Esplorio - New ESA BIC Harwell Incubatee Interview

We chatted to Tim Fernando, Essa Saulat and Sean Phạm from new ESA BIC Harwell incubatee Esplorio about how they’re building on the success of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram to create a new travel app that tracks and records all your holiday memories. 
Tell us a bit about your service:
Essa: Esplorio is a service that easily allows you to record and share your
travels. At the moment we’re solely a web-based application which works by importing content from your social media platforms to create a digital travel diary. We are currently working within the ESA BIC Harwell to expand this further to create the Esplorio mobile app. This will allow our users to directly record their travels with GPS and then view and share them from their phones.
There are services out there that let you share specific moments, whether it be a photo or a post but we’re all about sharing the journey and what we want to do is help you figure out where you’ve been and where you want to go next, using our data set to make potential recommendations on where to go based on your travel history and how much you enjoyed it - but not in a way that is advertising. For example, we want to let you know about what you may find useful, for example the proximity of airports, especially the ones that are less well known and have the best or cheapest routes – we think that’s pretty unique. 
Tim: The benefit the mobile app will have over our web app is GPS which uses cell tower and lots of location sensing technology. Another advantage is it won’t require any roaming data to function while you travel and won’t significantly affect battery life either: you can literally just turn the app on, forget about it and enjoy yourself. 
How does your service work?
Tim: When using the web app we pull together any data from your social networks (assuming you want us to): Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare etc. which automatically lets you compile the map style travel diaries you can see on our website (link opens in a new window). You begin by inserting your start and end date for the trip and as you travel we pull all the different data together to create one final record of your entire trip. 
As I mentioned earlier the mobile app is battery saving, so tries to limit the usage of GPS when you’re not moving and automatically names and detects places you went to. For example if you go to a particular hotel or landmark, it’ll automatically figure out the name of the hotel and add it as a place you visited. Allowing you not only to save photos and their locations but save the names of places and the routes you took and so on. This obviously involves a lot of data being pulled together, stored and processed and we’ve got our own unique methods of doing that and outputting the maps you see. 
What space technology does your product stem from?
Tim: Our app relies heavily on mapping, this includes topological maps which arise from space data, which we use to automatically detect which country things are in. We use data collected from the Space Shuttle Endeavour to help us calculate the elevation of certain locations and to figure out what height something needs to be to be at ground level. We use satellite imaging to overlay the trips on and we also incorporate location sensing technology such as GPS and Galileo to help with tracking. 
How did you find out about the ESA BIC Harwell?
Essa: Esplorio is an alumni of the Oxford University Software Incubator, ISIS Innovation and it was while we were there we attended a few talks given by representatives from the Satellite Applications Catapult from the Harwell campus. It was then we heard about the ESA BIC Harwell and decided to give it a shot.
Tim: I also met the ESA BIC Harwell Incubation Manager around that time who told us all about the incubation centre and encouraged us to apply.
Why did you decide to join the ESA BIC Harwell?
Tim: Firstly there’s the benefit of working near other companies in a similar field, as well as the knowledge made available to us, from the Satellite Application Catapult especially. Being in such close proximity to people who know about things like grants and funding is invaluable and the added benefit of funding and office space provided to us through the ESA BIC Harwell is also a bonus!
Essa: A lot of the stuff we do is related to GPS and when you’re surrounded by people who are experts in that field it’s brilliant. For example having one 30 minute talk with someone over here could potentially save us a month of research and work because they just say “Oh, you’re trying to do this, you need to get this done’ it makes such a difference. Also the monthly SpaceCakes networking event is great, the cake is so good!
How have you found the community so far?
Tim: Well we’ve only recently started to engage because Essa and Sean are both foreign nationals and have only just received their entrepreneurial visa.
Essa: But we’ve been to a few networking events such as SpaceCakes and already the connections are proving to be useful. We’ve been able to look at additional funding opportunities, programmes and resources that could be helpful to us. The ESA BIC Harwell Incubation Manager Gemma has been great too, I had one conversation with her and she introduced me to one person at Innovate UK, who’s put me in touch with someone else and I had all my questions answered in 5 minutes! Being based here has been really helpful so far, but yeah the resources and just who you get connected with and how easily is really important.

© 2017 Science and Technology Facilities Council - All Rights Reserved.
The ESA BIC Harwell has an open call for proposals, which means that applications can be submitted at any time.
ESA BIC Harwell video
Find out more about incubatees are benefiting from the facilities at Harwell.