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6 Automation Apps You Can Build Today

Your time is valuable. That’s why Google Cloud’s AppSheet is combining the power of artificial intelligence (AI) with the simplicity and democratizing power of no-code development to give all employees (including non-technical people) the ability to quickly automate existing processes without coding. We call it AppSheet Automation, and it lets you remove the barriers of legacy systems, manual processes, and resource constraints so your organization can accelerate its digital transformation. With Google Cloud’s AppSheet, data security is easily governable and enforceable, which means IT can ensure proper oversight and data protection while still encouraging “citizen development” among line-of-business workers. Here are six automation sample apps you can easily copy, customize, and use at your workplace, for free. So go ahead — take a look under the hood, experiment and play, and start envisioning what you can do with the power of AppSheet Automation! Procurement and Expensing Automation App Expensing and procurement are the bread and butter of any business. But manually generating and processing stacks of purchase orders takes time and effort, and mistakes can lead to missed payments, insufficient inventory, and a lack of budgeting clarity. That’s why our Procurement and Expensing Automation Sample App manages the whole expense and procurement process for you. It lets you easily create purchase orders and expense reports, and automatically triggers your tailored approvals workflow, so the right people can provide the appropriate approvals in a quick and timely manner. Start exploring the Procurement and Expensing Automation Sample App: Anomaly Detection App Data anomalies are important inflection points for businesses. They happen when a data point deviates from that dataset’s normal behavior, and they can indicate many things — including red flags. Perhaps a critical event like a technical glitch or a failure has occurred, or consumer behavior has suddenly changed, creating a time-sensitive business shift or opportunity. With our Anomaly Detection Sample App, your team can automatically receive notifications when anomalous data is detected — giving you the power to quickly act and respond. The app uses three different methods to detect and report anomalies: Static Bounds. Users can manually set acceptable limits for user data, automatically marking anything beyond these bounds as anomalous. Dynamic Bounds. If a data entry achieves standard deviation from the norm, the app automatically triggers a custom workflow you can establish. This method adjusts over time as data changes, allowing the threshold for standard deviation to drift as your data does. Machine Learning. Designed to be predictive, this method uses machine learning to analyze historical data and flag anomalies, setting future boundaries based on its learnings. Start exploring the Anomaly Detection Sample App: Sequential Tasks App Many business processes must occur in a specific order, one after the other. For example, when an anomaly is detected, it must first be investigated by a data analyst. If the anomaly was caused by a failure, IT must begin the process of fixing the problem or repairing the hardware; if the anomaly was caused by a shift in consumer behavior, line-of-business leads must determine and make the proper operations, marketing, and sales adjustments. Our Sequential Tasks Sample App provides sequencing capabilities, letting you design custom automated logic that expedites your workflows and helps eliminate time wasted waiting for tasks to be advanced along your organization. Start exploring the Sequential Tasks Sample App: Hierarchical Approvals App Much like Sequential Tasks, many business processes must receive approval from multiple stakeholders as they move up the chain of command. A decision a marketing manager makes, for example, must then be approved by their director, then a VP, and then perhaps the CMO. Fortunately, our Hierarchical Approvals Sample App lets you quickly and easily define a series of required approvals for specific tasks. It then automatically executes them, notifying the appropriate users when their approval is needed. Start exploring the Hierarchical Approvals Sample App: Event Management App For field personnel, easy event management can make all the difference between a huge success and a huge headache. From scheduling to registration to building contact directories and more, event management is a complex task. But not with our Event Management Sample App! Quickly schedule events, create custom maps and directions, and even build in reporting workflows so the chain of command at your home office always stays in the loop and can act on opportunities and respond to challenges right away. This is easily customizable copy-and-paste event management made a reality! Start exploring the Event Management Sample App: Automated Messaging App Make it easy for users to register in-app to receive automated updates and notifications from your organization. Let them opt in to receive product news, promotional offers, policy changes, and more — unlocking powerful self-service experiences automated by the app. Now your one-to-many communications are fast, simple, and fully customizable! Start exploring the Automated Messaging Sample App: With Google Cloud’s AppSheet, anyone can build custom applications and automated processes for the business with zero coding skills. And with the customizable sample apps above, there’s no reason to delay your digital transformation. Start creating your business’s next automation application today by copying and customizing the sample apps in this post. Or start AppSheet for free by connection your own data:  

