The sky’s the limit for FireCloud365’s ambitions for better fire safety

11 Dec 2017

From left: Co-founders Ryan Bradley and Kevin Boylan. Image: FireCloud365

Our Start-up of the Week is Donegal-based FireCloud365, creators of a cloud-based system for managing fire compliance.

“The software allows the customer to schedule, record and report all fire checks within a building in keeping with the region’s fire safety legislation, which ultimately lets clients reduce risk and ensure compliance with regulations at all times,” explained FireCloud365 co-founder Ryan Bradley.

As Bradley explains it, all businesses need to be fire safety-compliant.

‘Our software is a cloud-based solution that allows users to manage all aspects of their organisations’ fire safety’

“We work with medium-to-large companies who want to take their fire safety seriously. We are targeting hotels, educational institutions, governments and hospitals.”

The market

Bradley explained that Letterkenny-based FireCloud365’s largest market currently is group hotels.

“We have secured the largest hotel group in Ireland. Each hotel’s fire safety is currently managed individually; the person responsible for fire safety will visit each hotel to ensure safety measures are in place and adhered to – this takes time and money.

FireCloud365 can help these clients save time and money by making sure they no longer have to travel to every site to check paper records as everything is on the cloud and can be checked from head office. There is transparency across all sites, and a report is sent every morning to each location. Having data from each site means that a hotel group, for example, can manage its fire safety more effectively.

The founders

The sky’s the limit for FireCloud365’s ambitions for better fire safety

From left: Co-founders Kevin Boylan and Ryan Bradley. Image: FireCloud365

Bradley’s background is in IT systems engineering. “I have over 15 years’ experience working in support and consulting positions within local government, retail ticketing and IT consulting. I specialise in design, architecture and support of virtualisation, storage, network and private cloud infrastructure.

Co-founder Kevin Boylan’s background is in building design, facilities management and the fire service. From first-hand experience, he understands the effects a fire can have on a business and the potential for loss of life, which led him to develop a fire safety management software – FireCloud365 –  to help business owners manage fire safety more effectively.

“He believed there was a gap in the market for a product that would save businesses time and money when it came to their fire safety,” Bradley said.

The technology

“Our software is a cloud-based solution that allows users to manage all aspects of their organisations’ fire safety,” Bradley explained.

“We take a list of all fire points in a building and their current paper records, and upload them to our system. The system then schedules and records the checks carried out by our clients. Our clients no longer need to print the daily documents and manually tick off the fire safety checks.

“The software removes the need for paper, offering a more reliable system. Staff are able to complete fire checks via a mobile device that is set up individually for each building. A set of questions must be answered, with a pass or fail at each fire point.

“All data is instantly sent to the cloud and all records – passed, failed or missed – are reported to the manager in the morning via daily email reports.

“Our software normally takes a few hours to set up depending on the building size, and clients can start carrying out checks straight away after set-up.”

The platform contains all of the checks to help reduce the risk of fire.

“Fire safety officers now have more accountability that each check is being carried out effectively and efficiently.”

Bradley also said the use of the technology will help organisations avoid non-compliance fines, concentrate on core activities, access documents 24/7 and reduce dependence on paper.

Core technology features include near-field communication (NFC), which helps to manage daily fire-exit checks and weekly fire alarm tests as well as fire drills, and the platform generates a monthly digital Fire Register.

“The app is twofold: the web app for managers to monitor, run reports or set up scheduled tasks; and the mobile app for staff to use to scan NFC tags when completing fire safety walks.

“The intelligence in the app then allows managers to set up questions unique to the check they are doing. So, for example: if it’s a fire door, you ask things like, ‘Is emergency lighting above the door working? Is it free from obstruction? Does the door open and close correctly?’

“All this data feeds back into reports, automated emails, executive dashboard and, ultimately, a company’s online Fire Register. Fire Register is a key component when you’re working with your regional fire officers for renewal of licences or certificates. What we are seeing a lot more often now is insurance companies looking to see a copy of the document so they can ensure that checks relevant to the fire safety are being carried out.

“We are currently working on aspects such as deep thinking and machine-learning algorithms to help companies mitigate the risk of fire by using live data and previous fire data.”

Bradley said that the ultimate goal is to make fire safety simple so every business can manage it as effectivity as possible and, in turn, make buildings safer.

“Other goals would be to scale the business outside of Ireland and into the UK, US, Canada and Australia.”

The spark

Bradley explained that the company is growing faster than anticipated.

“Currently, we have customers in the UK and Ireland using the software across a number of industries. For us now, the focus is on our sales and marketing; working with major hotel chains that have premises across Europe, so that’s really exciting.”

He explained that the biggest challenge is education and awareness. “Large groups and organisations are unaware that there is an easier way to manage their fire safety.

“Recently, we moved one company to our software, who were carrying out over 50,000 checks a week over 50 buildings. We saved them 40 hours per week on their manual checks alone. They will go on to save more time and money on aspects such as administration, travelling to site to carry out audits, senior managers checking paperwork – the list goes on.

“We have talked to a lot of general managers and they are unable to tell us how much fire safety maintenance is costing – the simple answer is they don’t know, because they don’t measure it. We believe you can’t manage what you can’t measure.

“FireCloud365 means general managers can include fire safety costs in their budget, reducing costs and more effectively managing their fire safety.”

Bradley said that the start-up scene in Ireland is really influenced by the success of Irish management teams behind successes such as Trustev and Intercom, and regional players such as Sendmode, Farmflo and CloudRanger.

“Start-up hubs and co-working spaces are growing, and it can only help anyone looking to start out with a small bank balance but with bright ideas to move forward. I also think the government agencies (LEO, EI) are making the rights steps in terms of helping start-ups get funding.”

Bradley believes that founders that are not technical need to get a technical co-founder with the knowledge to talk tech with development teams.

“Getting out and talking to as many people about your product is the best thing anyone can do. You need to talk to potential customers, other start-ups and people in business. Then, look at what your local LEO can do for you; look at start-up programmes that can help bring your ideas forward.

“Not everyone is going to love your idea but don’t let that detract you. When talking to potential customers, sometimes they don’t always know what they want until they have it. As Henry Ford once said: ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years