December 19th, 2010

At 1:13pm CDT this afternoon, I submitted the latest update to HazRef 2008 to Apple for review.  This evening at 8:26pm I received an email from Apple notifying me that my update had been approved and would be available in the App Store shortly.

I am speechless.

Thank you Apple for an early Christmas present for myself and all my users!

Merry Christmas all!

Google Maps Integration!

December 11th, 2010

Here is a look at what I’m working on right now for the next release of HazRef 2008; Google Maps integration for initial isolation and protective action zones.

Screen shot 2010-12-11 at 11 Dec 2.43.12 PM.png

In the screenshot above, the purple pin is where the spill or leak is located.  When this screen appears, we take the current location of the phone and drop the pin there.  If you don’t happen to be co-located with the spill, you can touch and hold the pin to pick it up and put it where the spill is. In the example above ( material is UN1541 ), the IIZ radius (shown in red) is 100 feet and the PAZ radius ( in yellow ) is 0.1 miles.  The area shown in orange is the downwind zone, and it’s orientation inside the yellow circle is controlled with the bright orange arrow in the bottom right corner of the screen.

The button labeled “Street Map” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen is a toggle button that will switch the map between street, satellite and hybrid mode.  A double tap on the wind direction control will center the view on the pin.

Features I’d like to add in future releases include:

  • a log of spill/leak incidents that could be exported
  • printer support
  • a list of streets located in the downwind zone
  • forward gecoding which would allow you to input the address of a spill to map it.
  • alerts which let you know what zone you are in.

I would love to hear feedback on this feature, which will be in the next release of HazRef 2008.


HazRef 2008 Version 3.1 Real Soon Now

September 21st, 2009
HazRef 2008 Splash

HazRef 2008 Splash

Version 3.1 is on the way! It’s been in review for the last 8 weeks and rejected on 20 Sep 2009 for a minor human interface guideline violation ( they didn’t like how I used a bookmark icon ).

With any luck, the new version will become available soon.

While we are waiting, I’ll fill you in with some details about the new version. With the announcement of iPhone OS 3.0 I began a complete re-write of HazRef 2008. The older version had become “fragile” and adding new features was becoming difficult to do without causing more breakages. I have also learned a great deal about iPhone applications since starting and starting fresh would help me correct some of my “newbie” mistakes.

HazRef 2008 Version 3.1 Features

  • Brand new artwork
  • Cleaned up and expanded data
  • Improved database architecture
  • Visual indicator of water reactive materials
  • Expanded transportation codes definitions
  • Re-designed emergency response guide section
  • Improved searching
  • Glossary of terms
  • Isolation and protective action distances
  • Four-digit Hazard Identification code list
  • Hazardous Material Contact Phone Numbers
  • Source material cites with links

Brand new artwork

HazRef 2008 Version 3.1 Material List

HazRef 2008 Version 3.1 Material List

Ok, I’m very proud of the new version’s visual appeal. Not only does it look better, it should flow better too. All the placards were re-worked, all the color choices revisited and revised to be provide an extra dimension of information where it makes sense. All credit goes to my lovely bride, the Graphic Design Mistress who was cruel but fair. If you need graphic design work (company logos, print or web design) consider http://www.designgrrl.com.

Cleaned up and expanded data

One of my challenges with HazRef 2008 is incorporating data from two different data sources ( the Emergency Response Guide and the Code of Federal Regulations ). The first versions were accomplished mostly by reducing the data by hand. As you might guess, this was tedious and error prone and took the majority of my time. Version 3.1 benefits from a brand new tool chain which automatically reduces CFR and ERG data for use in the application. I suspect I spent a good two months getting the tool chain “right” and incorporating new data and feature requests that I received from HazRef 2008 customers.

Improved database architecture

The previous database architecture was fragile and difficult to make changes to, causing lots of breakages when I attempted to add features. iPhone OS 3.0 brought the Mac OSX technology “Core Data” to the phone, allowing me to build dense and inter-connected data relationships with visual tools which are easy to edit and extend. The upshot to users is that updates and feature requests should become much more responsive ( barring Apple’s review speedbump of course ). For those who are curious, the underlying store for HazRef 2008 is a sqlite3 database that is imported from the previously mentioned tool chain.