Med Student Uses Google Cloud’s AppSheet to Create Singular Flashcard Study App

Sean Lim’s AppSheet-powered app organizes related medical conditions and concepts on flashcards, putting the right information at students’ fingertips Sean Lim is a third-year medical student at Touro University California, College of Osteopathic Medicine in Vallejo, California. Like so many of his peers, Sean had trouble processing the vast amounts of information piled on him in lectures and by the intensive medical school curriculum. “Medicine is classically taught via lectures and PowerPoint presentations,” Sean explains. “But that's simply too much information for the human brain to process. Our brains are not built to soak in four hours of all this stuff that's being thrown at us. And the information that will be taught to med students will continue to increase, and there's no control to [that] information.”   Ask anyone who’s attended med school, and they’ll likely tell you: It is a grind — both in classrooms and clinical studies. Sean believes students can empower themselves to more  actively shape how they learn the volumes of information required to graduate medical school. He’s also an advocate for achieving a more balanced and healthy lifestyle. Sean wondered: Could technology provide a solution to make medical school studies more manageable? The challenge: Too much information, not enough study time  Sean had been using digital flashcards as a study tool — the electronic version of an old-school method to help students memorize bite-sized pieces of information and quiz themselves, via two-sided cards. But off-the-shelf apps didn’t give Sean the control he wanted to organize related pieces of information among flashcards. And sharing flashcards with his fellow med students didn’t get Sean any closer to a solution. “Unfortunately, a lot of the flashcards that exist out there are kind of random,” Sean asserts. “Sometimes one person has a deck for a certain class, and then another person has another deck for the same class. But the two decks aren't really similar, and you don’t really know if another student’s deck has the information you need until you go through the whole deck.” Sean was up for the challenge of diagnosing and treating the problem himself. He was exposed to computer science and datasets as an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California, where he majored in biophysics and minored in cinematic arts. “I was bouncing between both arts and sciences,” Sean recalls. “I actually took classes in video game design.” He worked with microbial bioinformatics as part of his post-college research work — which combines biology and computer science for the acquisition, storage, analysis, and dissemination of biological data. So he was comfortable working with databases and large datasets. He also developed coding skills through MathWorks’ MATLAB platform.  Sean began searching for a way to develop an app himself that would organize interrelational information into flashcards — giving students faster access to exactly what they need to learn for their courses and maximize precious study time. Choosing Appsheet: Connecting related medical conditions and concepts Sean had tried other flashcard storage and organization apps on the market. But they didn’t offer the relational tables featured in Google Cloud’s AppSheet — essential for Sean to build the med school flashcard study app he envisioned. “Only through AppSheet can you really connect flashcards that are similar,” he says. Sean liked that no-code development with AppSheet felt like a familiar environment. “You can just use its existing framework to create and customize your interface without having to put in a line of code,” he offers. Sean built his flashcards with key information from lectures and medical textbooks. He used Google Apps Script to batch the flashcards and automatically enter their information into AppSheet’s tables. He then used AppSheet to create parent and child tables in order to organize relational databases of flashcard information. “So if you're learning about diabetes, you want to learn all about diabetes before you move on to heart conditions,” he says. “AppSheet let me organize my flashcards and string them together in a way that told a story. It wasn't just isolated flashcards that were just all over the place. One flashcard could be related to another cluster of flashcards. None of the other apps can do that.”  Sean set up relational databases across several categories in his AppSheet-powered app. “Many diseases have the same symptoms,” he offers, as an example. “So I can look at all the diseases that have this symptom all at once, and then develop those kinds of mental frameworks. My app has around thirty of those kinds of relationships. And because of that, I'm able to parse my data very quickly, instead of looking it up without knowing where I'm going.” The results: Balancing med school studies with leisure time Sean is a true citizen developer. His goal? “Empower students to reach medical knowledge goals with data and technology.” By developing his AppSheet-powered app, his medical flashcards can now be used over and over again, rather than being “siloed for a single exam.”  Sean envisions integrating the med school’s entire curriculum into his relational flashcard app — helping his fellow med students maximize their study time and achieve more balance between work and life.   “[An app] like this would be a great gift,” to other students, Sean said in a Touro Triumphs article. Sean presented his learning app to Touro University California faculty and then rolled it out at the Innovations in Medical Education Conference at the Keck School of Medicine in Los Angeles in February 2020. On his website website, Sean writes: “My app employs learning theory such as spaced repetition and schematic thinking where every flashcard is placed in a knowledge network, allowing students to see how medical facts are interrelated and keep track of their day-to-day progress on the competencies they need to be successful in the clinic.”  It all fits with Sean’s goal to make med school studies more manageable and to help future doctors take a more holistic approach to school, medicine, and a balanced lifestyle. An advocate for “democratizing urban farming,”  Sean has also developed a nonprofit management app for a community garden outreach team. “My goal as a student is to have a nice kind of lifestyle, not just studying all the time,” Sean muses. He likes that his AppSheet-powered app can run offline, so he can study wherever he wants. “That has allowed me to exercise every day,” he says. “Because the app can run offline, I can go outside of the grid and then still use the app to review stuff. So I don't have to be sitting in front of the computer to study. I could just be walking outside having a good time.” Do you have an awesome idea to help you study, work, or relax better? AppSheet is always free to start:

