The Eleso app has arrived to help you beat the dreaded petrol queues, adding to the growing revolution of mobile payments. Emily McDaid reports.
As a nation, the UK uses more than 35bn litres of fuel a year, but filling up your car can be a pain. Not anymore, thanks to Eleso.
This business, started by students at Queen’s University Belfast, makes it possible to drive into a station, put petrol in your car, and drive away – all without paying.
Eleso’s video-based technology reads your registration plate and takes the money from your bank card directly as a transaction. You just need to enter a four-digit PIN on a touch screen at the pump.
“We want to be the new Uber for fast payments,” says MD and co-founder Jonathan Browning. “There are so many unmanned petrol stations in Ireland – this is perfect for them.”
Browning notes that unmanned stations can offer a 24-hour operation with this payment system. It enables any station to reduce staff expenditure and serve customers faster.
The first time you use Eleso, you’ll need to create an account through a simple mobile app that chief software officer, Connor Duggan, is currently finalising.
The five students that founded the petrol services app are all studying electrical or software engineering (the combined first letters of ‘electrical’ and ‘software’ resulted in the name Eleso).
Each founder has a distinct role in the business and they have been self-funded since they began in October 2015.
“We’d be keen to speak to any investors with experience in our core market,” said Browning.
Browning explains the reasoning behind the birth of this idea: “Our inspiration was the enormous queues you sit in at petrol stations. I thought to myself, there has to be a better way.”
The team pointed out that fuel is a loyalty-based business. If you have a forecourt that you prefer, sometimes you’ll pass the immediate station on the side of the road to reach your favourite one. The company is convinced that by streamlining a service for customers, forecourt owners will be able to build a loyal following.
“They can increase customer throughput, and build customer engagement because our touch screen can show promotions or offers for deals inside the shop. We’ll plan to focus on Northern Ireland first, before we aim for customers further afield, in Ireland, the UK and Europe,” said Browning.
“We charge £950 per pump, including the cameras, using the forecourt’s existing touch screens. If they don’t have them, we’ll charge more to install them. Our revenue will come from one-quarter of a penny, taken off every £1 of petrol sold. This charge goes to the forecourt and is completely free to fuelling customers.
Duggan said that difficulty lies in software development: “Our biggest technical challenge is getting our software synced up to integrate with the forecourts’ existing systems.”
Fuelling the future
“There are immediate areas we could expand into – drive-through restaurants like McDonalds, drive-through chemists, or car washes.
“Also, our software enables us to do big data-style analysis to help forecourts in knowing their customers better. This is an opportunity we’ll explore as we gain market share,” explained Browning.
“A business like Emo Oil has 70 unmanned stations in Ireland, so that would be a good place to show what we can do. There are 8,500 forecourt sites in the UK and those site numbers are decreasing, meaning that customer queues are growing. By making it quicker and easier, Eleso can attract loyal customers.”
Eleso was a finalist in the Electronics category of the Invent Awards in Belfast earlier this year.
By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch
A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch