by David Kester
It was a pleasure to participate in our "Apps for Actuaries" discussion at the SOA meeting. It was the first time I got to speak with Eddie Smith, which was an honor. Of course, spending time talking about actuarial apps with my son Ben was priceless. There were some apps that we discussed as a team but I hadn't tested out yet, so I thought I would give a few of these apps a test drive from another independent source. My feedback is just that—don't consider me an expert in any of these apps, just another user testing them out.
I downloaded the app and tested it out. It's a nice app for those who want to read something on the go. You can easily save articles you don't have time to read. It will download them so you can read them when you aren't connected to the Internet. It's also designed to be iPhone friendly since the theory is you will be reading when you only have your phone (in line somewhere). Don't get too high of expectations for fancy features. It is a single developer on a very limited budget, but it does a good job of what it is intended to do. Interesting how quickly options change in the app world. As of October 2011, Safari has an option to convert web content to user-friendly reading format. This can be accomplished by clicking this button at the URL input for Safari:
There are third party plug-ins to your browser that allow you to download the articles to read later, similar to Instapaper. Thus, there are options available for this purpose other than Instapaper.
First I bought the app on my iPad, and then I had to buy it again on the iPhone. As actuaries, it will take a little while to get used to a calculator that is designed more for non-mathematicians. It is a versatile calculator. If you have a need/interest in a non-traditional calculator, then this one is a good option. Over time, I will probably be able to use more of its options.
I have now taken the complete plunge by buying the iPhone 4S to go along with my iPad2 and MacBook Air. I have purchased several apps the last week or so. I'm still testing them out to see if I have any recommendations for you. In case you haven't heard, the iPhone 4S has a voice recognition "personal assistant" called Siri. I have just started using it for setting appointments, reminders etc. It is too early to make a recommendation.
As I mentioned in my talk, a key for these tools to be real assets (and not liabilities) is the ability for them to be able to stay in sync. With several devices, I would go crazy if I had to remember where basic items such as contact lists, appointments, etc., were stored. The nice feature of a lot of these apps is that the data is stored in the cloud. This means that the devices and the software are all accessing the same data, a critical feature to make all of this increase our productivity rather than waste time.
I plan to provide regular updates in future CompAct articles in my research on apps for actuaries. This is a journey we can go on together. I welcome your feedback and would be glad to share any thoughts you have in future articles. You may contact me directly or make comments on our Technology Section LinkedIn group. That is the preferred method so others can benefit from your feedback in real time.
David Kester, FSA, MAAA is the co-founder and President of SALT Solutions, an actuarial consulting company from Des Moines, Iowa. David's focus is converting actuarial beasts into beauties by using technology as a friend. His latest venture is CoachingActuaries.com, a site that provides online practice tools for students preparing for actuarial exams.
Editors' note: In January the Society of Actuaries launched an Apps for Actuaries website. Please visit appsforactuaries.org