‘We were met with sheer delight that departments were being listened to’

MScRoss McLean co-founded the student focused data driven app, Keedo, while undertaking an MSc in Data Science at RGU. He’s one of 90 graduates of The Data Lab supported MSc programme in 2017. The new 2017/18 Data MSc cohort has extended to 130 places.

After studying in Canada and Scotland for the past six years I was getting frustrated with the lack of mobile experiences for students to interact with their universities. IT departments want to hit their enterprise goals so anything that’s built in-house is generally for web browsers and not apps that a student can download and install into their phone, ‘native’ apps as they’re commonly called. This left a gap for useful native apps, as many universities have apps but for marketing purposes only.

After completing my BSc in Business Information Systems at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, I started an MSc in Data Science, also at RGU and supported by The Data Lab. This is when I started Keedo with some backup from Tiffany Young and Jess Dunham, also RGU alumni. It’s a business designed to augment the current offerings of services from a university and bring them onto a mobile platform for students to use on a daily basis along with bringing along some of our own features.

During my time as an MSc student I brought the company to life by interacting with different departments across RGU, our metaphorical guinea pig, to see how a mobile app could help students better interact with their departments.

We were met with sheer delight that these departments were being listened to. We had so many ideas that we had to do a student poll to find out what features they were looking for a mobile app before going further. This gave us a clear indication of where to start the discussions.

The MSc course was a challenge to do while starting the business. It meant early starts to fit in the gym, the MSc, the business, general errands, social life, moving house and some part time work for cash flow. Fortunately, we had the RGU Incubator so that I could focus on my business in a building with like-minded individuals.

After two taught semesters, it was time to get my hands dirty and apply the knowledge learned in the classroom to a project. This was when the ‘Find a Desk™’ feature was developed and built into the app.

The ‘Find a Desk™’ feature is built for iOS users, with Android in the works, to be able to detect where there are the most free desks in a given monitored location then displaying that information on a graphic. It does this by using iBeacon and Eddystone technology so we can identify users in monitored zones. It does rely on a high uptake of the application within the deployed university but we are confident we can get there to an 85% uptake in 18 months, once our Android version is completed.

If I had not done the Data Science MSc, I would not have the tools or knowledge to handle the data that comes in from this app, even in its current testing state we get a lot of data. Our goal is to develop Keedo into a large education technology business, so it becomes the go-to company for student-centric systems. We’re a long way away from that but that’s what we’re dreaming of.

Picture: The Data Lab Msc Programme launch, Edinburgh, 2017.