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Back-of-a-beermat to multi-award-winning global innovation: Digital Interlock Software

For breweries, the bar top is a sought-after advertising space, with brands paying large sums to position their beer pump – and customer-facing branded badge – on the most prominent section of the bar. Digital Interlock Software was formed after founder Ian Locke realised these static badges could be fitted with video screens, creating a brand new, point of sale marketing channel for pubs and restaurants.

“We’ve taken the illuminated static badge and replaced it with a digital screen,” explains Ian. “So that screen is now real estate on the bar. In making it digital we’ve moved away from static and created something that’s better at catching the eye.”

World-first innovation

Ian approached us through a recommendation from a friend, and fleshed out his vision over a series of meetings. “The reality is, before we committed to illumo digital, or spent a penny with them, we probably spent two years chatting about it. Then obviously, when we got to the point where we were able to get investors involved, that gave us the funds to then kick off the start of the software build.”

The innovative nature of the product was a key challenge for the team. “It had never been done before and so there was nothing to compare it to,” says Ian. “We didn’t even have any hardware to run with it. For several Discovery meetings we discussed what we believed it would look like. We left lots of things open so we could tweak it if necessary.”

As the project unfolded, together we were able to develop a business model and objectives to clarify Digital Interlock Software’s system requirements. For instance, the product’s patent was granted based around the content being remotely managed. For us, this meant the development of a counterpart app so everyone from venue staff to head office had the ability to upload content.

illumo digital Senior QA Tester Cindy worked on the app from beginning to end. She commented, “The developers I worked with were very supportive and made things easy for me. We met the full brief and delivered on all features, so from a test point of view it was pretty straightforward.”

Designing a roadmap for development ensured we were developing features at the right time to support Digital Interlock Software’s business objectives. We then created a proof of concept prototype that demonstrated the viability of the idea, and allowed Digital Interlock Software to satisfy their investors and continue product development.

“It’s a brilliant idea,” Cindy says. “Who wouldn’t want live content playing on their bars? And the fact it’s so flexible with the scheduling feature is great.”

Moving through lockdown

The pandemic stalled development of the hardware, as Digital Interlock Software’s hardware partner was reluctant to develop a product specifically for event spaces during the uncertain lockdown era. Digital Interlock Software pressed on by developing their own hardware, though they have since partnered with Chinese manufacturing firm HH. As of 2022, there were six digital bar-top products available, with another six slated for early 2023.

“Feedback’s been amazing,” enthuses Ian. “Right from the get go, even in its raw state as a tablet superglued to a hand pull, everyone’s been like, ‘that’s the future of bars’. We knew we were onto something, which is why we never let go!” Digital Interlock Software are currently talking to four of the world’s largest brewers with regards to purchasing, and have their kit in head offices around the world. 

Outside the brewhouse it’s generating major buzz too, with several awards under its belt including TechSPARK’s Best Hardware Award and Remote Digital Marketing Pioneers of the Year at the SME News’ IT Awards.

Establishing a global presence

Digital Drinks Dispensers now have their bar-top video screens in locations as far-flung as Australia, and based on their current trajectory estimate a ubiquitous global presence within 12 months.

From fledgling idea to multi-award-winning global innovation, it’s been a long journey to launch, abetted by a strong partnership between usand Digital Interlock Software. “They understood what our vision was,” Ian comments. “It’s all about having the right people involved. Certain people are good at certain roles, and I think Helastel (now illumo digital) has got people within their business that are brilliant at what they do. You want the right people on the end of the line, and they have got that figured.”

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