“From zero to Zembro in less than a year, with the right partner by our side”

Safety and freedom for your senior relatives

Interview with Johan De Geyter,
CEO Zembro

The first question you typically ask your mother on the phone is “How are you?”. And rather than replying with “I’m okay”, she probably gives you a long monologue filled with complaints and gossip about her neighbors, the postman or the baker. While you may, occasionally, become a tad impatient with your older relatives in such everyday situations, most of us would also go to great lengths to help our senior relatives when a real problem arises. To support seniors and their families, the Belgian company Uest – West-Flemish for “How are you” – called upon the expertise of icapps to develop Zembro, an Internet of Things solution that connects generations. 

Uest is a Ghent-based start-up company headed by Johan De Geyter. It was founded by a group of Belgian entrepeneurs after an inspiring trip to Silicon Valley. Back in Belgium, the team came up with the idea for Zembro, a tool that would allow relatives or friends to monitor the safety of their elderly loved ones and at the same time give these seniors the freedom to continue with their everyday activities, knowing that they are looked after.

From zero to Zembro in less than a year

Zembro is a connected solution in three parts: first, a wearable device that can be worn by the senior at all times – during the day, but also in the bathroom and in bed. This device tracks the wearer’s location and also includes an alarm button. Secondly, it’s an app that is installed on the emergency contact’s mobile phone (a family member or friend). Through the app, the emergency contact is notified when the Zembro senior pushes the alarm button. Thirdly, a back-end system is used by healthcare professionals and the Uest team to offer 24/7 support – guaranteeing help even when the alarm on the Zembro app goes unnoticed by the emergency contact. The Zembro solution is available online or, in Belgium, in about 50 pharmacies. The support service is available as a monthly subscription, while the device itself can either be bought or rented.

The Uest team started working on Zembro in April 2015. Around 9 months later, in October 2015, Zembro was made available to a select audience of people who had pre-registered to receive the solution. A few months later, in January 2017, Zembro was brought to the rest of the market – first in Belgium in January 2016, followed by the Netherlands in February, France in April and Germany in September. The solution is offered in Dutch, French and German. Today, one year after its launch, Zembro has about 5,000 users spread over these four home markets.

Today, one year after its launch, Zembro has about 5,000 users spread over four home markets.
Johan De Geyter

Tackling challenges with icapps’ expertise and flexibility

When the moment arrived to turn Zembro from a concept into an actual solution, Uest was faced with several challenges. As a young start-up with limited resources within the company, they decided to call upon the assistance of some external parties, including icapps. Johan De Geyter (CEO of Uest) explains: “Two years ago, connected devices were not all that common, so developing Zembro definitely posed some technical challenges. To tackle these, we looked for a company that could help us design the solution, as well as develop the software behind the solution and the data tools.”
Among the businesses on the market, icapps immediately caught Uest’s attention: “icapps possesses a lot of expertise, yet at the same time the company is flexible, intelligent and daring enough to help design a project from scratch. They can rely on both leading-edge technology and an openness of mind – a rare combination. While many other companies have a solution for which they search a problem, icapps works the other way around: they first tried to understand our challenges and then looked for the best solution.” explains Johan De Geyter.

icapps first tried to understand our challenges and then looked for the best solution.
Johan De Geyter
We always spend about a month working relatively apart from each other, followed by an intense week of close collaboration
Johan De Geyter

An agile collaboration

Zembro first approached icapps with only a concept in mind. As a first step in their collaboration, a team of icapps and Zembro experts traveled to Turkey for a 3-day long brainstorm. During this week, the team designed almost the entire solution. Back in Belgium, Uest and icapps aimed for a relatively short time to market. As befits two young and dynamic companies, they adopted a very agile approach in their collaboration.

Johan De Geyters explains: “In many projects, there is a star-shaped structure: there is one central party, and several partners who all have to communicate via the central partner. With Zembro however, we decided to work as a network: everyone was equal, roles could constantly shift and we all worked together as a true team.” Throughout the whole collaboration, there was frequent contact between the icapps and Uest teams. “We have weekly virtual status meetings of 1 hour and a daily virtual scrum meetings of half an hour. We also send tons of Slack messages to pick each others’ brains.”

Olivier Dupont, CTO of icapps, continues: “On a quarterly basis, we always spend about a month working relatively apart from each other, followed by an intense week of close collaboration. This offered everyone the best of both worlds: some freedom and the possibility to cherry-pick from the different competences available around them, followed by a period in which we could accelerate some processes and decisions”.

The story continues

The work isn’t finished now that Zembro is on the market. “The first nine months, we worked in project-mode towards a deadline: bringing Zembro to the market. Right now, we are working on the continuous improvement of Zembro, based on the data which our users collect”, Johan De Geyter explains. “We have 14-day sprints in which we try to deliver an update. While we have expanded our internal team, the icapps team continues to collaborate in these sprints. Their team is also still involved in the support track. And we still have our daily and weekly scrum meetings”.

Olivier Dupont concludes: “This close involvement in the service team is not something we do for every project. But this collaboration with Uest has been a smooth and productive ride, and we are very happy to continue the team work!”

Our added value for Zembro in a nutshell:


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