Here’s an idea. Could better software make large parts of the world much nicer to live in – and can it be built with ‘low code’ tools?
The world has a big and growing problem with some parts of the world being much more attractive to live in than others – and too many people trying to move from the unpleasant places to the pleasant places.
The social administration of a place is a major factor in how pleasant it is to live in. Is it dangerous? Can you find a job? Can you buy a house? Are there good schools? Can you go for a walk with your children without being mown down by a car? Can you access healthcare if you need it? Is it expensive? Is it intellectually stimulating? Can you get some peace?
And all of these factors (except the last three) come, to a large extent, down to the people who administrate society – who deliver effective policing and schools at a price taxpayers are able to pay, who can make the right adjustments to the business environment to keep it healthy, who can find the right balance between the need for transport and the need to stop cars damaging local life, and much more.
And all of these factors come down to sophisticated decision making and implementation of those decisions – which requires sophisticated information gathering, collaboration and analysis tools.
And nearly all fields have more information now than people can work with, so the tools are the bottleneck. And every specialist needs data in a different way – so they can’t be happy with standard software.
Government professionals don’t usually have large sums to spend on software – and they have also been very frustrated by the services provided by ‘big government’ software suppliers in the past. There is money available.
These all sound like business opportunities for ‘Software for Domain Experts’.
Imagine a Greek software start-up developing tools for improving social administration and selling it to a German town administration. Wouldn’t that be a great story?
Here’s a business idea,
UK company Senceive Ltd specialises in wireless infrastructure asset condition monitoring, and says it has thousands of units deployed, particularly in rail (including tunnels, track bed, earthworks, bridges and structures), and construction projects.
The sensors have 15 years of battery life and can report at 15 minute intervals, and it is possible to connect cameras to them.
They are also continuously innovating, and in addition to the new platform which boasts an unprecedented 15 years of battery life powering a high precision sensor and reporting at 15 minute intervals, have recently launched and deployed cameras integrated alongside wireless sensors.
The company can ensure real time, stable and accurate data.
How could you make a ‘Software for Domain Experts’ project around that?
Start by thinking about which domain experts could use condition monitoring. So that’s everyone who needs to monitor the condition of assets which might vibrate or rotate. Anyone whose job involves monitoring any transport infrastructure (vehicles, ships, road, rail) or any other machinery – or anyone who has to monitor building condition which could be detected by sensors (I’m not sure what that is – internal temperature, vibration of tall buildings)?
These domain experts must be willing to pay a fee to have the data delivered to them by web browser in the condition which is most useful to them (eg alerts for something suddenly changing).
Perhaps a city police department or fire department would like an alert about any building or bridge in their region showing an uncomfortable degree of vibration?
Then you can build a tool to do this, using ‘low code’ systems?
Government professionals have to work with enormous amounts of data and have complex workflows. Is there anything low code tools can do to help them?
In the UK there have been well publicised IT disaster stories – particularly with the National Health Service – attempts to build monstrosity IT systems which turned out to be too complex to work.
Perhaps low code tools do have an answer here – particularly because if they are cheap to build then the costs of building the wrong thing are not too high.
Perhaps the only way to do it is bespoke for each individual. Everybody has specific data sources they go to and people they collaborate with, probably mainly with structured routines. This can be included in business process management tools.
Perhaps a small company can help by taking on some of the development risk. Instead of a government person having to get approval for a multimillion pound new software project, going through the approved licensing steps and inevitably only available to very large suppliers, a small company can build something on spec and provide it for a monthly fee.
I am not sure it has ever been done, though!
A common frustration among domain experts in many fields is that their software is rubbish. Or more to the point, it doesn’t do what they want.
Anyone who can offer them software ‘which works the way you do’ should have an advantage.
The mass market software, such as Microsoft Office, has had a lot of time, money, talented people and iterations to get this sorted out. How do you get software ‘working the way you do’ without such budget?
A glib answer could be empathy – which is defined as having the imagination to see someone else’s point of view – and, harder, understand their working world.
Even if you are very empathetic, understanding someone else’s working view takes a great deal of effort.
But beyond that – there’s only a limited number of things software can do – take in data, move data, show data, share data, gather data, analyse data –
How do we make it easier for you to build tools for domain experts which they really like?
.. and how can we make this easier?
Probably the first step is to identify a business opportunity – and to do this you’ll probably need to either already be a domain expert in a certain field (for example, someone who knows the shipping industry very well), or work together with one.
The needs for professionals in different fields is similar (in that it comes down to gathering and managing data) – but you’ll need to know the specific requirements.
Then you’ll need to come up with a useful software tool – perhaps using a free trial with one of the ‘low-code’ companies.
Then you’ll need to get access to professionals in the domain to show them what you’ve done. This will be easier if you are working together with people who are already domain experts themselves – so you have (for example) a current police chief talking to a former police chief.
