We are happy to announce our new data partner, CarMD. The loss of our previous data supplier was indeed a sore loss for all of our customers, losing labor guides and other useful day to day data to help in running your shop. The Edmunds API was retired about 18 months ago and the only alternatives were far too expensive. CarMD offers a wide range of reports, diagnostics, AI repair recommendations, warranty info and other useful data.
Development has been underway for a while to deliver these new features, and should be ready before too long. As this data is not free for us to provide, there is a need to anticipate usage so we can be sure how to price this in to our subscription plans. For now, the new labor guides are only available in our unlimited annual and monthly plans and we will know more about usage levels in a few weeks, as we open up the new features in beta to a group of invited users we can see if this is cost effective in data usage. We hope so!
The development of the reporting tools is the easy part here, but getting around some of the high cost for the data is certainly causing more headaches on how we can deliver this valuable data to our customers. In order to gain insights into data usage and costs we will be opening an invite-only beta program, stay tuned, it could be you!
In the meantime, here is a taste of what is to come, we still need to add finishing touches to the parts of the user interface.
Another new year, another development roadmap for the year ahead. Most of our planned 2017 upgrades were successfully carried out and implemented, with a few hiccups along the way as our more regular users were great in highlighting and reporting to us. We hope you all have reaped the benefits of the new features.
So, what to expect in 2018? More third party integrations are at the top of the list, particularly with parts suppliers, but also with other online services that may be relevant. We hope to move on this soon, within the next few weeks to get the ball rolling. This will be part of a larger upgrade to our inventory system and tracking, which will bring many new features such as invoice-level profit reporting and many other exciting new developments.
In the near future we will be offering live chat customer support, and customers on our unlimited plans will be able to message our support team directly. We will roll out live chat support to other customers for an additional monthly fee later in the year.
Online payments are another area we are looking at in a big way, and the adoption of cryptocurrencies as a payment method both for our software and for you to get paid from your customers. We anticipate this generating much interest, and we are waiting a little while for the markets to settle, we will be option for a high-speed transaction currency, at the moment Ripple is most suited to this, but the tech changes fast.
Other plans for this year include revising the VIN decoder and providing better data sources for this information. More reporting and cost analysis is on the way too along with useful information on shop performance and profitability, these new features will make your auto repair shop more efficient, part of these upgrades will involve a smoother flow through the system as work is being carried out.
Many of you will be happy to hear that a full upgrade is planned for our Android app, to iron out the bugs and bring it up to date with latest version of our web app. We still currently hold no plans for iOS development as of yet.
As always, stay tuned for updates here on our blog, facebook and twitter.
Thank you to all our loyal users and patient new users while we addressed some scaling issues with our system, we had an influx of new signups in the run up to and during the holiday season, so thanks to everyone who is spreading the word to their friends and family over the holidays, we greatly appreciate it!
However, our systems are creaking and we are ramping up to handle the extra demand. We recently performed several hardware upgrades to our infrastructure, but we are also seeing bottlenecks in the software too now. Most notable has been the unreliable PDF generation of invoices, which has been resolved now by changing to an alternative more lightweight PDF generator which should see this running smoothly again.
We have been having ongoing issues with PayPal as they make changes to their backend systems without letting developers know! Our own investigations into the data they do currently send us has allowed us to fix up the incorrect setting of expiry dates whereby user accounts due to be renewed in 12 months were only being renewed by one month. This should no longer happen now but if you find your account expiring before time please contact customer service.
Have a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year, and thank you to all our loyal users who continue to help us grow and make better software. We will continue with upgrades and tweaks in 2018 as we always do, and will post more details in the weeks to come!
We will soon be launching a survey which you will see when you login, we appreciate any feedback our valued customers have for us to improve.
Thank you for a good year here at Auto Repair Bill and here’s to keeping your shop running smoothly in 2018 and beyond!
We are received a large volume of requests regarding our Android app not being able to login customers. The issue has been identified now, and a fix will be rolled out as promptly as possible. We would like to apologize to our customers for this inconvenience, it would appear only some phone models/android versions are affected, this does make it more difficult to fix but we anticipate a release before the holiday season.
In the meantime, we advise our customers to use the web app on their mobile until this can be resolved fully on the native app. We noticed issues also in accessing the service from mobile devices using Chrome, and this has been resolved now, please find that the login on website on a mobile device is accessible by clicking Menu at top of homepage, and selecting Login.
We are currently experiencing a high volume of user signups and our systems are getting a little strained, we will have everything back to the smooth service you are used promptly. Some aspects of our system need to be scaled better, and it is aimed to be completed by the end of the month.
Crypto-currencies are gaining major ground and mainstream interest in the last few years. Bitcoin is familiar to most people, it’s checkered past with incidents on the deep web like Silk Road, regulatory problems and corruption form NYC state officials, a mysterious headman that little is known about, and the biggest question on anyone’s mind when it comes to money is, “can I trust this”, the answer is yes you can.
The beauty of the blockchain is that it is decentralized, there is no one central repository or point of failure; the system can neither be contained or privatized into sectors, as many financial institutions are currently attempting, and here it is, the bank will just be another bitcoin consumer, equal to you, me and everyone else.
