April 8, 2013, 4:59 PM

Companies host free mobile testing laboratories

A Cincinnati social marketing app company unveils the latest “Open Device Lab.”

Lead Photo

It’s a fact of life: Big retailers have resources that smaller merchants can only dream of. When it comes to testing a mobile commerce app or site, for example, a retail giant can build into its project budget the cost of a great many smartphones of all shapes and sizes on which to routinely test every iteration of its mobile presence. Smaller retailers may not be able to afford such I.T. set-ups.

Today, a growing number of companies are joining an Internet movement called “Open Device Lab.” Thus far, 46 companies from various industries have volunteered space and mobile devices at their offices to set up sites where other companies in the vicinity can come and test mobile apps and sites for free. These host companies often seek out donated devices to increase the number and variety of mobile devices in their free labs, which are open to anyone.

The 46 labs today are in 19 countries and boast 697 devices. The latest lab opened today in Cincinnati at CoupSmart, a social marketing app start-up.

“I read an article on this idea of Open Device Labs and thought it could be something valuable for us to contribute to the creative community in our area,” says Kara Loo, a designer at CoupSmart who is heading up the Open Device Lab project at the company. “Testing our own technology has always been a challenge since we don’t possess all of the devices that it needs to perform on. Many other entrepreneurs are in the same position. Using part of our offices to house an Open Device Lab allows us access to more of these devices and offers an opportunity to meet other creatives in our community that are getting that same benefit. Everyone wins.”

Retailers can find the nearest free testing lab at OpenDeviceLab.com. In Cincinnati, a company contacts CoupSmart and sets up testing dates and times. CoupSmart has five—soon to be eight—mobile devices linked to a PC. Using the Adobe Edge Inspect app, the devices are configured to mimic anything that happens on the PC screen. So a tester can sit at the PC, navigate to her live demonstration project she wishes to test, and every device will navigate to that demo simultaneously. The tester then can see how her mobile offering functions and looks on all the various devices at the same time.

The devices at CoupSmart all are connected to the company’s Wi-Fi network. CoupSmart will pick up the Wi-Fi costs for all tests. If demand becomes heavy, CoupSmart might seek a Wi-Fi sponsorship deal with its Internet provider.

CoupSmart says it’s a “big bonus” having a device lab on-site because it now can test its mobile offerings whenever it wants.

“We are hoping to start meeting, sharing and collaborating with other local businesses in our own building and throughout the greater Cincinnati area,” says CoupSmart marketing director Sean Grace. “We’ve already seen several companies in our building come in, ask what the lab is about, and donate personal devices. We’re anticipating that companies or individuals who come in to test their products will share in our passion for technology. A couple of times now we’ve also talked to other device lab managers from other cities to share tips, strategies and information. There’s a whole community out there, and everyone’s working toward a common goal—making technology a better experience for everyone.”

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