BuzzStreets – Portuguese Google Maps that doesn’t want anyone to get lost inside buildings

The team started by serving traffic information in real time, in Portugal. Later, a trip to London led to an indoor navigation system, BUZZ.

How many times have we wanted to go to a specific store in the mall and we got frustrated because we couldn’t find it?
How many times we got lost in a hospital and how many times have we got frustrated we couldn’t find a specific gate in an airport?

It is likely that, at least once, everyone has identified themselves with one of the three situations that João Fernandes presented to the Observador. And thinking about them, he created Buzz, a start-up that develops a new indoor navigation solution. In other words, Buzz works as Indoor Google Maps for hospitals, universities, malls and airports and is currently completing the pilot phase in some locations in the UK and Portugal.

But the initial idea, says the founder of the project to the Observador, wasn’t build for this concept and it took a “failure” to set us on this track.

My idea was to create a platform that could aggregate or collect all the traffic information of a city just to transmit to the city council, first and in real time. And that was in 2014, at a time when all this “open data” in the city councils didn’t exist”, explains João Fernandes.

According to the entrepreneur, the problem with this idea was that it was implemented during the crisis and, although there was interest, there was no budget to support it. “Our initial business model was wrong. What I wanted to be a relief from the traffic and chaos in the city wasn’t financially viable and the business had to rely on“, added João Fernandes.

Now, Buzz provides services to multiple structures, by creating a navigation system that can be used free by customers through the app of each structure. In a hospital, for example, the service developed by the company indicates the way to the building, type of transport and indoor, the floor and the room to which users must go. “The application gives people independence to walk in space without having to ask anyone for information,” explains the 47-year-old businessman.

Older people, for example, don’t like being depending on others and the application helps people who go to the hospital to know where they are. Arriving there, the app continues to provide more information, especially when we are talking about very large hospitals, where it is very challenging to find the right place“, says João Fernandes to the Observador.
Moving to London spawned today’s Buzz

João Fernandes confesses that Buzz “was a start-up with which he had dreamed of for some time”. Formed in Marketing, the entrepreneur saw several projects born and died and in 2015, when he realized the idea of traffic control would not work, he thought, he will fail again. It was at that moment that he received a call from the British group Canary Wharf, owner of the area that concentrates financial institutions, five shopping centers, and 36 buildings.

When he arrived, João saw a different scenario than he hadn’t expected: “In the first few weeks we realized that there was no problem with their traffic at all, because they function independently. They have their own police; they have their own management and there was no traffic”. The team quickly began to doubt the usefulness of the platform for traffic in the area and realised they have to change their strategy. They needed to solve a real problem for people that work and live there.

We realized that the main concern people working in the area was not finding the right place and not knowing what else they had inside the development“, explained João, adding that the Canary Wharf group invests heavily in signage and maps that are distributed to people on site. After the results, Buzz’s focus shifted from outdoor to indoor.

Our platform will help all users to find shops, businesses, restaurants, and exhibitions.

Currently, João has already made more than 58 return flights from London-Lisbon to launch Buzz. The start-up is working with complex venues in London – such as Queen Elizabeth Birmingham Hospital and Southampton, Glasgow and Aberdeen Airport – and is already preparing to enter Portugal with a university and a public hospital still in a pilot test phase. The team currently consists of seven people, including a group of programmers, and they are all divided between two offices in London and Lisbon. “I chose Portugal because I’m Portuguese and I want to help the Portuguese people, and London for obvious reasons: this is one of the largest economies in the world“, adds João.

The biggest benefit is that in addition to helping users navigate in complex spaces such as hospitals, malls and airports there is also the possibility of gathering a lot of information, to help the owners of those spaces“, explains the entrepreneur.

But what type of data this is? “Just think that an airport often adapts the space itself depending on the number of passengers and the so they want to understand the traffic flow: where people go first, which gates are most used, where people shop, etc. ” This means that by using the App in each of these environments, users also provide important information so that they can adapt their service to the greatest needs of their customers.

The app is GDPR compliant and the entrepreneur ensures that people can opt-in to give their data or opt-out and only use it as a navigation system.

We never identify the person, nor do we ever need to know that. What we know is that there is someone who has a device that uses it to reach a destination and that its destination is place A, B or C. We aren’t interested in anything else and we are big advocates of data privacy” explains the founder of Buzz.

If the user authorizes the provision of additional data, “there is communication between, for example, the hospital and patient“. At this stage, which is still under discussion, hospital centres may have a more direct connection with their patients.

Instead of having phone calls or SMS services, this network is perfectly usable for other features such as check-in, send medical results and, ultimately, the patient can be at home and being consulted through the App. I have a system that helps me reach the door of my doctor, but also if I cannot go for any reason, the doctor can come home as he can communicate with me directly, “explained the founder of the Portuguese start-up.The success that postponed a funding campaign

Still, in British lands, João Fernandes managed to take the Buzz to London Tech Week, the biggest Technology event in London. The team created a navigation system specific for the event, allowing participants to find ways towards the various conferences taking place each day, as well as faster transportation to get there and the possibility of verifying real-time information about what’s on.

Although at the very beginning, João believes that his project will improve the lives of many people and facilitate contact between customer and business: “The ambition is to create something that is growing up, like a small child who quickly goes into adolescence and when he becomes an adult, will help many people improve their quality of life”.