A new randomizer app recently implemented by the Transportation Security Administration cost the department over $1 million. Its only purpose is to point left or right.
App development has become a lucrative career over the past several years, with programmers now raking in an average of $66,000 a year. The value of a good app cannot be overstated at a time when more than two billion people worldwide use a smartphone, a population that’s expected to more than triple by 2020, according to Tech Crunch.
That value, however, is not necessarily determined by the cost of building the app itself. The TSA just learned the hard way.
In an effort to speed up security lines at 100 airports throughout the United States, the TSA developed a randomizer iPad that sorts travelers either into regular lanes or the quicker pre-check lane, according to Bloomberg. The app has two functions: show agents an arrow that points left or right, and do it randomly. Despite this seemingly straightforward task, the TSA spent $1.4 million on its development, commissioning IBM to make it happen.
This is pretty astounding given the app’s simplicity. Chris Pacia, an independent developer, took a stab at making the app, and completed the project in just over ten minutes. For fun. Pacia charges his clients $100 an hour, meaning that the TSA overpaid by $1,399,990.
To be fair, it’s likely that not all $1.4 million went exclusively toward the app’s production — there’s a good chance part of the cost also covered the iPads themselves. For its part, the TSA is insisting that they paid IBM only $47,400 for the app as part of a larger $336,000 agreement. This in turn is part of the $1.4 million contract, which may include further app production and the building of an “enhanced staffing model.”
The TSA is Not Alone
Regardless, $47,400 is a lot to pay for a program that does only two basic things; clearly, it pays (or saves, as it were) to have a basic understanding of app development. But the TSA isn’t the only organization to have suffered from app disasters, and many of us would do well to conduct a little coding research.
A new study based on code reviews found that app developers in the British banking sector are lagging far behind their American and European counterparts when it comes to the use of advanced tools and methodologies, as the Register reports. U.K. coders need more lines of code than American and European programmers, and depend on only three outdated technology stacks to run their apps.
CAST, a software risk prevention and analysis company, and the study’s authors suggest that the antiquated technology used to power these banking apps may be a part of the reason UK banks regularly experience outages and failures, and highlights the need for modernization in the U.K. financial sector.
Know Your Stuff
While the TSA was over-eager in their approach to modernizing operations — and paid for it — British banks are caught in the slog of trying to update massive amounts of regulated information. In both cases, the importance of having a solid understanding of app development is clear.
One of the best ways to improve your own understanding is hands-on, by building your own apps. Easy-to-use DIY platforms like AppMakr provide users with a great introduction to app design and layout, making it easy to figure out what works best and why. After all, why pay $1.4 million for a product you can make yourself?
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