Productivity just got easier with Google Workspace and AppSheet!

Today, Google unveiled Google Workspace, an integrated platform that seamlessly brings together Google’s communication and collaboration tools with messaging, meetings, docs, and tasks all in one place. Google Workspace makes it even easier for teams to use the tools they love and work better together. That’s why starting today, Workspace users will be able to create AppSheet apps directly from Google Sheets. Plus, Workspace customers using AppSheet will be given access to our Free plan, and Workspace Enterprise+ can now have full access to AppSheet Pro. Interested in trying it out? Open up a Google Sheet with data you’d like to turn into an app. Go to Tools > Open in AppSheet and create an AppSheet account if you haven’t yet. Then AppSheet will immediately analyze the data structure and automatically create a prototype app. Note: We’ve just begun rolling out this feature and it's possible that you may not see this option in your Tools menu. If so, the feature should appear within a few weeks. In the meantime, you can always connect to your Sheets data via the My Apps page. Google Workspace and AppSheet empower customers to build custom solutions to help solve their most pressing challenges. For example, you could improve workplace safety with a custom-built safety app linked to Google Docs, or you could boost a repair team’s productivity by building a work order app that integrates with Google Meet. To help customers take full advantage of the two platforms’ integrations, we’ve put together a library of Workspace + AppSheet templates that you can access here. This is just the start. As we continue our mission of improving productivity and collaboration for everyone, we will be making it even easier for you to leverage Workspace and AppSheet together. Happy app building!

Solar energy project manager in India tracks data from the field with Google Cloud’s AppSheet

