Inside AT&T's Democratic And Republican Convention Apps

The apps are similar, but only one party asked for a feature for "farm-to-fork foodies."

Chris Hill, the VP of the Advanced Mobility Solutions unit at AT&T, was a driving force behind smartphone apps made especially for the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. Guess which party’s app features a "farm-to-fork foodie" section?

FAST COMPANY: Are apps like this new for AT&T?

CHRIS HILL: We’ve been doing them for the better part of the last two and a half years. Advance Mobility Solutions is a dedicated business unit within AT&T that started three years ago. We took a lot of learnings in the entertainment, media, and hospitality verticals and applied them to a large event like these conventions.

What features do the convention apps have?

There’s live video streaming from the convention, there’s social media integration. We have messaging functionality in both applications, and breaking news feeds and alerts. Then you have attraction-finders, the ability to find local businesses and attractions. You have an interactive schedule, showing how events map to the convention floor.

You’ve essentially made a disposable app. Why dedicate resources for a one-off app?

It makes a big impact for the attendees. You can increase the value of the event considerably. We’re building these applications on configurable platforms, so we can reuse a lot of the intellectual property built up around these applications. This isn’t millions of dollars going into designing applications that are disposable—there’s lots of reusable components.

Are the RNC and DNC apps fundamentally the same?

Lots of the underlying components are similar, but each was custom designed to the specifications of the particular host committees.

What differences leap to mind?

For the DNC, they wanted to make sure we had a number of things in the Fun category. So we had a number of different applications for experiences set up, for shopaholics and farm-to-fork foodies, for example. The RNC app had a QR code scavenger hunt, directing attendees to see local businesses in the Tampa area.

Was the farm-to-fork foodie feature not quite a hit in the RNC’s app?

We didn’t have that in the Republican version.

With AT&T making apps for both the RNC and DNC, was there any concern over a conflict of interest?

We had different teams working on the finished interface and user experience.

Did you put Republicans on the Republican app, Democrats on the Democrat app?

No, we didn’t ask that, and that wasn’t asked of us.

This interview has been condensed and edited. For more from the Fast Talk interview series, click here. Know someone who'd be a good Fast Talk subject? Mention it to David Zax.

[Image: Flickr user stevebott]

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