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Over the last 10 years, the rise of digital products and services has seen traditional industries positively disrupted. Netflix and Amazon Prime did this in the movies industry, Spotify for music, Uber and Lyft for private transport and many others. Amidst these developments, the world of museums and galleries has remained largely unchanged and content consumption continues to rely on outdated means that fail to meet user expectations in the digital era.

Smartify was introduced to Digital Catapult after launching its first proof of concept in 2016. Recognising the innovative approach and potential impact Smartify could have on the creative industries, Digital Catapult’s experts and executives mentored and supported the fledgling business, enabling Smartify to secure further funding, attract new talent and cement its strategy.

Smartify’s free app allows a user to scan and identify artworks, producing easily readable and quality checked information about the selected artwork, and is designed to complement the museum experience.

Smartify officially launched the app in October 2017 with 30 museums, immediately reaching thousands of users. With Digital Catapult’s continued support, Smartify’s app now has 1m users and 85 museums and galleries.

The relationship with Digital Catapult continues; Smartify is part of the 5G Smart Tourism consortia which has created testbeds to demonstrate 5G capability and its potential uses for the tourism industry.

Friends set out to make a “Shazam” for art

Four art loving friends had an idea for an app that would help people get a richer experience when visiting galleries and museums. They wanted to find a way that smartphones could enrich rather than detract from the experience of looking at art.

They decided to create a company that would use computer vision and augmented reality to challenge and disrupt a traditional sector that still lagged behind in adopting digital technologies. The company benefited from access to further technical expertise to support its already talented in-house team, access to coaching to raise mission critical funding, and the right kind of public endorsement to help it stand out as a force for positive disruption in the arts and creative sector.

Smartify receives first big break

Smartify began working with Digital Catapult in February 2017 when it was selected as a showcase company. At this stage Smartify had three museum partners and its first MVP (minimum viable product) version of the app. The showcase provided a demonstrator space at Digital Catapult’s London HQ for more than a year, giving Smartify the opportunity to demonstrate its app to attendees at all Digital Catapult events, including a specific event organised to shine a spotlight on featured innovators. At this event Matt Reynolds, a journalist from New Scientist, saw the demo and wrote an article about it. This represented Smartify’s first big break, catapulting its progress so that at the point the company officially launched it had 30 museum partners in place.

Digital Catapult also provided desk space and mentoring which helped Smartify shape its offering, investment pitch and business model.

Pitching at Digital Catapult’s Future Networks breakfast leads to funding

In 2018 Smartify wanted to focus on consolidating its rapid growth and raise a serious round of investment. It pitched at Digital Catapult’s Future Networks breakfast, an event that curated a targeted group of investors and provided an investment workshop for participating businesses. This generated seven leads for Smartify to pursue, ultimately it was one of these seven that indirectly led to important growth funding that Smarify was hoping to attract.

Smartify participates in 5G Smart Tourism

Smartify’s rapid growth hasn’t stopped it considering the future and what advancements it can make to the app. One area Smartify is committed to is helping its museum partners ensure a quality experience for all visitors. For popular exhibits where lots of visitors are trying to glimpse and learn about a single painting or artefact at the same time, latency and bandwidth issues can appear for 4G enabled apps. Smartify wanted to explore whether 5G could provide an answer, so it joined Digital Catapult’s consortia of companies to participate in the 5G Smart Tourism initiative.

The £5m 5G Smart Tourism project was funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. It brought together 19 organisations to showcase some of the UK’s leading 5G tech pioneers.

This ambitious project took the role of 5G to the next level by demonstrating, using the most advanced network infrastructure at the University of Bristol 5G testbed, through real-life examples, exactly how immersive cultural experiences will benefit from 5G, and how the experience of the ordinary visitor will change with it.

During the project, Smartify worked with Digital Catapult and MShed to develop a 5G enabled pilot of the Smartify app which allows visitors to interact digitally with MShed exhibits on specialised 5G handsets.

The pilot proved that 5G can deliver an enhanced pre- and post-gallery experience for visitors, and engages younger audiences who expect ever-increasing digital interaction with products. Through the app, audiences can delve deeper into the exhibits at Mshed, via bonus content like audio stories and videos that add colour to the history of each object. 5G provides far greater speed and clarity within a heritage environment.

Smartify reaches 1m users and can be used in 85 museums around the world

Smartify has gone from strength to strength, it now has 1m users, 85 museum partners, has won a UN World Summit award and raised a round of angel investment to enable it to consolidate its impressive growth. CoFounder Anna Lowe has been listed on Forbes 30 under 30.

Working with Digital Catapult has provided technical expertise and networking possibilities, supporting the start-up to develop a compelling value proposition and a business model that works for museums and app users.

Digital Catapult has helped Smartify raise its profile domestically and internationally and lends the startup increased brand credibility and gravitas. The valuation of business has increased by 300%, with at least 30% as a direct result of working with Digital Catapult

The initial showcase and being involved in 5G Smart Tourism has raised the profile of Smartify domestically and internationally. This has opened the door to a wide gamut of opportunity and has contributed to the company being awarded a UN World Summit Award for Culture and Tourism (November 2018). 5G also supported Smartify’s business development efforts by enabling the company to advise museum partners on future trends and business models.

In November 2020, Smartify secured £1 million seed investment from Pembroke VCT.

Listed on Forbes 30 under 30

UN World Summit Award for Culture and Tourism

Winner of 3 Webby Awards

Angel funding received