The environmental due diligence sector is not the only one going mobile. The need to access data in real time from mobile devices is pulling other sectors of the environmental industry up the technology adoption curve as well.
EDR Insight’s Dianne Crocker sat down with Con-Test Analytical Laboratory’s Kevin Gibbons Director of Sales & Marketing at the January Environmental Bankers Association conference in Orlando to talk about the company’s roll-out of the industry’s first-ever mobile app for laboratory testing.
Dianne Crocker: Con-Test is about to roll out iLab. Tell me a little bit about its features.
Kevin Gibbons: We built iLab with the goal of providing our clients in the field with quick access to every resource Con-Test has to offer. The main features iLab offers are the ability to view sampling guidelines, our training videos, our method databases, and directories of federal and state regulations; place a bottle order; request courier pick up; receive secure push notifications regarding data results; and much more.
DC: I have to ask. How did Apple feel about you using the brand name, iLab?
KG: I’d be lying if I said we weren’t at all apprehensive about getting Apple’s approval to use the name. The firm we hired to assist us with iLab advised us that it is really dependent on whom you end up dealing with at Apple. Fortunately, in our case, it went very smoothly and we were able to secure the permission we needed to launch iLab.
DC: Can you give me a little background on the impetus for Con-Test making the investment to invest in developing the iLab app? Was it a push from clients or clients’ clients?
KG: When planning iLab, we used a focus group of our consultant clients to determine what features would be most valuable to include in the app. Getting their input was absolutely critical to us in developing a useful mobile tool. A common theme we heard from the group was that they have often have younger (and greener) staff out doing their field work. What this meant was that it was important to give clients a tool like iLab right at their fingertips that would serve as a resource for all the questions junior staff may have while out sampling in the field. Professionals in the Millennial/Gen Y generation are so technology savvy and comfortable using their smart phones as their main source for information so it made perfect sense to us to develop the mobile app iLab for that very purpose when working with Con-Test.
DC: What about the benefit to Con Test of going this route?
KG: Well, the lab business as whole is a commoditized industry with a flat overall market size. Continued price erosion is very prevalent. In our mind, it therefore became even more critical for us to invest in key differentiators based around overall “Ease of Use” when it came to working with our lab. We identified three key elements that we wanted to be known for that are currently lacking in the industry: (1) providing superior customer service, (2) consistently delivering on-time quality data, and (3) embracing progressive, innovative technology. Being first to market with mobile technology like iLab truly gives us a distinct edge over our competitors.
DC: How you see iLab fitting in your consultant clients’ work flow and process?
KG: We see this as really changing how our clients interact with us as their lab in a significant way. For starters, it will make it easier for them to get questions answered, set up bottle orders & courier service for their project and make quicker decisions simply because the data results can now be sent right to their smart phones through iLab.
DC: What about the resource elements of iLab?
KG: Our project management team at the lab receives numerous inquiries from clients in the field trying to determine proper procedures for their sampling projects. Now, with iLab, they have instant Q&A related to taking and preserving samples. The “Electronic Field Notebook” gives them the ability to upload pictures, and access to reports that provide them with a mobile tool for reference and communication back to their supervisor and clients. Moving forward, the iLab app will be able to provide them with anything they need to know working with Con-Test.
DC: What do you view as the key benefits of offering your clients a mobile app versus the traditional way of doing things?
KG: Mobile technology is changing every business. So you can choose to either be ahead of the curve or behind it. Time savings, of course, is the main benefit because of the way that iLab streamlines the process of getting lab sample results. I also believe that the app will ease our clients’ burden of training newer staff given that they now have a powerful resource available to them now wherever they are 24/7. Having a Con-Test project manager available via instant text, or being able to access sampling guidelines, state regs and more right from a tool in the palm of your hand for the first time ever is extremely powerful. If you think about it, many of the key decisions made on-site for our clients are based on their lab data. So there is no more important item to have available on site than one that efficiently provides critical decision making criteria to them and their clients.
DC: What’s been the feedback from clients so far?
KG: I’m happy to say that early feedback from clients has been remarkably positive. They all agree that this will be a huge help for their field staff. It will also be a game changer for us as mobile is definitely where the environmental industry is going.
DC: What’s the schedule for roll out? Any plans for version 2.0 of iLab in the works?
KG: We officially launched iLab to market the first week of February.This is Phase 1 of the app with plans to roll out Phase II in the early Spring (adds the ability for clients to access project data even when offline, send notes to project chemist and get IM notifications from project contacts). As we continue to hear feedback from our client base on what they find valuable and what else they might like to see, we will continually incorporate additional features and launch updated versions of iLab.
NOTE TO READERS: EDR Insight wishes to thank Kevin Gibbons for taking the time to do this interview. For more information on Con-Test’s new app, visit http://www.contestlabs.com/ilab/