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On a recent Sunday in Broward County, emergency-room wait times were 5 minutes at Aventura Hospital, 20 minutes at Plantation General Hospital, 12 minutes at Westside Regional Medical Center in Plantation, 10 minutes at University Hospital in Tamarac and 20 minutes at Northwest Medical Center in Margate.

The live wait times, answers to emergency health questions, GPS-enabled driving directions to the ERs, quality rankings for the facilities and more could be gleaned from home, I-95, the beach or anywhere else an emergency befell. At least if you owned an iPhone and had downloaded an app called iTriage.

HCA hospitals in Florida have contracted with iTriage as part of a marketing strategy to tout short wait times and attract the most desirable patients. Customers have to give their name and insurance provider to get the free iPhone app, which has specifics for every healthcare facility in a user’s location, along with extras such as wait times for hospitals that pay for a premium listing.

“The return on investment is dramatic — it pays for itself with the revenue of one or two patients a year,” says Dr. Peter Hudson, an ER physician who last year founded a company called Healthagen to develop iTriage.

According to data collected by Osterman Research, U.S. companies are increasingly embracing the iPhone. While Research In Motion’s BlackBerry continues to be the preferred smartphone in corporate settings, more firms are beginning to move toward supporting the iPhone — 44% of companies surveyed said they supported the iPhone in 2009, up from 20% in 2008. Support for the BlackBerry dropped to 75% from 82% and for Windows Mobile to 64% from 66%.

HCA hospitals in Florida have contracted with iTriage as part of a marketing strategy to tout short wait times and attract the most desirable patients. Customers have to give their name and insurance provider to get the free iPhone app, which has specifics for every healthcare facility in a user’s location, along with extras such as wait times for hospitals that pay for a premium listing.

\ “The return on investment is dramatic — it pays for itself with the revenue of one or two patients a year,” says Dr. Peter Hudson, an ER physician who last year founded a company called Healthagen to develop iTriage.

Statistics show that by 2011, consumers will be buying more smart phones than computers. Apps, the latest success story from Apple, bring detailed, often live and interactive information to customers’ iPhones. Customers often pay nothing or 99 cents but sometimes $4.99 or more to download them from Apple’s online App Store. As of September, 50 million iPhone and iPod Touch owners worldwide had downloaded more than 2 billion apps.

iTriage is in the top 10% of those downloaded, says Hudson. But the question for businesses considering an app is whether it’s worth the cost — and if so, how to stand out among the 100,000 or so already out there. Simple apps can cost roughly $5,000 to create, says Matt Chapman, owner of Orlando-based Origin Technologies. Chapman developed a Florida poisonous snake app for fun. Its success led him to develop a Florida Bar exam-prep application for client Celebration Bar Exam Review. Company owner Jackson Mumey, like HCA hospital executives, sees the informational app as a draw for new clients who may not find him via traditional marketing.

Apps with slick video and graphics can range closer to $10,000 or $20,000 to develop. But that’s less than television advertising, with a far greater personal touch, says Brent Pope, principal at mobile-technology firm Contagion in Jacksonville. “There are people out there right now raising their hands and volunteering to put your information, put your brand in their pocket,” he says. “Asking whether it’s worth it is like asking whether advertising is worth it or whether you should have a website.”

Pope points to Volkswagen’s recent decision to pitch its latest GTI through an iPhone app rather than TV. VW’s marketers say the campaign is about making advertising individualized. But it’s also going to save money. The company’s 2006 GTI ad blitz cost $60 million, while the iPhone app campaign will cost an estimated $500,000, according to AdAge.

Pope says if a business has an obvious app but doesn’t create it, someone else will soon jump on it. Pope’s first app kept track of ride wait times at Disney. He’s had to remove it from the App Store, not because of Disney, but another large corporation, Weight Watchers, which is suing over his app’s name: Wait Watchers.

At Florida State University, business professor David Paradice says companies “need to start imagining the possibilities” of mobile marketing. Sometimes, he says, the possibilities are not what you first imagine. Last year, Paradice began working with student programmers to develop an iPhone app for the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort. They envisioned guests carrying live hotel information in their pockets and purses: On the way to Orlando, they could check out their room, download directions or make a dinner reservation at one of the resort’s restaurants.

All that’s happening, but the unexpected benefit was in-house: It’s been a boon to the resort’s sales and marketing staff, which can play videos of amenities during even the briefest business meetings. “It’s very powerful for them to open their iPhone or iTouch and show the videos of the facilities on the spot,” says Paradice.

