By Leigh Richards
The recent high profile acquisition of UK based mobile technology innovator 1st Touch (www.1sttouch.com) by leading German software group Aareon AG, a part of Aareal Bank, promises a great deal. Aareon is ideally placed to introduce the widely acclaimed British mobile workforce system across Europe. When this happens, the chances are that the same productivity benefits, delivered by 1st Touch systems across the UK, will now become a pan European phenomenon.
Aareon AG, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Aareal Bank AG and the leading consultancy and IT systems house for the European property sector recently announced that it has acquired 1st Touch Limited, the UK’s leading developer of mobile systems for the social housing and public sectors. The decision is seen as a reflection of Aareon’s belief in the significant opportunities presented by mobile technology in the property sector across Europe and as complementary to the Group’s other software investments in the sector.
1st Touch Limited, based in Southampton UK, has enabled dozens of field workforce based organisations to embrace new mobile technologies and so achieve significant savings, greater productivity and a more cost-effective use of resources. 1st Touch applications can deliver these benefits for any application where field based operatives deliver services. The resilient but flexible system enables programming free, user customisable PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) based solutions to be created through its easy to use graphical user interface. In practise it greatly simplifies the design and data capture of any handheld from that an operative might need in the field.
As a result, any type of electronic form can be generated easily without the need for Business Process Mapping. Typically in the social housing sector existing applications include: Response Repairs, Voids, rents and areas, stock assessments, surveys and communal area checks.
1st Touch mobile workforce software also links the operatives’ PDA to existing back office solutions. In support of this, 1st Touch has developed high quality integrations with most of the leading housing management systems used by local authorities, Registered Social Landlords, Charities and ALMOs. This includes the QL system developed by Aareon.
1st Touch has also been adopted for a wide range of other mobile workforce uses. For example, ready to use applications and tools available for local authority organisations include: Public Buildings, Highway Services and Environmental Waste Management plus Revenues and Benefits, Planning Control and Trading Standards. 1st Touch has over 100 customers in the UK including: Glasgow City Homes, Amicus Horizon, Powys BC, South Yorkshire Housing Association, Langstane Homes and HomeServe together with Osborne and Morrison plc. 1st Touch is also a Windows Embedded Technology Gold Partner and ISV Gold Partner with Microsoft.
The potential of the 1st Touch range was recently enhanced by a decision to add more mobile platforms. The system had originally been developed as a .Net application deigned to work with just the Microsoft Windows Embedded Handheld technology in mind. However, the range now includes additional support for Android, Apple and BlackBerry Smartphones and tablets. This represents a significant development investment in R&D and innovation by 1st Touch and was a response to evolving market demand for these platforms, coupled with the growing variety of devices available. To date, the broad platform independence of the 1st Touch range appears to be a unique proposition in the UK.
This formula has proved a great success and the acquisition by Aareon promises to build on this. With 1st Touch having captured over 50% of all those taking up mobile technology over 4 years in the UK social housing market, the potential for a repeat performance across Europe as part of Aareon AG is enormous.
Aareon is also a major success story with more than 50,000 users of its systems throughout Europe. Aareon Group has offices in 20 locations in Europe, of which 10 are in Germany. The company has a presence at 20 sites (10 of which are in Germany) and operates in Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. In 2011, Aareon AG recorded sales of EUR 159.5 million and earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) of EUR 25.1 million.
In Germany, the company’s acclaimed ERP product portfolio for efficient process design comprises Wodis Sigma, SAP®-based solutions such as Blue Eagle as well as GES and WohnData. Aareon´s international subsidiaries offer country-specific ERP solutions. Integrated Services and industry-specific add-on solutions round off the product portfolio, facilitating amongst other things process-efficient cooperation between property companies and their business partners. These include Internet based solutions, service portals and document management systems. In Germany, Aareon also offers computer centre services, including software as a service from the exclusive Aareon Cloud.
Commenting on the news of the acquisition, Dr. Manfred Alflen CEO of Aareon AG said; “1st Touch is the recognized market leader for the supply of mobile technology to the UK Social Housing and local government sectors. Clearly with the rapid growth of demand for this kind of mobile solution, across Europe, the opportunities are enormous. Together we aim to capitalize on these fully.
“Following the acquisition, 1st Touch will continue to provide mobile solutions across multiple back office and ERP Housing systems and will become an essential element of our technology strategy, in the UK and the rest of Europe. It is this independence which makes this such a good acquisition for Aareon AG and with the backing that the Group can offer, we are confident that 1st Touch will continue to grow significantly over time.”
In welcoming the acquisition, Robert Dent the Managing Director of 1st Touch Limited echoed Dr. Alflen’s comments adding, “This, of course, is excellent news both for 1st Touch employees and also for our customers. We very much look forward to witnessing the first fruits of this very compatible union and therein taking full advantage of the opportunities that are now available to us.”