An innovative Gwynedd company using ground-breaking data systems to help small businesses, improve local authority cost-efficiency and potentially save lives

Gwynedd business created and staffed by former employees of one of the county’s largest ecommerce companies of the early 21st century is working on several ground-breaking data collection and analysis projects throughout Wales – some of which are potentially life-saving.

Kodergarten was founded by Paul Sandham and three former Book People colleagues in 2019 and now employs eight staff and is looking to recruit an additional four. The company is producing quite astoundingly innovative data-driven solutions – several of which have been funded by the public sector and as such are released under an open source license - to help small businesses, local authorities and individuals in all kinds of ways.

Siopio is one such solution. It’s a shopping ‘portal’ website which was launched in association with Menter Mon in response to the initial Covid outbreak. As lockdown had forced many local food and drink businesses to close their doors, the idea was to allow customers to continue supporting these businesses without having to physically visit their premises. Customers enter their postcode at the Siopio website to learn which local food and drink producers can deliver to them. 

Paul says that any existing websites of this kind were geared up for national or even global markets, but never for local sales. “There was nothing to support businesses that only wanted to sell very locally”, he says, “and nothing to support those businesses going through the ecommerce setup process.”

Siopio was therefore designed to make selling online much easier for local food producers wanting to deliver only to their local area. One such business was Becws Islyn, which has done especially well since joining Siopio.

Patrwm is another Kodergarten system, the subject of a previous case study in this series – it’s the system behind the Smart Towns initiative throughout Wales, enabling businesses to measure footfall, busiest times of day, reasons for visiting a town and all sorts of other data which go on to inform decisions about anything from store opening hours to staff rotas. 

One of the exciting things about Patrwm, Paul says, is that it has the potential to work with Siopio so that businesses could set up a promotion in Siopio and then record the sales in the businesses using a simple box with only one button – “so finally you close the loop like you would in an ecommerce transaction, so you can measure conversion ratios.”

An especially innovative Kodergarten solution which has the potential to transform people’slives is the ‘smart home’ system currently being piloted by social housing provider Adra. One of the aims of this system is to help identify to their carers or relatives if a vulnerable tenant might be displaying signs of developing early onset Alzheimer’s.  A number of small low-cost battery-operated sensors, which don't rely on wi-fi or 4G, are installed in the property with the resident's consent. The sensors can help to highlight warning signs such as if the tenant has forgotten to close their front door, as well as other factors such as changes in pre-existing patterns of movement and lighting.

“The problem that elderly people and their families have is that diagnosis is required in order to secure additional funding for their increased care requirements, which can mean that individuals and families can wait several months from point of diagnosis to receipt of additional funding. Helping them to seek an earlier diagnosis has the potential to reduce the length of this difficult transitional period.

“Now that we have successfully completed phase 1 we are currently hoping to commence a larger phase 2 pilot in the summer which would enable us to roll this out across more properties and enhance the system's data analytics capabilities.”

If an anomaly is detected, the system can send an SMS to the carer in real time. What’s more, a URL for the house’s data can be shared with friends and relatives for monitoring. Although the data doesn’t contain any identifying information, relatives know it’s the right house – and, if need be, access to the data can be rescinded by simply generating a new URL.

Another Kodergarten solution has the potential to save local authorities huge sums of money while helping to safeguard schoolchildren. 

The GDPR-compliant school pupil transport analytics system, which uses generic mobile devices to log a child’s entry onto a school bus, was initially set up to help identify when a child had shared a bus with a Covid-positive schoolmate.

But the system does a lot more than this, in fact – because it can help parents, schools and education departments understand if a child didn’t get onto the bus, which has implications for improving child safety.

What’s more, the system can help local authorities to manage transport budgets by reporting on how well-used a service is. A single school bus service can cost a local authority up to£45-£60,000 per annum, Paul explains. If a route has only 29 unique users of the service, the local authority can reduce the capacity from a £40,000 per annum 45-seater bus to a £25,000 per annum 30-seater, or merge the service with another that is also being under-utilised. And with budgets having suffered cuts of up to 60% in the past five to ten years, the system looks set to help local authorities meet future budgeting challenges head-on.

With many other exciting projects in development – such as their bus service timetabling software that is being rolled out to operators across Wales, which is also currently being adopted for use across the whole of England as well as Wales, and an “internet of things”-based water level monitoring system for water storage tanks on Enlli, as well as having helped the island’s residents secure access to superfast broadband – it seems very busy times are ahead for Kodergarten.