Erik Bjontegard, Founder & CEO
It was time to bid goodbye to the city of Salford. Erik Bjontegard’s four-year term in the University of Salford and conscientious academics had run its course. The days that followed left Bjontegard dubious about his career choice—working for the oil industry in his homeland, Norway. Change of plans and he was soon found packing his suitcase for a journey to the U.S.—a country with promises in store for the young engineer. After years in the field of rocket science engineering and real estate development, Bjontegard joined Qualcomm, the telecommunications giant and before long, he ascended to join the executive leadership in the Corporate R&D division. It was here, that it dawned on him: science and innovation that surrounded technology often lacked real-life value and vision. Convening a small team of dedicated, like-minded engineers, amid limited resources and budget, Bjontegard laid the cornerstone for Total Communicator Solutions, Inc. in 2012. “Today, our platform Spark Compass™ is leveraging the latest technologies—proximity beacons, IoT (Internet of Things), NFC (Near Field Connectivity), AR (Augmented Reality), and VR (Virtual Reality) to name a few—in building a cohesive platform for businesses to drive dynamic marketing and communication strategies,” begins Erik Bjontegard, Founder and CEO, Spark Compass.
The Grand Scheme of Things
During the initial days of Spark Compass™, discussions about the grand scheme of things was laid on the table—IoT, sensor integration, context awareness, proximity detection, beacon technology and most importantly, the context intelligence that encompasses all of these capacities. It was still very early, and the stance for beacon technology in the industry was in the nascent stage. “With Apple’s iBeacon in the market, there came in a sudden impetuous and people started to understand beacons’ role and functionality,” points Bjontegard. Nevertheless, it was a very broad abstraction and no complete solution was built around it. Rising up to the occasion, Spark Compass™ added—and still continues to add—prolific value to the IoT space by providing the necessary mechanism—Spark Compass™ Platform as a Service (PaaS)—that wraps industry specific business rules and interfaces around beacon technology and sensor integrations to create contextual intelligence.
“The Spark Compass™ platform has a very simple core architecture,” explains Bjontegard. “We begin by capturing specific ‘events’—then we detect and record these events.” The event library encompasses a very wide list of everyday activities, such as users approaching a particular object to walking past a store, or rushed passengers at an airport trying to find their way to their gate. The Spark Compass™ platform with its built-in algorithms, pre-programmed campaigns and dynamic controls blend past behavior, known demographic data with real-time physical interactions based on location, time, activity and the surroundings of the user. The platform matches the data it collects real-time against the event library and triggers actions such as sending directions or routes to users, offers, content or otherwise enhancing the user’s experiences.
The Mobile Invasion
“Whether it is through an application for smartphones, wearable devices, tablets or appliances, we aid enterprises to propel their businesses by sound marketing and communication strategies including messages and alerts to drive a deeper relationship with their customers,” states Bjontegard. He illustrates an example to shed more light on the real-time functioning of the Spark Compass™ platform.
When integrating with their current apps and infrastructure, we are connecting the dots, basically ‘just’ providing them the ‘plumbing’ at the IT level
Paraphrasing Bjontegard, in a crowded environment like the San Diego convention center, where there are numerous events and businesses, organizations set up their booths inside the convention center. By placing proximity beacons in their booths, they are able to deliver hyper-location content, and marketing messages to the visitors to their booths. Upon downloading the event app on their smartphones, attendees were guided to the convention—outside and inside—right from when they arrive. Leveraging the platform’s multi-tenant architecture, the marketing managers for the exhibitors could, promote their brands, through personalized offers, present content and information based on the visitor’s interests that compelled them to visit the stalls. This complete solution for the marketing managers is integrated with the convention center’s Spark Compass™ infrastructure to enhance the experiences for the attendees even further.
