iPhone in Business

TCHO Chocolate

"For me, iPhone is a transparent extension of who I am and how I navigate through the information space, the workspace and my personal space."

Timothy Childs,
Founder

Chocolatology meets technology.

When former NASA software entrepreneur Timothy Childs founded a chocolate company, he had a vision. He wanted to make artisanal chocolate from scratch. And he wanted to do it by using the best technology available, from the bean to the bar—or, as they say at TCHO, from the pod to the palate.

For Childs, iPhone was a natural choice. “The iPhone is both highly functional and highly expandable, and the interface is thoughtful and considerate,” he says. “I demand a lot from a mobile device—and I knew that it would suit our business perfectly.”

iPhone-enabled remote control

At TCHO (pronounced “cho,” the name uses letters in both “technology” and “chocolate”), chocolate-making has been fine-tuned. Childs is committed to creating unique flavour profiles that bring out the bean’s origins, and to do that, he uses custom-developed machinery in his San Francisco chocolate lab. Helping him run that lab, from near and far, is iPhone.

With friends at the FX Palo Alto Laboratory, Childs developed an iPhone app that allows him to remotely control his Flavour Lab. “Using iPhone, I can actually log into each of the machines,” he explains, “and control the times and the temperatures, turn them on and off.”

iPhone-enabled remote control has resulted in a huge leap in efficiency for Childs, not to mention an improvement in quality of life. “Before iPhone, I’d have to get up at 4 in the morning and trudge down here to change a temperature or turn off a machine,” he says. “Not anymore.”

And thanks to alerts on iPhone, Childs doesn’t have to worry about spoiling an expensive batch in the factory. “When you’re dealing with two or three tons of chocolate, that’s many tens of thousands of dollars,” he says. “So normally I would have someone sitting there, watching the thermometer. But with iPhone, I have alerts on my phone if the temperature rises, and I can just run over and fix it.”

That saves Childs a bundle in labour costs. “It keeps us scrappy and lean,” he says.

In the jungle with iPhone

Childs’ custom iPhone app gives him a window into his operation in another way, through remote viewing of several video cameras. “I can just scroll around and see how the factory line is doing, or what the status of my lab is,” he says. “At any given moment. From anywhere.”

And he means anywhere. Childs and his team are often on the road—or, more accurately, off the road, in the equatorial rain forests of Latin America. iPhone is their constant companion.

“I used to travel with a satellite phone,” Childs says. “But with iPhone, we have connectivity almost everywhere we go, as well as having email and the ability to text. So that’s enabled us to text folks in the lab, send photos back and forth, and answer questions, all from the middle of the jungle.” Before iPhone, Childs’ staff sometimes waited a week to hear back from him.

The video capability of iPhone 3GS has also been instrumental for communication. “It’s crucial,” Childs says, “because we need to show folks in-country what we’re doing in San Francisco, and vice versa. I can whip out my iPhone and show videos to farmers, co-op owners and government officials. And they see that we’re serious. And immediately we get forward movement, instead of waiting for them to spend weeks figuring all that out.”

Extending the desktop

Back in San Francisco, iPhone keeps TCHO’s 25 employees in constant communication. “We’ve got a 30,000-square-foot factory,” Childs says, “and we have to run around to find each other. But not with iPhone. My assistant and I are constantly texting to communicate about times and temperatures.”

TCHO CEO Louis Rossetto, cofounder of Wired magazine, has had a similar experience. “As I move through the office, iPhone is an extension of my desktop. It connects me to everything I’m doing and everything that’s going on around me, whether it’s someone to say they’re late, or calls I’m juggling, or something that’s happening in the factory.”

Like many iPhone users, Childs has a long list of favourite iPhone apps, including Units , which converts from English to metric, and OmniFocus, a project management app that helps keep him on task. “It syncs perfectly with my laptop through MobileMe,” he says, “and that’s been indispensable.”1

Childs also uses Keynote Remote on iPhone. “That’s been excellent,” he says. “Because often when I do talks, there’s not a preview monitor. With Keynote Remote, I can see what’s coming up, and it helps me keep the flow going in my talk."2

For Rossetto, iPhone is essential. “I can’t imagine doing business without it,” he says. “If you want to talk to somebody, use your iPhone. If you want to find your way across town, use your iPhone. If you want to run your chocolate factory, you can use your iPhone, too.”

  1. Some applications are not available in all areas. Application availability and pricing are subject to change.
  2. Keynote Remote requires Keynote '09, part of the iWork suite (sold separately). You will need a working Wi-Fi connection between your iPhone and your Mac.

Company Snapshot

  • 25 employees
  • Pier 17, San Francisco
  • www.tcho.com
  • The TCHO factory can produce 3000 metric tons of chocolate per year, which places TCHO among only a dozen other major manufacturers in the U.S.

“I’ve spent 25 years selecting the best stuff to help me do what I need to do. The iPhone is clearly superior to everything else out there, and I can’t imagine living or working without it.”

Louis Rossetto,
CEO/Chief Creative Officer

Getting more done in the air

“When I travel,” Childs says, “the iPhone is an indispensable solace. Because I have particular taste in music, and I can never find that on the plane.” And Childs doesn’t like to drain the batteries on his laptop simply listening to music. “With iPhone, I put my favourite music on, and I’ve got my beat going, and I can get so much work done. And then, when I stop, I reward myself with my favourite shows. I just pull the iPhone out of my pocket and watch episodes of The Daily Show.”

Daily life, better with iPhone

Both Childs and Rossetto use iPhone at home, where it improves their quality of life. “The iPhone has replaced all sorts of devices in my house,” Childs says. “My alarm clock in the morning. My stereo at night. It kind of bookends my day.” Rossetto uses an app called FitView to monitor his daily swim. “I can watch my progress over time—number of laps, speed. Just being able to see that immediately after a swim, without having to go back to my computer, makes my life better."

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