Four years after launching its first app for firefighters in Cape Breton, Breton SmarTek offers a suite of four products and is eyeing expansion into new sectors and jurisdictions.
The Sydney company came to light a few years ago when it was a prizewinner in the I-3 competition in 2013-14. At that time, it was marketing FireQ — a communications app that would allow for interaction between firefighters and their central dispatch. The product aimed to quickly let a volunteer fire department send a message out to its members saying that there was an emergency, and for the firefighters to indicate whether or not they were in a position to respond.
Since then, the company has added to its list of products:
• CareQ allows care facilities to communicate with employees during an emergency;
• PageQ is a dispatch relay service that can send text and audio messages from dispatch centres directly to emergency service providers and let them respond;
• EQ Enhanced Notification System provides municipalities, facilities and other groups with the ability to execute an emergency response plan quickly and efficiently.
The common theme is that Breton Smartek helps with the planning for emergencies, and once the emergency happens it helps people in authority work with their crews with optimum speed.
“The system allows you to pre-plan,” Ian McVicar, the director of operations, said in an interview. “When the flames are fanning out throughout the building, nobody keeps a cool head. We help facilities to do the right planning so if an emergency happens everyone is prepared.”
A long-standing volunteer firefighter, McVicar said the company has grown as executives in new sectors become aware of the company’s capabilities and ask it to build a product for that industry. For example, the FireQ product had been adopted by fire services across Nova Scotia a couple of years ago, and nursing homes learned of it. They wanted their own product.
That led to the launch of CareQ 18 months ago, and it is now in 23 care facilities across Nova Scotia and expanding its footprint. McVicar said CareQ now accounts for about 20 per cent of the company’s business, but he’s optimistic that number will grow.
“We’ve just put our first one in New Brunswick,” said McVicar. “Something that’s always a challenge in small business is getting the word out to the market. There’s nothing like this out there, but how do you get the word out there? Education in the marketplace is a big thing for us.”
McVicar, who founded the company with partner Ken Grisham, has been thinking a lot lately about getting the word out. The company is working on growing beyond Atlantic Canada and into new sectors. The company has been talking with airports and with a major 911 centre as possible customers.
Breton Smartek, which now has two employees and employs a contractor, has never raised capital, but McVicar said he is now considering it as the costs of expansion across the continent would be substantial.
“To get across Canada and into the U.S., it will cost a bit of capital, so we’re thinking of it,” he said. “Your overhead just continues to expand as you want to bring in more clients.”