Then you need to get them interested in what you are doing,
Probably iterate a few times,
And finally perhaps get some business.
Of course it isn’t easy. But is there any way we can make it easier?
How could lawyers use a ‘Software for Domain Experts’ type service?
Lawyers have to search through large amounts of information to find something useful (such as how the last case like theirs went). They need to make difficult decisions. They need to publish and disseminate reports.
For structured legal processes (like conveyancing) they might have to go through a standard list of steps, of which documents or approvals are requested from who, when.
A quick search of UK law software firms shows that there are several companies offering software for ‘practise management’ (which we take to mean all aspects of a legal practise, including cases, accounting).
There are other tools to help manage performance.
Some of them run on the cloud, some on your desktop computer.
- http://www.pepperminttechnology.co.uk/ combines in one place, using one database, all the different legal software applications required by a law firm
- http://www.selectlegal.co.uk/ legal case management software
- http://www.eclipselegal.co.uk/ “practise management software”
- http://www.leap.co.uk/ legal software for small law firms
- https://www.redbricksolutions.co.uk/ – legal case management software
- http://www.cognitosoftware.com/ – case management, practise management, legal accounting
- http://www.soslegal.co.uk/ performance management / business process management
- http://www.eclipselegal.co.uk/proclaim-software/ case management, practise management
- http://www.insightlegal.co.uk/product/ legal accounting and practise management
- http://www.advanced-legal.co.uk/ legal practise and case management software
- http://www.legaloffice.co.uk/ cloud based legal productivity tools
AgilePoint – based on Microsoft technology – based in Mountain View, California, with some international offices. offers App Builder tool. Describes itself as “Responsive Application Development software”.
Outsystems – headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with international offices – makes app builder tools which are used in Banking, insurance, retail, pharma, healthcare, financial services, energy, telecoms, transport / logistics, public sector, IT, advertising / publishing, travel / leisure, manufacturing, construction.
Alphinat – “build applications once and deploy them everywhere” – based in Montreal, Canada – “cut Web, Cloud and Mobile application development time by 50%, 66% — even 75%” . Ideally suited for “Customer self-service, Electronic forms, Knowledge bases, Guided selling, Diagnostic tools, Life event based applications, Education or training”
Here are some “Software for Domain Experts” in the deep sea shipping industry
Ulysses Systems – knowledge management related to operations
Marine Software – maintenance and stores management
SpecTec – all aspects of vessel operations
Star Information Solutions – ship operations and safety
Danaos – maintenance, purchasing management
Maroz Maritime Software – quality management, maintenance management
Crew inspector – online crew management
Ship energy efficiency
Interschalt – ship energy efficiency and ship loading
ShipNet – commercial operations and procurement
Glomaris – managing commercial operations
Softcom – “pre fixture and post fixture”
Shipbroking and cargo management
Trigonal – shipbroking and post fixture
AXS Marine – vessel chartering
The jobs of experts around the world are getting more complicated all the time – with more data to work through, more complex demands, faster decision making required.
As a nice illustration, consider the list of tasks which India Prime Minister Modi has set himself, shown midway through this Economist article. Open 75m bank accounts, unique identity number for 1bn people, set up courts for politicians, cut Delhi air pollution, implement a goods and services tax and improve the sex ratio (stop female babies being killed), and that’s the first 6 out of 30 projects.
And we include experts in all businesses and government areas here – running shipping companies, oil and gas exploration (two industries we know a little about), managing carbon emissions, running police departments, anything.
All of these sectors have millions of subsectors – for example, see yesterday’s post showing a sample of “software for domain experts” active in the upstream oil and gas industry – all very specialist.
Probably the lesson here is that in order to spot a market opportunity, you probably need to be a domain specialist yourself. There are plenty around. But that doesn’t mean it is easy to find one who is ready to work with you in a partnership!
Your editor is also editor of a magazine about digital technology in the upstream oil and gas industry, and so has specialist knowledge of this sector, and the domain expert software companies in it.
Here are some of the companies active in this sector.
Exploration / subsurface
Ikon Science – managing rock physics data
Lynx Information Systems– working with seismic data and geographical information systems
Interica – helping manage subsurface data
Acceleware – developing seismic interpretation algorithms
OpenDTect – open source seismic interpretation software
Drilling / wells
Verdande – gathering and sharing data from drilling operations
Safekick – visualising information about your current drilling program
Peloton – managing well data and drilling
Geologix – software for working with well logs
IDS – managing data associated with drilling
8over8 – managing cost overruns with project developments
EnergySys – working with production data online
OVS Group – managing data about production
Datum360 – managing information associated with oil and gas operations
Asset Guardian – managing software used to run control systems
Permasense – manage data about corrosion
Absoft – applying SAP related tools in oil and gas
Meera – helping automatically search data sets