BY ANDREW MOORE
Reporter with Silicon Hills News
Why? Your Smartphone app doesn’t speak the same language as the cash register at the bar. In fact, having a cloud based app communicate with the server infrastructure of an establishment’s point of sale system is really difficult. The POS infrastructure – as in your favorite bar’s registers, touch screen software, servers the software talks to, etc – doesn’t speak in a smartphone-friendly language.
Building software that translates into each of the many different POS systems used in bars and restaurants is time consuming prohibitively expensive for app developers–costing thousands of dollars. Thus, your smartphone simply can’t buy you a beer.
SubtleData – an Austin-based startup – is solving this problem. It has created software that integrates with 12 of the major POS systems — including four of the five most-used systems – which gives them the ability to communicate with 60 percent of the POS system market. SubtleData installs a plug-in on local POS servers which translates to the SubtleData cloud platform. The cloud platform speaks the same code language as smartphone app developers – enabling developers to finally build that app which can tell your bar’s register you would like a beer.
“Our goal is to make it easy for people to build apps that interact with point of sale systems at bars, restaurants, casinos, hotels, nightclubs,” says President and CTO Richard Bagdonas. “The developers that build the actual apps utilize our framework and platform to get to the point of sale.”
This year, SubtleData will release new API technology that provides developers with code shortcuts to create POS related apps even faster — replacing operations that require around 80 lines of code with ones requiring 20. They showed a demo of the new technology at the SubtleData Developer Garage event, which was held yesterday at Bourbon Girl in Austin, TX.
“Mobile application developers can build an app in days, and it used to take them months and years,” says Bagdonas.
Bagdonas says that 550 startups are already using the SubtleData platform. Several such startups attended their SubtleData event and pitched their ideas to venture capitalists.
Innovative Delivery Systems President Dietrich Diehl, who pitched his Ordr It product to investors, is using SubtleData to integrate into the POS systems of stadium concessions. Diehl’s product is an app that would let fans at sporting events order food right from their seats instead of waiting at the concession stand.
“If you want to integrate yourself into these POS systems it will cost you like $100,000 to $500,000,” said Diehl. “These guys do it essentially for free and then charge a percentage of revenue.”
Diehl says that using SubtleData helps their sales pitch to companies who own stadiums — who would otherwise need to agree to split the high cost of software integration.
Coupon Media project manager Eric Moore also attended the event, but did not present. Moore does not use SubtleData, but is interested in its potential. Moore’s business helps companies integrate coupon services in their POS while preventing fraud.
“We are looking at SubtleData as a way to kind of streamline our process into some of the newer POS systems,” says Moore. “It’s a huge cost saving if it works.”
Moore said his company spent “tens of thousands of dollars” integrating with their first POS vendor. He hopes that SubtleData will incorporate coding for “shopping cart” style transactions to help his company fully integrate coupons.
The SubtleData Developer Garage event also had a panel of industry operators, who fielded questions about the current technologies in the restaurant and hotel industry and talked about what they would like to see from new technologies that use POS communications.
Restaurant Freedom Owner Mark Turner, who operates 18 restaurant locations, says that he sees potential in the new apps based on SubtleData’s technology but needs them to be integrated in a simple and easy way.
“I don’t want to have a loyalty program that is stand alone, that is different than my ability to checkout, that is different than my interactions on social media,” says Turner. “It’s just a matter of – can they get them all to work together as simplistically as possible?”
Turner says that for a restaurant owner to bite on a new technology there has to be some cost efficiency or certainty of revenue.
“It’s an allocation of my marketing dollars,” says Turner. “I’ve got at budget already that I am planning on spending. If you bring me a way that seems to be cost efficient and have a better return on investment over all, I am absolutely open to looking at that.”
One returning SXSW startup has already decided to use SubtleData for its efficiency. Noom – or Next One’s On Me – is an app that lets users gift small food or drink items to friends or acquaintances. The current version of Noom requires you to redeem gifts by showing the app to an employee at a Noom-friendly establishment. The employee must enter a coupon-like code back at the register before you receive your item. NOOM CEO Sara Rodell is using SubtleData to make the app’s gift redeeming process more elegant.
“With SubtleData, the user gets to choose what they want to redeem,” says Rodell. “Once they make that selection, which is entered into the POS, there’s no interaction that’s needed with the waiter or waitress.”
Soon, Noom users will be able to redeem a gift simply by walking into a Noom-friendly establishment, selecting their item, and entering their table number. The app can either generate an already paid ticket in the establishment’s POS system or can add the gift to an existing bill. Rodell hopes to have the new Noom app ready by this fall.
So thanks to Noom, and SubtleData, we will soon be able to walk into a pub, enter a table number, and have a pint delivered right to our table. Cheers!