Traditionally when money is exchanged, lets say an immigrant worker tries to wire money home, currently this is handled by a trusted third party, a bank, Western Union, PayPal, all of whom steal you blind with massive fees to simply keep track of a ledger that says one party no longer has the funds and the other party now has the transferred amount and/or services. With the blockchain, there is no middleman, the ledger is essentially maintained across the globe on millions or more ‘nodes’, these all talk to each other and update eachother as transactions happen; maintaining one irreversible global, anonymous ledger, based on computers trusting eachother on established protocols. It is also completely transparent, everyone can see the ledger, but everyone’s identity is anonymous. Why is this distributed nature so important? It cannot be taken down, think of it like torrents for money but transferring, not making copies.
Consider what money really is; just a record of who owes what to who and accounting for it. Now we all know the banks made a spectacular mess of the entire global economy, but what if there was an alternative? What if this can be done by a trusted network of computers replacing the role of corruptible middle-men stealing more than a slice.
The fact that the blockchain is trust among people directly, and that the financial structure of the network can’t be influenced by deep pockets or manipulated with traditional banking deviousness and it is really pissing off the banking industry. All their quick buck screw the public and crash the world bankers who brought us quantitative easing, sub-prime mortgages, debt swaps, CDO’s, this cannot be done on the blockchain value system, and it is doubtful bankers will ever find a way of ever corrupting the blockchain; remember technology will always outpace regulation, law and control, but the wheels of law while moving slow, eventually come down with a mighty hammer. This is normal for any new tech, the government will want in, but until bitcoin becomes a legal currency, there really is not a lot they can do once your identity is concealed and you are careful where and how you transact. Crypto-currency is taxable in many countries so seek advice from a local accountant if you are going to trade on the blockchain or invest in it, if you are unsure yourself of any legal implications.
Of course the media are highlighting the phenomenal growth in the last year in bitcoin value, and there is still time to get in on it, but like any investment it is subject to risk and market fluctuation. The chart below shows in one year it has mushroomed from $750 up to over $11,000.
The bigger benefits of the blockchain lies within using it to transact in; paying for and getting paid with bitcoin and crypto-currencies, everything happens outside the traditional walls of banks and state, the benefits of doing business this way is much more profitable with very little regulation as of yet. The eco-system that blockchain provides is far greater than the currencies that sit on top of it. Their are rich APIs available to build all kind of value transfers on top of the blockchain, you will start to see ‘blockchain apps’ in the next year or two starting to appear. Think of traditional transfer of knowledge or assets such as a deed to a house, much of this is now already possible on the blockchain and more and more applications will be added.
Everyone worries about the bubble bursting, the blockchain is smart enough to have learned form the mistakes of historical financial structures and have an auto-correcting market valuation, crazy right? Yes, crazy but true…
It is worth noting the scale of the blockchain network, it currently consumes 1.4% of global energy usage, more than some small nations, and the amount of power required to mine a single bitcoin on the network would run in the region of $3-5000 depending on where you live in the world, still profitable of course, but gives an idea of the amount of computing power going into running the network.
A final note of one weakness of the blockchain, an obstacle to it’s wider adoption in retail is limited by transaction time, the likes of Visa are setup to handle peak transactions of 25,000/s, bitcoin is more like 6/s, often taking up to 15 minutes for a transaction to be fully processed, this is a big issue, throwing more computing power at it would solve it but as you can see that is very expensive, but better hardware is being built all the time, as well as more efficient software running the network.
For those willing to believe, take a little chance, It is a a Brave New World.
We hope to be introducing blockchain payment via bitcoin in January 2018, our new payment system will allow for subscriptions to be paid for in bitcoin currency and also your auto repair shop will be able to accept bitcoin from customers as a payment option, with an easy link or barcode on invoices to send payments directly to you! Sound good?
Many requests from customers have been to store historical mileage data on invoices. This was previously managed by the vehicle log, and did not maintain a historical mileage record on individual invoices. This has now been changed so that all mileage information is now stored per invoice individually at the time of invoice creation.
We will be adding this to quotes and repair orders soon also.
Another aspect of our auto repair software we are looking at giving an overhaul is our inventory system, which is getting a review also, and we will be introducing a more feature rich tracking of cost of sales and profits on parts, other features we are considering here are part purchase dates. As always please get in touch with any suggestions you may have to improve the experience!
Once again we are happy to respond to user demand and trouble spots, managing multiple clients had been cumbersome for many new and existing users. The system of linking clients was a little awkward in retrospect, but thankfully laid the ground work for us to step with this upgrade, preserving all your existing linked client data.
Newly added clients with the replaced Add client feature, will as always be displayed and searchable through your master client list. Please notice we are no longer listing by licence plate, as many users do not enter this info, in place of this we have added a more sensible Car Make , Model , Year selection as an overview of the vehicles belonging to a client.
This is probably easier demonstrated than explained, so we have prepared a short youtube video to show how easy it is to add multiple vehicles with our new UI tweaks.