From his office in Mumbai, Munjal Savla keeps tabs on work bringing solar water pumps to remote farms with AppSheet  Mechanical engineer Munjal Savla started his career in the fast lane. Literally. He won victories as a racing driver for Volkswagen Motorsport. He also worked as an automotive industry writer and sales data analyst, and a senior performance driving instructor for Jaguar Land Rover India. After a few years, he shifted to pursue a new calling — solar energy. Since 2019, Munjal has been a project manager for Ravindra Energy Limited, which brings  accessible, sustainable solar energy systems to remote areas that need electricity. He reflects on one of his more challenging projects bringing solar power to remote small farms. “Getting electricity to small farms far away from the city of Mumbai is very difficult, because you have to pull the electricity lines really far,” Munjal explains. “There is no electricity connection to [power] the water source inside the farms. Many of these farmers are poor. So the government created a program to subsidize the installation of solar-powered irrigation pumps for smaller farms in remote areas. We are one of the agencies implementing this project.” With engineers and technicians spread out across the state of Maharashtra, Munjal struggled to find a mobile solution to keep the multi-faceted project on track. The challenge: Dispatches from the field Munjal was charged with managing field activities and keeping the energy company’s client — the electrical company — well informed. “Mobile networks are pretty well established in and around the areas where we operate,” Munjal recalls. But the networks were only as good as the mobile solutions available to help manage such a complex, large-scale project. “We faced challenges because our guys were all over the state,” he says. Munjal coordinated with regional managers, who in turn worked with contractors to install solar-powered water pumps in remote farm locations. Activities needed to be logged. Equipment needed to be tracked. Bills needed to be submitted and payments collected. Munjal received information from field workers sporadically via instant messaging — a method that wasn’t consistent or reliable, and didn’t scale. “It would all get jumbled up,” he says. “It was a big problem [for me] sitting in Mumbai, trying to manage this project, and understand exactly what is going on in the field.” He began to brainstorm more efficient ways to collect and record information from a mobile workforce operating in remote locations. “We needed something mobile,” Munjal shares. “We couldn’t use computers or Excel because these guys are traveling [and] it's difficult for them. They can just pick up a phone. That is where we [realized], ‘OK, we need an app." Choosing Appsheet: Tracking data off the grid Munjal took to the Internet to find a solution that wouldn’t require a complete system overhaul. “I searched on ‘easy app development,’” he recalls. “I thought, OK, I need an app that could directly edit our database Excel files on Microsoft OneDrive. That's where I came across Google Cloud’s AppSheet, because that is one of its use cases.” The ease of use of AppSheet’s no-code platform intrigued Munjal. Though he learned some Python coding skills while in graduate school, he admits, “I’m not the IT guy on the team. In fact, we don’t have an IT person on this project.” AppSheet’s no-code platform was a fast and flexible solution to Munjal’s data management challenges for his remote field project. He reflects on what became an easy decision to choose AppSheet. “Creating an app [with code] was out of the question,” he remembers. “I did not have the time to create a front end or UI and understand the tools or a new [programming] language.” And hiring a developer to customize off-the-shelf apps, he says, “just becomes slow and expensive.”  He chose AppSheet for its simplicity and power to enable developers to push no-code apps into service quickly. “AppSheet works really well because I did not have to [create] a front end, which was done by AppSheet itself. For the kind of data we want to show, it works really well.” His AppSheet-powered app integrated easily with the energy company’s data management system. “We are running off Excel rather than having a SQL database, which would be ideal,” Munjal says. “These kinds of challenges are very common across developing phases of a project or system. In that sense, AppSheet works very well because it directly integrates into the tools we use, rather than our having to migrate our database [to a different platform]. That is the key.”. Munjal also liked that AppSheet can function offline — a huge plus for field workers in remote areas where connectivity can be spotty. This offline capability is made possible because Information needed to run the app is stored locally on the mobile device. Field workers can use the app to log the specific water pump installed at each farm location, and update the database when connectivity becomes available. And he can manage the remote field work at farms throughout the state from his office in Mumbai.  The results: Connecting people and data Munjal rolled out his AppSheet-powered app for Ravindra Energy’s field workers in February 2020. “The guys in the field input data coming into an Excel file on OneDrive, which then integrates with our other systems,” he explains. “That data directly shows up in my database,” providing the real-time information he needs to keep the solar water pumps project flowing. “The data is always crystal clear. There is no confusion about what is done or what is not done.” His AppSheet-powered app was easy for people in the field to use. He says, “Once they understood the [app’s] benefits, I don't think they could function without it now.” When new issues crop up in the field or the home office, Munjal can quickly adapt his AppSheet-powered app to handle any changes. “That's where AppSheet works out really well, because I can iterate [a new solution] very quickly,” he says. “I can think of something and within a half an hour, I can iterate it. That is a very powerful tool to have.”  He also likes that AppSheet works across devices, giving workers the flexibility to work wherever they need to. “They not only use our AppSheet app on their phones when they’re traveling, they use the web interface as well, whenever they are on their laptops.” Going forward, Munjal sees many opportunities for the energy and construction industries to take greater advantage of no-code apps built with Google Cloud’s AppSheet. “The whole of our industry has not moved to digital, like our clients,” Munjal says. Yet, there’s a world of opportunity for citizen developers like him to use AppSheet’s no-code platform to improve how their businesses operate.    “Creating apps is not my main job,” Munjal asserts, “so AppSheet was very useful.” Are you ready to kickstart your next data-driven citizen development project? AppSheet is always free to start:

Jewelry store owner brings family business into digital era with Google Cloud's AppSheet