Visual indicator of water reactive materials

Materials which react with water dangerously are indicated using a green placard background in the list view and also in the material detail view. In the detail view, a green high-lighted section will also give the specific inhalation hazard produced. Follow on versions will also include marine pollutant information in a similar format.

Expanded transportation codes definitions

The most frequent complaint/request I received from customers has been the incomplete decoding of the Code Of Federal Regulations special provisions, exceptions, bulk and non-bulk quantities, and vessel specific requirements for shipping hazard materials. To be honest I passed on it initially due to the complexity of the CFR passages and I wasn’t sure how to display them in a useful way. I’m not entirely happy with how it turned out, but it is definitely better than it was and I would love to hear feedback from users.

Re-designed emergency response guide section

Ok, the previous version’s ERG section sucked. It was bad. The new version echo’s many of the design elements of the printed version and presents all the information for a section on screen at once. The number of steps to usable information has been reduced drastically and the readability of the information has been improved.

Improved searching

The previous versions had a “Search” tab where you could enter the name or number of a material to look it up. The Search tab is gone in the new version, replaced by a search bar in EVERY list. This means Materials, Placards, Guides, Glossary and Hazard ID Codes are all searchable!

Glossary of terms

Speaking of the glossary, I’ve included the glossary from the back of the Emergency Response Guide! No more wondering/guessing what Hazard Zone B is any more!

Isolation and protective action distances

I added isolation and protective action distances to the last version, but to be honest I wasn’t really happy with how it looked. The new version is much improved with big/small spill toggle ( and a link to the glossary defining what is a big or small spill! ), a day/night toggle, isolation distances and a diagram describing visually how each distance should be used. A planned feature is to integrate Google maps and Location services to allow you to locate the spill on the map and indicate a wind direction. The app will then draw an overlay of isolation and protective action areas, making it that much easier to get people out of harms way! I’m super excited about this. The catch of course is that you will need a GPS-enabled device ( iPhone 3G or 3GS at this time ) and network access.

Four-digit Hazard Identification code list

New in version 3.1 is a list of Hazard Identification codes ( also called “Kemler codes” ) which can also be used to label hazardous material cargos. This feature is still evolving, I would like to provide a connection from the ID codes to an emergency guide. If anyone is aware of a mapping from these codes to ERGs I would love to know about it!

Hazardous Material Contact Phone Numbers

Probably the second most requested feature was the inclusion of contact information from the Emergency Response Guide. There is contact information there for six different countries which can be viewed and added to your Address Book! Ok, I haven’t tested portions of this stringently ( meaning I haven’t attempted to call all of these numbers from the phone ). I am going to reply on customer feedback to get these “right” going forward. I have been able to verify the numbers are current via internet sources, I just chickened out and didn’t call them!

Source material cites with links

In case you are curious about the HazRef 2008 source material, I have provided links to all the source material I used while preparing this new version. If you should happen to find an error or omission in HazRef 2008, please let me know and I will correct as quickly as Apple allows me to!

As you might imagine, I am very proud of this new version and I absolutely cannot wait for this to be approved by Apple and get into customer’s hands.

So Far So Good!

May 3rd, 2009

HazRef 2008 has been on sale now in the app store for two months and I honestly couldn’t be happier.   Sales have been steady and bug reports have been relatively minor issues that were quickly addressed in updates. Symbolic Armageddon LLC broke even on the 16th day of sales and has begun to turn a profit!

Here are some sales charts oggle:

By way of explanation, “Total Units” in the charts above refers to units sold, upgraded or given away with promotional codes.

The US is far and away my most active market with well over 95% of my sales originating there.

I’m reasonably happy with the reviews HazRef 2008 has received, although there is one review I’m having trouble understanding and tend to think it was a review intended for some other app that I got dinged with ( I’m looking at you Michael_Zucker ). The worst review ( 2 stars ) was due to the incomplete content in HazRef 2008. I can see the reviewer’s point of view, I just hope they make good their promise of revising their review as new content comes to HazRef 2008.

Speaking of which, new content arrived 2 May 2009! Initial isolation and protective action distances to be precise. This information far and away was the most requested information that is present in the Emergency Response Guide 2008. Next on the list of future features to implement is decoding the transportation codes found in the detailed material information page and the ability to add regional coordinator contact information found in the ERG to your iPhone address book.

