Holistic solution for urban management | Fin24

Holistic solution for urban management

Jun 13 2019 10:13
Glenneis Kriel

In 2009, Tiaan Janse van Rensburg and his colleagues found themselves jobless after the converged technology company they worked for closed down. To make ends meet, he, Rudi Kruger and Denver Knoetzen started Technology House Solutions, a company that specialises in converged technology and the development of service and urban management software. 

“The initial idea was to create software that would smoothen incident management since the divisions in a company that report incidents are often not the same as the ones responsible for fixing the situation,” Janse van Rensburg says. 

By 2011, however, they realised the need for a more holistic solution, and started a new division, called Solution House Software. By 2014 they launched a platform that combined incident reporting and service delivery data from different companies to allow these companies to address service management issues more strategically. 

“Things do not happen in silos. When, for example, a street lamp is out, it not only causes discomfort because people will have to sit in the dark while waiting for a bus. The risk of crime, such as theft, is also higher. By joining data, entities responsible for fixing the light as well as those responsible for safety are notified of the hazard so that they can take steps to reduce the associated risks.”

The solution

Participants are able to log incidents (including anything from crime, crime prevention, municipal services, by-laws, emergencies, traffic problems to car accidents, management of estates and facilities management) with their smartphones via the TakeAction app or an SMS. The incident is then routed to the relevant service provider, depending on the incident type and location of the incident. 

Machine learning in turn is used to make sense of all the generated data to inform users of weaknesses. Janse van Rensburg explains that a security company might use the information to increase visibility in a region at a specific time should they recognise a definite crime pattern.

Areas where access control is being used may use the data when they scan licences or vehicle number plates to alert them of, for example, stolen vehicles entering the area.    

Business model

The software is focused mainly on service providers. Users pay a monthly fee to use the software and have a choice of which information they want to share with whom. 

Getting start-up capital was one of their greatest challenges, since venture capital was hard to come by at the time. The founders cashed in their pensions to fund the start-up. “We definitely would have grown faster if we had more capital, but I am glad things turned out the way they did since funding usually comes at a high cost,” Janse van Rensburg says. 

With the business being born during the recession, the partners are highly sensitive to overheads and still operate from mobile offices. Since the majority of their target market is private entities, such as shopping malls, security estates, schools, universities, improvement districts, armed response teams and urban districts, most of their initial marketing was done through cold calling.  

“It was hard and tiresome work, with a conversion rate of fewer than one client for every 20 rejections. Our first client was a new guarding company, Myertal Security,” Janse van Rensburg says. “Today, the advantages of the system are much more apparent, so more entities are signing up because they want to be part of a group of users that are already using the system.” 

The company has expanded its footprint to the UK, where the British government, along with other private companies, is using the system to monitor and manage incidents in certain urban areas. 

“We have talked to various government entities about the system in South Africa, but they have not yet invested in it in spite of being genuinely impressed with what we have been able to achieve. I guess the British market might be more open to new digital solutions, or there might be less red tape involved with these types of transactions,” Janse van Rensburg says. 

Plans for the future   

The business is in the process of registering its intellectual property in the Netherlands too. From there the plan is to expand their footprint into Europe and the rest of the world. 

“South Africa is a really robust environment to test new technologies such as these since it confronts you with all kinds of challenges, such as poor computer skills, patchy internet connectivity and low bandwidth, that might not be problems in First-World countries. The market here is nevertheless limited, so we need to look for opportunities in other countries,” he says.

Janse van Rensburg hopes the solution will become an urban and service management tool similar to what Amazon has become for shopping: “The idea with our incident report system is to move towards a system that links people and IoT [internet of things] devices with data that allows overall better management of cities: A world where the internet of things actually works for us.” 

This article originally appeared in the 20 June edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.

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