SAP’s First Official iPhone Application

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Not What You Might Think

No, SAP’s first official iPhone application is NOT the BusinessObjects Explorer iPhone Application that Marge Breya demonstrated during the keynote of SAP TechEd Vienna, and which Alexis Naibo of the SAP BusinessObjects Innovation Center used to win the Demo Jam contest.

That application isn’t quite yet available on iTunes (but will be shortly). For more information about this forthcoming application, check out the demonstration video on Vimeo and Craig Cmehil interviewing Alexis in Vienna.

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Stuck in Brisbane traffic? This App’s for You

The first official SAP iPhone application is already available on iTunes. So why haven’t you heard of it? Well, it’s unfortunately not much use to you unless you live in Brisbane, Australia.

But the free application, created by the folks in the SAP Research center who brought you the Google Wave / SAP “Gravity” prototype, is a wonderful example of what Web 2.0 technology can do in today’s increasingly wired world.

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Here’s the blurb from the application’s page on iTunes that gives an overview of the application:

Stuck in traffic? An event at Suncorp Stadium clogging up William Jolly Bridge? An accident on Gympie Road? Wish you simply took the other way? BNE Traffic is here to help — life is too short to be stuck in traffic!

BNE Traffic is a research prototype created by SAP Research, the global technology research unit of SAP AG, acting as your personal crystal ball for the streets of Brisbane. Before heading out, make an informed choice of routes by viewing what others have already encountered — we leverage the information of hundreds of users. The application shows a map of the greater Brisbane area and displays information about current traffic conditions. Pins on the map allow you to easily recognize where obstacles have been identified. Based on the information associated with these pins, you can adjust your route accordingly and avoid traffic jams. With the help of BNE Traffic, you do not have to be late for that movie, important meeting, or dinner date again.

Features

  • Displays traffic incidents around greater Brisbane graphically
  • Leverages information from hundreds of users through the Twitter platform (#bnetraffic)
  • Works in read-only mode and therefore does not transmit any of your private information
  • Uses cutting-edge text analytics technology

And here’s a video that gives an overview of the application and the technology used: it extracts tweets tagged with “#bnetraffic”, then uses the SAP BusinessObjects Text Analysis technology to extract the geolocation information and place the information on the appropriate place in a Google map. And the whole thing is hosted using Amazon’s cloud technology. Interestingly, the researchers claim that the application took only three days to put together (but getting authorizations to put in on the iTunes store took another three months).

[Update] Check out the blog post on SDN, An Unconvential Use of SAP Text Analysis by Marek Kowalkiewicz of SAP Research describing the project.

And if you ARE in Brisbane, note that BNE Traffic isn’t the only SAP technology that’s helping you speed towards your favorite surfing spot. IBM and SAP worked together to provide a “motorway that thinks” for the Queensland Government:

…Queensland Motorways identified the toll plazas on the Gateway and Logan motorways as a major pinch point. The need to have vehicles either slow as they passed through the toll plazas using electronic tolling or to stop and pay with cash at a toll booth was significantly slowing the speed of traffic.

“Free-flow tolling was seen as beneficial for two reasons,” explains Phil Mumford. “First, if we could automate the tolling process and eliminate the need for drivers to stop, it would immediately increase the average speed of traffic flow, improve safety and the traveling experience of motorists. Secondly, the solution would allow us to digitally capture and analyze information about the vehicles that use our roads, which would help us make dramatic improvements to traffic management in the future.”

The roadside solution replaces the traditional toll booths with a Thales/Vitronic road-side gantry that utilizes video cameras and dedicated short-range communication technologies to capture information on passing vehicles. Vehicles are identified either by an in-vehicle tag or by analyzing footage of their number plates using two optical character recognition (OCR) engines, one at the roadside and a Dacolian engine at the central system.

The vehicle data is then matched to the appropriate customer account, and an IBM-developed rating engine assesses how much money is owed. The billing information is passed to back-end SAP ERP Financials and SAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications, which either deduct the total from a prepaid customer account, or generate an invoice. Business reporting is handled by SAP NetWeaver Business Warehouse, and integration by SAP NetWeaver Process Integration.

“The whole process is automated and instantaneous, and there is no need for drivers to stop to pay their toll,” explains Phil Mumford. “Moreover, except in certain cases where a vehicle cannot be identified by OCR, there is no need for manual intervention by our staff. This not only improves traffic flow – it also cuts down the cost per transaction, which will help us offer better value to our customers.”

More importantly, the introduction of the SAP CRM application is leading to a fundamental change in the way Queensland Motorways interacts with its customers. Now it can see what vehicles are using the roads and how often and at what times they use the roads. In the future, Queensland Motorways will be able to tailor its services to individual drivers – with a profound effect on both customer experience and traffic management.

“With SAP CRM, we have achieved a better understanding of who our customers are,” says Phil Mumford. “In the future we’ll be able to offer customers useful information about the transport network. For example, a customer making regular trips to the airport on a Monday morning may want to receive congestion reports direct to their phones. The whole experience has the potential to be much more personalized.

“The idea is to have ‘a motorway that thinks’ – a more intelligent solution that will give our customers a better range of options for their journeys.”

Surfer photo by “d.i.”

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