‘Soundsuit’, providing tailor-made music at ‘points of sale’ (POS)

At UTC, there is a « life after » classes. And what may seem, at first sight, a pastime can lead to creation of start-up. Mikaël Bourdon, who graduated from UTC (majoring in Mechanical Engineering) is a perfect illustration. Mikaël is both a great music fan, and also involved in several musical associations, being MC and DJ for student soirées at UTC. In 2004, he created Soundsuit*, a streaming service specialized in serving points of sale (POS).

‘Soundsuit’, providing tailor-made music at ‘points of sale’ (POS)

How did you get the idea to propose a music distribution system for shop outlets?

When I used to go into a shop, I was always somewhat amazed at the gap between the music background, the decoration the clients’ styles and time of day. Those systems were not adapted and no doubt frustrating for the employees who had to endure listening to the same music all day long, every day. Moreover, the shop manager (or restaurant) simply does not have the time to select new pieces and organize them logically in a play-list to last for the 8 opening hours. What I realized was that there was a real demand from POS outlet-owners/managers for a system that would enable them simply (and at low cost) to put on some adapted choices of music at their POS. When I first had this idea, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Cloud technologies were neither reasonably priced nor easy to implement. I waited till 2014 before I presented my idea at a start-up creation competition, and then only launched Soundsuit in 2016.

What was the biggest challenge you had to face in this project?

In our case, the interest did not consist of having access to all music but to have the right song at the right moment using a digital solution requiring minimum effort from the professional who uses it. Consequently, our solution embodies only very few functions. To achieve this, we did a lot of work on system ergonomics, implementing the principles of “design thinking” and “user-centred design”. The real challenge was to build a musical data base adapted to given professional markets (hotels, gastronomic places, luxury goods outlets, fashion catwalks and shops, events, etc.) and to develop a form of AI that could contextualize or “think” like a DJ in real-time. Upstream of our algorithm, there was a finger-printing phase where each preselected piece of music in our base is scanned, analysed and the categorized (quantity and quality-wise), thanks to use made of Digital Signal Processing (DSP) techniques. We also make good use of our in-house team of music lovers to check that the automated categorization of the parts is satisfactory. 

How does it work, from the user’s point of view?

When a user-subscriber logs in, he/she can notify several criteria (not related to music): clientele, the kind of POS (shop outlet, restaurant, hair-dresser salon …), decoration of POS … and acting as a real DJ, our algorithm will use these data to select the music and adapt the musical ambiance throughout the day. The user can also skip pieces, “like” a given song, request a more rhythmic (or calmer) atmosphere and this enables the algorithm to learn and tailor the musical ambiance accordingly.

What are your objectives for 2018?

We launched our solution in Germany a year ago today, in a collaboration with the Bo Concept furniture chain of outlets. Our sales target for 2018 is to generate business in new sectors (fitness clubs, social areas in corporate surroundings) and to spread our idea and product through European countries.

The future of Soundsuit, as we see it in the long term will lie in the Internet of Things (IoT). Integrating platforms such as Nest, Netatmo, etc., will allow Soundsuit – via information collected at POS sensors, plus real-time data such as temperature, number of clients present, sound level, etc., and adapt the musical ambiance accordingly. And when we add some “vocal aids”, an employee at the POS will be able to adjust the output even more simply – similar to the way a shop-manager previously dialogued with a shop floor DJ. It’s all new stuff and yet all old and familiar at the same time!