The Spark Compass™ platform also incorporates the latest payment solutions and database infrastructure to ensure its basic purpose of establishing a win-win relationship between enterprises and their customers. The platform is provided and enabled through various levels of service, depending on the requirement of the customer. “For firms that wish to add the flavor and functionalities of Spark Compass™ to their existing software and mobile applications, we can enable our universal control system to communicate with their existing application,” describes Bjontegard. Catering to specific requests made by numerous customers, Spark Compass™ also designs and builds the application as a white-label product, branded, and customized to the client’s specific needs. Both the native and white-labeled versions of the system can control messaging for hundreds of beacons, limitless number of geo-fences and other context triggers. These can be installed across the user’s facilities and campuses, integrating with other equipment that can also be controlled via the same Spark Compass™ platform dashboards. This includes mobile apps for phones, which are designed, built, and developed by the Spark Compass™ team. “We enable their applications and campaign systems to be powered by us—or we can build the whole system from A to Z. When integrating with their current apps and infrastructure, we are connecting the dots, basically ‘just’ providing them the ‘plumbing’ at the IT level,” extols Bjontegard.
When Ole Miss Needed a Spark
Spark Compass™ has served a multitude of value-driven environments, including airports, medical centers and hospitals, events, convention centers, and office buildings. Bjontegard paints a picture of the Rebel Rewards platform for Ole Miss Athletics, the varsity teams representing the University of Mississippi, where the company had developed the whole solution from ground-up. “The University had no problems in ushering an audience for their football game, but other sports such as women's soccer did not draw a lot of spectators,” elucidates Bjontegard. Total Communicator Solutions deployed a system with a battery of, proximity beacons and enabled geo-fencing across the whole campus. The fan centric app, “Rebel Rewards” is controlled by a centralized content management system operated by the Ole Miss athletics department. This helped the women’s team score higher turnouts, with its rewards system, where messages and alerts were delivered to notify game-enthusiasts about upcoming games and points automatically awarded for attending games. In the first year of the implementation itself, the system helped the institution to experience a 21 percent hike in audience across all sports events at the university.
While handling massive sets of demographic data like the above, a case for proper security measures instigates strict adherence to federal laws as well as regional laws. With adequate encryption algorithms and private communication channels in place, Spark Compass™ ensures secure data transmission, storage and equally important, data expunction. The security aspects are vitally important in two Spark Compass installations; San Diego international airport and at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The platform was been approved by numerous U.S. governmental agencies for these installations where security is vital.
"We aid enterprises to propel their businesses by sound marketing and communication strategies including messages and alerts"
The company provided significant results in its project at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) HQ in Washington DC earning the company an award at the White House. With hundreds of beacons inlaid at the facility, the platform could detect a person waiting for an elevator and recommend the option of taking the stairs to encourage physical activity. The beacons installed in the stairwells were also able to determine individuals using the stairs and award them bonuses as an appreciation to motivate and instill healthy lifestyle and practices.
What the Future Holds for IoT?
Bjontegard attributes the success of Spark Compass™ to partnerships and collaborations involved in the development of the platform. He calls them ‘Sponsored R&D’. “Our client partners have assisted us in customizing the platform to develop solutions that work in specific verticals,” he implies. This had enabled the San Diego, CA, based IoT vendor to address a broad spectrum of markets ranging from physicians to airports, and conventions to sports arenas. “Our team of dedicated developers, programmers and architects collaborated with our leadership to ensure that we built something of value for our clients and partners. This approach of understanding the user’s needs and building to meet these, rather than presenting technology for technology’s sake has proven to be a key to our success,” states Bjontegard.
Apart from the core sensor and beacon technology, Spark Compass™ has marked its footprint in the fields of augmented reality, sensor network, and the more gravitating trend of wearable solutions. Marching swiftly into a future fueled by technology, the company has recently partnered with Samsung and is all set to ride the wave of wearable technology. Working alongside some of the big players in the healthcare and sports industries, Spark Compass will soon be announcing the launch of their wearable products as well with integration of wearables for enterprise workforce controlled via the same Spark Compass™ platform.
Having left the European continent with a vision and two suitcases, Bjontegard had embarked on a journey to the U.S. with true grit and patience that turned stumbling blocks along the way into successful milestones. “This is an exciting era,” Bjontegard assures. “Wouldn’t it be great if your refrigerator could talk with your smartphone and your smartphone, in turn talks with your wrist-watch and have something of value to share?” Sure enough, these innovations are definitely paving way for an end-user experience that is valuable enough to embrace the true potentials of IoT, and Spark Compass™ is an acumen signaling the shift.