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  • Focus
  • Monday, 4 Jan 2016

Tay showing off the Simplify app which aims to make data-sharing much more convenient and hassle-free.Photos: ONG SOON HIN/The Star

Tay showing off the Simplify app which aims to make data-sharing much more convenient and hassle-free.Photos: ONG SOON HIN/The Star

Do you always use up the mobile data you pay for? If not, perhaps it’s time to share it and get credit points for coverage elsewhere. The Malaysian app Simplify allows you to do just that, writes MEK ZHIN.

WASTE not, want not is a common saying, but have you ever thought about how this may apply to the mobile data that you pay for but don’t fully utilise?

The founders of Nextwave did, and the result is Simplify.

It’s an app that allows users to share their data with others in return for credit points usable for data elsewhere — like when they are overseas and don’t have mobile data coverage.

According to Tay Yen-Pei, co-founder and chief executive officer, most people underutilise their mobile data.

“Data packages are very cheap these days, and most people don’t use it to the limit. With our app, people can ‘sell’ their mobile data over a secure encrypted system and make the most out of what they are already paying for,” he points out.

Tay says they are also coming up with a system whereby users can make money, on top of accumulating points, off data-sharing. However, the heart of the app is actually to make connecting to Wi-Fi hassle-free anywhere in the world.

“When I see a smartphone, I wonder why it isn’t so smart that it requires so many steps to connect to the Internet without mobile data? That’s how the app Simplify came about,” he explains.

Nextwave’s new project is Shout which provides GPS tracking services that works even at 2G. (Right) Simplify’s main page.
Nextwave’s new project is Shout which provides GPS tracking services that works even at 2G.

“We wanted to make connecting to the Internet effortless anywhere you are,” Tay declares.

With Simplify, you don’t need to bother about switching back and forth between Wi-Fi and mobile data. It automatically connects to your saved networks whenever you are within range.

It’ll even turn off your Wi-Fi radio when you are out of range, conserving battery life.

“We call this Zero Touch. Simplify aims to be a hands-free experience,” Tay says.

Currently, the app is only available on Android devices but they are working on an Apple market release.

One of the key features that allows for a hassle-free experience on Simplify is that the app allows you to automatically connect to a network that you or any other Simplify user have previously used.

“Our server contains all the information any Simplify user needs to log on to any Wi-Fi network already logged into previously,” Tay points out.

However, he notes that Wi-Fi owners have the option of preventing their network from being used in such a way.

The Simplify main page when users log onto the app.
Simplify’s main page.

“They just need to log onto the app and privatise their network. The app will require them to input their device MAC ID, which is unique to every single device,” he says.

Simplify, which is free, has been downloaded more than 50,000 times within four months of its release. The top three countries downloading it are the Netherlands, the US and Italy.

Tay is convinced there’s a huge potential for the app in the tourism industry, particularly with taxis.

“Our research has shown that taxi drivers keep their phones charging all the time. They also drive foreigners around very often — foreigners who, if they want to use data, have to purchase new sim cards with a data package. The downside is that they will also have to take a new number, but how are they going to keep in touch with others who do not know this number?

“But if the driver has Simplify, these people could simply use his data instead while keeping their own numbers,” says Tay.

That could mean additional revenue for the driver.

Nextwave has garnered investor interest, with local agencies and even an international conglomerate investing in them.

“We have also taken on a project with a service provider to create a system that utilises our technology for their users,” Tay says.

The app allows for insights into certain behaviours, particularly data usage patterns.

“This kind of market research has value and can perhaps be monetised further,” he suggests.

Nextwave is also developing an app and an accompanying GPS tracker device that people can wear.

“This has potential to be used by the elderly, children and even hikers. The device can be tracked even if the signal is only 2G,” Tay discloses.

According to Tay, getting to where they are today has not been a walk in the park.

“I went the first 18 months without a salary when Nextwave just started. I lived on my savings and, at one point, my partner almost wanted to give up too,” reveals Tay, a member of MENSA.

Recently, he was elected from a pool of 800 worldwide applicants to join the Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp in Cambridge, Massachusetts organised by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The one-week bootcamp gathered 50 leading entrepreneurs, who were given intensive classes and hands-on projects at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

“It was an eye-opening experience, and I got to learn a lot of things about running a startup. I must say, I’m more on the IT side of things, as prior to starting Nextwave, I was doing software engineering for 10 years,” says Tay.

Nextwave hopes to raise funds for some marketing efforts next year, as well as launch the new app Shout along with its wearable GPS tracker.