KP9 Interactive launches first geolocation-based AR product using IBM Cloud Platform
In 2017, as customers of all types of products and services began to increasingly expect new and innovative customer experiences, Wil McReynolds and April Robinson founded their Ontario, Canada-based company, KP9 Interactive, to help businesses put augmented reality creations directly in the hands of the masses.
KP9 specializes in helping businesses of all sizes and industries build augmented reality experiences without needing to know how to code. What they built is the world’s first friction-free, browser-based augmented reality (AR) content creation platform. Businesses can instantly publish their interactive content to the web and quickly reach potential and current customers, and new global audiences.
All kinds of companies and organizations, including online retailers, museums, tourism operators and hospitality brands started using the product for a wide range of uses, notably social sharing, brand awareness, training and education.
KP9 PrintCAST and ShowCAST
KP9 originally launched with its PrintCAST product, which makes traditional marketing materials and print content come to life by adding a layer of interactive digital content. When the pandemic hit, businesses quickly realized that they needed a new way to create engaging customer and audience experiences. As people began moving towards digital channels, consumers were looking for new content and a new way to interact with information. KP9 responded, and gave the market what it needed—the ability to more easily create the digital experiences that customers want.
Fast forward to January 2020—KP9 releases its second product, ShowCAST, a Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM)-based augmented reality studio, which publishes AR objects that can be placed on any flat surface—a floor, the counter or even a driveway—to help people visualize true-to-life placement.
KP9 built its development infrastructure and product delivery system on the IBM Cloud platform, so the team was able to quickly shift gears and accelerate development on its third release of 2020: GeoCAST, the world’s first webAR studio capable of delivering geographic-based augmented reality content. With geolocation augmented reality, the product determines the actual physical location and environment of the user then overlays the augmented reality objects directly to their surroundings in the real-world.
At a time when many businesses were struggling with ways to connect and interact with customers due to social distancing and mandated closures, KP9 Interactive made it their mission to give people, and companies of all sizes, the ability to create and publish powerful augmented reality experiences with limited technical expertise.
“Most products require coding to create the experiences or put them on your website,” co-CEO and co-founder Wil McReynolds said. “With our products, you can fix multiple objects at absolute scale with no coding at all—what you see is what you get. After creating the experience, the user can publish their content to the web and edit or tweak it within minutes.”
IBM Cloud Platform—build once, deploy anywhere
When KP9 began to look for cloud service providers, McReynolds realized that most vendors would lock them into a defined ecosystem, which would limit their options. McReynolds says that several years ago one of his projects failed, simply because they did not have access to load-balancing. He didn’t want to find himself in the same situation twice, so the team prioritized scalability and flexibility as key pillars of the WorldCAST engine.
IBM was the only vendor they looked at that successfully balanced the fine line between security and openness. With KP9s products, businesses use the online studio to build once – and then they can deploy the experience anywhere, on any channel, platform or device.
“After realizing the openness, security, and scalability of the IBM Cloud, we were drawn to IBM,” says McReynolds. “I didn’t want to focus on building security and hardware, but instead, have a partner who backed us up and really worked together to give assurance to our clients. Because of the peace of mind IBM gives us, I can sleep at night knowing our systems are working.”
After comparing features, he found that IBM has a better mail server and implementation of load-balancing, which is important as KP9 continues to implement new AI machine learning solutions. Other IBM components, such as Watson and the IBM toolset, also mean that KP9 is well positioned to follow its current road map without adding integrations from other vendors.
Managing billions of unique image files
Before moving to the IBM Services and Cloud platform, KP9 created a road map and a server site map, which made implementation seamless. PrintCAST alone handles 4.2 billion unique images on a single server, compared to the 20 typically required by most companies. Because of the scalability of the IBM Cloud platform, KP9 can easily manage significant increases in images and data-based product use, and can adjust to demand. Because KP9’s users upload mission-critical content to the cloud, the bandwidth provided by the IBM servers means the content is available instantly.
“We want to make sure that what we are serving up works both today and with our road map into the future,” McReynolds said. “IBM gives us the ability to serve up what we anticipate our customers will need in five years. We’re in for the long game with IBM, which is why IBM is the right choice for our cloud server.”
As IBM continues to grow in the innovation and security realm, KP9 focuses on encrypting files and compressing models for destinations on the IBM servers. To create their first-of-their-kind products, KP9 developed a unique way of content surfing, convection, and encryption on the development side. McReynolds explains that when exploring options, he learned that their method is complementary to the IBM offerings, especially in the security area.
KP9’s customers trust the company with their images and priority content, making security a high priority. The business model also means the company navigates unique security and privacy issues with every customer. Because the user owns the content, KP9 must ensure that their servers protect the IP address when uploading proprietary content, such as free models. Additionally, customers typically create and store multiple digital collections on the servers, which means KP9 must ensure the content is protected at all times.
“I never thought I’d be making a co-partnership with a company I’ve always known growing up. The partnership with IBM is allowing me to focus on the things that matter most to our company and not worry about the servers and infrastructure,” says McReynolds. “We can complement the offerings of what IBM is giving us and work together. I’m just excited. It’s a very exciting time for us as a company.”
After joining the IBM Partner program last year, KP9 is currently planning its first co-marketing campaign with IBM. Through the IBM PartnerWorld Co-Marketing program, eligible partners can receive funds and resources to expand their marketing efforts. By joining funds and expertise together, KP9 can combine its customer knowledge with additional IBM marketing dollars and proven marketing strategies for cloud-based products.
“In addition to the security, infrastructure, and performance of the IBM products, we will also get its experienced marketing program to help us drive the product to market,” says April Robinson, KP9’s co-CEO and co-founder. “The partnership is making the work smarter by innovating for the ability to make more money together.”
Build AI and Watson into future offerings
KP9’s future road map includes integrating AI and Watson directly into their product, which will allow users to customize experiences through liveware, and then use AI to deliver content to their customers. Currently, ShowCAST allows users to insert the experiences created through the software onto the web.
McReynolds envisions that in five years, the technology will be able help people with vision and hearing loss through machine learning and spatial technology. Other uses include content delivered to mobile devices that lets people know when they are near restaurants serving their favorite type of food, where to find a public washroom, how to find their vehicle in a crowded parking garage—the possibilities are limitless.
“There isn’t a better company out there to work with and grow with for cloud services,” says McReynolds. “I’ve worked with other cloud providers, including AWS and Azure. IBM is the best company and system out there for cloud servers.”