Looking even further ahead, iPhoneOS 3.0 is scheduled for a Summer 2009 release and I am hard at work on updating HazRef 2008 to take advantage of all the new features ( Core Data for starters, which should make start up and searching faster ). Not to worry, those of you who have already purchased HazRef 2008 may upgrade at no additional cost!

I don’t think I’ve stated it publicly anywhere, but I do not intend to ever charge for HazRef 2008 upgrades or change it’s price ( up or down ). I see other iPhone developers attempting to drive sales by offering their app at a discount in order to play “the numbers game” in the App Store. This is easy to do, but I think my time would be better spent adding new content and features to make it worth the price of admission.

HazRef Lite now availabe in the App Store!

March 19th, 2009

HazRef Lite is a free full featured version of HazRef 2008 available in the App Store starting March 18th. Where HazRef 2008 has a catalog of nearly 3000 hazardous materials, HazRef Lite has only 39. I hand picked materials to give a reasonable cross section of material hazard classes ( easier said than done, there are 2894 distinct materials to choose from ) and give you a good idea of how a fully populated catalog would appear when sorted by name, number, hazard class or guide.

After trying out HazRef Lite, you can find “Buy HazRef 2008 Now” buttons in the help text found by pressing the “?” button in the upper lefthand corner of the top level browse, search, placard and guide tab buttons. A ‘buy now’ button can also be found in the About tab button and a link in the About text.  I wanted to make it easy for you to make that impulse buy!  Don’t worry, once you push the “Buy Now” button it will open the App Store on your phone directly to HazRef 2008 and you would proceed as you normally would when purchasing an app through the App Store.

Thanks for looking!

HazRef Lite @ App Store

HazRef 2008 March Sales

March 16th, 2009

Just for fun, I thought I would share some of my sales data.  Admittedly, it’s a touch busy as I don’t yet really know what is important and what isn’t.

HazRef 2008 March Sales by Unit

HazRef 2008 March Sales by Unit

March 4th is the first day that HazRef 2008 was available in the App Store, and to be honest I haven’t done any serious marketing beyond word of mouth and handing out 20 promotional codes in a forum where I hang out.

Domestic and international units are broken out since the majority of sales are occuring in the US and I am using my US revenue to drive my forecasting model ( sounds sophisticated but isn’t ).

HazRef 2008

March 16th, 2009

Hi, I’m Erik and I thought I would start by talking about my first iPhone application: HazRef 2008.  HazRef 2008 is a hazardous materials reference tool which contains a catalog of hazardous materials as described by the US government, along with a visual database of US DOT placards and other useful information relating to hazardous materials.  The inspiration for this application came from my morning commute on I-35.  I often saw tanker trucks and wondered what materials they were hauling. Invariably I would either forget the number on the placard or just plain forget to even look it up.  One day shortly after buying my iPhone, it struck me that if there wasn’t a hazardous materials database I ought to write one.

Turns out there already was a hazardous materials application in the App Store.  My story would end here if I had decided to buy the app, but as you might guess I didn’t. I signed up right away with Apple to become a registered iPhone developer.  And waited.  And waited.  Until finally Apple reluctantly accepted my $100 developer fee and initiated me into the secrets of iPhone application development.   Well, there was no initiation.  They just took my money and gave me access to the magic sauce that would allow applications to run on the iPhone and not just the excellent simulator.  I was hooked.  My phone was running UNIX and I could write just about anything ( within Apple’s guidelines ).

HazRef 2008 slowly took shape over the summer and fall of 2008, with the support and encouragement of my wife.  I showed the first couple of versions to my brother-in-law and father-in-law who are both first responders.  Both of them were very enthusiastic and gave me excellent feedback on directions I could take the application to make it even more attractive to first responders ( fire, police and EMS ).

It wasn’t until January 2009 that I finally formed Symbolic Armageddon and then a long two months of debugging and interface polishing.  Towards the end of Feburary, I finally submitted HazRef 2008 to the Apple iTunes App Store for review.  There I sat on pins and needles, combing the net for other people’s experiences and wait times.   After only 4 business days, HazRef 2008 was approved and up for sale in the App Store!  I like to think it reviewed quickly due to my impeccable programming prowess but realistically it is a simple application with a straightforward purpose that shouldn’t have been all that controversial ( iFart? how did that get in? ).

And the rest, as they say, is history.