This article is part of a series covering the most exciting start-ups featured at the most recent TechBUZZ conference, held at AOL Fishbowl Labs. To read the rest of the articles in the series, click here.
The best ideas for innovation come from people trying to solve their own problems -- problems that they face every day. For instance, one problem many of us face is that our daily cup of coffee is too hot to hold, and that's how the cardboard cup sleeve, known as a "zarf," was born.
But there are problems and then there are problems. For Matthew McNabb, CEO of tech start-up First Mile Geo, the biggest problem was trying to track humanitarian aid packages being delivered to war-torn Syria.
U.S. government agencies and nongovernmental organizations provide humanitarian assistance all around the world. The aid may come in the form of food and water, security-related assistance, medicine, and more. One of the biggest problems humanitarian aid organizations face is ensuring that services are actually delivered to those in need. And it's just as important that they know what sort of aid is needed in different regions. For example, aid organizations need to know that medicine is in high demand in Ain Issa, while there are massive food shortages in Raqqa. Having this information and being able to analyze it with pinpoint accuracy allows better logistical decisions to be made, helping to keep people safe and enabling aid packages to get where they need to go more efficiently.
While a number of software services can track how aid is delivered, those services then need to upload their data to mapping (GIS) applications and also to a separate data analytics program to help make better decisions. The extraction, transferring, and loading of data into these different software packages can take a lot of time. Once all of that is done, the tech team still needs to stitch together all three of these platforms into some sort of usable dashboard for decision makers, creating a fourth custom application. And what happens when you need these services in 20 different languages?
The term "inefficient" doesn't come close.
Faced with this problem, McNabb decided to build First Mile Geo, a software company that starts at the point where the aid is being delivered. With First Mile Geo's mobile app, people delivering assistance can tap a few icons, take a picture, and immediately log what has been delivered, where it has been delivered, and who has received it. McNabb says tens of thousands of data points are captured every month in northern Syria alone.
The information is then sent into the cloud, where First Mile Geo's SAAS application will map every data point so organizations can see exactly where aid is being delivered. The data will then be sorted and analyzed, with executive dashboards created instantly to allow people up the chain of command to understand how things are going and to determine what changes, if any, need to be made in their efforts. Organizations could know in a matter of hours where medical supplies are needed and reroute more services to that area. In the past, that could have taken days or weeks.
First Mile Geo isn't just about tracking foreign aid in dangerous territory. It can also be used, for example, to help a major soft-drink company successfully roll out its newest flavor in thousands of stores around the country. We've all seen those promotional cardboard displays in the supermarket trying to draw our attention to new products. Did you know that around 40% of those displays are "non-compliant," i.e., either not placed properly in the store or not put out at all? Using First Mile Geo's software, the soft-drink manufacturer could help improve compliance with its point-of-sale advertisements either by using a "mystery shopper" program to capture sample data or even by requiring the participating stores to show that they're in direct compliance by snapping a photo and uploading the data through the app.
The need for end-to-end data capture, mapping, and analyzing is hardly a new problem. Companies like FedEx and UPS have perfected this for their own businesses. However, putting all of the tools together in a single cloud-based service that anyone can use, to solve any number of problems, is a challenge. First Mile Geo is working hard to break into this space. It already has $800,000 in revenue and two multibillion-dollar corporate customers.
McNabb recently gave a presentation on First Mile Geo at the TechBUZZ conference. Check out the video below: