TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring Canada-based virtual tour guide technology provider Kanvasys.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Kanvasys is dedicated to helping tourism and travel-oriented organizations interact meaningfully with visitors.
Our application – inSitu Solutions - acts as a virtual tour guide, providing visitors with access to location-based, multimedia-enhanced content on multiple devices (web, kiosk, mobile). Our goal is to help our clients inform, attract and retain visitors to their sites, and enhance traveler’s experiences overall.
Kanvasys is owned and operated by former museologist and educator, Mr Alain Massé - a successful business owner for over 15 years (developing virtual exhibitions and educational software).
He is surrounded by a team of dedicated professionals, including director of technology, Jean-Baptiste Minchelli, who leads the development and sales of inSitu Solutions. Jean-Baptiste has over ten years experience managing projects and leading teams, and has been involved in every aspect of the project and company development.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
Kanvasys received different financial contributions, including a portion of the research and development costs being covered by the National Research Council of Canada, through its Industrial Research Assistance Program (CNRC-PARI).
This accelerated the development of inSitu Solutions.
What problem are you trying to solve?
Massé created Kanvasys to address a reoccurring need observed in his customers: not only do they want access to an easy-to-use mobile guide application, but they also need it to be easily updated by their non-technical staff.
Many tourist sites face challenges such as staff shortages, text-heavy interpretive materials, outdated content or specific environmental hurdles to wayfinding. While interpretive content can significantly enhance the visitor experience, it may be hard to find or too wordy.
Access to interpretive information for visitors to cities or sites on paper maps, interpretive signs or other traditional methods is not always practical or possible, and most visitors will forget about visiting a website when they return home.
We believe that providing interactivity, context and personalization – on site – adds significant value to content.
Describe the business, core products and services?
To address these issues, Kanvasys has developed an application - inSitu Solutions. inSitu Solutions is a cross-platform application (Web and mobile) that helps publish location-based content to inform, attract and retain visitors. It is an interactive solution that delivers multimedia content through points of interest on maps, floor plans or images.
The app is both a geographical reference (providing maps and guidance) and/or a tour guide, automatically pushing content to the visitor’s Smartphone (or a pre-loaded rental device) when they approach a point of interest.
Site staff can create, publish and update their content simultaneously on the web, kiosks and mobile devices, reducing their time commitment.
inSitu is also a potential revenue generating mechanism, through device rentals or pay-per-download systems. Sites can promote and broadcast special events like shows, new exhibits or specials and attractions using the system.
inSitu also provides multiple ways to access information, aimed at different target audiences (for example, tours for children, students, enthusiasts, etc.). Sites can create treasure hunts, add quizzes or polls, and engage visitors in new ways.
The app also has the added benefit of being paperless, reducing waste and printing costs.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
The short answer is – anyone with a public attraction; tourist sites, travel agencies, malls, restaurants, zoos, cities, parks, heritage sites, museums, the list is endless!
Specifically for the travel industry, this application can be used in any number of ways, for example, as a guide to a city, giving potential visitors access to information on local sites, attractions, restaurants etc. before they arrive, and then acting as a guide when they are exploring.
It could also be used in airports (to help guide travelers to proper gates, featured restaurants, etc.), hotels, or other attractions. Ours first customers include: Éco-Odyssée, Grenfell Historic Properties, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and the Biosphère Environment Museum.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
inSitu Solutions developed two pilot projects: one for the NY transit museum that included podcast visitors could download on their MP3 devices, and the Biosphère in Montreal, where we created a GPS tour guide - one of the first of this kind in the world.
Both projects received tremendous support and great feedback from visitors, including testimonials and suggestions for future development.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
Revenues come from customers licensing the app. Kanvasys offers the application both under license and under an SaaS agreement (software as a service).
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Sites can manage their own content (no need for IT or outside parties)
- Content can be updated on multiple devices and platforms at the same time (Web, kiosk and mobile)
- Provides access to content and information prior to the visit, during the visit, and after
- Gives sites direct access to their visitors, for promotion and advertising
- Powerful location-aware map engine
- Research and Development focus with a clear plan for future features and solutions
- Variety of purchase options (licensed, hosted, one-time buy-in)
- Available on both the iPhone AND Android platforms
- Technology not yet available for indoor GPS, but will be in a few months (during the second development phase)
- Mobile market is exploding – more and more people have smartphones
- Users want location-aware applications and are looking for them
- All sites welcoming visitors will be getting this type of application in the near future, just as they did with websites a few years ago.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
- More fragmentation of Smartphone Operation Systems could lead to more expensive development / updates.
We did not meet anybody who advised against this product, or felt that the market was not ready for our app.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
We want to have successfully deployed applications in North America and Europe, in all targeted markets. We are getting closer of this objective every day.
inSitu Solutions would become the defacto brand name in tourist guide Apps.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.