2018 Development Roadmap

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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.

Blockchain: What is it and how can it benefit you?

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.

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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.

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Realtime bitcoin value: http://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=XBT&to=USD&view=1Y

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…

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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?

Recent Updates: More available data on client screen

Previously, there was a limited view of past action on the client dashboard, e.g. you could only the previous booking made and the last 5 Repair Orders.  Needless to say this was not giving a complete overview of client-specific data that is readily available in your auto repair software.

Our revamped dashboard will now show you complete bookings history, a complete RO history, and as always, complete invoice/transaction history, however all this data is now wrapped in neat little scrolling sections, as we were aware some clients had issues with the ‘infinite scroll’ on clients that had lots of transactions processed over time.

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Other minor UI/UX tweaks have been made to how payments and certain actions are handed, using appropriate redirects depending on from what page the user takes an action, this new upgraded sub-system also prevents repeat operations, such as repeat payments, or repeat invoices due to browser reloads.

Fixed the issue of restoring a browser crash and navigating back to previous action on relaunch, these and other tunings significantly boost system efficiency and reliability, providing safeguards against common errors.

We will be adding estimates to the client dashboard screen too soon, so as always stay tuned!

Updates to Payment recording

We are happy to introduce a revamped payment recording on invoices, in an effort to both make this process more user friendly, and less prone to payment errors.

The most noticeable change is upon creating a payment, instead of the Transaction Complete notice, you will now be brought to that client account, with a message indicated the payment has been recorded.

Another option that has been added on user request, is to record payments made by bank transfer, this option is now available as a payment type.

By far the biggest source of customer support requests, are transactions gone wrong. In an endeavour to simplify this, we have added the facility to reverse payments, which will be removed from transactions, and the amount credited back to the invoice.  In a case where it really gets messed up, you can also delete the invoice, which will clear all associated transactions. Please exercise caution with these new options, they cannot be undone once deleted.

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This revised system is due to unprecedented levels of customer enquiries with payments that were recorded in error, however while the ability to do so is now available, we will be refining the system so that reversed transactions are still present in the system, but balanced by a counter transaction that will be invisible on the UI.

Further updates will include proper refund handling and more accurate reversal tracking with an optional note on reason for reversal.

Also, we have improved the invoice selector to properly update the invoice amount and payment amount when selecting the invoice you wish to pay.

For our current users, most of these are welcome changes and implemented upon suggestion, so as always we hope this speeds up your day makes life easier for you.