Still, Paradice acknowledges that developing an app is easier said than done in this economy. At FSU, every one of the students in his technical Management and Information Sciences track last year landed good jobs despite the economic downturn — largely as a result of their hands-on development experience.

This year, FSU has axed the program due to budget cuts.


Paul King’s Automated Charging Machine allows users to charge mobile devices in 10 minutes or less.
In Charge

Hercules Networks, a Miami company, has developed an Automated Charging Machine, or ACM, that allows mobile device users to charge their cell phones, PDAs, digital cameras or mp3 players in 10 minutes or less.

The machines play a 10-minute video loop of CBS programming — five minutes of entertainment news and five minutes of advertising. Advertisers include GM, AT&T, Cadillac, Bank of America and Papa John’s pizza.

ACMs are located at Florida Atlantic University and Nova University, and the company is working with the Seminole Hard Rock and Miccosukee casinos to set up machines at casino locations. Paul King, the company’s 25-year-old CEO, says ACM raised a second round of capital last fall and expects to be profitable by midyear.

ACM charges users $2 at its university machines and plans to charge $5 at the casino sites. “Consumers,” he says “need to be mobilely empowered.”

— Stacie Kress Booker

Florida iPhone Apps

There are more than 100 iPhone apps devoted to the Sunshine State. The most popular include those for resorts, college football teams, fishing regulations, creature identification, live satellite weather radar and news. You can also find various versions of Florida statutes, Florida criminal code and regional coupon and deal alerts, many by national companies that compile such data in all 50 states.

Here’s a look at some of the top Florida-specific apps:

Gator Gridiron

» The Miami Herald’s Gators Football 2009 app ($1.99) is one of many devoted to the UF football team, but this one has garnered some of the best reviews for its interactivity and sports writer Joseph Goodman’s insights.


» Singing Bridge’s Florida Football GameDayApp ($2.99) may be the next best thing to being at The Swamp on game day. The app answers all the questions a fan would have on game day and provides information before, during and after the game, such as game time, betting line, stadium seating chart, box office telephone number and the day’s weather. It also features the players’ Twitter accounts and has live feeds during the game so you can follow along play by play.

The app was developed by a group of friends in Delaware — two have tech know-how, the others are sports fans who understand the power of the fan base.

“We kept asking ourselves why aren’t these sports apps coming out?” says partner Jimmy Mahan, 33.

The group’s first app was Kentucky Basketball GameDayApp. Florida Football followed as a no-brainer. “Kentucky is to basketball what Florida is to football,” says Mahan. He says Singing Bridge is working on apps for other UF teams and plans to design additional apps for FSU and Miami teams.

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On the Road

» A business-marketing effort devoted to State Road 30A, a 20-mile stretch of beach between Destin and Panama City that includes Seaside, Grayton Beach and Rosemary Beach. The free app — called 30A — lists live events along with restaurants and bars. A recently updated version has videos, photos and Facebook integration.

Weather Watch

» Created by Seattle-based developer Steve Parker with data from the National Weather Service, Florida Radars (99 cents) gives animated real-time weather radar for all of Florida. The app recently passed 10,000 downloads. Tap icons to pull up a specific region of the state. Shake your iPhone to make the current region your default region. Parker also has a new hurricane-tracker app called — what else? — “Hurricane.”

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Something Fishy

» BrokenLure-Fishing Florida ($4.99) was created for Florida anglers by Largo software developer Virgil Siegle. The app includes a saltwater fish-identification guide, the latest Florida fishing regulations and the current Florida record for the fish in question.

BrokenLure also comes with another app developed by Siegle, a fish-weight calculator called FishyScale. (It can be bought on its own for 99 cents). Measure the length and girth of your catch in inches, choose the fish’s shape from a selection wheel, and the app generates the approximate weight of your fish.

Users generally like BrokenLure but say it
needs some fish recipes. (No word on how to hold the iPhone with a fish flopping around in the boat.)

Siegle has other apps, including Easy Oil, which calculates oil-to-fuel mix ratios, and a boating-safety app called Float Plan, which creates and stores details about your vessel, crew and trip itinerary and allows you to easily e-mail it all from your iPhone.

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Visiting Mickey

» Tishman Hotel’s Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin app (free), developed last year by a team of FSU business school students, is popular enough that nearly 600 users have rated it at Apple’s App Store (average rating: 3.5 stars out of 5). The app includes property maps, restaurant guides, activities, videos and more.

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Killer Snakes

» Orlando app developer Matt Chapman wrote Florida Poisonous Snakes (99 cents) as his first app because of a personal interest in snakes. It has detailed photos and information for the six poisonous snakes that are native to Florida: Three rattlesnakes, the cottonmouth, the coral snake and the copperhead.