Lohith Dhaksha is a fifth-generation owner and operator of his family business, P S Jewellery. Founded in 1896 and based in Tiruttani, Tamil Nadu, India, the company sells jewelry and watches for men, women, and children. The shop has thrived for more than a century by providing quality, fashionable accessories made from gold, silver, and other precious metals. They also sell diamonds and gemstones. A qualified chartered accountant  with an interest in computer programming, Lohith was tapped to step in and run the business, taking the torch from his father. “We wanted to expand our business to all over India,” Lohith says. “But my father was initially reluctant to invest in and embrace technology.” After rounds of discussion with Lohith, his father was ready to embrace digital transformation. Now, Lohith is about to launch his e-commerce website in October, 2020, to attract customers beyond their loyal, local base. “We’ve built our family business on loyalty and trust,” he says. “We may be a little pricey, but we guarantee quality. But I realized, even though we’re a very old business, we didn’t have a way to keep track of our customers — including those families who purchased jewelry from us for generations. I figured we were losing business to other shops because we didn’t track our visitors.” To remain competitive in the 21st century, P S Jewellery needed to establish an online presence, kick e-commerce into full gear, and modernize its customer communications, data tracking, and marketing. Says Lohith, “The biggest problem I faced was logistics.” The challenge: Kickstarting a digital transformation Lohith acknowledges his family business was slow to adopt technology. “We should have done some of these changes in the early 2000s,” he laments. “Now, I am running to catch the bus.” But they didn’t survive 125 years only to be left behind. Lohith knew he had to get the business online and create mobile-friendly tools for company communications and other essential operations. It was now or never. They started gathering customer information the old-fashioned way — using a sign-up book in the shop. Employees entered the sign-up data into Google Contacts. This synced with Lohith and his father’s company Gmail account, which the business owners accessed from their mobile phones. It also provided a central means for father or son to respond to customer inquiries. “But the problem was, since mobile numbers are very sensitive [one digit off and it’s wrong], they are prone to error while typing,” Lohith recalls. Trying to decipher customers’ handwriting wasn’t working. “What I needed was an app, so employees could enter customers’ information before they leave our showroom.” Lohith began searching for apps, but soon realized “I was not in a position to invest a lot” in off-the-shelf software. “I was searching, searching, searching,” he says. “I found some other companies that offered no-code app development. But what struck me about Google Cloud’s AppSheet was it worked with Google Sheets.” Choosing AppSheet: Finding gold in no-code apps Lohith had some experience with survey creation tool Google Forms, and he and his father already shared a company Gmail account. So he was comfortable working with GSuite tools and made an easy leap to AppSheet. “I wanted to build a database in Google Sheets,” he explains. “I was struck that AppSheet could [connect with] Sheets or any other database. It even provided me with a neat interface for the staff to use.” Lohith’s first AppSheet-powered app works with SMS by Zapier Integrations and MSG91 communications API. “AppSheet captures the raw data, which goes into Google Sheets,” he explains. “I can make Google Sheets [data input] as a trigger. So whenever a new record is created or updated, it will automatically go and create a contact in Google Contacts. And at the same time, it will trigger a personalized SMS. Whenever the customer purchases something, and before leaving the showroom, they'll receive a thank-you SMS message.” He then created a second app with AppSheet for inventory management. P S Jewellery sells a wide range of bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, and anklets in different styles, both elegant and casual. “With jewelry, you have very minute differences in the various designs,” Lohith says. “When we give orders to our suppliers, we have to specify all the specifications and variations in designs,” including, for example, the weight and measurement of anklets. Lohith’s father had traditionally written down these specs on a piece of paper. Like the sign-up book in the store, this left room for interpretation — and errors. “There was too much lack of clarity in communication between us and the supplier,” Lohith says. “[This results in] too much discrepancy in the design. So I created an AppSheet app to track inventory and create a supply order, which specifies anklet weight, length, design — all those things.” This ensured suppliers got the right orders, and the store got the anklets customers desired. The results:  Bringing a family business into the future The next AppSheet-powered app on Lohith’s list to develop? Customized text message marketing for customers at different stages along the sales funnel. “We want to customize our SMS messages for a new visitor, a returning customer, and a retained customer,” Lohith says. “We’re exploring ways to create an app with AppSheet to provide different content for our customers.” No-code development gave Lohith the opportunity to flex his technology skills and become a true citizen developer — while modernizing his family’s business operations and paving the way for the future. “My childhood dream was to become a software engineer, but that never landed me a job,” Lohith recalls. “I chose finance as my profession. But I always had a passion for technology. Even still, I have a dream to learn a programming language.” By building no-code apps with AppSheet, Lohith can continue to expand his technology skills while finding fast-and-easy solutions to his family’s business challenges. His father is now the best QA expert and tester Lohith could ask for. “He now understands the benefits [of no-code apps] and how efficient we can run things,” Lohith says. “He started to adapt to the changes. And he started to give me suggestions. ‘Can you try this?’ For him, he just needs a base. I learned all the complexities of the business and different situations through him. He always tells me one thing: ‘When you see through your eyes, you won't get that error. When you see that through someone [else’s] eyes, they will easily find that error.’ He’s the perfect tester.” The family will continue to explore how no-code apps and other technology tools can help keep their jewelry business sparkling for generations to come. Adds Lohith, “I am sure no-code will be the future.”

