iPhone app helps Tim Hortons’ lovers find quick gratification

Tim Hortons lovers raise a cup to this. You’ll never have to roam an unfamiliar city blindly searching for your next double-double.

A couple of Canadian developers, this week, launched a mobile application that helps iPhone users locate the nearest Tim Hortons and get directions to the store using the GPS (global positioning system) mapping technology embedded on the device.

Industry observers say the release of TimmyMe, which is downloadable for free from the Apple iTunes store, is just one indication a wave of mobile marketing apps is about to hit Canadian shores.

This trend will continue as vendors release full-featured cell phones similar to the iPhone 3G, according to one technology analyst.

TimmyMe was developed without the collaboration of TDL Group Corp., owners of the Tim Hortons brand.

“The application is probably not the first of its kind. But for mobile phone users and the people with their eyes on that market, this signals the wave of the future,” said Mark Tauschek, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group in London, Ont.

The idea of using a mobile phone to lead customers directly to your front door is “very nifty” and would appeal to a lot of businesses, he said.

TimmyMe has at least sparked the interest of quite a few iPhone users, according to its creators from Zu.com Communication Inc., a Saskatoon-based Web-development firm.

“Over the past three days we’ve had 6,800 downloads for the application, it’s been used more than 42,000 times and we’re in the top four spot of most popular iPhone apps,” said Cory Jacobsen, one of TimmyMe’s creators.

Games, it seems, remain the most fashionable mobile application as Tetris continues to reign supreme on Apple’s iPhone app list.

Jacobsen and co-developer Blaine Korte, both avid Tim Hortons coffee drinkers, came upon the idea of creating TimmyMe, shortly after they returned from an iPhone developers’ convention in San Francisco this June.

“We wanted to create something truly Canadian serving a Canadian need. What could be more Canadian than looking for the nearest double-double,” said Korte.

Korte and Jacobsen have on numerous times found themselves in search of a Tim Hortons store outside their hotel when they go on business trips in Canada and the U.S.

Now TimmyMe users can simply activate the app on their iPhone and the phone’s built-in geo location tool will immediately search for the five nearest Tim Hortons store. The application will also indicate the distance of each store from the user. Further fiddling will reveal the location of and direction to a chosen store on Map App – the iPhone’s mapping application.

The two developers intend to tweak the application further. They said there have been numerous requests to expand the location choices from the current five and, curiously, to provide kilometers to miles conversion.

Bloggers at Macromors.com were generally positive about the application although most comments came from people outside of Canada:

I do wish the Apple Mods would fix this though – there are so many apps in the UK Store that are useless because they are US geo specific. Glad to know Timmy is several thousand miles away… tofupancake

I laughed when I first saw that. Being from the Buffalo area Tim Hortons are like gas stations. They are almost on every corner. One large coffee double cream…$1.65 please. conshok26

My Canadian friends talk up Tim Horton’s ALL the time. I’ve already forwarded the info about this app to the iPhone owners among them. But according to them, it’s like someone else here already said — you just have to look up and you’ll find one. (Kind of like Starbucks here in NYC). Alas, there are no Tim’s here in the city, so it will be a while before I can try it myself….Rojo

Tim Hortons was also probably very glad that its customers were doing some marketing work for free.

“It is exciting that our customers are using GPS and other technologies to find their local Tim Hortons,” said Rachel Douglas, director of public affair for the coffee shop. “Our customers are savvy technology users as well as loyal coffee drinkers.”

Tauschek of Info-Tech believes similar applications will find their way into the Canadian market in the near future.

“2008 has been sort of a breakthrough year for the adoption mobile devices and applications. Mobile apps, such as those offered by Amazon.com, will become very pervasive.”

This perception is shared by Deloitte Canada, which earlier reported that telecom vendors will be seeking to extend cellular capabilities to other devices beyond cell phones.

Amazon’s TextBuyIt, enables users to do comparison shopping using their cell phones. In a bid to lure consumers away from bricks and mortar stores, Amazon lets their online shopping account holders send text messages to Amazon about the item they are interested in. The user is sent back a message informing them of the item availability, price, and the option to buy it online.

AOL is also using mobile phone interfaces to drive traffic their Internet radio sites and Ebay has a cell phone interface that allows mobile bidding, Tauchek said.

TruPhone from Software Cellular Ltd. enables mobile phone users to make very cheap long distance calls over Internet connections, bypassing carrier networks.

“At one-and-a-half cent per minute compared to the current 25 cents a minute charge, this service is bound to be very popular,” Tauschek said.

Analysts, however, caution that developers and vendors should not jump on the bandwagon without mapping out a comprehensive plan.

Businesses shouldn’t dive into the mobile marketing simply because it’s trendy, said Tauschek.

Organizations must first determine if mobile marketing or mobile networking is an appropriate strategy for their operations.

Developers and vendors must also build strong security features into their offerings as the applications will potentially handle personal information or link up to devices carrying such data.

“As these devices and applications grow in popularity, they will become new vectors of attack for hackers, spammers and phishers,” Tauschek said.

Data encryption and other security policies specifically designed for the technology should be adopted. For example, developers can install data locks or features that will “wipe out” the information from a device, should it be stolen or lost.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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