites for handing out promo codes, submitting review requests and it became clear the only people who were downloading our app was from word of mouth from friends and family (with the odd random download from others). Whilst I knew it wasn't going to be easy, we hadn't realised it was quite this hard. 

The next strategy was to use some advertising, but with zero budget this wasn't really an option. But I had $75 of free inMobi credit, so created a nice advert for the app, and set it out there. Within 48hours all $75 was gone, but the advert had just under 1 million impressions, and 3,882 clicks! Surely some of those clicks had turned into app downloads!! No... in fact those clicks, generated approximately 2 sales! 


So in total, we generated approximately £25 sales (after Apple deductions). So lessons learned are that it takes a lot more than just putting an app on the App Store to make any money, it requires a lot of promotion and a good marketing strategy. There is still money to be made, but its tough out there and there are some excellent developers who manage to consistently reach the top of the app store. It takes time and a lot of effort to get there. 

Whilst I don't do a huge amount of web development I still try to keep up to date with the latest tech and one which keeps cropping up is jQuery, especially its use for improving the user interface on both full websites and mobile web.

The jQuery UI 1.8 book by Dan Wellman gives an excellent introduction to anyone needing to quickly get to grips with jQuery UI. Like many software development books it is well structured with clear code examples and highlighted warnings, notes, tips and tricks. 

The first chapter begins with an introduction into jQuery and jQuery UI with a brief look at the background of the libraries before going into a step by step guide on how to download and install. The first chapter gives you everything you need to get started with developing using jQuery UI. It is well presented with clear illustrations and explanations of how the library is structured. 

The book then goes on to give a detailed guide on how to use the framework including CSS, Widgets, and just about everything you would need to know about jQuery UI. It is all explained with step by step guides and clear code examples.   After each example there is normally an image showing what the resulting output should look like. Perfect to help you make sure you are on the right track. 

Each chapters from 3 onwards covers in detail a different component or widget from the framework. So this gives you the option of either following the book all the way through, or using it as a reference to lookup how to achieve something  with one of these particular features of the framework. 

Overall this is an excellent book which is beneficial for both beginners of jQuery or those looking for a deeper understanding of what it can offer. 

The book is available from Packt Publishing and on Amazon

Santa game on the App Store

Published 12/8/2011 by Admin

We decided a few weeks ago it would be a good oportunity to release a game aimed at kids for Christmas. So after a few late nights and some help from a graphic designer friend we created "Help my Santa".

This game follows the story of helping Santa pack the right presents into the boxes in the toy factory. There are however some bad elves who are trying to hamper the operation. The next level you have to throw snowballs at the bad elves to stop them from running off with the presents. Once the game is finished you get to enter your name and your Christmas Wish which is posted on the leader board. 

This is available now from the iTunes App Store for iPad, iPhone and iTouch. Get it here! 

Here's some promo codes: 






SVC2UK Appathon 2011

Published 11/14/2011 by Fraser

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I will soon be posting reviews of two new books from Packt Publishing on JQuery. The books "jQuery UI 1.8: The User Interface Library for jQuery" and "Learning jQuery, Third Edition" are available now from

Droidcon 2011

Published 10/28/2011 by Admin in Android | Software Development

So I'm a month into my second term of MSc Mobile Computing and its been a crazy few weeks... 

First off I was lucky enough to be invited to Droidcon 2011 on a student ticket to start the first week back at uni. This was probably the best way to start a term where the main focus was Android development. We spent 2 days attending talks from some of the best in the industry, making connections, and learning things about Android and mobile development in general which would usually take months to find out. 

Day 1 was the barcamp day, which after an opening introduction from the Droidcon guys and a bit of networking with the people around us, everyone was invited to propose a talk they had in mind.

If the audience agreed then it was added to the schedule. There was a great array of topics from how to make money with in-app ad's, to tips on creating the perfect UI.

In the evening the event changed to the Democamp where developers had the opportunity to show off their creations to the rest of the conference. 

Day 2 was the main conference day which was packed full of talks from all areas of the industry. Again some really interesting talks and a good insight into the future of Android. 

For those who weren't able to make droidcon; I would recommend checking out their site, along with the skills matter site as they video all of the presentations from the 2 days and make them available for free. 

iLineup Festival App BETA Tests

Published 8/16/2011 by Admin


Over the last couple of months we have been BETA testing the iLineup iPhone app at a number of live music events with a select group of people to get a real idea of how it performs. 

The feedback so far has been extremely positive, with some good feature suggestions and bug reports we have then been able to produce updates to further improve the app. 

I am keen to make sure that the first version we release to the public is as polished as possible. 

Full details about the app can be found Here

OK, So here's an update of my first experiences of submitting an app to the Apple App Store. 

After a week of being in the status "Waiting Review", it then went to "In Review" for approximately 7 hours before being Rejected. 

The reason being: "2.13: Apps that are primarily marketing materials or advertisements will be rejected". OK, so I know there isn't a huge amount of functionality but the app does act as a valuable tool for all of the students attending the school to provide them with up to date information regarding the training schedule and news about the school. 

It does make me wonder whether part of the issue is down to the fact the app was free. I can understand why Apple would be keen to keep the App Store clutter free, and perhaps they don't want to pick up the bill for hosting lots of app's which wont be making them all money. However it does cause issues for businesses looking to provide some added value to their customers who are getting app's rejected for these reasons. 

So back to the drawing board for this app. Hopefully I will be able to find a way to make the app more appealing to Apple. 

On Monday 18th July I submitted my first app to the App Store.

The submission process was relatively pain free using the new Xcode 4 as this allows you to upload the app directly from Xcode. There are plenty of guides out there for this process which consists of adding the details for your new app on iTunes Connect within the iOS Developer Portal, taking an Archive of the working version of your app, then selecting Submit from the Organiser view in Xcode. One thing to watch out is that the App Bundle you have in your Applications info matches the one you provided when entering the app details in iTunes Connect. 

Once uploaded the app goes to the status "Waiting for Review". I have checked around and it can be like this for anything from 1 to 2 weeks before moving "In Review". 

I will update this as and when the status changes. The app I have uploaded is fairly simple and hopefully shouldn't cause Apple to reject it, but we will have to wait and see!