Feature Friday | September Recap

Welcome back to AppSheet’s Feature Friday where we showcase both new and favorite features. This quick guide will help you build your apps faster so you can focus on what matters.  September: Month in review  September brought the change of seasons and a few notable announcements of updates you'll be able to experience in AppSheet soon. Most of the product enhancements made came from months of small, incremental steps that led to larger releases.  Below is a recap of some of the key features and areas of focus we’ve been working on behind the scenes:  Next OnAir announcement of AppSheet Automation Completion of our migration efforts to expand our GCP integrations Testing phase of our PDF Creation Facility  UI refresh with updates Google branding  Apigee Data Source moved to general availability  Improved chart rendering  SOC 2 Type II compliance  We also held our Quarterly Office Hours webinar where we discussed what we've worked on over the past few months and what you can expect over the next quarter. If you missed the live webinar, you can review the recording of it on our Office Hours Youtube playlist.   A number of these features were made possible by the feedback and adventurous spirit of each of our app creators. Thank you to each and every one of you who continues to volunteer for early testing and feedback opportunities.  We have a lot more in store before the end of the year. Follow along with our feature release notes in the AppSheet community to gather more information as it becomes available. 

Feature Friday | Editor Refresh Q&A

  Welcome back to AppSheet’s Feature Friday where we showcase new and favorite features. This quick guide will help you build your apps faster so you can focus on what matters.  Editor UI Refresh Q&A with Carie Phon  Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. What is your current role at Google and what area of AppSheet are you currently working on?  I’m a UX/UI Product Designer. My main area of focus is improving the app creation experience for both new and existing app creators. At this very moment, however, I’m working on refreshing the App UI, the apps being created by app creators (more information to come!)  You've been working on refreshing an important part of the AppSheet experience. Can you tell us what that is?  Now that we’re a part of Google Cloud, there has been a huge effort across AppSheet to integrate. The Google UI refresh was no exception. To ensure an integrated experience without breaking existing functionality, we adopted Google’s Material design standards into the product. The refresh introduces accessible colors and contrast, recognizable Material UI patterns, visual hierarchy, and minor usability improvements to the Editor.  You worked closely with our Creator Community on this project, can you explain what that relationship is like?  The Creator Community was instrumental in how quickly we were able to deliver the refreshed UI to the public. From day one, I was thrilled at the number of people who volunteered to beta-test the product. The Editor refresh was a substantial change, so the fact that so many people readily opted into the new interface was incredible. Thanks to the beta-testing group, we got a lot of great, honest feedback and were able to correct a number of issues right before launch. If it wasn’t for these dedicated testers, I don’t think we would have felt as confident about rolling out to the public as soon as we did.  Was there a challenge you didn’t anticipate that ending up turning into something you really enjoyed?  At first, the Editor was intimidating. App creators use the Editor on a daily basis, it was a real challenge to incorporate Google design patterns into such an intricate interface using only CSS updates. However, what was intimidating at first quickly became a fun collaboration between cross-functional teams. Together, we were able to make AppSheet look and feel like a Google Cloud product and improve usability without any major functionality changes. It looks so different and yet it’s still the same AppSheet under the hood! What was your favorite part of the refresh experience?  It’s hard to pick just one part, I’ve learned so much from this experience, but one moment that really stood out to me was the first time I saw an AppSheet demo using the new UI. That made me really happy to see someone making an app, end-to-end, using the designs I created.  Any final thoughts you’d like to share?  This was a collaborative effort, a special shout out to the entire team who made this all possible: Nico, Seth, Maria, Arthur, Mike, Chris H, Josh, Morgan, Peter, Jeff, Christina, Lilia, Dallas, Devin, Chris B, Praveen, and Theirry. The refresh is but one of many improvements to come, stay tuned for more updates to the app creation experience!   Thank you again to Carie from our incredible engineering team for your contributions to this week's post. Be sure to follow along in the AppSheet Creator Community for additional updates and get started building your next app today.   

