Check­ing out SPOTTM

Bev­er­ley Paly, a lo­cal en­tre­pre­neur, co-founded SPOTTM, a home­grown neigh­bour­hood mo­bile prod­uct, to­gether with Lawrence Suss and Brett Laing. The prod­uct aims to com­bat crime and for­tify com­mu­ni­ties in South Africa. We spoke to Paly about crime, tech­nolo

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How did the idea come about?

Be­ing a vic­tim of crime and liv­ing in ar­eas where crime was on the in­crease, it was wor­ry­ing that our com­mu­ni­ties were be­ing ‘hi­jacked’ by crim­i­nals, yet we knew that when com­mu­ni­ties stand to­gether, change hap­pens. A mul­ti­fac­eted ap­proach to com­bat­ing crime is needed and that can only hap­pen if our com­mu­ni­ties are pro­vided with easy-to-use tools which en­able that. So my part­ners and I de­cided we could ei­ther keep talk­ing about the prob­lems or look for so­lu­tions to help our com­mu­ni­ties re­con­nect and fight the scourge of crime.

Tell us more about the prod­uct.

SPOTTM has two el­e­ments to it. The first roll-out – SPOTTM So­cial – is a pri­vate so­cial plat­form cre­ated for neigh­bour­hoods to not only fight crime col­lec­tively but en­gage so­cially as well. This is a plat­form where ver­i­fied mem­bers of each com­mu­nity can con­nect and share in­for­ma­tion such as reporting sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity, cre­ate lo­cal com­mu­nity events, as well as sup­port each other and their lo­cal businesses. We’re also ex­cited about the sec­ond phase of our roll-out – SPOTTM Wear – a range of wear­able de­vices that con­nect these neigh­bour­hoods even fur­ther by en­hanc­ing emer­gency re­quest re­sponse.

Do you be­lieve that crowd­sourc­ing crime alerts is the an­swer to fi­nally cracking down on crime in SA?

There is the old adage that says there’s safety in num­bers. We’re just us­ing tech­nol­ogy to en­hance that. Re­search also shows that it’s more dif­fi­cult for crim­i­nals to op­er­ate in close-knit com­mu­ni­ties and eas­ier for neigh­bours to spot sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity the more in­volved they are in their neigh­bour­hoods.

You made a bold move and de­cided to ex­pand your prod­uct of­fer­ing af­ter get­ting feed­back from early adopters. Why did you de­cide to go that route?

Well, SPOTTM started off as an emer­gency/SOS mo­bile app where one could re­quest as­sis­tance from those in the area. So we started re­search­ing and from the find­ings we re­alised that there was a def­i­nite need to cre­ate a ‘crime-fight­ing tool’. Great idea, we thought, how­ever, it was not prac- tical in a real sce­nario when con­fronted with a per­pe­tra­tor. So that was the first prob­lem we were faced with. The sec­ond was that there was a di­verse range of is­sues that led to crime in­ci­dents, some of which were com­mu­nity is­sues (lights not work­ing in cer­tain ar­eas, for ex­am­ple) and we ended up hav­ing a very bulky of­fer­ing in one app. Def­i­nitely not the so­lu­tion. We went back to the draw­ing board and worked on it un­til we came up with a leaner and more

What sort of chal­lenges and ob­sta­cles did you face while try­ing to get SPOTTM up and run­ning?

Our chal­lenges ranged from try­ing to fig­ure out how we would tackle such a mam­moth task with­out weigh­ing down the app or our ser­vice of­fer­ing, find­ing the right part­ners (those who un­der­stood the vi­sion and had the skills, pas­sion and net­works to take SPOTTM to the next level) and boot­strap­ping, which is al­ways a chal­lenge. It’s also one that has sharp­ened our skills even fur­ther, by en­sur­ing that we ex­haust ev­ery pos­si­ble skill set within our own ranks as far as pos­si­ble be­fore out­sourc­ing or hir­ing.

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