We kick off The Rick & Clo Tech Show with a bang. Talking about the art of efficiency, Rick tells Chloe all about something exciting he’s working on for a client right now. Imagine a process that takes, on average, 2-3 days to complete, and turning it into something that now takes a matter of seconds. Literally.
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Rick 00:00: Something I’ve had a lot of fun working on in the last couple of weeks is an application that is aimed to save one of our clients a huge amount of time.
Rick 00:08: Previously, they were taking 2 or 3 days a week to photograph products that are then put onto the website for sale and it’s a key part of the job to get those products on there and get them up as quickly as possible. But also the quality is very important. And so they had traditionally been using a large DSLR camera, you know, lighting, and all the right things. But, it’s taking a long time. So it’s a manual process that we were aiming to automate. So what we’ve done is taken the iOS platform, so Apple’s iPhones and iPads all run on iOS. And we have made an application that takes the latest iPhone 12 camera which is a huge improvement on previous ones. Now actually, the Pro Max has a special double-sized sensor.
Rick 01:06: This is a very powerful device in a number of ways because unlike a camera, a camera does one thing, it takes a photograph and processes it and then hands that file over to you. What the device that we’re using is, it’s a full-blown computer and it’s a very powerful one. So we’ve got a graphics processing unit in there that allows us to take the film, on the fly, and every frame we’re applying a filter to optimise the colour, we are lightening the edges and the corners so that it looks clearer and cleaner, and then we are applying branding across the frame. So every frame, 60 frames a second is being filtered and applied, and saved into a 4K video.
Rick 01:51: So we’ve got a 4K video being produced. While that video is being taken we actually have access to the raw centre data. So what we’ve done is circumnavigated the old way of taking photographs and taking photographs at the same time. So while the video is being recorded and the product is rotating, we are taking a photograph every so many seconds (Wow.) So then we have a collection of 40 or 30 4K, high-resolution photographs that we can use in a carousel, for example. So you can just have one of those sliders that moves left and right and the product rotates. No video required in that circumstance.
Rick 02.31: Now, all of those are also processed with the filters. They are then saved with the information of the vehicle. Now, we’ve added another two steps to make this even faster. We’ve used the cameras ability to recognise objects and text, so instead of entering the vehicle information, what we do is you can just point the camera at the VIN number for the, and it will look up the details in the Cloud through an API and find out what the make and model of it, the size, the accessories that came with it when it was originally sold, what colour, what age and even can check whether the vehicles been stolen.
Chloe 03:12: Wow.
Rick 03:13: So all those checks can happen on the device when you are about to take the photographs then we take the photographs and the video at the same time so it takes about 60 seconds to rotate fully um so we have a 60 second 4k video 30 shots that are taken on the way around and the information about the vehicle. So all those checks can happen on the device when you are about to take the photographs. Then we take the photographs and the video at the same time, so it takes about 60 seconds to rotate fully. So we have a 60-second 4K video, 30 shots that are taken on the way round, and the information about the vehicle. The next thing it does is turns all of that into a set that we upload directly to the cloud, so no server involved. It’s just putting it into a storage bucket and then it sends you a link so that you can see a web page that will load those up and demonstrate them.
Rick 03:50: So the whole process should take 1-2 minutes.
Chloe 03:51: (Laughter) Wow.
Rick 03:57: Right. Per vehicle. So a job that was taking 2 to 3 hours per vehicle is now 2 to 3 minutes.
Chloe 04:08: That’s insane.
Rick 04:10: Now, that is insane. That is a huge improvement because what it means is, the time that that person was spending on those jobs can be reapplied. So your productivity is going up, your efficiency is going up, and the person’s skill requirement to actually do the job has gone down because we don’t need somebody who knows how to handle raw photography from a digital camera. we don’t need somebody to use Lightroom, we don’t need somebody to have that software bought and installed on a separate laptop. Our hardware costs have gone down, right, and it can be repurposed. Say next year the better camera comes out, buy a new one, install the same software, still works.
Chloe 04:49: Wow.
Rick 04:50: So there is a huge number of benefits there with that kind of automation. Now, that takes some very deep technology knowledge from our side to make the app.
Chloe 05:01: Yeah absolutely!
Rick 05:02: Really, the concept itself isn’t complex. The concept is, we need to take some photographs of a product, but we need them on the internet and we need them to be, you know, looking as good as they can be and we need them branded. So, there’s a lot there. Previously people would be buying what we call a media processing server space, so when you upload a video that video is then converted into the formats that’s required. That’s quite costly and if you’re managing a lot of videos, a lot of content, you know it does sometimes make sense to do the processing yourself, but then that takes skill and software and other things. (Yep.) So we can build these apps to actually do everything you need in one and take advantage of these incredibly powerful pieces of kit. So, yeah.
Chloe 05:51: Do you think, because something like that I wouldn’t even, obviously from a non-tech point of view, I wouldn’t even think to approach a company like you with that sort of problem and think that technology can, you know, solve that issue. (Agreed.) So how does that even come about?