Event coordinator helps track mountain bike racers during COVID-19 with Google Cloud's AppSheet

An avid cyclist and mountain biker who studied industrial engineering, Hennie Scheepers found his dream job as Information Systems Manager at Faces Advendurance. The South African company organizes a wide range of adventure endurance sporting events including cycling, mountain biking, obstacle course racing, and trail running. The Nissan Trailseeker Series is one such event, known for its outstanding trails, scenic locations, family-friendly experience, and competitive field. Held in the outskirts of the capital city Pretoria, the race is open to both novice and professional mountain bikers and runners of all ages. For months, Hennie prepared for this highly anticipated event, which took place on September 4–6, 2020.  Since 2017, Hennie had been using Google Sheets to manage the Faces Advendurance registration process.  “An events company’s biggest asset is its database,” he explains. He says it became costly and time consuming to outsource registration to a third-party vendor. So Faces Advendurance took the function in-house.  “I built our registration system onto Google Sheets, which I liked very much, so we could do registration on our own,” he says. The solution worked, though he had to teach numerous volunteers, including many students, how to use the system on race mornings. Sometimes, mistakes were made. He knew he had to find an easier way to track race participants and update data on the fly.  Then, COVID-19 made everything even more challenging. The challenge: Rethinking race registration Hennie admits he’s not a programmer, though he enjoys keeping up with technology trends. As an info systems manager, it’s his job to find software and apps that keep his company’s services up and running smoothly. Bringing the digital and physical worlds together can be a logistical challenge, especially for events in remote locations.  When the coronavirus pandemic put new restrictions on sporting events — including how many participants could enter a race course at one time — Hennie started brainstorming easier ways to manage registration and participant activity. He needed to find something that could quickly and accurately pull in database records; track participants’ start, checkpoint, and finish times; and be easy for multiple event volunteers to update data in the field from their mobile phones.       “We started printing QR codes on timing boards in January 2019, but could never find a way to efficiently scan the codes and submit the number to a database,” he explains. “When we went into lockdown, I was searching for QR code scanner apps, and somehow, I stumbled across AppSheet's no-code development platform. At the time, I didn’t even know no-code existed. I liked that AppSheet could pull in data from Google Sheets. I’m such a nerd, I stayed up in bed at night watching AppSheet YouTube tutorials to learn what it could do. I thought, ‘I can do this. Let’s give it a try.’” Choosing AppSheet: Making course corrections “The Nissan Trailseeker is the biggest mountain bike series in the world, with six events per year attracting 3,000 riders per event,” Hennie explains. Some events, such as the Pretoria mountain bike race in September, span three days and conclude with a trial run attracting between 400 and 1,000 runners per event. That’s a lot of mountain bikers and runners, trail courses of varying distances, and time slots to manage and track.  “Now, our COVID regulation stipulates that we’re only allowed 300 people at an event,” Hennie continues, “and we must start them in batches of less than 50.” To foster social distancing and limit the number of people on the course, they broke the big race down into six smaller events, totaling 1,800 participants to register and time. Google Cloud's AppSheet enabled Hennie to build a quick-and-easy app that imports data into Google Sheets from race participants who have pre-registered online through their entry platform. He then installed his custom app onto 20 race phones and distributed them to students and other volunteers. Volunteers can use the app to register new participants as they arrive at the event, assign them race numbers, and plug them into available time slots. Faces Advendurance uses an RFID (Radio-Frequency Identification) timing system, where race participants get a tag with a tracking code that is automatically scanned by RFID readers as participants cross the finish line. Participants’ results automatically update in Google Sheets and are then made available in the app in real time for race organizers. When mountain bikers and runners cross the finish line, the RFID system enters their race number and a timestamp is added to Google Sheets and Hennie’s AppSheet app. “I built the app in such a way that anyone can register at any time,” Hennie says. “I know when they start, I know which batch they start in – and compared to what we were doing before, no one can make a mistake now. So I can literally give the phone to a student and show them in one minute what to do.”  The app has also improved handling of event logistics. “In the past, everything had to be done on laptops,” Hennie says. “The challenge with that is we have to set up tables with generators and electricity and WiFi. When there are 3,000 people on the venue the [cellular] tower struggles to handle it. When I read that AppSheet-powered apps can go offline, it was a colossal plus. So I bought phones with dual SIM cards and two providers. Now, there’s no problem at all if there’s no connectivity.” Hennie’s new AppSheet race registration app was put to the test at the September 2020 event.  “It could hardly have gone better!” he says. “We received so many compliments from participants about the new registration system.” Thanks to the app, the company created a much faster registration process, a neater registration area (“no laptops, cables, or power supply units!”), improved timing accuracy, and offered greater convenience for racers in the field (no need to return to the registration table to make changes). Limited Internet access did not slow things down. Hennie also combined COVID-19 screening into the app’s registration process, cutting out an extra step.  And when the timing scanners hiccuped at the mountain biking finish line, Hennie “quickly built a backup timing solution in AppSheet, enabling our staff to scan each finisher's race number using the QR code we printed in the number board.” The app has also enabled event organizers to more quickly handle race participant queries after the event. The results: Getting out in front of the race With Hennie’s custom-built Google Cloud's AppSheet app, he and Faces Advendurance can now focus on running sporting events — often in remote areas — and on timing race participants, without worrying about connectivity issues and other technical difficulties.  “The results are fed directly from Google Sheets to WordPress,” Hennie says. “So when someone crosses the finish line, their result is posted online immediately. Our admin staff is incredibly impressed by this new functionality. It made their lives much easier. They are able to provide quicker and more accurate service to our participants.”  Hennie says the sky’s the limit with Google Cloud's AppSheet. He’s now experimenting with breaking down different types of relational databases into subsets (e.g., batches of participants, course lengths) and specific disciplines (mountain biking, trail running, and road racing), for even more precise event management and better customer service for participants. He’s even built a COVID-19 compliance app for his children’s school to allow administrators to take students’ temperatures and enter them into a Google Data Studio dashboard.  “In our world, this is a game changer,” Hennie says. “No one in South Africa is doing it this way because there are too many variations for a standard [off-the-shelf] app. Now I’m building an AppSheet-powered app for our obstacle races. Our two biggest events are a cycling event (Ride Joburg) of 20,000 cyclists and a running event (Cape Town Marathon) with 25,000 runners. And both of those have registration challenges. I think our apps are going to answer all of that.” Ready to become an app creator like Hennie? Start building for free on AppSheet today.

