Smart soundscapes for improved commercial experiences
“Experience is key for retail and commercial office settings,” says Nick Larkins, Qsic COO and co-founder. “If you can provide a unique, powerful experience when people are immersed in your brand environment, there’s the opportunity to give them something valuable and unique. People always choose experience over convenience or product quality.”
Qsic first launched in 2013 as Australia’s first commercial music streaming service. Since then, the team has innovated rapidly to make commercial audio streaming not just simple but smart. Qsic now offers the world’s only commercial music streaming service with built-in AI designed to positively influence customers’ moods, behaviors and experiences. Qsic’s branded curation service and machine learning pull from over 12 million commercially-licensed tracks to predict what to play, and when, where, and even what volume to play it at to optimize for a positive customer experience.
This value proposition has helped Qsic to establish an impressive customer portfolio including global brands like Toyota, WeWork, McDonalds, 7-Eleven, and more, all streaming brand-enhancing music that helps people feel welcome in their environments.
Today, Qsic’s streaming audio technology now reaches over 17 million people per week, in thousands of commercial environments across two continents.
COO and Co-Founder, Qsic
With Soracom, we can do it all remotely, via the cloud, and control the amount of data that our customers need for updates, support, and system maintenance.
A fully-connected audio ecosystem
The vision for Qsic began to take shape nearly a decade ago, with Larkins and his co-founders’ pioneering experience developing early Smart Home systems. These customized local networks integrated control over lighting, HVAC, security and other home systems much as standardized ecosystems like Google Home do today, finding early traction in retail and hospitality settings like pubs, nightclubs, and specialty shops.
Those early commercial customers introduced the team to an unexpected and highly specialized challenge: audio for business. “We found that music distribution for commercial use was at least a decade behind in terms of technology. The available systems were PC-based, with physical CDs delivered monthly by post,” says Larkins. “There were also some hacked-together streaming services using VPNs that introduced the potential for legal risk.”
In response Qsic developed the infrastructure to go to market with a modern, wireless streaming service for commercial environments equivalent to what their customers already used at home with services like Spotify, Apple Music, and SONOS. Since launching in 2013, the team has refined this technology to enable optimization, testing, and automation — empowering retailers and other businesses to create consistent, continuous, and joyful brand experiences.
Today, Qsic integrates with customers’ existing speaker systems and is one of the only native commercial music services available within SONOS in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. A flexible API integrates with customers’ BI, CRM, POS, and other systems to help the Qsic AI engine learn what tracks and tempos drive the right outcomes at the right times, and patented multi zone listening technology ensures that music always plays at the right volume.
“We install different sensors around to help automate the system and to measure decibel ratings around the store,” explains Larkins. “We can control the speakers individually through the network and increase or decrease volumes as needed.”
Reliability, usability, and control
These advanced capabilities are powered by Qsic’s cloud environment, which makes reliable connectivity crucial for consistent performance. Local Wi-Fi may be available in some locations, but onboarding challenges, variable IT security requirements, and lack of visibility and control all pose challenges.
“If the internet goes down, we need a backup solution,” says Larkins. “We need to be able to log in and diagnose problems remotely, without hiccups. In our connected world, we always need to ensure that we can access our own equipment.”
Qsic has worked with several wireless data providers over the years, but found the service became prohibitively expensive in Australia and other regions as the business began to scale. A search for alternative solutions led Larkins to Soracom, which effectively supports Qsic’s technical requirements while delivering affordable connectivity that can scale as Qsic grows.
“We want to make it as seamless as possible for our solutions to integrate into these businesses,” says Larkins. “The infrastructure that we implement is IP based, so systems within and across departments can easily connect over a network. Soracom gives us the ability to implement and manage our infrastructure in a way that’s isolated from other company networks, so that we do not need to rely on external teams.”
Services in use
• SORACOM Air: smart connectivity for IoT
Extraordinary audio experiences at scale
Today, Qsic streams through over 10,000 audio devices around the world, with a unique configuration in each retail environment. This level of customization-at-scale requires an equal level of technical agility on the back end, based on a foundation of reliable, flexible, global connectivity.
Soracom helps Qsic deliver on the promise of innovative, high-integrity technology that enhances the human experience in commercial environments. In addition to delivering brand-enhancing audio experiences, the team now helps retailers to better understand and connect with their foot traffic on a human level.
“We’re even trialing Qsic in remote areas,” says Larkins. “With Soracom, we maintain a direct line of communication to audio devices and can adapt to the needs of people on the ground. We can do it all remotely, via the cloud, and control the amount of data that our customers need for updates, support, and system maintenance.”
With a strong foundation in place, Qsic is still only at the beginning of a journey that holds the potential to not only benefit shoppers, diners, office workers and brands, but to improve quality of life for all of us.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization had observed increasing depression and anxiety rates in the commercial sector, which in turn pose significant economic challenges. In the face of a global medical and economic crisis, the WHO expects that substantial investment will be required to address what also amounts to a global mental health crisis.
While music may not replace proper treatment for depression and anxiety, Harvard Health has observed that music does hold genuine potential to enhance human health and performance. “Music is a fundamental attribute of the human species… The human brain and nervous system are hard-wired to distinguish music from noise and to respond to rhythm and repetition, tones and tunes.”
Within this context, Qsic’s fully-connected, AI-powered audio engine is uniquely positioned to help uplift people in commercial settings. It’s a clear example of IoT connectivity helping to support human connection, and the Qsic team is well aware that this is only the beginning.
“The world is at the beginning of the Goldilocks zone of IoT,” says Larkins. “Five years ago, ‘IoT’ was a real buzzword but it is starting to become a tangible and important industry. Over the next 10 years, it’s going to be huge. I encourage people and businesses to start thinking and planning their strategy for IoT management and infrastructure. The Goldilocks zone is right on our doorsteps.”