Rick 06:11: Ah. So this is the trick with what we, what we do is we do bootcamps. So The Tech Bootcamp™ is how we find these problems and how we can find problems that people don’t think can be solved by technology.
Chloe 06:23: Right, I see. So they don’t come to you and say “Look I’ve got this issue, I need you to help.” They actually probably don’t know that they’ve got that problem in the first place.
Rick 06:33: They didn’t know that that was the biggest problem. (Yep.) What they knew was that they were behind on their technology and they felt that they were not, they felt they were being inefficient in their workspace and they knew that they’ve got new pressures. Everybody’s getting new pressures from the changing economy, from, you know, the lockdowns. We’re all having to adapt and do things as quickly and well and be productive as we can. And so what we do with these bootcamps is we sit down and go through some very basic exercises of discussing the performance of the company and the team and the products, not asking them what their technical problems are. (Right, okay.) Because, if you’re not technical, how do you know what your technical problems are?
Chloe 07:18: Well, yeah. That was my first thought is I wouldn’t even know that technology could solve that issue.
Rick 07:23: No, exactly. So, so this is the, for me, this is the excitement, finding these little nuggets, these golden moments where you’re like “Oh you don’t know there’s a thing that can solve this problem.” That you didn’t even think was a problem because you’re spending your time doing it because you’ve always done it that way and why would you change it because it works? (Yep.) When you can find out that actually you could not only make it work quicker, more simply, but then get other benefits. (Yep.) From the, you know. Because, too often we are all too busy with our day job to optimise what we are actually doing. (Yep.)
Rick 08:01: And optimisation is a ridiculously powerful thing. Even in my circumstance. Yesterday I had a spare half hour and we had that PDF work that I was talking to you about and so I went back through the code and looked for where I could optimise it and I was able to improve one of the formats by 10 times, just by spending half an hour on it and that is what people need to think about. The benefit of taking time out from what you doing your day job, because we’re all in this treadmill. Just going and going and going and going. You’ve got to stop and then look through this with simple exercises where you can find out the thing that needs to change first and that’ll have a biggest impact on your day, or will give you time back or make your staff more productive or you know, so there is huge numbers of opportunities for people if they take the time to educate a little bit. You don’t have to spend a long time educating yourself hugely, you just, you just need a guide.
Chloe 09:08: I just think from that, taking away the one thing is that the possibilities are endless. (Yep.) As long as you put the time in, you know, not you personally, but like you say, going to someone and just saying “Look I know I’ve got a problem, I don’t know exactly what it is, I need your help.”
Rick 09:30: It doesn’t even have to be a problem. (Oh okay, yep.) Sometimes it’s, sometimes it’s not a problem, it’s you know what, we’re doing gangbusters, we’re doing really well and I’m getting frazzled. (Yep.) So, the problem is time, but then other times the problem might not even be obvious, like it’s actually opportunity more than a problem. So when we go in to some people, they don’t, they’re not bringing us in that kind of like “Everything is going wrong, we need some help!” They’re actually saying “Hey, we’re successful, we’re growing. We know that we’re gonna need to take advantage of more recent technology or it’s coming up for a new time to do our website.” Or whatever it might be.
Rick 10:18: There’s just a stimulus somewhere to say we need to try and make this company work more effectively and more smoothly and that’s often the case. Smooth interconnection between teams, communication and workflows that actually work, not workflows that are given to you by some piece of software that you bought and everyone’s now having to spend 6 more hours a week just because they’ve been filling in software. (Yep.) You know, honestly sometimes software implementation makes people less productive. Because they buy into the big picture of it has more features, it has more features therefore it’s more value. Is it? Often isn’t.
Chloe 11:02: So it doesn’t matter where you are in the journey, whether you’re just starting out, whether you’ve got a problem, whether you’re, you know, really successful. There’s always a way that you can be more efficient.
Rick 11:12: Yep. There’s always opportunity, correct. There’s always opportunity to make an improvement somewhere. And if you don’t think that’s true, then it means you think that technology stays still because we have to improve ourselves all the time. We’re technologists. I spend my entire life learning, that’s why I love technology. I’m addicted to learning. I have to learn. If I stopped learning I would become irrelevant in 6 to 12-months. Almost.
Chloe 11.42: That’s how quick…
Rick 11:44: Because that’s how quick things move. Now, most companies can’t move that quickly so they’re talking more like, you know, 3 to 5-year cycles of changing their infrastructure and their technology. So having a guide to help you is often the good case, you know. You don’t know what you don’t know. I don’t know what I don’t know. And everyday I read something and find out something new, so yeah.
Chloe 12:09: I mean you wouldn’t realise that. You’d think that you know everything about tech and you are, I mean, every time something comes out you’re gonna know about it. So I think you’re the closest we can get to knowing everything about technology.