Avalanche v8.3.5 and new Outage mobile apps for utilities

TVD , specialists in Utility operations management solutions are pleased to announce the release of the latest version of the Avalanche Outage Communications Platform. This release also includes the very latest mobile tools for utilities to manage the collection of outage information and providing outage information via multiple channels.

Internet Fault Site (“IFS”) – has been completely re-written and is now fully responsive for mobile users and employs a modern push architecture to ensure immediate updates.

Avalanche Outage Reporter (“AOR”) – The Outage Reporter mobile web app has been completely re-written providing a more intuitive interface to report outages, and show the status of supply in areas of saved locations.

In answer to questions about the difference between responsive web apps and downloaded apps, ie those which you get from the Apple App Store or Google Play, this Blog post may be of interest.

In addition to work on IFS and AOR we have made a number of additional improvements;

  • Updated user defined templates for Twitter and Facebook integration.
  • Improved flexibility for notifications of one-off self registered customers (via IFS) on partial restoration for outages.
  • A new free form SMS creation facility to allow controllers to send individuals or groups of recipients TXT messages, and have those fully audit logged and recorded.
  • Improvements to the use of severity groups for grouping notifications against a node (ZSub, Feeder, recloser) and the extent/severity of the outage.
  • Improved auditing and security interaction.
  • As the expanded introduction of sectionalisers has increased the granularity of the network we have added additional support for searching for a node, and improved support for nodes feeding multiple regions.
  • Numerous system improvements for reporting and management and overall performance.
  • Addition of a new Status dashboard reflecting the status of various parts of the SaaS environment to provide greater transparency for customer support and notifications.

Avalanche now includes over 10 different channels through which utility customers can receive outage information. These range from traditional call answering, messaging, and processing, to modern channels via social media, and now new mobile optimized web apps. All designed specifically for Utilities managing information requirements for planned and unplanned outages.

We have an exciting road map and investments in Avalanche during 2016 with a new version (v8.4) of Outage Oracle to be released shortly that will provide even greater flexibility for outage call messaging and processing. SCADA Monitor and other modules have releases scheduled for October.

Support and Corporate contact details are on our website.

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Does your Outage App have to be an App?

I get asked a bit, (usually by people who “want” to build an app), why we don’t make some of our applications like Outage Reporter and IFS “apps” for iOS and Android.

Well they are… you just don’t have to download and install them. It’s a mobile optimised web application.

Power Outages are different from day-day activities where you might have an app you use regularly for tasks such as banking, news, maps, social media or email. You have it handy, you know how to drive it from plenty of use.

Services you don’t use often, such as checking details about a power outage, have a quite different overall use case. They demand different usability as well as functionality.

We develop Android and iOS apps, and for certain functions they are perfect. For power outages we have an intrinsic understanding of how people (consumers) operate and what they like and don’t, so here’s some thoughts on why having a downloadable app may not be the best option for your customers.

Is it Quick to access the outage information, how they want? (not how you want them to…)

  • It has to be quick – Consumers have no idea when the power will go off, and so won’t be able to plan ahead as to when they would need the app (and so download it ahead of time). They certainly won’t have a 16 digit alpha-numeric meter or account number at hand.
  • It has to be quick – Most consumers experience power outages very infrequently, meaning they just don’t use the app regularly.
  • It has to be quick – The last thing they will want to do is have to download an app, particularly as their Wi-Fi probably isn’t working so they’ll have to enable app downloads over cellular.
  • It has to be quick – App developers are notoriously good (bad..?) at adding functionality that cumulatively makes a simple requirement, harder. Consumers don’t want to have to learn something new, particularly while the lights are out.

Is it Easy to get the outage information and what they actually want? (not what you want to supply…)

  • It has to be easy – Consumers already have dozens of apps they have to remember how to use, log into etc. hunting around for that app (what’s it called.. what does the icon look like…)
  • It has to be easy – Having yet another one they use extremely infrequently is a hindrance to improved customer service.
  • It has to be easy – Most people won’t have a shortcut on their home screen, and so will have to hunt for it anyway, or may not even remember that they have installed it!
  • It has to be easy – Utilities love maps. They like showing things on maps and providing the whole picture. Zoomable, draggable with lots of detail, that only they really care about…. Consumers don’t care what’s happening outside their suburb, or even house!. They want information focussed on them, not how many other outages a utility is dealing with or if they are gas or water or electricity.

Over the past 1-2 years web apps have become more powerful, with a greater level of functionality and real-time feedback. You are now able to do things in a web app which could previously only be done in a downloadable app.

Quick! and Easy! – Consumers can click on a link contained within a TXT message or email, or on your website, and hey presto, there is a fully branded app from your utility that allows them to quickly do exactly what they had in mind when they clicked the “report a power outage” or “View Outage details” button.

  • Cost – For the Utility deploying and maintaining a fully functional web app is significantly more cost effective, than managing apps that have to work on different operating systems, different versions of those, and different phones/phablets/tablets.

So before you get cornered into building an app and have to manage that across platforms and OS versions, just ask: “Why do our customers need another app for outages”?