Big Digital’s big pivot for the new realities of COVID

A big piece of Big Digital’s business is about experiential marketing and events—helping brands engage with large audiences. That meant that a big part of Big Digital’s business dried up pretty quickly in the middle of March.

But now, barely six weeks later, the company has a new product offering that directly addresses some of the concerns of the COVID era, which could persist for some time.

SafeChek is an entranceway monitoring and communication system intended for malls, grocery stores and other retailers and offices. The system can provide information like wait times and the number of people inside, or product availability information (do they have hand sanitizer, for example?). More elaborate SafeChek options can include mask detection and temperature check via thermal cameras.

Providing real-time information to people has become more important as the economy starts to re-open and businesses look to bring back more employees and customers. The system was also designed to help building managers control occupancy levels and density.

When the lockdown was first introduced, there were immediate concerns about Big Digital’s future, said co-founder Mike Girgis.

“We were very worried, of course, with events and festivals cancelled. And we help producers and event organizers and brands and companies, engage with large audiences.” Very quickly, however, they started to imagine something new for a world that had changed seemingly overnight.

“I think like any entrepreneur, having a Canadian business and being a part of this, it’s ‘What can we do?'” he said. “How can we harness the things that we’ve done in the past, the things that we know how to do, and repackage it and provide a real solution to problems that are happening today.”

Early on—as people were still adjusting the reality of lining up outside grocery stores—the first ideas were about just providing better communications and information in real time, alleviating some of the uncertainty that can become problematic during anxious times.

But then they started to think about some of the more fundamental changes to everyday life being introduced in places like Singapore and Germany, which were further ahead of North America on the COVID wave. “You could start to see what’s working and what’s not working, and what’s being deployed and how you can automate that.”

Big Digital had worked with A1 Innovation Group, which specializes in people counting solutions, to add an additional layer of functionality aimed at controlling density and manage customer flows. The third layer of functionality could be mask detection and temperature checks with the addition of thermal cameras. Once they had agreed on what they wanted to do, they had a working prototype in about four weeks.

“This is a COVID-19 product. This is an isolation product, born out of isolation,” said Girgis.

This will be a defining time for a lot of people and a lot of businesses, he said. “We wanted to look back and say, ‘We did something amazing during this time.’ We didn’t just try to control damage, figure out how we’re going to downsize and apply to government programs.

“We kind of went the other way  and said, ‘Okay ,what are we going to do then? That was what our team needed, we need to look forward to something and figure out how to make it happen.”

Disclosure: A Big Digital executive is a financial supporter of The Message.
Financial supporters have no influence or input on editorial decisions.

David Brown