We Love App Creators

Millions of people use no-code development platforms like Google Cloud's AppSheet to build custom business applications that help improve processes in the workplace. To get a better understanding of no-code app creators, their goals, and their motivations, we recently partnered with TechValidate to collect more than a thousand responses from AppSheet app creators. What we discovered is a diverse set of app creators, with even more diverse goals and motivations, who have all embraced no-code app development as a way to optimize business workflows. Now, let’s take a look at the data. Let's start with technical ability. While 35% report having beginner’s knowledge of traditional coding skills like Java, Python, or C#, 39% reported having no traditional coding knowledge at all. This means that roughly 74% have little to no traditional coding skills when they start using AppSheet. This statistic helps provide insight into the results of next question. We asked app creators why they chose a no-code platform over a low-code platform. For context, no-code and low-code platforms represent different approaches aimed at different users. Low-code platforms involve coding and are intended for traditional developers to provide them with a faster development environment. No-code platforms require no coding (hence the name) and expand the definition of who can be a developer. No-code empowers anyone — even those without technical ability — to build apps. It’s no surprise then that our app creators, most of whom have little or no coding skills, chose no-code app development over low-code app development. Respondents said that no-code development is easier (57%) and more flexible (36%) than low-code development, affording problem-solving technology skills to anyone in an organization regardless of coding knowledge or ability.  And where do people use their no-code apps? The vast majority of people we surveyed use no-code app development on the job, either to build apps for their teams (47%), for other people or businesses (43%), or for their own business (38%), though a smaller number (24%) do use AppSheet as a hobby or at school (5%). Our survey found that 80% reported that they started using no-code development for “general business needs,” and a smaller percentage (14%) began to fill an educational or non-profit need. Regardless of where people use no-code application development, they’ve chosen to do so for a variety of reasons. Speed is the most common response, as 32% of respondents report the quick time to develop an app as the “best thing about no-code app development.” Other reasons people use no-code app development are flexibility (17%), the low barrier to get started (17%), ease of use (15%), low cost (7%), and the creativity afforded by the platform (8%). Saving time and money are top benefits for app creators: 82% say that no-code development saves them time, and 60% say that no-code development saves their organization money.  “The future is no-code app development,” says one app creator who works as a project manager at an independent retail business. “Creating an app from a simple spreadsheet opens up endless possibilities in making business processes seamless.”  We love app creators for their ingenuity, resourcefulness, and creativity. That's why this September and October, we'll be running spotlights of AppSheet app creators on our blog to showcase the various use cases for the no-code platform. App creators span the globe and work in various fields. However, they always have a few things in common: they want to jump-start digital transformations in their workplaces and bridge the physical and digital worlds. Read our first app creator spotlight on Hennie Scheepers, who uses AppSheet to build apps for his company, Faces Advendurance.  Ready to become an app creator yourself? Start building on Google Cloud's AppSheet today:

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