Opening Cross: Spread a Little App-iness

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Apple has a lot to answer for. Call it what you will—an app store, a marketplace: Apple’s pioneering online repository of pre-integrated free and premium third-party applications is proving an immensely popular model not just with rival Android, but also with providers of content and tools in the financial markets, which have latched onto the idea as a way to present best-of-breed capabilities to users without having to develop these themselves or forcing their own choice of third-party supplier down customers’ throats.

What used to be boring add-on services are now trendy, as vendors from the smallest to the likes of Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters build app stores (or rebrand the way they offered access to these services, to capitalize on this consumer-driven trend). In the last week alone, UK-based data and portfolio analytics provider StatPro launched its own app store, and named Interactive Data as the first vendor to make an app available for use with its Revolution cloud-based analytics platform, while Lucena Research—which is currently finalizing two new event analysis and back-testing modules for its QuantDesk decision support platform—last week announced availability of its existing QuantDesk Price Forecaster and Portfolio Optimizer modules on Bloomberg’s App Portal.

Meanwhile, Norwegian data and trading technology vendor Infront last week released an updated version of its mobile app for Apple iPhone and iPad devices, with a redesigned, widget-based interface that allows users to customize their display with their chosen data, charts and news, so that they aren’t viewing (and paying for) anything they don’t need—an app store within an app, if you will.

But data apps are now being deployed in more exotic places than on tablet devices or embedded in trading platforms. For example, Chicago-based data and investment research provider Morningstar last week announced that it is making a finance app that provides data on more than nine million equities, derivatives, bonds, currencies, commodities and indexes available in Mercedes-Benz cars, updated daily or at more regular intervals via the cars’ COMAND system that controls everything from navigation to the radio and hands-free phone calls.

I’m not entirely convinced about the safety aspects of in-car apps: concentrate too much on its price displays, and your portfolio won’t be the only thing in danger of crashing. However, there are some very interesting uses emerging for in-car data, beyond just providing a convenient way to catch up on market overviews while driving your Merc (or being driven?) to the office every morning.

A great example is French auto manufacturer Renault’s deal with the European Energy Exchange to provide information about renewable energy supply to owners of its Zoe electric car, to alert them when energy production from renewables is high, enabling them to determine when charging their car’s battery would be more environmentally friendly—a model that you can expect to see extend beyond smart cars in future to smart homes that use data such as this to automatically turn off designated appliances when electricity is most expensive, or to preserve basic power to essential services in the event of power brown-outs, or perhaps even to automatically switch your utilities supplier in real time based on energy prices. Soon, the humble app will be everywhere.

There’s even an app for Inside Market Data. We may not be available in your Mercedes’ COMAND system (yet), but we are available for iPads, so if you prefer to read your articles on-screen rather than on paper, check it out. And at the same time, why not also check out the shortlists for our 2013 awards, where you can vote for your favorite (or ignore your least-favorite) data and technology providers, nominate your data heroes for inclusion in the Inside Market Data Hall of Fame, and submit your own projects in our call-for-entry categories. But hurry—voting closes April 5. You’ve probably got just enough time to cast your votes while the app is downloading.

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