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IoT for smart tourism and hospitality

The cloud’s the limit for entrepreneurs behind new mobile platform

  • This project was featured in The Herald, BQ Online and other publications in April 2016.

Two students and a recent graduate from the University of Glasgow have developed a community-based social platform, which delivers real-time updates about nearby venues and allows businesses to interact directly with customers through their mobile devices.

OBrand Communications, founded by Gatis Gaumigs, Rafal Ciesielczuk and Francesco Vanduynslager, and a winner at the first-ever IoTUK Boost event in Scotland, uses Internet of Things (IoT) technology to provide tailored information about a product or service, exactly when it’s required.

Connected via Bluetooth to iBeacon* technology designed at the University of Glasgow, OBrand’s location-based mobile app can detect a registered device, triggering it to send community or venue-specific content, such as a restaurant’s menu, straight to the app user.

The technology also gives businesses the opportunity to capture data and, when paired with the iBeacons, build up a customer demographic profile which can enhance customers’ experience and allow them to engage with larger audiences.

The fledgling entrepreneurs have secured funding from Enterprise Campus to develop the mobile platform and there’s already been significant interest from potential clients in the tourism, hospitality and retail industries; all of which are keen to provide customers with a more personalised service.

Gatis Gaumigs, co-founder of OBrand said: “Our product can offer businesses a specialised marketing platform, which will play a large part in the future of smart connectivity. It will allow businesses to engage directly with the right customers, at the right time and with the right information.

“The technology can be used in a range of ways but will be most effective in providing a unique opportunity for the tourism and hospitality industries, benefitting both the app user and the partnering business. At visitor attractions, such as museums or zoos, OBrand can provide up-to-date information about what you’re viewing directly to your device as you walk around the attraction.”

The idea was first developed by Gatis during his Bachelor’s degree studying electronics and electrical engineering after waiting in a queue at a bar, unable to find out more information about the products on offer. What was initially an ambitious project soon became the foundation of a business when Gatis pitched the idea to Glasgow University’s Enterprise Manager. Gatis, Rafal and Francesco went on to win the Most Promising Undergraduate Business Award and secure entry into the Summer Company Programme, which gave them access to office space at the university.

OBrand Communications was also recently one of five winners at Scotland’s IoTUK Boost event, organised by Scottish Funding Council-backed CENSIS, The Data Lab, the University of Edinburgh’s Informatics Ventures and IoTUK. It will now undergo a one-month period of incubation and mentoring, to refine the company’s business model and make it fully fundable.

Francesco Vanduynslager, co-founder of OBrand, said: “Winning at IoTUK Boost has given us the encouragement and confidence we needed to progress the business. It will take the product to the next stage of its evolution and we are very grateful for the support we have received from it, as well as the University of Glasgow’s Student Business Hatchery.”

Rafal Ciesielczuk, co-founder of OBrand, said: “The potential for OBrand is huge. The product allows an unprecedented level of data capture, giving companies the opportunity to gather real-time, fully opted-in information about their customers and tailor their marketing accordingly.

“The iBeacon market is already reaching more than 60 million active beacons worldwide and our technology will only capitalise on this momentum. OBrand’s business model is based on a customisable monthly subscription for companies, with options for analytics to be put in place to monitor its performance.”

Mark Begbie, Business Development Director at CENSIS, commented: “OBrand is developing in an area that is already in the midst of a lot of innovation and disruption. Although the sector is receptive to change, what made the company stand out from its peers was the combination of a solid understanding of the complex and technical hardware, strong software, and a genuinely unique service offering. Gatis, Francesco and Rafal have a great future ahead of them.”

* iBeacon: the name for Apple’s technology, which allows Mobile Apps (running on both iOS and Android devices) to listen for signals from beacons in the physical world and react accordingly. In essence, iBeacon technology allows Mobile Apps to understand their position on a micro-local scale, and deliver content to users based on location. The underlying communication technology is Bluetooth Low Energy.

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