ser­vice At your

Here’s the best ser­vices on­line writes, Jen­nifer Dud­leyNi­chol­son

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Gadgets -

AUS­TRALIA is one of the most in­ter­net-savvy na­tions in the world. More than 17 mil­lion Aus­tralians are on­line, giv­ing the coun­try more in­ter­net users per capita than the United States, Bri­tain or Ja­pan. It’s lit­tle won­der, then, that Aus­tralians are cre­at­ing some of the most in­no­va­tive on­line ser­vices in the world.

Switched On has scoured the web for the best avail­able ser­vices, both for lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional users, and out­lines five of the best.


PAY­ING small debts and buy­ing cof­fee can be done with a sim­ple text mes­sage. En­tre­pre­neur Harold Dim­pel started work on the idea five years ago and the re­sult­ing ser­vice, mHITs, has now gone in­ter­na­tional. The idea was in­spired by the dif­fi­culty in­volved in pay­ing small amounts by credit card. ‘‘It was re­ally messy,’’ Dim­pel says. ‘‘In­stead of ex­chang­ing coins be­tween friends it made sense to use a mo­bile phone.’’ mHITs works by us­ing your phone num­ber as an ac­count num­ber. mHITs ac­count hold­ers can then send money from their ac­count to friends or busi­nesses by us­ing SMS com­mands such as ‘‘pay (mo­bile num­ber) $5’’. Dim­pel says mHITs is be­ing tri­alled in cafes and food joints, in­clud­ing a Syd­ney Sub­way res­tau­rant, let­ting cus­tomers or­der and pay for pur­chases be­fore they ar­rive.


FIND­ING the per­fect greet­ing card can be an im­pos­si­ble mis­sion. It is a dilemma Matt Sam­ford ad­dresses with Yel­low Postie that lets users add their pho­tos, words and even hand­writ­ing to greet­ing cards. The for­mer print­ing in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive says he spent two years build­ing the site to breathe new life into a stale mar­ket. ‘‘Ev­ery­one asks if it’s for e-cards but it’s ac­tu­ally a re­ally nice printed card that you can or­der and have posted any time of the day or night,’’ Sam­ford says. Users can add pho­tos of re­cip­i­ents to cre­ate per­son­alised Christ­mas cards, unique post­cards, or birth­day cards that look like a scan­dalous mag­a­zine cover (‘‘Wino Weekly,’’ Sam­ford sug­gests). Or­ders can be posted di­rectly to the re­cip­i­ent the day they are or­dered and prices start at $5.95. Sam­ford says the com­pany has also added a cal­en­dar to re­mind users of im­por­tant dates and the com­pany plans to of­fer cus­tomised cards for busi­nesses soon.


SOME Amer­i­can stores dis­crim­i­nate against Aus­tralian ad­dresses. It is a prob­lem Bendigo-based shop­per Dr Carolina Til­lett ex­pe­ri­enced when try­ing to buy su­per­hero-themed party sup­plies for her son, and it gave her a win­ning idea. The moth­erof-three ad­ver­tised for shop­ping agents in the US to buy items on her be­half and then opened Price USA to buy items for Aus­tralian shop­pers. ‘‘Ini­tially I thought it would just be par­ents buy­ing birth­day presents, but I re­ceived or­ders for lap­tops, phones, speak­ers and ev­ery­thing,’’ she says. Price USA is a three-per­son op­er­a­tion, with Til­lett tak­ing re­quests in Aus­tralia and send­ing them to two Ore­gon-based shop­ping agents. Users request a quote be­fore plac­ing an or­der, with Til­lett charg­ing a flat 5 per cent fee. Til­lett re­ceives 100 or­ders a day and plans to ex­pand Price USA to Europe in fu­ture.


ONE Syd­ney res­tau­rant has used the technology to swap menus for iPads and Wayne Roby hopes more will do the same. The 20-year hos­pi­tal­ity vet­eran from En­hanced Busi­ness So­lu­tions has cre­ated a com­mer­cial iPad app that res­tau­rant, cafe and bar own­ers can use to make their menus dig­i­tal. Roby says iPadMenu took three months to de­velop and lets restau­rants of­fer more to din­ers. ‘‘You can add pho­tos of the food and drink so cus­tomers will or­der more,’’ he says. ‘‘There’s also a feed­back func­tion so you can present it to a ta­ble when din­ers get their bill and they can tell you what they thought about the meal. You can also change the menu eas­ily or add in­for­ma­tion about al­ler­gens and fea­ture items. It’s not a sub­sti­tute for a waiter, but it gives din­ers more.’’ iPadMenu costs $250 plus a $20 monthly fee for each iPad li­cence, though the com­pany is de­vel­op­ing fur­ther apps that can be used on cheaper tablets such as those us­ing Google An­droid soft­ware.


AUS­TRALIA’S biggest on­line depart­ment store started in a Syd­ney garage with a staff of six. Since its 2006 be­gin­ning, Catch of the Day has racked up mil­lions of sales and a num­ber of un­usual mile­stones. They in­clude sell­ing 320,000 choco­lates in a day, 1998 lap­tops in an hour, and $1.1 mil­lion worth of LCD TVs in an hour. Founder Gabby Lei­bovich started the busi­ness with his brother Hezi af­ter see­ing a sim­i­lar Amer­i­can web­site sell­ing just one item each day. Lei­bovich says he fo­cussed his sales pitch on lo­cal busi­ness, ask­ing ‘‘what do you have in large vol­umes that you just don’t want to see any more?’’ Catch of the Day of­fers these items at a dis­counted price. Lei­bovich says the 65-em­ployee com­pany will con­tinue to ex­pand next year.

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